Press Release: Obama in India

Bhopal Survivors to Obama: Address Bhopal Legacy While in India

Hundreds of Bhopal Survivors Protest in Delhi While  Obama Visits, Supporters Worldwide Call on Obama to Address Ongoing Disaster 

Contacts: 

U.S. – Claire Rosenfeld, 408-348-2554, claire@panna.org; Shana Ortman, 415-746-0306, shana@panna.org 

India – Nityanand Jayaraman: +91 9444082401, nity68.new@gmail.com 

International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, Press Statement for immediate release on November 8, 2010http://www.seattlepi.com/business/1310ap_as_india_obama_bhopal.html

Hundreds of survivors of the December 1984 Union Carbide (UCC) gas disaster in Bhopal, India, and people exposed to groundwater contaminated by hazardous wastes from UCC’s long-abandoned factory demonstrated in New Delhi today. They are demanding positive action by President Obama that will help fix the ongoing problems of the world’s worst industrial disaster, which was caused by a U.S. corporation. In solidarity with the Bhopalis, concerned citizens worldwide called the White House today to ask the Obama Administration to promptly address the ongoing environmental and public health crisis in Bhopal.

Following years of safety cuts, on Dec. 3, 1984, the American-owned UCC’s pesticide plant in Bhopal leaked tons of deadly gas containing methyl isocyanate (MIC) over the city of Bhopal. Estimates have indicated that 8,000 to 12,000 people died in the disaster’s immediate aftermath, and in the years since, the death toll has risen to more than 25,000 people. Over 100,000 people still suffer from long-term disabilities. In 2001, Michigan-based Dow Chemical Corporation became the 100% owner of UCC. 

Today five Bhopal survivor-led organizations, which lead the victims of toxic exposure, demanded that Mr. Obama hold U.S. corporations UCC and Dow Chemical accountable for their continuing crimes in Bhopal .

Mrs. Rashida Bee, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh said, “Because of these two American corporations, today over a hundred thousand people are chronically ill and hundreds are dying untimely deaths in Bhopal,” said Mrs. Rashida Bee, president of the survivor organization Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh. “ Hundreds of babies are being born with horrific malformations and their parents suffer damages to the liver, kidney and lungs and brain.”  A preliminary study by the Bhopal Medical Appeal strongly suggests parental exposure to contaminants in groundwater  can increase the rate of birth defects fourfold compared to India’s national average.

Expressing her disappointment that the White House has not responded to Bhopal survivors’ request for a meeting with President Obama, Mrs. Bee commented on the group of major American business executives that Mr. Obama is traveling with during his India visit. “In Mumbai, he has a spent almost an entire day with the USIBC, a business advocacy organization of which Dow Chemical, current owner of Union Carbide, is a member with a special status, yet he has not found a few minutes to talk to the people who have suffered the miseries heaped by two of his country’s largest corporations.”

Satinath Sarangi, of the survivor organization Bhopal Group for Information and Action, said that for the last 18 years, the U.S. government has not taken a single step against UCC or its former chairman, Warren Anderson, both absconders from the Indian courts who are charged with manslaughter and other serious offences. He said that Dow Chemical refuses to own up to its legal liability of decontaminating the land in and around the factory site in Bhopal; for the last five years, the corporation has maintained that it is outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts.

In the U.S., Bhopal supporters feel that recent Obama Administration communication shows that it is more interested in protecting American corporations from their liabilities than protecting people worldwide from the horrors of industrial disasters. They cite recent statements by State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley calling the disaster closed case as insensitive and misinformed . This past August, Deputy National Security Advisor Michael Froman said in a leaked email to his Indian counterpart, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, “we are hearing a lot of noise about the Dow Chemical issue. I trust that you are monitoring it carefully. I am not familiar with all the details, but I think we want to avoid developments which put a chilling effect on our investment relationship.”  Activists view these statements as concerning, and in phone calls to the White House today, they asked the Administration to take an appropriate stand on the human rights issue.  

Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, also said in a letter to Mr. Obama, “it is essential that your administration and the Government of India cooperate to ensure that  those accused of causing the Bhopal disaster, including UCC, are made to face trial, and that Bhopal survivors are able to obtain redress.”

The organizations said that, as the promoter of U.S. corporate interests in India, Mr. Obama was morally responsible for ensuring legal accountability of U.S. corporations operating in India.

More Information: 

Nov 8 Press Statement by Bhopal Organizations  

Action Alert for supporters worldwide 

Learn more about ICJB

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Image credit: AP 

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