Vibha Sharma, Tribune News Service
New Delhi, August 12
It was an award ceremony with a difference. The “Dalal Foundation”, formed just around 15 days ago by Bhopal survivors’ organisations, yesterday presented “Mir Zafar awards for treachery” to top politicians and bureaucrats of the country in a dramatised version, peppered with satire.
The spoof awards were given to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, finance minister P. Chidambaram, vice-chairman planning commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia and industrialists Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani, who according to Bhopal survivors were being “felicitated for their efforts to bury Dow Chemical’s liabilities in Bhopal tragedy cases and clear the way for Dow and Carbide to freely do business in India”. Activists wearing respective masks received the awards.
Mir Zafar had betrayed his troops and cut a deal with the British East India Company. Today’s event marked the 250 anniversary of the Battle of Plassey, where Mir Zafar betrayed his troops and his act could be likened to the present government’s “kowtowing” to US corporations.
“The Indian government is indulging in activities that favour the elite and exacted a heavy toll on lives of common citizens,” they said.
The list of award-winners included commerce minister Kamal Nath, industrialist Ashok Punjwani, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi and senior bureaucrats like principal secretary T.K.A. Nair and former cabinet secretary B.K. Chaturvedi.
Madhya Pradesh gas relief minister Babu Lal Gaur came in for special mention for a “lifetime spent in betraying Bhopal victims”. Besides, Indian Ambassador to US Ronen Sen was also presented a Mir Zafar Award.
The Mir Zafar “Best environmental talk the talk award” was given to Ashok Punjwani, director of Bharuch Enviro Infrastructure Limited, Gujarat.
The “Birds of a feather award 2007” went to Mukesh Ambani, “who recently announced plans to acquire Union Carbide technology for his new plastic factories in Gujarat.” B. K. Chaturvedi won the Mir Zafar “Bureaucrat for Business Award 2007”.
Ratan Tata, played by activist Satinath Sarangi, received the award from a Singur resident to highlight his offer to lead an effort to mop up Union Carbide’s toxic wastes and facilitate Dow’s investments in India.
Bhopal survivors said the ministry of chemicals filed an application seeking Rs 100 crore from Dow Chemical. However, files unearthed from the PMO using the RTI Act revealed that most of the “award-winners” were strongly pushing to exempt Dow.
Survivors added that a note by the cabinet secretary on April 6 said given the scope for future investments in the petrochemical sector, Dow’s Bhopal liabilities should be resolved out of court.
The Mir Zafar Awards will be now be an annual affair. This year’s ceremony was officiated by theatre personality Suhasini Mulay who spoke for the Dalal Foundation.
She said: “We at Dalal Foundation believe that freedom is okay as long as it is recognised and respected that the freedom to exploit natural and human resources for profit generation takes precedence over all other freedoms.”