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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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Henna for Bhopal at University of Washington

You are invited to view Arvind & Janani’s photo album: Henna for Bhopal

Raghav Kaushik writes: Here are the photos from the booth we held at the UW street fair yesterday and the day before.

We have raised a little more than $800. If we include matching contributions, it will in my estimate add around $500 more. That is excellent. Many thanks to all of you who volunteered to draw – the photos show the considerable skill you have. Thanks also to those who came to support us.

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Students call for University of California to sever links with Dow

In another manifestation of what has become the largest students campaign against Dow since the Vietnam War, students at the University of California called for the university to divest from Dow and refuse further donations. Among the reasons given were the unresolved Bhopal liabilities of Dow’s 100%-owned subsidiary Union Carbide, which is officially “an absconder from justice” in India, having failed since 1992 to attend court hearings in the city where it is accused of the criminal homicide of more than 20,000 people.

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Students at 60 colleges on five continents demand justice for Bhopal

NEW MASS STUDENT MOVEMENT BUILDING AGAINST DOW CHEMICAL: LARGEST SINCE THE VIETNAM WAR

Students from more than 60 colleges, universities, and high schools worldwide have organized events this week to mark the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, and to demand that Dow Chemical resolve its legal and moral responsibilities for the “Hiroshima of the chemical industry”. The events, organized by Students for Bhopal, Association for India’s Development (AID) chapters, the Campus Greens and the Environmental Justice Program of the Sierra Student Coalition (SSC), represent the first mass student movement Dow has faced since its production of Agent Orange and Napalm during the Vietnam War.

On December 3rd, 1984, thousands of people in Bhopal, India, were gassed to death after a catastrophic chemical leak at a Union Carbide pesticide plant. More than 150,000 people were left severely disabled ––of whom 20,000 have since died of their injuries––in a disaster now widely acknowledged as the world’s worst-ever industrial disaster. None of the six safety systems at the plant were functional, and Union Carbide’s own documents prove the company cut corners on safety and maintenance in order to save money. Today, twenty years after the Bhopal disaster, those who survived the gas remain sick, and the chemicals that Union Carbide left behind in Bhopal have poisoned the water supply and contributed to an epidemic of cancers, birth defects, and other afflictions. Since its purchase of Carbide in 2001, Dow-Carbide has refused to clean up the site, which continues to contaminate those near it. It has refused to fund medical care or livelihood regeneration, and it has refused to stand trial in Bhopal, where the Union Carbide Corporation faces criminal charges of culpable homicide (manslaughter), and has fled these charges for the past 12 years.

The events, which include several protests at Dow facilities, demonstrations, and educational events, stretch across five continents and on campuses throughout the United States. Examples include:

University of Texas, Austin, where the members of AID-Austin have organized a three-day-long series of events. These include a day-long protest against University involvement with Dow, a hunger strike and candlelight vigil, and a film screening and open discussion about the disaster. Contact: Nishant Jain, AID-Austin (512)-422-7169

St. Benedict’s Preparatory High School in Newark, New Jersey, where the members of the SBP Environmental Club are planning to reenact the Bhopal tragedy, complete with the Grim Reaper and foaming dry ice. The new documentary “Twenty Years Without Justice” will also be shown to their 650-student school, followed by a question and answer session. A copy of this film and the book “Trespass Against Us” will then be donated to their high school library. Contact: Daniel Saraiva, SBP Environmental Club (908)-247-8360

Delhi University in India, where the members of the student group “We for Bhopal”, will release the report of its October 2004 Fact Finding Mission to Bhopal, for which students met with survivors, toured the factory grounds, and interviewed the Chief Minister of the state government and other officials. The students intend to deliver the report in person to the President and Prime Minister of India, following up on their meeting with the President in March. In addition, “We for Bhopal” is also organizing a massive candlelight vigil to mark the anniversary, and will be judging the results of its college essay competition. Contact: Suroopa Mukherjee, Professor, Hindu College (g_mukherjee@satyam.net.in)

As during the Vietnam War, students will also organize protests against college affiliations with Dow-Carbide, including recruitment, investment, anD financial contributions.

“Students are outraged,” said Ryan Bodanyi, the National Coordinator for Students for Bhopal. “They don’t want their colleges and universities associated with a corporation that maintains its profit margins by poisoning people and blithely standing aside as they die. Dow-Carbide’s callous disregard for the value of human life hasn’t changed much since the Vietnam War, and students aren’t going to be any more forgiving now than they
were then. Dow-Carbide should expect these protests to continue and intensify.”

“We’re not going to allow Dow-Carbide to get away with murder,” declared Nishant Jain, one of the leaders of AID’s Austin chapter. “Enron’s crimes may have cost people their retirement portfolios, but Dow-Carbide’s crimes in Bhopal have cost tens of thousands of people their health and their lives. Dow-Carbide seems content to condemn the survivors of Bhopal to wallow in the contamination it left behind. We believe the fact that Dow-Carbide has not acted to stop the ongoing contamination of tens of thousands–for which it is responsible–is inhumane, unjust, and immoral.”

A complete listing of all the events can be found at http://www.studentsforbhopal.org/GDA2004.htm.

More information about the organizations can be found at www.studentsforbhopal.org, www.aidindia.org, www.campusgreens.org, and
www.ssc.org.

CONTACT: Ryan Bodanyi, Students for Bhopal, (401) 829-6192
CONTACT: Nishant Jain, Association for India’s Development, (512) 422-7169

For a complete list of 20th anniversary actions around the world, please see the Global Day of Action pages on this website. Please check here for media advisories.

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36 years on, outraged students again unite against Dow

Reviving memories of the fierce Vietnam War protests at universities in the 1960’s, students at 20 colleges across the United States are once again organizing against Dow, this time united in their demand that Dow accept its moral and legal responsibilities in Bhopal. They’ve banded together to form Students for Bhopal, a national network that is planning campaigns against Dow until it accepts all the demands of the Bhopal survivors. “Students here are like students elsewhere,” said Janine Jacques, one of the student campaigners at Brown University. “When we heard about what was happening in Bhopal, we were outraged. We decided that we had to act.”

The student protests of 1967-8 afflict Dow’s reputation even now. Today’s students are also busy driving Dow’s expensively crafted image as an environmental steward and warm-hearted corporate citizen to the wall. Such as students at Brown, who aren’t buying it; they dressed up as the “Dow Grim Reaper” this past Halloween and set out to “kill” their fellow students on the college green. “We feel that Halloween is the perfect time to highlight the unholy alliance that Dow and Death seem to have made,” declared Mika Nagasaki, a sophomore at Brown. “Dow maximizes its profits by contributing to the deaths of thousands of people throughout the world, and Death is only too happy to collect these victims before their time. Dow’s legacy of contamination and death must come to an end; by refusing to take action in Bhopal, Dow is condemning thousands more to an untimely end.”

Students at other colleges were also making the connection between Dow and Death this past Halloween. Students at the University of Michigan, the University of Maryland–College Park, the University of California–Berkeley, and Wheaton also participated in the Halloween Day of Action. Over 30 colleges are expected to participate in the December 3rd Global Day of Action Against Corporate Crime.

Students for Bhopal has been organizing a series of campaigns against Dow Chemical, many of which parallel the student campaigns that plagued Dow during the Vietnam War. During the late ’60s and early ’70s, thousands of students forced Dow off of their college campuses-sometimes violently-because of its production of Agent Orange and Napalm for the US military. Dow’s steadfast refusal to take any responsibility for Bhopal is leading many students to question whether the company’s behavior has ever changed. Many are deciding that they don’t want their Universities associated with Dow, financially or otherwise.

“Is it possible to ethically invest in a corporation that refuses to remediate the impacts of its own pollution, to the detriment of thousands of lives? I don’t think so,” said Clayton Perry, one of the Bhopal organizers at Occidental College in California. “Nor is it really fair that Dow donates millions of dollars every year to colleges and universities across the country, while refusing to spend a cent in Bhopal. We don’t want our colleges accepting Dow’s blood money.”

“Many students have never heard of Bhopal,” said Ryan Bodanyi, the Student Coordinator for ICJB. “But once they do they become outraged, and they want to become involved. It’s amazing how quickly the student campaign is spreading; if Dow continues to dawdle and delay I think that they’ll have a huge fight on their hands before too long.”

To find out more about Students for Bhopal, visit www.studentsforbhopal.org

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