Tag Archives: Manmohan Singh

Chief Minister backs survivors, Rail Roko ends



The survivors groups have called off the rail roko after a meeting with the Bhopal CM earlier today. The CM has agreed to all the demands of the survivors and in turn written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh supporting the survivors demands. CM’s office has issued a press note to this effect.

So far 8 women survivors continue to be in jail for participating the rail roko today and 10 persons are in hospital with injuries inflicted when police attacked them with cudgels (lathis).

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Indian protests planned over Olympics sponsor

By Vanessa Kortekaas in London and Girija Shivakumar in New Delhi
Anger is mounting in India at the appointment of Dow Chemical as a 2012 Olympics sponsor, marking the fiercest criticism yet of the London committee’s sponsorship programme.
The London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (Locog) recently selected Dow to produce a sustainable fabric “wrap” for the Olympic stadium that will display digital images. This is Dow’s first engagement with the 2012 games since signing a 10-year agreement with the International Olympic Committee last year to become a worldwide Olympic partner.
However, activists such as Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Action and Information say that allowing Dow to sponsor the London Olympics “legitimises” the company’s links to the 1984 Bhopal chemical disaster, which killed at least 8,000 people.
In 1999 Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide – the company that was running the plant in India when a gas leak quickly became one of the world’s worst industrial accidents. Locog has stressed that “it is a matter of record that the plant at the time of this human tragedy was not owned by Dow Chemical”.
But campaigners, who put the death toll from the accident as high as 25,000, say they are planning protests in Bhopal, New Delhi and London. They are also asking the Indian government to officially protest against Locog’s decision.
Activists from the Bhopal Group for Action and Information are on Thursday sending a letter to Manmohan Singh, Indian prime minister, and the IOC, asking for their support.
Mannish Tiwari, a Congress party MP in India, said if the families of Bhopal victims approached the government with concerns about Dow’s role in the Olympics, it would “surely” look into the matter.
Activists are circulating a petition among athletes in India proposing to boycott the 2012 Olympics if Dow retains its sponsorship – a move which is said to have drawn support from former world hockey champion, Aslam Sher Khan.
Vinuta Gopal, a campaigner for Greenpeace India, the environmental lobby group, said: “When Dow Chemical has not addressed their responsibilities in Bhopal they simply should not be associated with an event like the Olympics.”
Locog said that Dow was only appointed as the supplier of the estimated £7m Olympic stadium wrap after a “rigorous procurement process”, adding: “All of our suppliers must work within our own sustainable sourcing code and reflect our values and sustainability requirements.”
Dow Chemical said: “Although Dow never owned nor operated the plant and the legal claims surrounding the incident were resolved in 1989, long before Dow acquired Union Carbide, we – along with the rest of industry – have learned from this tragic event, and have helped to drive global industry performance improvements to ensure that such incidents never happen again. While the past must never be forgotten, our position as a Worldwide Olympic Partner represents our vision for the future.”

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Bhopali Children Protest at the Prime Minister’s Office

27 June 2011
Press Statement
One hundred Bhopali children affected by Union Carbide’s poisons demonstrated in front
of the Prime Minister’s office today, demanding medical care, rehabilitation and poison-free
environment. Wearing signs with words like Justice and Izzat (dignity), members of the Bhopal-
based Children Against Dow-Carbide held a banner with their demands in front of the North
Block office.
The children said that this was the fourth time they were trying to draw the attention of the Prime
Minister towards governmental inaction on environmental and health rehabilitation schemes in
“Since 2006, we have sought help from Dr. Manmohan Singh for the children of Bhopal who
are still denied medical care and rehabilitation and who are still forced to drink poisoned water.”
said Safreen Khan one of the founders of. Children Against Dow Carbide. Safreen charged the
Government with displaying more care for the financial health of Union Carbide and its owner
Dow Chemical than for the children of Bhopal.
Manoj Yadav from the community affected by ground water contamination by Union Carbide’s
hazardous waste, said that while there were many children and adults with diseases caused by the
poisons, they were denied free treatment at government hospitals.
Yasmin Khan whose parents were affected by the Union Carbide’s poisonous gases in December
1984 and now lives in the area with contaminated ground water said that hundreds of children
are being born with congenital malformations to parents with exposure to poisons. She said that
the government has not made any arrangement to provide rehabilitation for these children. “The
Government should ensure that these children get a fair chance at living a life of dignity.”
Yasmin said.
Young leaders of the Bhopali children said that many of the congenital deformities are
reversible. Corrective surgeries can help children with physical deformities. Some mentally- and
physically-challenged children too can be helped to lead normal lives if special-care institutions
are set up and run.
The children pointed out that despite a 2005 order of the Supreme Court of India the people
living next to Union Carbide’s abandoned factory were not being supplied clean water. A child
from these communities, Asma said that thousands of tonnes of toxic waste from the factory lies
buried next to their home. “The Prime Minister must make Dow Chemical clean up the poisons
or they will continue to harm generations.” said Asma.
Safreen Khan
Children Against Dow-Carbide
Contact: 09993185134, Email: justiceinbhopal@yahoo.co.in

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Charnel Makers: Union Carbide’s disregard for safety nauseates still

OUTLOOK INDIA, July 5, 2010. Union Carbide’s brazen, criminal disregard for safety nauseates still. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on his way back from the recent G-20 summit in Toronto, righteously declared his desire to push for a “more favourable” US attitude to extradite former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson. But as his government begins to push for it, which past Congress and BJP governments have failed to do, those monitoring the bitter aftermath of the Bhopal tragedy say it’s not a paucity of factual evidence—to establish Anderson’s guilt of cutting costs on safety measures—but the lack of political will to take on the Americans that impedes his extradition.

Those looking for facts don’t have to look much beyond Bhopal: The Inside Story, a book by T.R. Chouhan, who was one of the operators of the mic plant and was present on site on the night of the disaster. First published in 1997, the book details how the management of the plant was cutting down on safety measures to make up for losses. “Cutting costs in fact began with the design of the plant. The design was unproven and they were using measures that hadn’t been tried out in their plant in the US. The double standards were clear,” he tells Outlook on the phone from Bhopal, where he now works as a government employee.
[pullquote]“Cutting costs began with the plant design. They used measures untried in the US. Double standards were clear.”T.R. Chouhan, Eyewitness, Writer[/pullquote] In fact, campaigners have stressed that the plant in Bhopal was “always underfunded, always second-best” compared to Carbide’s plant in West Virginia, despite the company’s claims to the contrary. Chouhan’s book lists some of the key design downgrades in the Bhopal plant that compromised on safety. These include the presence of atmospheric vents in the methyl isocynate (MIC) tank (through which the gas escaped), something that was not present in the W. Virginia plant. Safety measures like the vent gas scrubber (VGS), used to neutralise toxic release, and flare towers (FT), to burn MIC vapours, had back-ups for continuous protection in the US. This was not so in Bhopal. In fact, the VGS was not operational and the FT was under repair on December 3, 1984. Moreover, hazardous operations, like addition of 1-Naphthol into the MIC reactor, were done manually, which they didn’t dare try in the US. Likewise, there was an evacuation plan for the community living next door in W. Virginia, but not for the one in Bhopal.

The plant in Bhopal produced MIC, a chemical compound used to make pesticides, and stored large quantities of it—much more than permitted—on site. This was because there was a glut of Sevin, Carbide’s MIC-based pesticide, in the market. Yet, Carbide officials in the US and India threw caution to the wind. The most important, yet elementary, safety tool not switched on that night was refrigeration. The unit, explains Chouhan, was turned off that night. In fact, it was never switched on for nearly a year to cut down on costs of electricity and coolants. The savings were just about $37 each day. In its absence, the MIC was at an ideal temperature for a corrosive reaction, whereas the MIC manual had strongly advised keeping it below 5 degree Celsius. Even the temperature censor and alarm for the MIC storage tank had not been working for four years. “We raised all these problems with the local management but were never heard,” Chouhan says.

International campaigners have unearthed various Carbide documents to prove the corporation’s desire to economise on safety measures. In one such document, Carbide states openly how the newer, cheaper and untried manufacturing processes being adopted in Bhopal were an “acceptable business risk”. Things only got worse with mounting losses and growing competition. In 1981, the ‘Bhopal Task Force’ at Carbide was constituted to cut costs, as Carbide’s global profits plummeted from $800 million to just $79 million. Between 1978-83, the Bhopal plant had run up losses of $7.5 million (total investment in it was around $30 million). In February 1984, Union Carbide Eastern vice-president R. Natarajan shot off an angry letter asking “what UCC is going to do to resolve the problem”. Manpower was cut—as many as 335 persons lost their jobs at the plant—and training became sparse. Chouhan exposes how the number of trained personnel was declining, and that in 1984, for the first time, there were more transferees from elsewhere (“with less expertise”) working at the plant. In November 1984, there weren’t even any maintenance supervisors. Before the tragedy, plans were being put together to move the Sevin formulation unit to Indonesia and the phosgene, carbon monoxide and MIC units to Brazil.

Also, any claim that Anderson was unaware about safety problems is unfounded. Robert Oldford, a close colleague of Anderson, was personally informed of the safety-related incidents by local employees in Bhopal when he was there in February 1982, about two months after the first death of a UCIL employee in December. And Anderson, campaigners say, was personally involved in the cost-cutting drive and had openly stated that “intensification of training programs, et cetera, will never happen again”.

But it isn’t just the Bhopal plant which was subject to such obstinate disregard for safety. An internal Carbide report, with a very upfront title—‘Our Ten-Year Safety Failure’—details how safety, or rather the lack of it, had become a nagging issue for its operations in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico between 1959 and 1968. “Had this report been made public then, the 1966 agreement for the Bhopal plant between the Indian government and Union Carbide, and the subsequent granting of industrial licence, would not have happened,” says Gopal Krishna of Toxics Watch Alliance.

Its writer and Carbide employee R.T. Bradley pointed out that the firm had become the most hazardous employer among the “big seven” chemicals firms, “maiming people at twice the rate of others”. There was an urgent need for “sound investment” to reduce injuries and ensuing losses at its plants, he added. Bradley ended it with a plea that the firm, instead of being “dollar-oriented”, should focus on the “humanitarian aspect”. Evidently, his advice went unheeded. Ultimately, it was Carbide’s mercenary desire to save as little as $37 each day that led to the tragedy, one that remains painfully unresolved even today.

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Prime Minister, did it hurt when they took out your eyes?

They must be gone because things that appal the rest of us, you seem not to see. You are blind to the agonies of 100,000 people who are still sick in Bhopal 25 years after Union Carbide’s gases leaked there.

Blind to report after report recording the presence of pesticides and heavy metals in soil and water, and blood, in wombs, and mother’s milk.

Blind to the children born blind, lame, limbs twisted or missing, deafmute, brain-damaged, with cleft-lips, cleft palates, web fingers, cerebral palsy, tumours where should be eyes – the children of Bhopal. The living children. The stillborn often can’t be recognised as human.

You are blind to the Supreme Court order to provide clean water and the failure of officials to obey it. MP Chief Minister Babulal Gaur said there was no money for clean water, then unveiled a 600 crore plan to beautify Bhopal with ornamental fountains.

Where were you when Bhopali women brought their damaged children to your house? You had them arrested. The policewomen who led them away wept, but your blind eyes did not.

When they came to your office to protest, did you shut your curtains and say to yourself, ‘I am the Prime Minister of India. I do not have to see police kicking and beating children.’

Why are you blind to promises you made after the Bhopalis walked to Delhi in 2006 and 2008? Where is the Empowered Commission on Bhopal? When will you take steps against Dow Chemical, the owner of Union Carbide?

Why are you blind to the note from India’s justice ministry, holding Dow Chemical liable for contaminating Bhopal? And for paying for a clean-up?
Why are you blind to Dow’s admitted bribery of Indian government officials?

You have proved yourself blind to justice, blind to honour, blind to decency, and to the suffering of the poor whom your high office binds you to protect.

Blind in to everything but foreign dollars?

Prime Minister, can we get our eyes removed too? Because it is becoming extremely difficult to see you ignore the truth and tell us, everything’s ok.

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