Tag Archives: Government of India

Don’t dump your wastes in our lungs

Survivors join Global Action against Waste Incineration, tell Dow, “get your poisonous waste out of Bhopal”

Bhopal-based members of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal today joined more than 100 groups around the world participating in a Global Day of Action against the disposal of wastes by burning. The Bhopal ICJB members called on the governments of India and Madhya Pradesh to ensure transparent procedures and safe technologies in the disposal of industrial and medical wastes.

Bhopal survivors’ organisations and their supporters demanded a copy of a report commissioned by the Government of India and produced by Engineers India Ltd, into the feasibility of containing above-ground wastes at the Union Carbide factory site in Bhopal. They also condemned current proposals by the Government of Madhya Pradesh to install medical waste incinerators in hospitals meant for gas victims.

“Hospitals are meant to be places of healing. Incinerating medical waste in Bhopal will only increase the sickness and suffering of the survivors of the world’s worst industrial disaster,” said Mrs. Rashida Bee, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh. “We demand immediate scrapping of the plans and installation of non-incinerator alternatives.”

The plan to install incinerators in government hospitals was reported to the local media by the Chief Medical Officer [Gas Relief]. It is well known that dioxins and furans, an inevitable byproduct of incineration, cause cancer, birth defects, and immune system suppression and disrupt the hormonal system.

According to Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action, several safer alternatives, including solar treatment, autoclaving and deep burial exist to deal with medical wastes, and many hospitals in India have preferred such alternatives.

The survivors’ groups demanded the scrapping of any plans that involve permanent disposal of chemical wastes at or near the Union Carbide factory site in Bhopal. “We hear of plans to dispose of the hazardous wastes in a landfill inside the factory premises. We will not allow Union Carbide’s poisons in our midst,” said Syed M Irfan, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha.

According to Shahid Noor from Bhopal ki Aawaaz, Union Carbide or its current owner Dow Chemical must take the poison away from Bhopal as was done by the US Unilever Corporation in the case of mercury waste in Kodaikanal in Tamilnadu last year.

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

Click here for more information on the Day of Action

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"Via Hand Delivery" – the text of the Government of India's letter to the US District Court, New York

June 28, 2004

VIA HAND DELIVERY
United States District Judge John F Keenan
United States District Court
Southern District of New York
500 Pearl Street,
New York, New York 100007-1312

Re : Bano et al v. Union Carbide 99 Civ. 11329 [JFK]

TO THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT :

On behalf of the Union of India and as its duly authorized consular representative in the United States of America, we submit this letter in the above, referenced matter to present the official position of the sovereign government of India with regard to environmental remediation of the land and premises formerly occupied by the Union carbide plant in Bhopal, India.

The union of India submits that neither the Madhya Pradesh State Government or its instrumentalities nor the Union of India has any objection to any such relief for environmental remediation of the former Union Carbide plant premises in Bhopal being ordered or directed by a competent

Keenan
The only picture we can find of the Honorable Justice John Keenan
court or tribunal of the United States. Further, the Union of India and the Madhya Pradesh State Government and their respective instrumentalities will cooperate with any such relief as and when issued by the United States District Court. The Union of India will monitor and supervise such environmental remediation including decommissioning of plant and machinery, remediation / disposal of contaminated soil and appropriate disposal of toxic chemicals and wastes on the plant site by Union Carbide in order to ensure that it is undertaken in compliance with the norms parameters laid down by a specific organization of the Government of India, the Central Pollution Control Board, for that purpose.

Union Carbide will also be held responsible for any loss/damages caused to life or property in the process of remediation and disposal. Pursuant to the “polluter pays” principle recognized by both the United States and India, Union Carbide should bear all of the financial burden and cost for the purpose of environmental clean up and remediation. The Union of India and the State Government of Madhya Pradesh shall not bear any financial burden for this purpose.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, nothing in this official statement on behalf of the Union of India may be construed or read, by implication or otherwise, as an intention to submit either the Union of India or the Madhya Pradesh Government to the jurisdiction of the United State Government of Madhya Pradesh are entitled to sovereign immunity under international law and do not waive those immunities by this submission.

In addition, nothing in this submission should be construed, by implication or otherwise, to convey any authority to plaintiff in the above matter to assert or pursue claims on behalf of the Union of India or State Government of Madhya Pradesh nor shall the plaintiffs in the above referenced matter be entitled, by virtue of this submission, to assert or pursue any claims against either the Union of India or the Madhya Pradesh Government in the litigation or before the US District Court.

Finally, it is the official position of the Union of India that the previous settlement of claims concerning the 1984 Bhopal Gas Disaster between Union Carbide and Union of India has no legal bearing on or relation whatsoever to the environmental contamination issue raised in the case at bar. Nothing in this submission should be construed, by implication or otherwise, as an 8intention to reopen or question the validity of that previous settlement.

Accordingly, the Union of India hereby formally urges the US District Court to order such relief, as required by the US Court of Appeals Second Circuit in this matter.

Respectfully submitted
Consul General of India
Consulate General of India
3 East, 64th Street
New York, New York 10021-7097

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"Bhopal: Was the Drama Necessary?"

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh personally intervened to make sure the Bhopalis got their chance for justice

Reprinted from The Hindu – Kalpana Sharma

A two-page press release, issued on June 23 by the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, marked the end of a week of high drama. It stated that the Government of India had no objection to a U.S. Federal Court asking Union Carbide to clean up the mess it had left behind 20 years ago. It was also the culmination of three months of intensive campaigning by the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) and Greenpeace. The March 17 U.S. Federal Court ruling was in response to a suit filed by some of the victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, when methylisocyanate leaked from a plant run by Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) killing thousands in its wake. The court ruled that the parent company, Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), should clean up the abandoned and heavily contaminated site of the now closed plant. For this to happen, the Madhya Pradesh Government and the Centre had to state that they had no objection. What seemed on the surface to be a straightforward affair, particularly as it did not involve any costs to be borne by either Government, became a protracted affair with three people going on a fast unto death. Was all this necessary? Given the tame manner in which the drama finally ended, it would seem not.

The ICJB and Greenpeace launched their campaign first in Madhya Pradesh, urging the State Government to issue a letter of no objection. They were given the run around and told it was outside the jurisdiction of the State Government. On March 25, a delegation from Bhopal met the President and he expressed concern and support. After that nothing moved forward, partly because the country was by then in the election mode.<br
Launch of campaign

Finally, on May 8, a campaign to petition the Government was launched. By early June, the Prime Minister, who had only recently assumed office, was inundated with over 4,000 such petitions. On June 7, after months of lobbying, the Madhya Pradesh Government finally sent a letter to the Secretary of the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, saying it had no objection if the U.S. Court ordered Union Carbide to clean up the site and that this would be “in larger public interest.”<br
With this letter in hand, the activists then met the Union Chemicals Minister, Ram Vilas Paswan, and he promised to take action. They waited for a week and on June 16 met the Union Law Minister, H.R. Bhardwaj. The latter apparently raised the non-issue of conflict with the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985. This law had allowed the Centre to represent the claims of the Bhopal victims and finally led to an out-of-court settlement with Union Carbide amounting to $470 million.<br
Despite the activists pointing out that this matter concerned pollution caused after the accident, the Law Ministry was unresponsive. In the meantime, several legal luminaries expressed the opinion that there was nothing in the law that need hold the Government back from issuing the letter.<br
By June 17, despite more reassurances from Mr. Paswan, the activists were beginning to despair. This is when three of them decided to go on a fast. Their decision caught the attention of the media, several members of the Government and leading trade unionists.

PMO’s intervention

None of this made a difference, however, until the Prime Minister’s Office intervened. On its advice, the Bhopal activists again met the Law Minister on June 21 and found, to their surprise, a complete turnabout. He said he had no problem but that the Ministry of Environment and Forests had to deal with this. The latter threw the ball back at the Law Ministry. Representatives from the campaigning groups sat in all the different Ministries — Law, Environment, Chemicals — and the PMO on June 22, waiting for some definite word. This finally came late June 23 in the form of the press release. The three broke their fast and everyone heaved a sigh of relief. But the story does not end here and there are many important lessons to be drawn.<br
First, the Bhopal campaigners succeeded because they had the ability to launch a campaign at different levels. There are many civil society groups without such support or such a high level of organisation. Their representatives sit on dharna at various locations in State capitals and in New Delhi and often neither the Government nor the media pays any heed to them.<br
Secondly, the Bhopal activists were lucky that they conducted their campaign at a time when there was a responsive Prime Minister who intervened. It is evident that without a word from his office, the matter would not have moved.<br
Third, the issue did not involve either the Madhya Pradesh Government or the Centre incurring any costs. They will be borne by Union Carbide according to the U.S. court’s ruling. This also made the issue somewhat simpler. Yet despite this last point, it is surprising that the Bhopal campaigners had to resort to all the tricks in their bag to finally get the Government to agree. The matter should never have reached this stage and could have been settled through dialogue. The fact that the campaigners had to push things to such an extreme illustrates yet again the gap in understanding between governments and activists. The former will not respond until the latter pushes the issue to an extreme. As a result, the latter become convinced that reasonable dialogue cannot work and only extreme pressure will.

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Government of India issues historic order, satyagrahis end fast

INDIAN GOVERNMENT BOWS TO PRESSURE, AGREES TO SUBMIT STATEMENT TO U.S. COURT IN THE UNION CARBIDE-BHOPAL CONTAMINATION CLEAN UP CASE.

New Delhi, June 23, 2004: Six days after three Bhopal activists began their hunger strike, the Government of India finally bowed to pressure and agreed to submit a statement to the New York District Court in the Bhopal contamination clean up case. This statement now has to reach the US Court before the deadline of June 30th. The activists have been assured that the New York Court has already been alerted by the Indian government.

Upon receiving this communication from the Prime Minister’s Office, the three activists who have been on a hunger strike since June 18th broke their fast in the presence of many trade union leaders and supporters including Swami Agnivesh.

“This statement brings us one step closer to a historic order by the US Court directing Union Carbide to clean up the toxic contamination in and around the factory premises in Bhopal,” said Satinath Sarangi, ICJB activist and one of those on hunger strike. “Such an Order will not only uphold the ‘Polluter Pays’ principle, but will set a precedence to hold multinational companies accountable in their home country for their actions abroad.”

More than 20,000 people from over 14 bastis have been affected by the serious contamination emanating from the tonnes of toxic chemicals and chemical waste dumped in and around the Union Carbide factory premises. They, and their supporters from around the world, now expect the US District Court to order Union Carbide to clean up the contamination at Bhopal to the best global standards possible.

“We hope that the Prime Minister who intervened in this matter will show the same kind of sensitivity and alacrity in dealing with other pending issues in Bhopal and in holding Union Carbide’s new owner Dow Chemicals liable for the pending issues in Bhopal. These include criminal justice as well as economic and medical rehabilitation issues of the gas leak-affected and contamination-affected people of Bhopal”, said Rasheeda Bi, winner of the Goldman Prize 2004, who has also been on hunger strike since June 18th along with Mr Shahid Noor. Mr Noor, orphaned by the gas leak in 1984, currently runs Bhopal Ki Awaaz, an organization for similarly orphaned persons.

Thousands of petition mails and faxes have been sent from the USA and many other countries including India to the concerned ministries and the Prime Minister urging them to act fast, and make good the opportunity provided by the US Court. Hundreds of Bhopal supporters who have also been on hunger strike in solidarity with the three activists fasting at Jantar Mantar, celebrated the good news by breaking their fast.

HUGE THANKS TO ALL WHO SENT EMAILS AND FAXES AND THOSE WHO JOINED THE HUNGER STRIKE AROUND THE WORLD.

For more information on the campaign, and to join the petition campaign, please visit:

https://www.bhopal.net, http://www.greenpeaceindia.org or http://www.studentsforbhopal.org

For further information:
Ms Rasheeda Bi, Mr Shahid Noor and Mr Satinath Sarangi: +91-98-102-02105 or +91-755-3132298; Ms Anuradha Saibaba on + 91-98-119-03172; Ms Vinuta Gopal on +91-98-455-35418 or Ms Kavitha Kuruganti on +91-80-36882103

You can send an email to the following addresses:

vgopal@dialb.greenpeace.org; campaigns@theothermedia.org; kavitha_kuruganti@yahoo.com
agniveshpic.jpg
Swami Agnivesh, one of many leaders who came to be with the Satyagrahis when they ended their fast earlier today in New Delhi.

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While The Law Ministry Dithers, Leading Legal Luminaries and Political Stalwarts Unanimously Opine that it is a “Golden Opportunity” that shouldn’t be missed: Hunger Strike Without Water by Bhopal Activists Enters Day 3

New Delhi, June 20, 2004: As the last day for the Indian Government to send a letter to the US Federal Court in New York for clean up of toxic contamination in and around its factory in Bhopal draws closer [June 30th being the deadline], the Law Ministry is stalling progress on this matter by mixing up clearly distinct issues. of claims arising out of the gas leak and claims related to contamination in and around the Union Carbide factory. The Law Ministry opines that all claims related to Bhopal have been addressed in the Supreme Court settlement case of 1989 with Union Carbide Corporation.
Meanwhile, many legal experts in India have come forward to express their strong disagreement with the Law Ministry’s stand. “There are no legal hurdles before the Indian government in submitting …. a letter before the concerned US Court”, confirms Justice V R Krishna Iyer, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India. Many other legal luminaries like Indira Jaisingh, M C Mehta, Rajeev Dhavan, Usha Ramanathan etc., concur with Mr Krishna Iyer. In fact, the US Court itself has come up with its March 17th landmark ruling [saying that Union Carbide can be ordered to clean up its abandoned factory site if the Indian government or the State of Madhya Pradesh …..urges the Court to order such relief], after brushing aside Union Carbide’s own stand on the matter which was similar to that of the Indian Law Ministry.

As the countdown for the Indian Government to send its letter stands at Day 10, the indefinite hunger strike without water by three Bhopal activists including the Goldman award winner of 2004 Ms Rasheeda Bi entered Day 3. “We fail to understand why the Law Ministry should side with Union Carbide when the Supreme Court has long back upheld the Polluter Pays principle in this country”, says Rasheeda Bi. “In any case, the government has neither the technology nor the resources to clean up the contamination in and around the premises. How much more longer should the people of Bhopal continue to suffer Union Carbide’s misdeeds?” she asks. The other two activists joining her in the hunger strike include Mr Shahid Noor who was orphaned because of the gas leak disaster and runs an organisation for other youngsters orphaned like him, and Mr Satinath Sarangi, Member, Bhopal Group for Information and Action.
Doctors attending on the three hunger strikers have expressed serious concern over the rapid deterioration of the health of the activists considering that they are going without water and food in the hot and humid summer of Delhi. They warned that the dehydration would set in soon, and have advised that the activists should discontinue their fast immediately.
Many leading personalities joined hands with the Bhopal activists in urging the Government of India to act fast and make good this opportunity presented by the US Court. Swami Agnivesh was with them when they began their hunger strike on June 18th, along with more than 400 supporters from Bhopal. Former Prime Minister V P Singh expressed his support and solidarity. Ms Jaya Jaitley and Ms Nirmala Deshpande were the others who visited the hunger strike site at Jantar Mantar. Comrade Varadarajan of CITU also extended his support to the cause by meeting the activists.
Mr Kapil Sibal, Union Minister for Science and Technology who met the activists yesterday evening, promised to do whatever he can, while saying that as a lawyer, he also disagrees with the Law Ministry’s stand. Union Minister Mr Oscar Fernandes came to meet the hunger strikers on being appraised of the situation and promised that he would take up the matter with the Law Ministry as well as the legal unit of the Congress party.
Even as efforts to move the Law Ministry to change its opinion continued, hundreds of supporters across the world have gone on a relay hunger strike to express their solidarity and to put pressure on the Indian government to put an end to the long-drawn suffering of the Bhopal survivors. Thousands of fax and email petitions have been sent to the Prime Minister of India to intervene in the matter. As the deadline for the Indian government to send a letter to the US Court approaches closer, everyone hopes that the government will at least now take the side of the Bhopal survivors, rather than the culprit multinational corporation.
For more information on the campaign, and to join the petition campaign, please visit:
https://www.bhopal.net or
http://www.greenpeaceindia.org or
http://www.studentsforbhopal.org

You can contact the following persons/numbers for more information:
Ms Rasheeda Bi, Mr Shahid Noor and Mr Satinath Sarangi – the hungerstrikers on the following mobile numbers: +91-98-102-02105 or +91-755-3132298
Ms Vinuta Gopal on +91-98-455-35418 or Ms Kavitha Kuruganti on +91-80-36882103 or Ms Anuradha Saibaba on + 91-98-119 -03172

You can send an email to the following addresses:
vgopal@dialb.greenpeace.org
justiceinbhopal@yahoo.co.in
campaigns@theothermedia.org
kavitha_kuruganti@yahoo.com

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