Several Bhopalis and supporters, including Champa Devi, Shahid Noor, Sathyu and Rachna met with Ram Vilas Paswan, the Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers at 5 p.m. The meeting was productive enough that the group has decided to postpone any hunger strike until after a meeting with the Prime Minister himself, a meeting which is anticipated some time next week.
OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE ISSUED THURSDAY 30TH MARCH
Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, Minister for Chemicals
In response to our demand for the provision of clean water to the communities near the Union Carbide factory, Mr. Paswan and his staff agreed that it was essential to ensure clean water. The Secretary of the Ministry promised to visit Bhopal April 18-19 to meet with the Chief Minister and Chief Secretary of Bhopal to discuss the situation and come up with solutions. Mr. Paswan also promised to write to the Planning Commission about allocating funds for the purpose of providing clean water, because the Madhya Pradesh government cites lack of money as the main obstacle to doing the job properly or at all. [Ed: They should ask how the previous Chief Minister in June 2005 was proposing to spend $180 million on public fountains, gymnasia and badminton courts while the poisoned communities continued without clean water.] On the issue of Dow cleaning up the site, the Minister balked at our demand for an immediate and thorough job. He said that his Ministry had met with representatives of Dow Chemical some time back. Dow, according to him, explained that they couldn’t clean up Bhopal because that would set a precedent which would force them to clean up countless places all over the globe where they had left chemical messes. Unsurprisingly, we have no sympathy for Dow’s dilemma. Sounds like Andrew Liveris and Co have been taking lessons in PR from the Yes Men.
Dow explained that they couldn’t clean up Bhopal because it would set a precedent which would force them to clean up countless places all over the globe – Dow, speaking to Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers
“Dow does not and cannot acknowledge responsibility. If we did, not only would we be required to expend many billions of dollars on cleanup and compensation – much worse, the public could then point to Dow as a precedent in other big cases” – From dowethics.com
Dow had, Mr. Paswan told us, offered to fund an Institute of Responsible Care, which would teach corporate executives and employees about being good, responsible, corporate citizens. This naturally cut no ice with our delegates, who explained that Bhopalis who have been poisoned for years by the cold-blooded negligence of Dow’s 100%-owned subsidiary Union Carbide will never accept Dow admitting no responsibility, doing absolutely no clean-up, and getting good press and an improved image for it.
[Ed: See this interesting article on “Responsible Care”.]
Mr. Paswan asked if we could countenance a “humanitarian” clean-up by Dow, as opposed to a legally ordered clean-up. Our position is that only a full and thorough clean-up of soil and groundwater to international standards entirely funded by Dow will be acceptable, whatever anyone chooses to call it.
On the issue of criminal prosecution of Union Carbide Corporation and Warren Anderson, we were informed that the Ministry of External Affairs has written to the CBI (Central Bureau of Intelligence) asking them to revise the extradition request for former Carbide CEO Anderson and re-issue it to the United States.
Raising the question of a fitting and permanent Bhopal memorial, we were told that a request had already been made to the Ministry of Human Resources asking that Bhopal be added to all public educational curricula.
On the demand for a National Commission on Bhopal, Mr. Paswan agreed that such a commission was in order and promised to forward our demand and his support for it to the Prime Minister, with the recommendation that the PM order the setting up of a National Commission.
Regarding the demand that Dow’s access to India should be curtailed until it produces Union Carbide for trial and cleans up the factory site, Mr. Paswan said this was not an issue of the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, but rather for the Department of Commerce and the Department of Industrial Promotion. On the specific issue of banning Dow’s pesticide Dursban in India (it has long been banned in the U.S.), Mr. Paswan asked for a detailed submission that he could present to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Minister Paswan with the Bhopali delegation
TV interview after the meeting
After meeting with Mr. Paswan, the representative group had a meeting with Mr. Oscar Fernandes, who presently handles three ministerial portfolios and heads the party’s Central Election Authority. The meeting was very positive, Mr. Fernandes has agreed to forward our request for an appointment with the Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Bhopalis and their supporters sat at Jantar Mantar. Across the street is a large group of people displaced by the huge Narmada dam project in Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh. At one point this evening, some of them came over and performed a special dance for the Bhopalis. There is a strong sense that we are strongly connected and fighting a single, broader problem – putting corporations and profits over human lives, of governments like India’s handing over the fate of its poorest citizens to the highest bidders.
Narmada activists and supporters came to visit the Bhopalis and sang and danced for them, the two campaigns have always been close allies and good friends
Then the Bhopalis danced for the Narmadans
For the first time tonight, everyone is sleeping on the street, in the spot where they sat all day, at Jantar Mantar. There will be another meeting in the morning to discuss where to go from here.
First night on the pavement at Jantar Mantar, Delhi
Sathyu relaxes after a hard day at the Ministry