Tag Archives: Government of India

Government aims to quell public anger rather than help Bhopalis

BHOPAL.NET OPINION. On the face of it, the Group of Ministers’ recommendations seem attractive. 700 crores in “enhanced compensation”, site to be cleaned, Anderson pursued – it sounds good, until you examine the details. Then it becomes clear that these proposals, while seeking to salve the public’s sorely wounded pride, actually do little or nothing for the Bhopalis. Survivors are calling it “another betrayal”.

Confidential Minutes from the Meeting of the Group of Ministers on Bhopal

1. “ENHANCED COMPENSATION”: 93% OF VICTIMS WILL GET NOTHING”

Lachho Bai
Nothing for Laccho Bai, constantly ill since inhaling Union Carbide’s gases, who has lost her reason and her sight.

There are 572,000 officially registered victims of Union Carbide’s gases.
The 700 crore rupees of compensation will be shared among 45,166 people who have lost relatives or suffered certains sorts of injury. (1) More than 525,000 victims are excluded. [pullquote]93% of Union Carbide’s officially registered victims will get nothing but a notional Rs 2/- per head from the insulting June 7 judgement. [/pullquote] Of these many are seriously ill with conditions not covered by the government’s method of claims assessment. See here.

Recipients of the government’s apparent largesse will be chosen on the basis of the flawed system of claims analysis that proved to be inaccurate, unjust, slapdash, bedevilled by bureaucracy, slow, open to abuse, and often corrupt. See this 1991 report by the Bhopal Group for Information and Action. Also On the Question of Whether a Fresh Survey of Bhopal Victims is Required. And Survey of Compensation among residents of Jaiprakash Nagar. Oct 2002.

2. THE EXTRADITION OF WARREN ANDERSON IS A RED HERRING TO PROTECT DOW

Warren Anderson is 91 years old. It is a foregone conclusion that the US administration will refuse an extradition request, so there is no risk in making this promise.

The government could and should be pursuing Union Carbide Corporation and Union Carbide Eastern, accused alongside Warren Anderson, and like him absconding from justice since 1992. But there is no mention of them. The reason is undoubtedly to protect Dow Chemical. [pullquote] UCC still exists as a legal entity wholly owned by Dow, which is not only allowed to do business openly in India but, as recent media reports have shown, to direct government policy making.[/pullquote]

While the extent of Anderson’s direct involvement has been questioned by the US administration, there can be no doubt about the roles of UCC and UCE in directly causing the gas catastrophe.

The ICJB does not oppose attempting to extradite Anderson, but it demands that UCC and UCE should also be pursued on the charge of “culpable homicide”. If found guilty, they would at least be compelled to pay more than two rupees per victim.

3. DOW CHEMICAL LIABILITY FOR CLEAN UP TO BE DETERMINED BY COURT.

Dow claims it had nothing to do with UCIL. But UCIL was majority-owned by Union Carbide Corporation which thus shares the major part of the responsibility for the contamination and failure to clean up. When Dow acquired Union Carbide’s assets, it also acquired its “polluter pays” liabilities.

[pullquote right]If UCC is liable, Dow is liable. This is the opinion of India’s Ministry of Law. But Dow is strongly protected by its lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who also happens to be Congress Spokesman and part of the Manmohan Singh inner circle. He sees no conflict of interest. Do you?[/pullquote]

Dow has admitted routinely bribing Indian officials to get a banned pesticide certified as safe, yet no action is taken against it. Dow used bribery to gain certification for its pesticide Dursban which is so dangerous to children that it is banned for home use in the US. In India it is sold as safe. The government has not taken any steps either to punish the company for bribing officials, or to take Dursban off the home market.

In the 1990s Dow paid more than $10 million to the family of an infant, Joshua Herb, who had been damaged by Dursban. What will damaged Indian children get?

4. THE CLEAN UP TO BE BASED ON NEERI’S RECOMMENDATIONS. NEERI SAYS THERE IS NO GROUNDWATER CONTAMINATION OUTSIDE THE FACTORY SITE

deadgoat-600.jpg
No words are needed to disprove the claim that water contamination is confined to the factory site. This poisoned goat, floating in a ‘solar evaporation pond’ near the Garib Nagar basti half a kilometer outside the factory, says it all.

NEEERI’s statement is at odds with numerous reports from Greenpeace and other organisations, including two published last December. [pullquote]While relying on discredited, incompetent NEERI the UPA-II government is ignoring an offer from the EU Parliament to fund a thorough and impartial study of the nature and extent of contamination to the highest scientific standards.[/pullquote]NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur) is a discredited organisation whose slipshod methods and careless conclusions during a 1990s survey of the contamination were severely criticised by US consultancy Arthur D Little which had ironically been retained by Union Carbide Corporation in Danbury to advise Union Carbide India Limited.

For details please see The farce that was and is NEERI.

Carbide executives privately ridiculed NEERI’s work while recognising that it was the pet of the MPPCB (Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board) which was opposed to the involvement of ADL. [pullquote right]The rate of birth defects in places where the water is contaminated is running at 10 times that of the rest of India.[/pullquote]No surprise then, when in 2001 MPPCB chairman V K Jain was exposed as having amassed money and jewellery worth 15 crores of rupees by corrupt methods. The entire MPPCB board was dissolved.

The human impact of the poisoned water can be seen just by walking through the affected areas. NEERI: Briefing notes for journalists.

5. NEERI RECOMMEND BURYING TOXIC WASTE INSIDE THE FACTORY

The proposal to bury the waste on the site itself under NEERI’s direction is the final folly. It will not be done to a proper standard and the groundwater pollution will be exacerbated instead of contained. [pullquote]Says US attorney Raj Sharma, “NEERI was responsible for the creation of the leaking landfill in the solar evaporation ponds. They rubber stamped everything that UCC proposed. This plan will be a disaster in its own right if effectuated.[/pullquote]

THE GoM HAS IGNORED THE SURVIVORS’ DEMAND FOR AN EMPOWERED COMMISSION. MONEY TO BE GIVEN TO STATE GOVERNMENT

The Group of Ministers is thus reneging on a promise its immediate predecessor made to the survivors two years ago. The GoM minutes reveal no mention of a reliable mechanism to deliver social, economic, medical rehabilitation for gas survivors and their children. Nor does it make any proposals for the relief of those whose lives have been blighted by the poisoned water. The families of the children born damaged will get no compensation, no help of any kind.

While ignoring the promise made earlier to the survivors the confidential minutes of the GoM meeting reveal that it proposes to hand a huge wad of cash, some 700 crores of rupees to the MP state government. Cynics will note that years after hundreds of crores were poured by the Centre into State coffers for the creation of jobs for gas survivors, not a single job has been created, not a single person has been employed.

No doubt tailors in Bhopal and elsewhere are busily deepening and strengthening pockets.

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Join the Rally for Justice in Bhopal, June 24, Delhi

Don’t let the Government betray Bhopal once again.

If you were desperate to do something for Bhopal, and didn’t know what to do, here’s something you can do.

Join the Rally. Bring your friends and family. Bring your own placard.

WHERE: Mandi House to Jantar Mantar, New Delhi.
WHEN: 24 JUNE, 2010. 11 a.m.
WHY: To Condemn the Latest Betrayal of Bhopal

The official copy of the report of the Group of Ministers on Bhopal has not been released to the media. But the media has been selectively and confusingly reported on certain parts of the recommendations reportedly given to them by inside sources. These reports make it seem as if:
a) The GoM is recommending enhanced compensation for Bhopal victims to the tune of Rs. 1500 crores
b) The GoM is recommending that the Centre will pay for clean-up and recover the money from Dow Chemical.
c) The GoM will recommend the Government to address the issue of liability by pursuing Anderson.
d) The GoM will recommend that Rs. 720 crores be handed over to the State Government to take care of rehabilitation.

A senior bureaucrat who was present at the GoM meeting revealed some startling details:
a) Only 41,000 people, out of 5,72,000 people exposed and injured by the gas leak will receive any compensation. 5,31,000 people, who received paltry sums of Rs. 25,000 from the earlier settlement for life-long ill-health, will receive nothing.
b) The GoM has reportedly committed Rs. 300 crores. This is wholly inadequate for cleanup of more than 10,000 tons of toxic wastes, a contaminated groundwater aquifer. Also, no provision has been made for the medical care and compensation of the 25,000 or more people who have been forced to consume this poisonous groundwater and have developed serious and lifelong illnesses as a result. As for recovery of money from Dow, the Government has indicated it will merely await a verdict from the Court and will do nothing to actively pursue Dow Chemical.
c) While much noise is made about extraditing Anderson, not a word has been mentioned about enforcing the appearance of the other foreign accused — i.e. Union Carbide Corporation USA, and Union Carbide Eastern Hongkong.
d) The Rs. 720 crores given to the State Government will suffer the same fate as the Rs. 530 crores already spent by the MP Government for rehabilitation of Bhopal victims. Till date, not one person has been gainfully employed as a result of MP Government’s economic rehabilitation schemes. Victims are paying through their nose for medical treatment at private clinics because of the horrendous state of the hospitals set up using a big chunk of the Rs. 530 crores. A Supreme Court Monitoring Committee that looked into medical rehabilitation has severely criticised the medical infrastructure and said that the need of the hour is more doctors, better administration and better quality medicines. Instead of investing in these, the Government of Madhya Pradesh has submitted a proposal in which a bulk of the funds will be used for construction of new wings. Several dozen lakhs of rupees will be used to purchase fictitious equipments like “automatic micro-organism [sic] detection instruments” and non-equipment items such as “identification & sensitivity of micro organism [sic]”.

Organised by:
Children Against Dow Carbide
Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangarsh Morcha
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sanghatan
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangarsh Sahyog Samiti
Bhopal Group for Information and Action

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“US-India Strategic Economic Partnership”: Kowtowing to US big business

PRASENJIT BOSE

The Report of the US India CEO Forum titled “US-India Strategic Economic Partnership”, which was released during the recent Bush visit, has not attracted much media attention in contrast to the hype over the nuclear deal. The CEO Forum was formed during the Visit of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the US in July 2005 with “a mandate to develop a road map for increased partnership and cooperation between the two countries at a business level”. The roadmap unveiled in the Report, however, goes much beyond partnership and cooperation between the Indian and the American corporates. It seeks to rework entire policy frameworks governing almost all the major sectors of the Indian economy.

The fact that a majority of the recommendations of the CEO Forum are related to changes sought in Indian laws and regulations and only a few are meant for the US Government shows the unequal structure underlying the economic partnership. The Indian corporates led by Ratan Tata (co-chair of the CEO Forum) have happily accepted this junior partnership to US big business as the most convenient means of their class development in the current global setting. The joint declaration issued by the Prime Minister along with the US President welcomed the CEO Forum Report, agreeing to consider its recommendations and directed the Chairs of the Indo-US Economic Dialogue to “follow up expeditiously with the CEO Forum”. The Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission (who co-chairs the Indo-US Dialogue) lost no time in announcing the formation of twenty-six committees to carry forward each of the recommendations meant for India. This zealous haste implies that the Government wants to implement at least some of the recommendations before the US visit of the Prime Minister later this year.

Being faithful adherents of neoliberalism, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission seem to believe that what is good for American and Indian big business is also good for the people of India and the Indian economy. A closer look at the recommendations of the Report not only exposes the fallacies of neoliberal thought but also points towards several imminent measures which would take the UPA Government further away from the vision underlying the National Common Minimum Programme.

Recommendations of the CEO Forum

The recommendations of the Report are summarised under the last section of the Report titled “Enabling Environment”. The creation of an enabling environment is premised upon the usual prescription for greater liberalization: “tariff and non-tariff barriers to be reduced in respect of all products, agricultural and manufactured, over a specified period of time by the US and India”. Underlying this formulation is the completely misplaced notion harboured by Indian corporates that there is a convergence of interests between India and the US as far trade liberalization is concerned. The role played by India during the Hongkong Ministerial Conference of the WTO betrayed a similar understanding currently prevailing within the Indian policy establishment that India would benefit immensely from liberalization of services and therefore it is justifiable to concede ground to the developed countries in return, in terms of tariff reduction in industry and agriculture. This shows that the Indian corporates are willing to trade off the interests of the overwhelming majority of our people in their narrow self-interest.

A closer scrutiny of the 30 recommendations made by the CEO Forum reveal that only 4 recommendations are directly related to some concrete benefit accruing to India and its corporate sector. These are as follows:

1. Transfer of high technology to India to be relaxed by the US government in extension of COMSAT rules to India and ISRO.

2. US government to allow/accelerate the transfer of dual use items/technologies.

3. US to pursue transfer of civilian-nuclear energy technology to India to enable India to meet its energy needs and achieve energy security.

4. Liberalize the US visa regime required for service providers in IT (H1B/L1), nurses (EB3), i.e. wherever U.S. is facing shortages of trained personnel. Also, ease quantitative restrictions/yearly quotas of such visas. Other impediments such as attestation requirements, reduction of periods of stay and prescriptive wage levels may be dispensed with.

These comprise most of what the Indian corporates seek to achieve through the strategic economic partnership with US big business. If this ultimately translates into actual policy changes in the US, which seems unlikely anyway, benefits would be restricted to some transfer of technology in space research and nuclear energy and a few thousand more US visas for skilled personnel in sectors like IT, Healthcare etc.

In addition there are a few recommendations, which are meant either for the US or to be jointly acted upon by the US and the Indian Government. These are:

1. US to consider instituting a new business facilitator proposal to support US companies.

2. Both countries need to make tourist visas easier to obtain.

3. India-US Dual Taxation Treaty to be revised to include state taxes and federal social security/Medicare deductions.

4. Indian IT firms should be permitted to bid for US technology programs after receiving appropriate clearances.

The Indian & US economies to be opened up further for freer trade in services and products. Dialogue to be initiated on a US–India FTA to take bilateral trade and investment to a new level.

These may provide some benefits to the Indian corporates, especially the IT and Tourism sector. The effort is clearly to lure India into greater trade liberalization by making some concessions to some of the successful Indian exporters in the Services sector.

The rest of the 21 recommendations are all exclusively for India. Most of them are in the form of demand(s) for policy changes related to specific sectors of the Indian economy to the obvious benefits of the US corporates. They are as follows:

Infrastructure: i. Need to foster speed, efficiency and transparency in the bidding process for BOT contracts in infrastructure in India.

Power: i. Need for Indian power sector reforms to ensure sanctity of contracts, encourage competition, promote market-driven tariffs and separate regulatory and adjudication authorities.

Insurance: i. Insurance Industry FDI cap to be reviewed and raised by India.

Banking: i. Consider allowing FDI in Indian private sector banks; schedule for liberalization to be advanced from 2009. ii. Restrictions on expansion/new branches by Indian banks in the US to be removed/norms liberalized.

Retail Trade: i. Further liberalization of FDI in retail in India to be considered.

Oil & Gas: i. The proposed Petroleum and Gas Regulatory Board Bill to be enacted in India. ii. The Indian Natural Gas Pipeline Policy to be adopted.

Real Estate & Urban Development: i. India to consider reducing restrictions on FDI in the Real Estate Sector. Also move ahead on urban land reforms, streamline the regulatory, tax and duty structure, revamp stamp duty and title registration regimes and reconsider change of use restrictions as was done in the US for decaying cities.

Telecom: i. India to pursue truly technology-neutral policies in telecom, and ensure a level playing field so as to allow the full range of private telecom companies and public sector (Government owned) companies to compete fairly and fully.

IT: i. Licensing requirements for certain information sector products and for services, which support business activity, should be reviewed and eliminated by the government of India.

Media: i. Elimination of FDI caps in sectors such as print media, broadcasting, cable and satellite systems and e-commerce to be considered by government of India.

Defense Procurement: i. The Offset Policy of India needs to be framed considering global best practices and the use of “indirect” offsets.

The other recommendations of the CEO Forum seek changes in the Indian judicial system, and the Intellectual Property regime along with changes in tax and company laws.

Judicial Reform & Regulatory Framework: i. Strengthen the Indian judicial system to address case backlog, expedite legal proceedings, address the issue of no limit on the number of adjournments, inadequate number of judges, large number of court holidays and civil infrastructure. ii. Strengthen the regulatory environment in India, to be clear and consistent with legal enforcement through special courts at both Central and State levels. iii. Need to resolve commercial and contractual disputes quickly through an independent tribunal under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.

Intellectual Property Regime: i. Specialized IPR courts to be established to enforce IPR laws. ii. India needs to develop a TRIPS compliant IP system and IP protection, especially for software and published materials, print or electronic.

Company Law: i. Review the Indian Companies Act, with respect to provisions relating to private companies, as many US companies are privately held.

Taxation: i. India to consider treating dividends received from overseas companies in the hands of an Indian resident at par for tax as domestic dividends, so as to make outward FDI no less attractive.

Visa Regime: India to consider providing visas for up to five years and removal of FRO/FRRO requirements for US citizens to report physically once a year.

One of the reasons that have prompted the Indian corporates to endorse such a skewed ‘partnership’ heavily loaded in favour of the US corporates is the perceived need to attract more FDI from the US. Ratan Tata, who co-chairs the CEO Forum, also chairs the Investment Commission set up by the Prime Minister. This Commission has recently submitted a Report, which has underlined the need to attract FDI over $ 70 billion in order to sustain a GDP growth rate of 8% over the next five years. Given the fact that India has attracted FDI worth around $ 38 billion between August 1991 to January 2006 (of which FDI from US is less than $ 5 billion), the target set by the Investment Commission seems totally over-ambitious.

India has not been able to attract larger volumes of FDI, especially in comparison with countries like China, South Korea or Malaysia, despite having a much more liberal FDI regime. India has foreign ownership restrictions in very few sectors and 100% FDI is permitted in most sectors through the automatic route. China, which has a far more restrictive regime where FDI proposals are approved on a case-by-case basis and foreign ownership is restricted in many sectors, has been able to attract more than ten times the volume of FDI that India attracts annually. Rather than reviewing this experience properly, Indian corporates are prodding the policymakers to move towards lifting whatever little regulation that exist in India vis-à-vis foreign capital. The effort is to increase the share of FDI not through greenfield investments like in China but by facilitating the takeover of Indian companies by US based MNCs through mergers and acquisitions, a policy that was followed by Brazil in the late 1990s to its own detriment. Besides failing in its objective to meet the over-ambitious FDI target, the adoption of such a policy course would neutralize the benefits of FDI accruing to the Indian economy in terms of technological advancement and generation of skilled employment.

“Strategic Economic Partnership”: Implications for India

The Forum has identified 6 major areas for cooperation. These include Physical Infrastructure Development, Energy Security, Human Resource Development, Technology Exchange, Trade and Industry Promotion and Intellectual Property Protection. Cooperation in Physical Infrastructure Development involves setting up of a $ 5 billion private sector Infrastructure Fund (minority Government participation) with the participation of US companies to fund infrastructure projects under the supervision of multilateral agencies like the World Bank, ADB and IFC. There are further proposals to involve the US in the development of Mumbai into a ‘Regional Financial Centre’ and the setting up of large scale Special Economic Zones. The Forum has called for a change in the bidding process for infrastructure projects to foster ‘speed, efficiency and transparency’. What this implies is that the development of infrastructure in India, especially key infrastructure projects like roads, sea and airports and Special Economic Zones etc will be undertaken by the private sector with US corporate lending through the Infrastructure Fund.

Besides the fallacy in assuming that the Government of India lacks adequate resources to develop such infrastructure through public investments, which underlies the logic of such ‘Private-Public Partnerships’ (PPP), the problem with such a model of infrastructure development lie in the conditionalities that come along with private funding in terms of high cost borrowing which are passed on as high user charges (higher toll taxes for roads for example). Moreover, the fact that ‘flexible, internationally competitive labour laws’ have been demanded for the Special Economic Zones to be set up under PPP also point to such objectionable conditionalities. In the area of Energy Cooperation also the conditionalities have been clearly specified. The precondition set for further infusion of US capital into the Power and Oil sector is the promotion of a ‘market driven’ structure of power tariffs and pricing of petro products. A US-India private sector Task Force comprising power companies has been proposed to work with the Central and select State Governments to “facilitate on-time implementation of investments being made and resolution of legacy disputes in the Indian power sector”. An early passage of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board Bill has been advocated. It is clear that further neoliberal reforms in the Power and Oil sector to benefit the US corporates have been accepted as a quid pro quo to cooperation in civilian nuclear energy and ‘clean fuel’ between the US and the Indian Governments.

Cooperation in Human Resource Development, besides involving US institutions of higher learning like MIT, Lincoln Labs, Bell Labs, John Hopkins and Carnegie Mellon to set up research institutions and Phd programmes in India has also proposed to upgrade the ITIs with the cooperation of the US companies. However, such cooperation also comes with the precondition of giving private educational institutions a “free hand in terms of fees, course structure and affiliations”. While the CEO forum has called for relaxation of US norms for transfer/export of high technology to India including dual use categories (like advanced electronics, semiconductor technology, aviation related technology, key software systems and equipment), removal of restrictions on R&D collaboration by the US companies and encouragement to R&D collaboration in product design and development as well as agricultural research, such transfer of technology and R&D collaboration is envisaged only under a drastically restructured Intellectual Property Protection regime in India. For instance, on cooperation in biotechnology the Report says, “Partner in Biotechnology by jointly developing a regulatory pathway to ensure regulations surrounding the sector are based on sound science, are transparent and supportive of policies that encourage investment in and commercialization of biotechnology, and promote trade in biotech goods and services. Both countries (i.e. US FDA working with the Indian FDA) should harmonize legislation to provide opportunities and protection for US as well as Indian companies in biotech related IPR.”

‘Harmonization’ of legislations related to Intellectual Property Protection between India and the US has serious implications for India. The CEO Forum Report says, “Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) protection has separated and divided US and Indian businesses in the past but there is an increasing convergence in the approach to IPR and supporting legislation. There is now a mutual, agreed agenda to frame laws, rules and processes to sustain the highest standards of protection to the inventor or the organization, which invests in IP. The next ten years can witness a new surge in partnership in IPR between the U.S. and India which includes mutual cooperation in IPR implementation and enforcement as well as building a ‘patents’ culture.” (Emphasis added). The key institutional changes which have been suggested by the CEO Forum in order to usher in a ‘patents culture’ in India includes setting up a national unit dedicated to IPR enforcement (HRD and I&B Ministries have been asked to take the first steps in coordinating the IPR enforcement efforts as a first step) and setting up of specialized Intellectual Property Courts to handle both civil as well as criminal cases related to IPR. A particularly significant recommendation calling for a “national initiative to crack down on piracy in the educational and research sectors” has been made in the Report. The report says, “The Ministry of Human Resource Development (and other relevant ministries, such as Health, for medical schools) could issue directives to all public and private educational and research institutions to stop using unauthorized photocopies of books and journals; take action against on-campus copy-shops engaged in illegal activity; and report periodically to the Ministry on what steps have been taken. This data would form the basis for more targeted efforts in the future.” Whether such an initiative is at all possible in India is another matter; but the fact that the Indian corporates could agree to such a proposal show how much they are out of sync with the Indian reality.

The seriousness with which the IPR regime and the policy framework is sought to be restructured by the CEO Forum is evident from the section on the pharmaceutical sector in the Report. A Report recently prepared by a Task Force under the Chairmanship of Dr. Pronab Sen of the Planning Commission has recommended that price controls be expanded to every medicine on India’s Essential Drug list. It has further recommended that patented medicines be subject to a price monitoring system with mandatory price negotiations and compulsory licensing if agreement on the price cannot be reached. Also, the task force has suggested that if a medicine reaches a certain volume it should be genericized. Besides calling for a review of the pharmaceutical price controls policy the CEO Forum Report has specifically challenged the Task Force recommendations. On the recommendation of genericization of an essential drug once its sale exceeds a specified volume the CEO Forum Report says, “Although the industry is confident that this particular recommendation will most likely not be adopted, it is troubling as it could portend future anti-industry actions by the government”.

The lopsided nature of the Indo-US business partnership is best manifested in the cooperation on Trade and Industry Promotion. The most important demand is for reducing restrictions on foreign investment. The demands to expedite the decision to allow FDI in the Retail sector in India as well as an accelerated timetable for raising the FDI caps in the Insurance and Banking sectors have been specifically articulated vis-à-vis the Government of India. These have been demanded along with a call for liberalizing the US visa regime for service providers, particularly for IT (H 1B/L 1) and nursing staff (EB3). This bargain between the Indian and the American corporates also underlies the ongoing collaboration between the Indian and the US Governments on the GATS negotiations in the WTO. For a few thousand more US visas for IT professionals and nurses in India, which would solely benefit the IT and private healthcare sectors, the Indian corporates are arguing on behalf of the US multinational retail giants like the Walmart and US based transnational banks and insurance companies for the further opening up of these sectors in India. The interests of the millions of Indians who are employed in the retail sector, especially in unorganized retail, or the security of the savings of millions of Indians in the banks and insurance companies, which have so far been protected by extant Indian regulations, are being sacrificed.

The role of the American and Indian corporates in the Defence sector has been increasing under the ongoing Indo-US Defence Cooperation. The CEO Forum report states that “with the opening of defense supplies from the US to India, there are new opportunities emerging for private sector defense cooperation”. In order to address the insecurity about the reliability of US Defence supplies, the CEO Forum has envisaged the integration of “Indian private sector companies into the global supply chain of US defense manufacturers, combined with co-production”. In return the adoption of a “liberal offset regime” in India has been demanded, which would imply a dilution of the current Indian policy which requires direct offsets for defence purchases over Rs 300 crores. Thus the lure of cooption of some Indian corporates as junior partners into the military-industrial complex of the US is being used to make India a major buyer of US defence supplies.

The setting up of a Dispute Settlement Mechanism in India, with the “power and jurisdiction to resolve commercial and contractual disputes quickly” has been proposed in the Report. The Report says that “An independent tribunal formed through the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 should be a forum for dispute resolution. Specific focus on resolving legacy issues such as those impacting Dow/ Bhopal tragedy of 1984 and the Tamil Nadu IPPs would send a strong positive signal to US investors.” It is clear that a parallel judicial system favourable for the corporates and unaffordable for the bulk of Indians has been envisaged. Far from providing any justice to the victims of corporate negligence and crimes, like the Bhopal Gas tragedy, this is meant to refashion the judicial system to preempt any possibility of litigation against any company by common citizens in the Indian courts in future.

Conclusion

The Report of the CEO Forum on “US India Strategic Economic Partnership” has brought out clearly the class basis of the “strategic alliance” that the UPA Government seeks to cement with the US. This junior partnership to the US, especially American big business, while serving the interests of the Indian corporates who have forsaken all pretensions of autonomous development, would be severely detrimental to interests of the Indian people. Indian big business, which had suffered a jolt in the aftermath of the 2004 Lok Sabha elections when their darling, the NDA Government, was booted out unceremoniously, is seeking to push forward the discredited neoliberal policies in India in a direct alliance with American big business. It has to be ensured that the cheerleaders of neoliberalism within the UPA government are prevented from taking this anti-national agenda forward.

Appendix

US-INDIA CEO Forum Members

Co-Chairs

JP Morgan Chase
Mr. William B. Harrison, Jr.
Chairman of the Board

Tata Sons Limited
Mr. Ratan Tata
Chairman

US Members

AES Corporation
Mr. Paul Hanrahan
President & CEO

Cargill, Incorporated
Mr. Warren R. Staley
Chairman & CEO

Citigroup
Mr. Charles O. Prince
Chairman & CEO

Honeywell Inc.
Mr. David Cote
Chairman & CEO

The McGraw-Hill Companies
Mr. Harold McGraw
Chairman & CEO

Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc.
Mr. Thomas J. O’Neill
Chairman & CEO

Pepsico
Mr. Steven Reinemund
Chairman & CEO

Visa International
Mr. Christopher Rodrigues
President & CEO

Xerox Inc.
Ms. Anne Mulcahy
Chairman & CEO

Indian Members

Apollo Hospitals
Dr. Pratap C. Reddy
Chairman

Bharat Forge Ltd.
Mr. Baba Kalyani
Chairman & MD

Biocon Ltd.
Ms Kiran Mazumdar Shaw
Chairman & MD

HDFC & IDFC
Mr. Deepak Parekh
Chairman

ICICI One Source Ltd.
Mr. Ashok Ganguly
Chairman

Infosys Technologies Ltd.
Mr. Nandan Nilekani
CEO

ITC Limited
Mr. Yogi Deveshwar
Chairman

Max India Ltd.
Mr. Analjit Singh
Chairman

Reliance Industries Ltd.
Mr. Mukesh Ambani
Chairman & MD

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Amnesty slams Dow

Amnesty International today released its report, “Clouds of Injustice” and called on Dow Chemical Company to ensure that Union Carbide Corporation
• effectively and promptly decontaminates the Bhopal factory site, cleans up the groundwater and removes the stockpiles of toxic and hazardous substances left by the company when they abandoned the site;
• cooperates fully with those who are assessing the long-term health consequences of the gas leak and of the hazardous and toxic substances left on site since 1984;
• promptly makes public all information it has on all reaction products released on the day of the gas leak and full information regarding their toxicity and impact on people and the environment;
• appears before the Bhopal Court in the criminal case.

Amnesty International also calls on Dow Chemical Company to:
• provide promptly full reparations, restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for the continuing damage done to people’s health and the environment by the ongoing contamination of the site.

While rightly critical of the the Indian government’s lack of respect for, and lack of will to protect the lives, rights and health of its own poorest citizens, the report sinks a bloody great torpedo into the bowels of Dow.

Download it here.

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Pallone slams Dow in Congress

Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr.
Extension of Remarks
“Bhopal Resolution”
September 29, 2004 

Mr. Speaker, I introduced a resolution today in recognition of the 20th anniversary of the Union Carbide Corporation gas leak that took place in Bhopal, India in December 2004.  This 1984 Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster is widely regarded as the worst peacetime environmental catastrophe in world history, and this important resolution expresses the commitment of the United States Congress to work with the Government of India and others to ensure that Union Carbide provides environmental and medical rehabilitation in Bhopal and is held responsible for its actions.

On the night of December 2, 1984, 27 tons of poisonous gas including methyl isocyanate leaked from a storage tank at the Union Carbide Corporation’s pesticide plant in Bhopal and quickly spread to the surrounding residential areas.  Official estimates indicate a death toll of 3,000 lives in the aftermath of the disaster, with unofficial estimates putting the toll much higher at 8,000.  To date, the death toll has climbed to more than 20,000 lives.

Although it is now 20 years since the disaster, approximately 10-30 people continue to die every month in Bhopal from toxic exposure and 150,000 people continue to suffer long-term health consequences from the disaster.  The effects of the toxic gases also appear to be harming the next generation, as more overwhelming evidence is surfacing that points to higher incidence of health effects and birth-defects among children born to gas-affected people.

A host of international organizations and independent investigators have concluded that Union Carbide’s inadequate technology, double standards in safety and emergency-preparedness compounded by a reckless cost-cutting drive at the plant were the principal causes of the disaster.

Based on these investigations and other evidence, the authorities in India brought criminal charges against Union Carbide, its Indian subsidiary as well as local managers in 1987 for criminal negligence and reckless indifference leading to death.

In 1989, Union Carbide negotiated a settlement of $470 million with the Indian government that was based on inaccurate statistics about the scale and magnitude of the disaster in addition to being widely condemned by the media and responsible jurists in India as insufficient, even when compared to compensation awards provided for under Indian law. The Supreme Court of India in its judicial review of the settlement in October 1991 held that the criminal charges could not be overturned or dismissed based on the civil settlement and directed that the criminal prosecution against Union Carbide and the Indian accused must proceed in the courts of India.

When Union Carbide was served with a summons in the criminal case by the Bhopal District Court in 1992, and a notice to appear for trial was published in the Washington Post, Union Carbide’s spokesmen responded with a public statement that the company was not subject to the jurisdiction of India’s courts in disregard of universally accepted international law regarding criminal jurisdiction acknowledged by both the United States and India.  Based on its refusal to appear to face criminal charges against it, the Bhopal District Court issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Union Carbide, ordered that its remaining properties in India be attached to secure its appearance and declared that the company was a “proclaimed absconder” or fugitive from justice.

Union Carbide has recently become a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Corporation, which made the decision to acquire the company with full knowledge, according to its own public statements, of the criminal charges pending against it and Union Carbide’s status as an absconder or fugitive from justice.  Despite repeated public requests and protests around the world, Dow
Chemical has refused to make its new subsidiary appear before the Bhopal District Court to face the criminal charges pending against it for the disaster.

Like Union Carbide before it, Dow Chemical has, to date, continued to refuse to release all scientific research on the leaked gas, claiming that this information constitutes a commercial  “trade secret”.

Like Union Carbide before it, Dow Chemical has also continued to refuse to release all of its own medical research on the toxicology of the leaked chemicals and gases to date.  The lack of information on the gas has not only hindered the study of the long-term health and medical effects of exposure, but has left doctors with few options besides symptomatic treatment of the hundreds of thousands of gas-affected individuals and children.

The devastating health effects of the gas, the birth defects of their children and inability to work because of illness have forced many Bhopali families in desperate need of medical help into insurmountable debt.

Since 1999, at least three independent environmental surveys, including one conducted by state authorities in India, have shown that the former Union Carbide plant has badly polluted the soil and groundwater aquifer beneath it resulting in severe contamination of the drinking water supply of as many as 20,000 people living in residential colonies near the plant. One study found the presence of a large number of highly toxic pollutants in drinking water samples tested by the University of Exeter in the U.K. that were matched with chemicals found in soil samples from the Bhopal plant, including one carcinogenic chemical whose presence in the drinking water exceeded by 1,705
times the maximum limit allowed by the World Health Organization.

Another environmental survey was able to trace chemicals from the former Union Carbide plant in the breast milk of mothers living in the residential areas in the vicinity of the badly polluted site, which continues to leach pollutants into the groundwater aquifer to date. The land for the plant was leased from the State of Madhya Pradesh in India which stipulated that, upon termination, the land would be returned to the State in the condition that it was first leased and suitable for the use prescribed by the zoning regulations.  The state discovered that clean-up of the site until 1998 had been insufficient leaving thousands of metric tons of toxic wastes, chemical by-products, effluents, and other hazardous materials both above-ground on the premises of the factory and below ground in burial pits and landfills, all of which posed a grave threat to the surrounding population.

At least 10 residential areas in the vicinity of the former Union Carbide plant were found to have severely polluted drinking water according to these environmental studies and no substantive effort has been undertaken for environmental remediation of the area leaving water that has high levels of
mercury, dichlorobenzenes, chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, and other pollutants, toxins, and heavy metals. Soil samples from the area have found abnormal amounts of lead, nickel, copper, chromium, hexachlorocyclohexane, and chlorobenzenes.  Tainted water and the generally toxic living environments have lead to premature cancer, deformities, chromosomal aberrations, and other
disorders for Bhopali children.

There is a “polluter pays” principle enshrined in the domestic laws of both India and the United States as well as both domestic and international law which states that the polluter rather than the public agencies or taxpayers should be held responsible for its environmental pollution in its entirety.

International trade and ethical practices compel Dow Chemical to treat this matter very seriously and ensure that equitable treatment be afforded to the victims and their progeny.

Mr. Speaker, India is the largest democratic country in the world and enjoys a close and mutual friendship with the United States based on common values and common interests, and as a result, our countries should come together to recognize the gravity of the Bhopal disaster and the ongoing environmental problems in Bhopal caused by Union Carbide’s policies and practices.

I encourage my colleagues in the U.S. Congress to support this resolution and commit to working together with the Indian government, Dow Chemical Corporation, and the victims to ensure that Union Carbide provides complete medical, social, and economic rehabilitation to the victims of the disaster.  In addition, we should work together to ensure that Union Carbide undertakes a complete environmental remediation that restores the badly polluted plant site affected by this disaster to a habitable condition and fully remediates the drinking water supply of affected residential communities.  Lastly, we need to ensure that Union Carbide appears before the Bhopal District Court for prosecution on the criminal charges pending against it there, in accordance with principles of international law regarding criminal jurisdiction accepted by the world community including India and the United States.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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