Tag Archives: corruption

While politicians posture, people die

For more than 20,000 people who suffered terrible injuries on the night of poison two decades ago, recent Supreme Court decisions about clean water and distribution of compensation monies come too late. Those twenty thousand are the dead. In their case neither was justice done, nor any humanity shown. The company, whose actions by any civilised standard are beneath contempt, is scarcely less callous in its treatment of the victims than successive waves of Indian politicians in central and state governments. The Supreme Court issues orders, the politicians ignore them. Hence the clean water demo of two days ago that brought Bhopal to a halt.

Today, there is more news from the Supreme Court – issues regarding distribution of compensation money are likely soon to be resolved. But local BJP politicians, led by Chief Minister Gaur, who earlier today pledged to make Madhya Pradesh a “corruption-free” zone, are asking the Court to distribute the money to the whole city, rather than just to those injured for whom it was intended and to whom it has been for so many years denied. In the unlikely event that such a petition is granted, it would be the first instance of Supreme Court-funded voter bribery.

Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
Bhopal Group for Information and Action
Bhopal ki Aawaaz

October 1, 2004
Press Statement

Addressing a press conference today, leaders of four organizations active on the issues of the December1984 Union Carbide disaster informed victims of the disaster that the Supreme Court of India is most likely to resolve all pending issues regarding the distribution of balance of compensation very soon. The leaders stated that at the hearing in the Supreme Court today, the judges have clearly reiterated that the balance of compensation money can only go to individual victims of the disaster.

The matters that were taken up by the Supreme Court in today’s hearing were the submission made by the Welfare Commissioner, Bhopal Gas Victims with regard to the mode of distribution of the balance of compensation. Representing petitioners Rashida Bee, Champa Devi Shukla and other victims, Advocate Mr. S Muralidhar argued for fair, simple and speedy distribution of the compensation amount. According to Mr. Muralidhar the court would like to hear the case at length with a view to resolving all questions at the next hearing of Supreme Court on October 26, 2004.

Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla from the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh who initiated the move for distribution of balance of compensation in March 2003 said that five applications have been filed in the matter by various agencies. The parties that have filed these applications are: Union of India, State of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust, Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] and Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan [BGPMUS]. However, the Supreme Court has not issued any notice on these applications despite plea by respective lawyers. The Court will decide whether or not to entertain them at the next hearing on 26th October.

The application by the Union of India has sought clarification on the implementation of the July 19, 2004 decision of the Supreme Court regarding compensation distribution. The application by the State of Madhya Pradesh has sought Rs. 600 Crores from the balance of compensation fund for long-term medical care and economic and environmental rehabilitation. The application by the Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust has sought release of the balance moneys out of the sale of the attached shares and for further funds for carrying out its obligations to provide medical relief to gas victims beyond 2005.

The petition filed by the Madhya Pradesh unit of the BJP has sought the inclusion of the residents of the 20 unaffected wards among the recipients of the balance of compensation fund. The Petition filed jointly by the BGPMUS and the Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti has called for a re-examination of the inadequacies of the Bhopal settlement of 1989.

Rashida Bi, Champa Devi Shukla, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
Syed M Irfan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
Shahid Noor, Bhopal ki Aawaaz
Satinath Sarangi, Rachna Dhingra, Bhopal Group for Information and Action

Contact :
House No. 12, Gali No. 2, Near Naseer Masjid, Bag Umrao Dulha, Bhopal Tel: 3132298
B-2 / 302, Sheetal Nagar, Berasia Road, Bhopal. Tel: 9826167369
For more information please visit www.bhopal.net

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Moneylenders cash in on victims’ payout

Unlicensed moneylenders in Bhopal have begun charging interest rates of up to 150% in anticipation of a payout amounting to Rs 1,503 crores (€266 million, £180 million, US$324 million) to more 560,000 surviving victims of the Union Carbide gas disaster. The survivors are also likely to be targetted by corrupt officials. Many of the gas victims are unschooled people, not able to read or write, unfamiliar with legalese and the demands of bureaucracy. They are easy prey for unscrupulus officials.

For these reasons leaders of survivors’ organisations today welcomed the proposals of the Welfare Commissioner relating to the distribution of the compensation fund. A delegation of the leaders met the Collector in the city and presented 10 suggestions which they said would help set up a corruption-free, transparent, simple and rapid system of distribution the money.

The leaders suggested that survivors’ organisations should form a Monitoring Committee that would have the right to oversee the registration and claims process, and resolve complaints of corruption, misbehaviour or incompetence against officials. They also urged that procedures for obtaining copies of necessary documents, which for all sorts of reasons may are unavailable to claimants, must be spelt out clearly.

During their discussion with the Collector, the delegation of Rashida Bee, Champa Devi Shukla, Shahid Noor and others emphasised the need for a system of registration and resolution of complaints against employees at the Claim courts and banks and demanded action against the money-lenders and loan sharks. The delegation suggested that names and photos of local touts be published in the claims court, so claimants can recognise and avoid them.

The leaders were satisfied with the arrangement of reserving Saturdays exclusively for people who could not come to the Claim court on the scheduled day of their hearing. They also welcomed the plans for employing people at every ward to answer queries, particularly from non-literate people.

Rashida Bi, Champa Devi Shukla, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
Syed M Irfan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
Shahid Noor, Bhopal ki Aawaaz
Satinath Sarangi, Rachna Dhingra, Bhopal Group for Information and Action

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Dow union passes historic resolution supporting Bhopal survivors

Well, we said it didn’t look like Dow’s year. Bhopal.net can exclusively reveal that the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical & Energy Workers International Union (PACE) unanimously passed a resolution on Bhopal/Dow at its first constitutional convention held in Las Vegas, Nev., Aug. 18-22, 2003. Placing Dow’s squalid double standards in the spotlight, the resolution states that, just as they accepted Carbide’s asbestos liabilities in Texas, 100 percent owner Dow must accept Carbide’s liabilities in Bhopal. In supporting each of the survivors’ demands, the resolution also calls upon the government of India to include ‘Dirty’ Dow in the ongoing criminal case in Bhopal.

“The Resolution sends a clear message to the world that solidarity is alive and strong,” said PACE Legislative Director Pete Strader. “When workers are harmed by a corrupt corporation and/or government, unions show they are truly their brothers’ and sisters’ keeper.” Also supporting the ICJB’s appeal for declaring Dec. 3, 2003 the anniversary of Carbide’s disaster in Bhopal as the Global Day of Action against Corporate Crime, the resolution calls upon all PACE members and workers worldwide to take direct action against rogue corporations.

The resolution came as a result of the meeting in Michigan between PACE members and Rashida Bee and Champa Devi during their US tour in May. Rashida and Champa’s union, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, is recognised by PACE as the leading member of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal.

The other demands made by survivors and supported by the resolution are:

• Ex-CEO Warren Anderson and Union Carbide should appear in the Bhopal court to face long-pending criminal charges;

• Medical information relating to the toxicity of the gases should be released and provisions for medical rehabilitation and long-term medical monitoring made;

• There should be economic rehabilitation of those injured; and
• There must be clean-up of toxic wastes and contaminated groundwater.

PACE represents workers at three Dow Chemical facilities in the U.S. at Edison, N.J., Bound Brook, N.J., and Elizabethtown, Ky. The union represents 300,000 workers in the pulp, paper, oil, chemical, industrial, auto supply, atomic and mining sectors in the U.S. and Canada, and is the fourth largest manufacturing union in the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations).

Rashida Bee said, “Solidarity like this has helped to keep our fight alive for two decades. Today, members of Dow’s own workforce are in strong support of Bhopal survivors. We expect Dow will realise soon that it’s only a matter of time before corporate criminals are forced to succumb to the pressures of grassroots globalisation.”

Read the full text of the PACE resolution here.

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Urgent Action Alert: Coca Cola pollution protestors arrested, falsely accused

Kerala: people protesting the Coca Cola Plachimada facility’s contamination of local groundwater and land – with toxins such as cadmium and lead – are experiencing repression at the hands of local police and company hirelings. 13 peaceful protestors – two of whom are leading activists against Coca Cola – have been arrested and falsely accused of trying to destroy company property. During 480 days of non-stop peaceful protests there have been over 300 arrests so far, after Coca Cola managers announced that the demonstrations, which have been supported by writers, poets, academics, scientists, engineers and health personnel amongst others, were “politically motivated”. The demonstrators, primarily adivasis, believe that Coca Cola is attempting to depict their protests as ‘extremist’ in order to bring them under the ambit of State anti-terrorist measures – and the local police seem to be obliging the company managers.

Please write to the Keralan Chief Minister to demand the unconditional release of the protestors and the withdrawal of false charges.

ACTIVISTS ARRESTED. ATTEMPT BY THE POLICE AND GOVERNMENT TO
FALSELY IMPLICATE THEM TO CRUSH THE STRUGGLE.

13 activists were arrested on 30 August 2003 at Palakkad when they were holding a peaceful demonstration in front of the Kerala Ground Water Board. The demonstration was organised by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties – Kerala to voice their protest against the inefficieancy of the Board in tackling the ground water problems created by Coca Cola Plachimada unit despite daily protests since 22 April 2002 by primarily the Adivasis who are the worst affected. Various government departments had also confirmed the existance of the problems – all related to the ground water.

Amongst the arrested were Venugopal Vilayodi, the General Secretary of PUCL-Kerala and Arumugham Pathichira both of whom are also key activists and leaders of the Coca-Cola Virudha Janakeeya Samara Samiti (Anti Coca Cola Peoples Struggle Committee) who has been spearheading this long drawn out struggle.

The arrested have been remanded for 5 days and falsely accused of attempting to destroy the office etc in an attempt to falsely and deliberately create an image of being ‘extremist’ or ‘terrorist’. The Revenue Divisional Officer, the DySP and other Senior Police officials were involved in the swoop to arrest the peaceful slogan shouting protesters. It may be recalled that a few days earlier, on 28 August 2003, the Coca Cola godown at Kochi (more than 200 kms away from Plachimada) was set on fire which has been widely publicised by the police and the media as possibly the handiwork of ‘extremists’.

THE DIFFERENCE

There have been numerous arrests (over 300 arrests made at different times) times in the past over 480 days of continuous non-stop agitations. Ever since the Coca Cola Company announced that the struggle was ‘politically motivated’ it was clear that the struggle was planned to be crushed under the garb of fighting ‘extremism’ and ‘terrorism’.

It is noteworthy that – this is a democratic struggle of the people – this struggle has been peaceful without any incident of any violence (though there has been false cases foised against the agitators from time to time), despite repeated police provocation to incite violence, despite instigation and threats from the hirelings and goondas of Coca Cola management. – this struggle has been supported by the widest possible sections from across the state and other parts of the country – Gandhians, the radical left, the left, the socialists and democrats. There has been active support from numerous writers, poets, academics, scientists, engineers, health personnel and others. A large number of orgainsations have actively participated or supported the struggle.

YET THIS TIME THERE WAS A DIFFERENCE

The Coca Cola company had clearly contaminated the ground water, contaminated the land with carcinogens, drained the acquifers, sold or donated toxic wastes as fertilsers, gave more pesticides to drink in their drinks and lied at every step. They have been cornered and exposed. YET they continue to function freely !!

The manner in which the present arrests have been made, the manner in which the police have twisted their report to point out a finger to them as ‘extremist’ now after all this, indicates the unfolding collusion of the state government to put down the struggle by strong arm tactics.

It is indicative that the Congress led United Democratic Front of A.K Antony is all set to extend the collusion with Coca Cola by not only delaying any action against the company despite the piling up of official documents which indict the company on numerous counts, but also in building up a George Bush style ‘extremism’ bogey as the core of this democratic struggle. This, we fear, is designed to unleash violence and terror against the peaceful protesters – the Adivasis and others – to protect Coca Cola !!!

BACKGROUND

1999: Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Ltd starts the Plachimade Unit 22 April 2002: Struggle launched against Coca Cola for the closure of the factory.

7 April 2003: Perumatty Panchayat revoks the Coke factory’s licence.

25 July 2003: BBC Radio announces that the samples of water and wastes sold by Coke as soil conditioner (but used by local farmers as fertiliser) contained dangerous levels of heavy metals (carcinogenice) such as cadmium and lead confirmed after testing in the laboratory at University of Exeter.

6 August 2003: The Kerala State Pollution Control Board confirms that Coke’s bottling plant at Plachimada had indeed been polluting the groundwater and agricultural land in and around its plant and that the existence of carcinogenic contaminants in the waste was confirmed. The Board also instructs the company not to let the sludge out of the factory premises and to stop distribution of the sludge as manure even within the factory premises. The Public Health Department had confirmed that the ground water around the plant in not ‘potable’. The Kerala Ground Water Board had confirmed the depletion of the ground water.

What you Can Do?
1. Send protest telegrams/fax messages/letters to:
Mr.A.K.Antony, Chief Minister
Government of Kerala
Address Office : Room No:141, IIIrd Floor, North Block,
Secretariat, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
Tel: +91-471-2333812, 2332184, 2333682, 2518666, 2512040
Fax: +91-471-2333489.
Email: chiefminister@kerala.gov.in

In your letter,
– Protest against the arrest, and demand the unconditional release and withdrawal of false cases against activists;
– Demand immediate criminal action against Coca Cola, closure of the plant, compensation for the destruction of the water resources and restoration of the ecology.

2. Share this information with all those concerned about survival rights, human rights, environmental rights and the predatory nature of globalisation and multi-national companies.

3. Issue press releases condemning the arrests demanding the immediate closure of the Plachimada plant of Coca Cola.

4. Organise protests against Coca-Cola, a symbol of giant global predator

Yours in struggle

Veloor Swaminathan
Convenor
Coca-Cola Virudha Janakeeya Samara Samithy (Anti Coca Cola Peoples
Struggle Committee)
Plachimada
Kannimari P.O
Palakkad District
Kerala
India 678 534

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"Clean is a relative word", says Indian Pepsi chief

CLEAN IS A RELATIVE WORD

By: Anil Thakraney
August 17, 2003

It’s one war they aren’t fighting with each other. PepsiCo and Coca-Cola – who between them enjoy a whopping $1.2 billion market in India, selling about 6.5 billion bottles annually – have been hit with a frightening report that questions the purity of their contents.

On one side are allegations, counter allegations, lawsuits, blinding scientific data and a plethora of confusing norms. And on the other, the enormously worried mom, whose son loads his water bottle with Pepsi.

To gauge what’s going on in this unusual cola war, let’s get up-close with Rajeev Bakshi, PepsiCo’s chairman, South Asia. Bakshi passed out from St Stephen’s in 1976, followed by IIM-B in 1979. His previous assignments have been GM – sales and marketing with Lakme, and MD, Cadbury India.

I meet the much-admired suit at his lush farmhouse in Delhi. It’s August 15. But Bakshi is seeking another form of freedom: liberation from the damning charges.

In this interview, are you representing Pepsi, or both, Coke and Pepsi?

As of now, I am speaking from the category’s point of view, but more specifically, Pepsi.

What’s the next step? Defamation case against the CSE?

We are going ahead with the process of clearing our name in a step-by-step manner. When we went to court, we made an above-board and well-intentioned plea to the judge. The plea was based on scientific grounds. We said we have been wronged… there has been a report that has been put up in the public domain, and that report has a problem. That, we are meeting the WHO standards, we are meeting the Indian law by a far margin. That, this report is alleging we are not meeting the EU standards, which is a new benchmark, and which is never measured across the world for soft drinks. Still, we said we’d contest that as well. Because we believe their testing methodology itself is faulty. That methodology is actually used for testing water, not soft drinks. And two, there are discrepancies in their report.

Except that the High Court dismissed your plea. So you must be disappointed.

No. Our first strategy was that given that there is a discrepancy, we asked the judge if this report can be suppressed. While arguing this with the judge, we withdrew that particular plea, because it was already in the public domain… the judge said it was not a key issue.

If you had to withdraw, why did you enter the plea in the first instance?

It is the way of putting the entire case in a court. Basically, our lawyers said we had to do it in three steps. One, ask to withdraw the complaint, because it’s wrong. Two, request the judge to get an independent scientific body to enquire into the issue, and then, come to a conclusion as to what this is all about. And the third step: let an independent report come out, and at that point of time, we reserve the right to press charges, or whatever else, depending on the outcome. We felt it was unwise for us to press charges upfront. Because that would have meant prejudging the entire issue.

Don’t you think asking the courts for suppression of the report is unethical? It is a public interest report, after all. Isn’t this a case of SLAPPing? (In the US, this controversial practice is termed, ‘Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation’.)

What the SLAPP says is, if anybody makes an allegation like this in America, ‘withdraw it from the public domain, have a private conversation, and then arrive at a judgement’. Since there is no law to that effect out here, we are saying, ‘the report is wrong, so can they withdraw the report itself’.

Except that the plea got dismissed. What is your next step?

As far as we are concerned, the health ministry is looking into the matter. The judge has ordered an independent evaluation. It’s not clear to me what the modus operandi of that is. So we have to wait for that to happen.

Do you believe the CSE has a hidden agenda against Coke and Pepsi?

As far as I am concerned, I am taking everything at face value. So, in public, I am not going into what their motivations could be.

Do you think if you were a desi company, this may not have happened?

My only problem as far as the CSE is concerned, is the process.

I am talking of the intent.

I cannot comment on that.

But can you rule out evil intent?

(Pause.) At this stage, I don’t know. It could be either way, but I don’t know. Once the results come out, I guess all will get cleared.

Talking of technique… during the same tests, they did also check the American samples… and they emerged fine.

Look, I am well within the law, even as per the results declared by them. I am also well within WHO standards.

The study indicates you have contamination that, for Pepsi, is as high as 35 times the EU norms.

That’s comparison with the water norms of EU. There are no standards for pesticides in soft drinks anywhere in the world. It is assumed that the water you use will have this sort of pesticides. Even if I assume that figure to be correct, though that figure has been blown out of proportion, if I tell you the number for juices, you will jump! But if you look at the norms we have been following till January 2003, which are the US standards, the WHO standards, and the BIS standards, we are well within that. Suddenly if you change the goalpost, and the reference of comparison, then you have to respond to that. I am saying, I am absolutely safe, and within the norms, even as per their report, which I am contesting.

So why aren’t you following the EU norms?

Very honestly, till January this year, we have been following the BIS norms, and the US norms, for water. Suddenly, in January, came a report from the same organisation, which said ‘these people are 1.5 times out of EU norms’. So we said, “Oh, what’s this benchmark now?” That process had not been mandated yet. Then when we tested internally, we found we anyway follow the EU norms, by default.

How can you not be aware of the EU norms… you are a global company operating across the world?

But internationally the specification is American norms, which we thought was good enough, and more than safe.

So then how come the American samples tested clean?

Clean is a relative word.

Relative? We have been given the exact degree of contamination and the names of contaminants.

Point is, you will find pesticides in 100 per cent of the products that you eat or drink. The question is, what is the safe amount?

And yours is 35 times higher!

You are saying that figure is a big deal? Let me give you other figures. In the EU, on milk, the overall pesticides standard is 7,000 times over what it is for water! And they consider this safe! So this 35 times is a marketing figure… it won’t impact your health at all. Even if you take their report to be correct, it’s one-sixth of the Indian legal norm.

Do you think it’s the fault of our water in India…. that it sucks?

I think we need to lay this water thing to rest. I have checked the raw water, across all my plants, and except for four plants, it’s within the EU standards even when it emerges from the earth. The reason could also be that we locate our plants quite carefully. Speaking in general, there is no generic data on pesticides in ground water.

Next. What percentage of Pepsi’s consumers are minors?

About 30 per cent.

Why should worried parents believe you, not CSE? What would you like to say to them?

First, the emotional reason. We have been around for many years, we operate in many countries, we have been offering quality products, so it is very difficult to imagine we’d offer substandard products. Two, even if you think that these people have done their work rightly, with honesty, and we take their figures at face value, I can tell your readers that this level of pesticides is perfectly safe. It is still not harmful. Because, if you take the EU standard for water, and compare it with the Indian standard for milk, the DDT in milk is twelve-and-a-half thousand times over the EU standard.

So if it’s okay to drink the colas, despite the CSE findings, why are you contesting their report?

Because there is a public perception that has been created, through damaging press reports, which has made us look very irresponsible. A public perception has been created that this ’35 times’ is bad, and I am saying, even if it’s correct, it’s okay. You won’t get cancer. Still, we are contesting the report, and saying we are much safer than that.

Nothing will happen to the kids over a period of time?

No way!

The big question. Suppose the study ordered by the health ministry, using the technique that you believe in, vindicates the CSE’s findings, what will you do?

(Long pause) It’s a hypothetical question. So we’ll take it as it comes. However, as far as tightening of processes goes, it’s an inward process. So if that happens, we’ll tighten our standards even more.

Next. A number of people were disappointed at yours and Sanjeev Gupta’s [boss of Coca Cola] reaction to the study. There was no show of concern at all. Rather, you were busy threatening legal action.

I didn’t talk of legal action.

Of course you did… we saw it on TV.

Sanjeev Gupta said it on his own volition, I didn’t.

Yeah, but that evening, both of you were on the same side of the fence.

We were on the same dais. And giving out own points of view.

Why didn’t you even attempt to reassure nervous parents? Promise them that you will get to the bottom of this issue.

When the water controversy broke out earlier this year, our response was precisely what you are saying. We came out with a very defensive response at that time. We said, ‘we are meeting the norms, still, let’s study this and get back to you’. We went back to the media after 15 days, and they refused to publish it. Because the story was dead by then. Now, after we’ve been had once, when our part of the story never came across, and because we were confident about our data, we went to the public with it.

People out there don’t understand tests and techniques… they are worried parents, looking for assurance.

Yeah, but 24 hours later, I would have had to come back to the same point: the data. The stance would have still been aggressive. Because the decibel level of the attack was very high. It was almost a personal attack.

Have you registered a drop in sales since August 5?

Yes, sales have been affected.

How much?

I cannot reveal the figures. (See this report.)

How did your kids react when they heard the CSE story?

(Slight pause.) They asked me if this was correct, and I said ‘no’. They believed it.

They still drink Pepsi?

The elder one drinks Diet Pepsi, the younger one is slightly more fussy.

She drinks Coke?

(Laughs.)

Rajeev has every reason to laugh. Later, at a papdi-chaat joint in Dilli’s Bengali Market, I spot a Hindu Undivided Family devouring gallons of Pepsi. I ask the patriarch if he isn’t worried. Ratan Lal Khurana says he sure is, but he can’t help it. “Ki karen. Bachiano gussa chadega.” [What to do? The kids will get angry.]

Tests show Pepsi, Coke to be contamined with poisons

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