Students gherao Tata building against Ratan’s offer to bail out Union Carbide

NEW DELHI, 2 March, 2007
More than 40 student supporters of the struggle for justice for Bhopal from Delhi colleges, and youth organizations including We For Bhopal and Tarunima, today protested against Ratan Tata in front of the Tata office in the crowded Connaught Place market. The students were outraged at Ratan Tata’s offer to lead a charitable clean-up of the toxic wastes abandoned by Union Carbide in Bhopal in order to clear Carbide’s liabilities and enable it and its new owner Dow Chemical to expand their businesses in India.
Union Carbide fled India after the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster abandoning thousands of tons of toxic wastes. It has failed to honour court summonses in the criminal case against it in Bhopal. As a result, it was declared an absconder in 1992. In 2001, Dow Chemical took over all of Carbide’s assets, but has failed to produce Union Carbide to face trial in India, and continues to refuse to take responsibility for cleaning up the toxic contamination. Because of these unresolved liabilities, Dow Chemical has put its Indian investment plans on hold. Ratan Tata’s offer will allow Union Carbide to go scot-free, and even allow the company to resume business in India.
Clean-up is the responsibility of the polluter, and the Government of India has demanded Rs. 100 crores from Dow for clean-up. “Ratan Tata’s offer is a slap on the face of survivors of the worst chemical disaster in the world who have been pitched in a battle for justice against one of the largest chemical corporations. Tata’s offer will let Dow off the hook and set a precedent where clean-up after contamination will not be mandatory but a matter of choice,” said Shalini Sharma, student coordinator of the campaign for justice in Bhopal. Incidentally, Ratan Tata is co-chairman of the US India CEO Forum, an elite group of corporate executives from India and the United States who are engaged in recommending wide-ranging policy changes to make India more friendly to investors.
Suroopa Mukherjee, advisor to the student-led We For Bhopal said, “A government-aided clean-up retains the possibility of recovering the money from Dow-Carbide depending on the outcome of the ongoing case in Madhya Pradesh High Court. However, Tata’s offer of a “charitable” clean-up would make it impossible to pin liability and recover the costs from Dow-Carbide.”
A student protester emphasised that if Tatas were serious about their commitment to a clean environment, they would start by cleaning up the sites polluted by Tata Group companies – they have a lot to choose from – Mithapur in Gujarat, Patancheru in Andhra Pradesh, Sukhinda in Orissa, Jugsalai, Jamshedpur.
Students and supporters formed a human chain in front of the main Tata Service office and distributed a list of places polluted by Tata group of industries. They took signatures from people against this proposal and pledged to boycott careers in Tata group companies until Tata withdraws from Bhopal. The protesters were demanding a public withdrawal of the proposal and urged Mr. Tata to use his position to pressurize Dow to assume the liability of Bhopal. Mr. Sanjay Singh, Vice President, Tata Services spoke to a delegation of students and accepted the letter of demands on behalf of Mr. Ratan Tata.
Contact: Shalini Sharma – 9891442037 or Suroopa Mukherjee – 9818029882
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