FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, MONDAY, MAY 8, 2006
PHOTOS at: http://bhopal.shutterfly.com
CONTACT: Aquene Freechild, 617-378-2579, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nirveek Bhattacharjee, 410-627-7679, Nirveek@bme.jhu.edu
Saturday, May 6th – International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal members in 4 cities hosted events and re-enactments of the 1984 Union Carbide Chemical Disaster in Bhopal, India at noon this past Saturday. In Seattle, Boston and Cincinnati, professionals and students lay under shrouds to raise awareness about Dow Chemical Company’s role in the 22,000+ deaths in Bhopal, parallel education events were held in Portland, OR. The members of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) want Dow to take responsibility for the toxic clean up in Bhopal and face criminal charges.
The names of those killed in the 1984 Disaster, and those who died as recently as 2004, were perched atop the veiled bodies, much the way unidentified bodies were numbered after the gas leak. In Boston, the Dow Grim Reaper passed among the victims symbolizing Dow Chemical’s role in the ongoing poisoning of 20,000 Bhopal residents forced to drink contaminated water. Dry ice haze mimicked the methyl isocyanate gas that leaked from the Union Carbide plant 21 years ago after midnight, causing over 8,000 people to drown in their own fluids within days of the gas leak.
“I have family in Bhopal and feel that while I am in the US, it is my responsibility to use my privilege in the interests of justice for the victims,” said Suvrat Raju, a Physics Ph.D candidate at Harvard at the Boston event.
Dow, which bought Union Carbide (UCC) in 2001, refuses to clean up the abandoned factory site and resulting heavy metal and pesticide contaminated ground water. After Dow purchased Union Carbide, it put aside $2.2 billion dollars to deal with Union Carbide’s asbestos liabilities, but refused to accept any responsibility for Carbide’s Bhopal liabilities.
Dow’s Annual General Shareholder Meeting will be held in Midland, Michigan at 10am Thursday, May 11th. A shareholder resolution on Bhopal asks Dow to report on any new initiatives to address concerns of Bhopal survivors. See www.proxyinformation.com.
“Members of the public present are outraged that Dow Chemical refuses to acknowledge its liabilities. They have pledged that they will not work for Dow or any of its subsidiaries until the company addresses its responsibilities in Bhopal,” commented Association for India’s Development organizer Priya Raghav at the Seattle event.
“Dow Chemical’s behavior in Bhopal is symbolic of the behavior of much of the Chemical Industry. The industry has changed little since this tragedy – learned little from 22,000 deaths in Bhopal. We have poor chemical security laws here in the US, despite 110 facilities that could endanger more than a million people. We all live in Bhopal.” said Aquene Freechild, posing as the Dow Chemical Grim Reaper in Boston.
On April 17th, American supporters of the Bhopal hunger strike claimed victory along with Bhopali fasters as the Indian Government conceded to survivor demands for clean drinking water, establishing national commission for medical and economic rehabilitation, and declaring December 3rd a National Day of mourning for the victims of the 1984 Disaster. The hunger strike followed a month-long 500-mile march from Bhopal to New Delhi. Over 400 international supporters pledged to fast for at least a day in solidarity with the Bhopal hunger strikers and bombarded the Prime Ministers office with over 2700 faxes.
While the Prime Minister agreed to demands to address the contamination and to provide water to the community, he did not agree to exclude Dow Chemical to force it to appear in Indian Criminal Court and pay for site clean up. Instead he agreed to explore what options exist within the law to hold Dow/Carbide accountable. What remains is an array of serious issues that continue to be raised by survivors and human rights groups around Dow/Carbide’s liabilities associated with the disaster. A US District Court case asking for injunctive relief for the land and water contamination in Bhopal and damages, is on appeal. In India, criminal charges of culpable homicide against Union Carbide have yet to be faced by the US Corporation.
PHOTOS at: http://bhopal.shutterfly.com, higher resolution photos available upon request
CONTACT PEOPLE FOR EACH CITY ACTION:
Seattle: Priya Raghav, 425- 533-1178, email@example.com, Location: Univ. of Washington,
Cincinnati: Sandesh Samandria, (513) 297-4822, Sandesh_sam@yahoo.com, Location: Univ. of Ohio- Cincinnati Campus Green
Portland: Sathish Sundaram, (513) 886-1996, firstname.lastname@example.org, Location: Portland Farmer’s Market
Boston: Aquene Freechild, 617-378-2579, email@example.com, Location: Copley Sq.
The US branch of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal works as a coalition with groups such as Amnesty International, Association for India’s Development, and Sierra Student Coalition with 40 chapters among professionals and students. It uses education, grassroots organizing and non-violent direct action to pressure Dow Chemical and the Indian Government to uphold the Bhopalis’ demand for justice, and their fundamental human right to live free of chemical poison.
At Dow’s AGM today, with the shareholder’s vote on a Bhopal resolution safely out of the way, William Stavropoulos finally admitted he had ‘misspoken’ at last year’s meeting when denying the existence of outstanding criminal charges against Union Carbide. After the confession, Stavropoulos slithered away from every other question on the dreaded criminal charges more adroitly than an oiled anaconda. Next year he will be forced to disclose that he’d repeated the original lie – ‘oh, silly old me’ – immediately prior to today’s vote, which despite Dow’s bare-faced concealing of the truth garnered six per cent of Dow’s shares against the company’s motion to dismiss – more than enough to enable proponents to reintroduce the resolution in 2005.
Meantime, there was more plenty more squirming. “To the best of my knowledge, er, we have no knowledge…” Stavropoulos offered in one inadvertent lurch towards profound truth, before it was revealed that what he/Dow knew not of was the MP government’s stated intention to sue Dow over contamination left behind at Carbide’s factory in Bhopal. Designed to put shareholder’s minds at rest over executive management’s understanding of the risks posed by Bhopal, this ludicrous denial was merely one in a bewildering series that also included ‘I have no awareness of Union Carbide making that allegation (of sabotage)’ – meaning that the CEO behind Dow’s 2001 takeover of Carbide would like shareholders to believe he had not actually bothered to look at the alleged causes behind the world’s largest industrial catastrophe before sealing the deal with the fugitive accused.
In all, it was a humiliating display of incompetence by Stavropoulos, acted out purely for the sake of keeping shareholders blind to the gargantuan liabilities crunching unerringly towards the company – those same liabilities which were brought upon Dow by Stavropoulos’s incompetence.
“To The Best of My Knowledge, Er, We Have No Knowledge…”
MIDLAND, MICHIGAN, 13 May 2004 — At Dow Chemicals’ shareholder meeting held today in Midland, Michigan, the Bhopal resolution introduced by Boston Common Asset Management secured more than 6 percent of shareholders’ votes or 40 million shares, enabling the proponents to reintroduce the resolution next year. The resolution, which was supported by influential shareholders such as the California Pension Fund and the New York Comptrollers Office, required Dow to report the steps taken by it in addressing the Bhopal liabilities, and in containing the reputational damage Dow continues to suffer as a result of its ongoing refusal to remedy the situation in Bhopal.
Describing the vote as a postive step in educating shareholders of Dow’s pending Bhopal liabilities, Bhopal survivors and 2004 Goldman Prize winners Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla said they chose to remain outside the shareholders’ meeting because they were “lied to” by the CEO last year. “Our apprehensions were confirmed this year. The company continues to mislead shareholders on significant liabilities that continue to be heard in courts in India and the US,” said Bee and Shukla. “It should concern shareholders and other members of the public that Dow has a pathological tendency to mislead its investors as a means of evading liability.”
Despite acknowledging that he “misspoke” at the 2003 AGM on the matter of pending criminal charges against Union Carbide Corporatation, Dow CEO William Stavropoulos “misspoke” again this year stating that “The 1989 settlement resolved all criminal and civil liabiilties” related to the Bhopal disaster. In 1992, the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Bhopal declared Union Carbide Corporation a fugitive from justice for refusing to appear in Bhopal to face charges of manslaughter.
The CEO misled its shareholders that the Union Carbide site in India had been cleaned up, and that any remaining contamination is the responsibility of the Madhya Pradesh Government. Last month, Mr. Babu Lal Gaur, Minister for Gas Relief in the Madhya Pradesh Government, said that the Government will move against Dow Chemical for remediation of the Bhopal site. On March 17, 2004, the Federal Appeals court in New York affirmed survivors’ claims against Union Carbide for site remediation.
“The fact that the CEO said that he will deal with the impending legal challenge by the Indian Government on the matter of site clean up when the matter comes up exposes that Dow is only going to continue to react to increasing liability as opposed to taking a proactive stance,” said Lauren Compere of Boston Common Asset Management, the Boston-based investment firm that had introduced the Bhopal resolution.
On the matter of Dow’s dioxin contamination of the Saginaw watershed, the company fielded several questions by irate shareholders responding that “Chloracne is the most serious illness associated with dioxins in humans.”
Michelle Hurd-Riddick of Bay City-based Lone Tree Council said: “Dow’s responses on dioxin expose the company as either ignorant of science or unwilling to confront and deal with the dioxin problem.”
For more information, contact: Nityanand Jayaraman: 520 906 5216 (cell)