International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal
5 June, 2008. CHENNAI – Dalit Panthers of India general secretary Ravikumar, and CPI National Council Member A.M. Gopu today addressed a press conference urging the Prime Minister to take firm legal action against Dow Chemical and Union Carbide for their pending liabilities in Bhopal and other crimes. Speaking for their respective parties on the World Environment Day, the political personalities joined others from CPM, MDMK and Congress who expressed their support for legal action against Dow-Carbide through letters written by their representatives to the Prime Minister. DMK MP Kanimozhi was unable to attend, but issued a telephone statement in which she said: “I support both the demands of the Bhopalis — for a special commission and for legal action against Dow and Carbide. I urge the Prime Minister to meet the demands of the Bhopalis urgently.”
Bowing to pressure from Dow Chemical and the US Government, the Government of India has been reluctant to pursue legal action against the corporations. Political leaders warned that any attempt to exempt Dow from the due course of law will be unpopular and send a dangerous signal to investors that the Indian Government does not care for its people or environment. They said, we must send “a strong message that India is open for investments but not at the cost of its sovereignty, or the welfare of its people and environment.”
The party leaders extended their support to the 70-day old strike by Bhopal survivors in New Delhi. They urged the Prime Minister to meet the demands of the Bhopalis soon so that the Bhopalis can return home. The Bhopalis reached New Delhi on 28 March after walking 800 km from Bhopal. They have been sitting on strike at Jantar Mantar since then pushing for their two-pronged charter of demands to be met.
On 30 May, the Prime Minister’s Office conveyed its in principle agreement to a special commission to execute economic, medical and social rehabilitation and oversee environmental clean-up and provision of clean drinking water. However, the demand for legal action against Dow Chemical and Union Carbide remains totally unaddressed. Bhopal activists have said they will not lift the strike, and will intensify the struggle until the Government agrees to their crucial demand that the guilty corporations must be made to pay. They have said that Dow must pay for clean-up of contamination, and damages to affected persons. They have also demanded the deregistering of three pesticides whose licenses were obtained by Dow through payment of bribes to agriculture ministry officials. Additionally, they have sought extradition of Warren Anderson and Union Carbide’s legal representative to face trial in the ongoing criminal case in Bhopal, and revocation of approval given to Reliance to purchase Union Carbide’s Unipol technology.
The Bhopalis’ demands are all for actions that the Government is required to fulfill under law. “All that is being asked by the Bhopalis is for the Government to help law take its course,” the PM was told through a letter signed by several political parties, including MDMK and DPI.
“We will expose the Finance Minister Mr. P. Chidambaram and Commerce Minister Mr. Kamalnath for their roles in advocating the interests of Dow and Union Carbide over that of the Bhopal survivors,” said the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal. The Campaign charged the two ministers with betraying the people of Bhopal and condemned their shameless bargaining for investments by offering legal immunity to Dow Chemical. The Bhopalis have said they will visit Chindwara and Sivagangai, the constituencies of the two ministers, to educate people that their MPs are prepared to even sacrifice justice and the interests the victims of the world’s worst disaster to promote the interests of multinational corporations.
Excerpt of statements by Ravikumar MLA and Com. A.M. Gopu, CPI.
“Be it any disaster, the worst affected are always people from oppressed communities. The situation is no different in Bhopal. The Courts act with remarkable alacrity when it comes to giving out anti-people judgements. The order for raising the dam height in Narmada is one instance. And when people question or criticize this, they jail them under contempt of court proceedings. If they can act so decisively in some cases, why is the judiciary taking so much time to decide who is responsible for the pollution in Bhopal? The case was filed in 2004. While there are many Ministers who are working against the people and on behalf of multinational companies, but I feel we must also highlight the positive role played by some Ministers. Chemicals Minister Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan has been consistent in supporting the cause of the Bhopalis and has been firm in insisting that Dow Chemical should pay for clean-up. Multi- national companies are making a habit of polluting our country. In richer countries, mobile phone operators follow stringent guidelines to identify sites for locating transmission towers. India too has such guidelines. But contrary to guidelines endorsed by World Health Organisation that mobile phone towers should not be located in residential areas, multinational companies are locating these towers everywhere. The victims of the Bhopal gas Disaster have been sitting on a dharna in Delhi waiting for their 2 demands to be fulfilled. My party, Dalit Panthers of India, has already written a letter urging the Prime Minister to meet the demands of the Bhopal Survivors immediately. Our party will continue to support them.”
Com. Gopu Communist Party India
“My party has always been supportive of the Bhopal campaign. We may be extending support to the UPA Government from the outside. But that doesn’t mean we have given them a clean chit to do as they please. We are not happy with the way they are dealing with the Bhopal issue, and we have told them so. Our national secretary has made a strong statement on behalf of the Bhopalis demands in the parliament. We will not hesitate to show our displeasure to the Government. They cannot take us for granted. My party will be 100 percent behind the struggle of the Bhopalis and will extend all the support that we can to ensure that their struggle succeeds. We need investments, but not in dirty industries that are not wanted elsewhere. We have to promote good, clean industries that give jobs to our people. The objective of such industrialization is not making profits but providing jobs and spurring the growth of the economy as a whole.”
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