Villagers hold protest rally, say Dow go back

Express news service, February 03, 2008
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Villagers involved in stoppng Dow’s R&D construction meet in Shinde
Pune, February 2 Around 200 villagers from Shinde and Vasuli villages who are protesting against the Dow Chemical Research and Development Centre gathered for a public rally on Saturday, half a km from the site and voiced their discontent against the proposed centre in their village.
“Dow go back” was the clarion call of the villagers who have been protesting against the company. They were joined in the agitation by Rasheeda Bi and Satinath Sarangi, members from the Bhopal Group for Information and Action. They congratulated the villagers for putting up a strong resistance. “We are still suffering in Bhopal as Union Carbide has not yet cleared the toxic waste. It is the right of the villagers to know what kind of unit is coming up in their village. We never knew what was coming and we suffered a lot,’’ said Rasheeda, recounting 1984 tragedy.
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Entrance to Dow’s blockaded R&D site near Pune
Sarangi said the company should make things clear about what is going to come up on 100 acres of land. “Environmental hazards and individual safety should be the key in setting up any such units,’’ he said, extending support to the villagers.
When contacted, N Y Sanglikar, director (public affairs) Dow Chemical International Private Ltd , said they had strong support from villagers who want the project to come up. “We want to work with the community. It’s been 17 days since the construction work has been stopped by the villagers with a road blockade. We will slowly be trying to establish our rapport with our villagers and I believe that they would be convinced, as they were seven months back,’’he said.
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Dow ‘establishes its rapport’ with villagers via a menacing police presence
He said he would like to stress that though the company now owns the Union Carbide Corporation, the parent company of Union Carbide India Ltd, it had nothing to do with the 1984 tragedy. “So I see no point in the villagers linking the company with the disaster.”
However, the villagers — who have formed the Bhamchandragarh Bachao Warkari Kisan Sangharsh Samiti and drawing support from Lokayat and Lokshashan Andolan — are strongly opposing the chemical unit. Sarpanch Gorakh Temghire said they don’t want the company in the village even if they give them the best of amenities. “We don’t want them to give us a school or anything,’’ he said. While former sarpanch Shivaji Matale, Bapu Temghire and Shantaram Temghire said that any kind of chemical unit in their village would pose an environmental hazard. “Our water would get contaminated with chemical effluents,’’ pointed out Bapu Temghire.
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While Alka Joshi from Lokayat who is supporting the villagers said that the company has a history of refusing to accept the liabilities of the tragedy, despite the fact that it has taken over the liabilities of the Union Carbide company. Now it is also refusing to clean up the over 5000 tonnes of toxic waste left behind at the plant site in Bhopal by Union Carbide, which has now seeped into the soil and contaminated the groundwater and soil around the plant. Vilas Sonawane of Lokshashan Andolan, retired Inspector General of Police SM Mushrif and retired justice BG Kolsepatil who is supporting the movement said that they want the villagers to fight for their right to life and safe future.

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