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80% of people enrolled in drug trials at BMHRC were gas victims

Hemender SharmaHemender Sharma, CNN-IBN
Updated Aug 07, 2011 at 08:52am IST

Bhopal: Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre has been carrying out clinical trials on gas victims. CNN-IBN has accessed documents that show that at least 80 per cent of the patients on whom trials were conducted, were victims of the gas tragedy.

What was suspected and alleged so far is confirmed now. The multi-specialty hospital set up for gas victims conducted unethical drug trials on 279 patients of whom 215 were gas victims. These figures have come from a letter written by the Hospital’s director Brigadier KK Maudar to the deputy drug controller of India, Dr R Ramakrishna on February 22, 2011. The letter also gives a break up of the drug trials

In the Cardiology Department, trials were conducted on 218 patients out of which 160 were gas victims. In the GI surgery Department, trials were conducted on 49 patients, out of which 45 were gas victims. In the Pulmonary Medicine Department, trials were conducted on 49 patients and all of them were gas victims.

Finally in the Anesthesiology Department, trials were conducted on seven patients and five out of the seven were gas victims.

The Indian Council for Medical Research in its ethical guidelines for biomedical research on human participants has categorically said that adequate justification is required for involvement of those with reduced autonomy. In Bhopal, no such justification has been offered. In fact, the hospital first denied that the drug trials were conducted on gas victims.

CNN-IBN had first reported about the unethical drug trials in June 2010 following which an enquiry was constituted. At that time, the hospital had denied conducting any of those trials on gas victims. Now CNN-IBN has accessed documents which reveal that 34 patients were chosen for the trial of the drug Tigecycline. Two patients out of the 34 died and both were gas victims.

It also reveals that 34 patients were chosen for the trial of the drug Fondaparinux. Five patients out of the 34 died and all of them were gas victims. Seven patients were chosen for the trial of the drug Telavancin. Three patients out of the 7 died and all were gas victims.

In the information furnished to the Directorate General of Health services, the hospital said that it does not have any information on if and how the consent from the patients was obtained.

The hospital in its communication with the Directorate General of Health services has accepted the fact all those who died during the trials were gas victims but refused to give their names and addresses. Those working to expose the unethical business of drug trials on gas victims have been demanding action against the hospital authorities.

According to an estimate, clinical trials in India are heading towards a whopping Rs 3000 crore business. Ethics in such a scenario are of little concern and the emphasis is on speedy trial of drugs to get the product launched.

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India’s most Secret Incinerator is here



The Madhya Pradesh high court has ordered that the DRDE dispose off toxic waste from union carbide’s bhopal plant. Why the secrecy?

INDIA MAY have sent rockets into space. But as a nation, we are not yet potty trained. With more than six decades of industrialisation behind us, one would think that India would have a policy to deal with the remediation and restoration of pollution hotspots. But no. Our continued bungling of the Union Carbide contamination in Bhopal is a sorry case in point. In the lead up to the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal gas leak, the Madhya Pradesh government wanted to convey to people that the issue of contamination had been resolved, and that time was such a great healer that even without doing anything, the highly contaminated Bhopal factory site had magically cleaned itself up. How did the government do that? By getting scientists to say that the site is safe and that whatever was toxic is no longer toxic.

One prominent scientist recruited for this job was R Vijayaraghavan, Director of the Defence Research Development Establishment (DRDE), a supposedly high-tech laboratory of the Ministry of Defence. For an R&D agency with such pretences, the director’s statement on the Bhopal toxic waste was frighteningly simplistic. “For a 70kg man, there will not be any death even if he takes 200gm (of toxic wastes stored inside Carbide’s premises) by oral route,” he wrote in an official opinion given to Madhya Pradesh. His conclusion was worse. The government’s plans to open the factory site for public visits, he wrote, would not cause ‘any untoward, adverse or toxic effect to the public’.

Going by his suggestion, recruiting 17.5 lakh men weighing above 70 kg to consume about 200 grams of Carbide wastes each should take care of the 350 tons of toxic wastes without troubling anybody.

Bhopal activists countered this scientific skullduggery in their own comical, cynical way. Exactly a week before the 25th anniversary, they served up a banquet with a difference. On the menu was an assortment of ‘toxic delicacies’ – Semi-processed Pesticide on Watercress; Naphthol Tar Fondue; Sevin Tar Souffle; Reactor Residue Quiche; and Lime Sludge Mousse. All served with a complimentary bottle of B’eau Pal water. “Your appetite will contribute to a cleaner Bhopal,” invitees were told. Vijayaraghavan was named as the chef of the faux banquet.

Bhopalis are totally unimpressed by Vijayaraghavan’s brand of ‘science’. But the Madhya Pradesh High Court has unquestioningly reposed its faith in the Defence Laboratory. The court is hearing a case filed in 2004 seeking directions to make Dow Chemical clean up and compensate the affected people. A number of Bhopal organisations have impleaded in the matter. Time and again, they have underlined that any remediation effort must be informed by science, that the science must be subject to public scrutiny, and that the polluter must pay. On July 12, the court ordered that about 350 tons of toxic and obsolete pesticides currently stored in Union Carbide’s factory should be disposed of at the Defence Research Development Organisation’s (DRDO) facility located in the vicinity of Nagpur.

The said DRDO facility is truly off the radar. Jairam Ramesh is credited with having identified this hidden facility. If national security hinges on keeping the plant’s location secret, then our security is soon to be breached. The plant’s location will not remain secret for long as nosy journalists and apprehensive residents from Nagpur would make a beeline for it. Already, there are murmurs that DRDO’s mysterious operation is in Buti Bori, an industrial area 35 km from Nagpur.This is the third attempt to burn the wastes. The first two were abandoned after residents living near those facilities highlighted the inadequacy of the incinerators in handling Carbide’s wastes. The incinerator in Ankleshwar, Gujarat, caught fire because it had stored several hundred tons of toxic wastes in violation of its own hazardous waste authorisation. The explosion happened in April 2008 when Bhopalis were sitting on dharna in Jantar Mantar demanding, among other things, that the Bhopal wastes should be disposed of without subjecting other communities to another slow- motion Bhopal.

This is the third attempt to burn the wastes. The first two were abandoned after residents living near those facilities highlighted the inadequacy of the incinerators in handling Carbide’s wastes. The incinerator in Ankleshwar, Gujarat, caught fire because it had stored several hundred tons of toxic wastes in violation of its own hazardous waste authorisation. The explosion happened in April 2008 when Bhopalis were sitting on dharna in Jantar Mantar demanding, among other things, that the Bhopal wastes should be disposed of without subjecting other communities to another slow- motion Bhopal.

The second facility was in Pithampur, near Indore. This facility was constructed cheek-by-jowl with a residential area, in violation of setback guidelines. Incidentally, locating the Union Carbide facility in a densely populated part of town was an important contributor to the Bhopal disaster’s massive death and injury toll. The Pithampur facility too had an explosion nearly killing a worker just days before Jairam Ramesh was to visit it.

The Madhya Pradesh High Court’s order is problematic, even illegal, on many counts. Time and again, bureaucrats, politicians and now the court have used the fact that these wastes have lain here so long as a justification for getting rid of it quickly, by any means and for bypassing due process. The very least that needs to happen if the Bhopal wastes are destined to a facility is to verify if that facility has the wherewithal to receive the wastes. Other questions have to be answered too. Is the facility licensed? Does the facility have a good track record? Incineration is not just about burning; does the facility have a suitable mechanism to dispose the highly toxic ash and residue generated by burning the wastes? Are the people living near the facility comfortable with the facility’s operations? Was the facility designed to receive and dispose the kinds of wastes currently stored in Bhopal? Are workers and people in the vicinity informed enough to react suitably in the event of an emergency?

These are not irrelevant questions. Had they been raised before Bhopal, the world’s worst industrial disaster may never have happened. But we are a nation addicted to political and social expediency. Forget what is right, whatever can be pushed through must. The court has directed DRDE director to instruct DRDO to make arrangements to receive, store and dispose the toxic wastes as and when it is brought from Bhopal starting right away. The state government is directed to start packing and transporting the wastes within 10 days.

I made some phone calls, nothing that state pollution control boards or the environment ministry could not have done. It turns out that the DRDO facility is truly secret. People don’t even know where it is. The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board agrees that there is a facility somewhere near Nagpur,and that it does secret things. One person told me an incinerator was commissioned at the facility about 18 months ago to destroy some super-toxic military stuff, something to do with the Brahmos missile project. The regional officer of Maharashtra Pollution Control Board was categorical: “If you’re releasing pollutants to air or water, you have to get our consent. Defence establishments have no exemption as far as I know. The ammunition factory in Nagpur has our license.”

THE DRDO facility has never been inspected by the regulatory body. Till date, nobody has approached the Pollution Control Board seeking its approval. The facility does not have a license to operate. It does not have a hazardous waste authorisation. It has not submitted the mandatory emergency response plan to the district administration. The DRDO has said that its responsibility begins only after it receives the wastes from Madhya Pradesh. But as things stand, if the operator of the DRDO facility were to comply with the Madhya Pradesh High Court order, he or she could land up in jail for up to two years for violating environmental laws and handling hazardous wastes without authorisation. Licensing formalities aside, experts are skeptical whether the incinerator would actually be able to deal with the Bhopal wastes.

The secret DRDO facility is truly off the radar. But its location will not remain secret for long as nosy journalists and apprehensive residents from Nagpur make a beeline for it. There are murmurs already that it is in Buti Bori, 35 km from Nagpur

Thermax is the largest incinerator manufacturer in the country. It has supplied incinerators to the DRDO. Its CEO Unnikrishnan was categorical when asked if Indian incinerators can handle the Bhopal wastes. In a May 2010 letter that has been submitted to the high court, Unnikrishnan said: “To the best of our knowledge, there aren’t any incinerators currently in operation within our country that has the level of sophistication and safety systems in-built to tackle the waste under consideration.” A consultant advising GTZ, the German bilateral technical extension agency, concurs. This is particularly significant because the Germans are known to have perfected the art of destruction by burning.

The Bhopal wastes contain high levels of chlorinated chemicals and heavy metals. Burning chlorinated material in the presence of heavy metals is the best recipe for generating dioxins, a category of carcinogenic, immune system-busting chemicals that are the most toxic substances known to science. The opaque manner in which authorities have attempted to deal with the Bhopal wastes does not bode well for the evolution of a robust policy to deal with contaminated sites. Survivors’ groups say they were taken by surprise by the order as they were never consulted or heard on the matter. An October 2003 order of the Supreme Court is unequivocal in its emphasis on community participation in any matter relating to hazardous wastes. Clearly, the decision to send the Bhopal wastes to a secret DRDO facility in a clandestine manner is not informed by this apex court decision.

It is not just the Bhopal groups that were in the dark. Eminent scientist and Padma Bhushan awardee PM Bhargava is part of a technical committee appointed by the court to advice on disposal plans for the Bhopal wastes. He too had no idea about the current proposal until I spoke with him. “It is pertinent to know what the design specifications of the DRDO incinerator are, and whether it is designed to handle such wastes,” he says.

Bhopal survivors may have been denied an opportunity to comment on the proposal. But, the court records in its order its invitation to Dow Chemical to suggest a cheaper option. The consideration shown to Dow’s financial well-being is curious given that the American company has consistently refused to submit to the writ of Indian courts.

All this makes one wonder whether the rule of law and science-based decision-making are mere rhetoric. India is a country strewn with toxic hotspots. In Kodaikanal, a toxic mercury hotspot caused by Unilever’s thermometer factory has clocked 10 years without clean-up. In Mettur, farmers have registered complaints of groundwater and soil contamination by Chemplast’s chemical factories since the late 1960s. In Roro, Jharkhand, an abandoned hill of asbestos wastes, which has poisoned the air for decades, continues to spew lung-crippling fibres of death. Entire stretches of industrial areas, in Vapi, Ankleshwar, Vellore, Patancheru, Sukhinda valley are industrial disaster zones begging for remediation. In all these cases, agencies of the state are yet to decide whether the environment is contaminated, whether the contamination is caused by the company and whether the company is liable to repair the damages and compensate farmers.

One would imagine that the government and the courts would use the perverse opportunity provided by the Bhopal disaster to better advantage – to develop mechanisms to ensure that factories don’t pollute, and to implement a rigid polluter pays regime to enforce clean-up to world standards in a transparent manner, and to deter polluters.

But left to the agencies of the state, no such policy will emerge. After every disaster like Bhopal, or every time that we discover pollution as with Unilever’s mercury pollution in Kodaikanal, citizens will have to wage a battle against the combined might of the polluter and regulator over decades to get a place cleaned up. Forget rehabilitation of the Bhopal site. Perhaps, it is time we focused on cleaning up the state.

Nityanand Jayaraman is a Volunteer Campaign for Justice, Bhopal.


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Supreme Court Dismisses Curative Petition – A Black Day for Bhopal


Injustice today at the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court verdict on Criminal Curative Petition took everyone in Bhopal by surprise both in its timing as well as in its import.  Most people were expecting the order to come in July after the Supreme Court’s vacations. That is when the civil curative petition hearing is also scheduled for.

What exactly happened? Supreme Court by its order today,

a) dimissed the curative petition

b) upheld the 1996 order

c) issued a clarification stating that the 1996 order in no way bar a lower court Magistrate to frame a higher charge.

This is essentially what Mr. Salve, lawyer of the accused, argued for.

Continue reading Supreme Court Dismisses Curative Petition – A Black Day for Bhopal

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Dow Agro: company faces ban on bribery charge

NEW DELHI: Dow AgroSciences India Ltd, the Indian subsidiary of Dow Chemicals, is likely to be blacklisted by the government following its persistent refusal to respond to show-cause notices over charges of bribery.

The agriculture ministry had asked the company why action should not be initiated against it for bribing officials to push three sub-standard pesticides in the country.

The Central Bureau of Investigation, which had investigated the case, had earlier this year held the Mumbai-based Indian arm of Dow Chemicals guilty of bribing a senior central government employee and his aides, and had recommended that the firm be blacklisted. The three pesticides were identified as Dursban 10G, Nurelle-D and Pride.

The details of the bribes paid by Dow AgroSciences — known earlier as DE-Nocil — have been mentioned in the charge sheet filed by CBI in the case.

The charge sheet was filed on the basis of information furnished by the US authorities to the Indian government in response to a letter rogatory, a formal request from a court to a foreign court for judicial assistance.

“The legal action comes after the letter rogatory was executed by the US government on November 17, 2008, to elicit information regarding vouchers of Dow Chemicals to establish payment of bribes during 1996-2001 by Dow Agro Sciences,” CBI spokesperson Harsh Bhal had told newspersons in June this year. Acting on CBI’s recommendation, Krishi Bhawan had issued show-cause notice some two months ago to Dow AgroSciences.

But the company has since then, according to senior government officials, employed stalling tactics. Instead of responding to the notice, it questioned the government’s jurisdiction in seeking action against it. It simultaneously sought a few papers and clarifications, which were duly provided to them. The company has failed to get back to the Centre after that.

The GoM looking into various aspects of the Bhopal Gas tragedy, in the meanwhile, had sought to know the status of the show-cause notice. The agriculture ministry, in its response, cited the result of the CBI probe into the case, and its recommendation that the firm be blacklisted. The ministry also pointed out that it had issued show-cause notice to the firm for pushing the three substandard pesticides, but the Dow subsidiary was yet to respond to the charges.

In an effort to cover all its flanks, the agriculture ministry had, before issuing the show-cause notice, also sought the views of the law ministry. The latter, in its response, asked it to take the registration committee on board.

The CBI team investigating the case had earlier found out that Ratan Lal Rajak, a former plant protection advisor to the government, and his aides had been paid $32,000 in cash and jewellery, while their travel and hotel expenses were also picked up by Dow AgroSciences.

It later filed charge sheets against Rajak and a middleman, identified only as Satyabroto, in the court of a special judge in Ambala (Haryana) for accepting bribes from Dow Agro. The then managing director of Dow Agro, who is a British citizen, and two firms linked with Satyabroto, Agro Pack and Crop Health Products, were also mentioned in the charge sheet for corrupt deals.

According to the CBI charge sheet, Rajak was a member of all the three committees of the Faridabad-based Central Insecticides Board and Registration that granted permission for the sale of DE-Nocil products in India.

The Dow scam was unearthed by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2007. It had also fined Dow Chemicals $325,000 for bribing the officials in India to fast-track permission to sell its pesticide brands that are banned in the US and many other countries.

The SEC, in a ‘cease and desist’ order to Dow on February 13, 2007, charged the company with violations under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) for letting a subsidiary use funds for illegal activities in a foreign country. The order was passed after Dow voluntarily approached a commission staff with the results of an internal investigation of DE-Nocil.

The order said, “none of these payments were accurately reflected in Dow’s books and records,” adding that “Dow’s system of internal accounting controls failed to prevent the payments” in violation of the internal control provisions of the FCPA.

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Jairam Ramesh gets a roasting from TISS students in Mumbai

Mr Jairam Ramesh, Minister for Environment and Forests, visited the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai on 28 June, 2010 to deliver an address. Students had planned to hold a silent protest outside the auditorium, but the Director dissuaded them, and offered a meeting with the Minister. Between 30 and 40 students attended the meeting and grilled Ramesh. Below is a transcript of that session.

Much of what Mr Ramesh said made little sense, but out of the muddle and evasions, certain themes emerged.

1. The European Union offer to fund a study of the Bhopal contamination is to be ignored – only NEERI’s writ will hold on the remediation proposals.
2. The ‘consultation’ is lip service, and has been pre-judged.
3. Even if Pithampur killed 20,000 people next week, the waste would still be going there.
4. It has been decided that the court will find UCIL/EIIL liable for the contamination – just as Dow has recently been saying it should.
5. Dow is to be exonerated, on the basis that it somehow insulated itself from Bhopal liabilities from the off.

Jairam Ramesh practising of the art of making no sense in public

Laxmidhar: About the Nuclear Liability Bill, is the corporation responsible or not?

Jairam Ramesh: According to an American Official Agency the cost of a nuclear disaster is 300 billion. Isn’t the corporation liable fully for that? If you see the bill the corporation has paid only half and rest is paid by the government. Part of the liability is to be paid immediately and part of it over a period of time.

Rupesh: With regard to the clean up, the GOM has recommended that the 350 tonnes be incinerated at the prithampur facility and only 3 days ago (Saturday 25th June) there was an accident while testing it using paint sludge and 6 people were injured, similarly there has also been accidents at other facilities namely the GACL in Ankleshwer in Gujarat. Even after these accidents why is the GoM still insistent upon incinerating the toxic waste ?

Jairam Ramesh: Accidents like these are not going to lead to another Bhopal. There are 33 incinerators in India and all of them are functioning smoothly, just a couple of stray incidents cannot make them bad. In regards to the Bhopal waste being incinerated, it is the “easiest and quickest way” to dispose of the toxic waste.

Rupesh: The European Union has written to the government of India offering support in terms of technical and financial support to prepare a pilot study on the clean up of Bhopal, the GoI has not responded to its request, can we know what why you have not responded?

Jairam Ramesh: (Makes completely no sense and talks of technical expertise) Social scientists do not have the technical expertise to comment. We have asked experts in that matter to do a study and prepare a report on the same.

Rupesh: Sir, but you didnt answer my question about the European union?

Jairam Ramesh: We will be calling for a global tender for the decontamination process in august and will have companies from all over the world and select the best for the same.

Rupesh: With regard to holding the corporation, Dow Chemical liable the government has taken no steps in either asking them to pay for the clean up nor the compensation amount?

Jairam Ramesh: The matter is under dispute in the courts in India, and right now we cannot talk about it. The corporation I am referring to is UCIL.

Rupesh: But UCC was taken over by Dow, which means the liablity of UCC and its subsidiaries were also taken over by Dow.

Jairam Ramesh: The corporation in question is UCIL and not UCC.

Rupesh: UCIL was a wholly owned subsidy of UCC and UCE.

Jairam Ramesh: We can’t discuss anything more on this and shall let the court decide.

Rupesh: But why should we as taxpayers shell out our money for the clean up, when we have a law which says that the polluter must pay?

Jairam Ramesh: If you don’t want to pay you don’t, I will pay from my tax money. Anyway most of you do not pay your taxes. In India very few people responsibly pay their taxes and I pay my tax and my tax money would be used for cleaning up Bhopal.

Other students raise their objection to this statement.

Krishna: It is going to cost 1300 crores to clean up Bhopal and the money is going from the taxes we pay. We don’t want our tax money to be appropriated for this purpose, instead DOW should be made responsible to write off the liabilities.

Jairam Ramesh: The whole concept of compensation is “liability to the polluter”. We are paying 1300 crores and it’s a case under the judiciary which needs to be intimated to the Supreme Court. 470 million dollars as compensation is grossly inadequate. The responsibility of any sensitive government would be to clean up Bhopal and that is what we are trying to do.

Rupesh: You did a commendable job on the Bt Brinjal issue and held consultations across the country to get views of all the stakeholders, would you also do something like this on the Bhopal clean up and get the participation of the Victims during the clean up? Also, would you bring the clean up under the purview of the EIA notification and have a public hearing??

Jairam Ramesh: Why are you assuming what I will do on the Bhopal clean up? I put the clearance for Bt Brinjal on hold as I was not positive about the tests that were conducted to ensure that Bt Brinjal was suitable for human consumption. NEERI is currently preparing a report and will be submitting it on the 30th of this month, and as soon as they submit it I will make the report public, for peer review and public review. Am going to Bhopal on the 5th to have a meeting with 7 of the victims’ groups and discuss with them about it. We will also organise a technical workshop in Bhopal about the clean up procedure with representatives from the groups. I have been very supportive and sensitive on the Bhopal issue. On my first day in office 29th Apr 2009, I raised this question in the parliament asking what we will be doing about Bhopal..

Rupesh ( interrupting): When you were in Bhopal you held a fistful of mud and said “Look I’m holding the mud in my hand and I am still alive and not coughing.”

Jairam Ramesh: My comment was blown out of proportion and it boomeranged. (What he inferred is that he wanted people to think the waste is not toxic and it is not dangerous to transport it to Prithambur.)

Shazia: Why do we need so many nuclear power plants in our country.

Jairam Ramesh: India has a huge population and it is a “romantic idea” to rely just on wind/solar energy; we cannot do without nuclear power.

Student: Why are we not looking at the polluter pays act strongly, and why is the government not taking action against polluting violating corporations?

Jairam Ramesh: The centre has brought this new bill called the green tribunal bill and the head office of the Green tribunal would be Bhopal. Anyone in the country can file a case on behalf of the victims. There would be fast track courts for environment cases across the country which would deal with the civil liability and dispose off the case in 6 months, but the criminal liabilities will still be done at the normal courts. If there are intergenerational impacts then a case can be filed for compensation. It could be 25 lakhs or 25 crores. The case would be like a PIL. I strongly believe and agree, The polluter must pay but in the case of Bhopal, we do not know who the polluter is. When DOW took over UCC they did not stand liable towards the compensation because they took over only the assets and not the liabilities.

(This is not true. At the time of the merger, Dow set aside $2.2 billion to meet UCC’s asbestos liabilities in the United States.)

Shazia: Vendanta had constructed 40% of their aluminum refinery at Langigarh even before they obtained the environment clearance was given (raises the poster on Vedanta).

Jairam Ramesh: Did the Ministry Of Environment and Forestry approve or give clearance?

Shazia: No, but why is the ministry not asking them to stop?

Jairam Ramesh: Then the debate is closed. (In response to the poster). Do this ‘Naatak’ in front of the Supreme court not in front of me.

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