White House Tells India to Protect Dow from Bhopal Liability

Obama Administration Official Supports Corporate Interests Over Victims of World’s Worst Industrial Disaster

Deputy National Security Advisor Froman reveals administration’s double standards on corporate accountability for victims of Bhopal Gas Disaster

INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR JUSTICE IN BHOPAL

PRESS STATEMENT: August 18, 2010

CONTACTS: Shana Ortman, 415-746-0306, shana@panna.org, ICJB U.S. Coordinator
Claire Rosenfeld, 408-348-2554, clairerosenfeld12@gmail.com, ICJB U.S. Campaigner

At a time when the world is focused on corporate accountability in the wake of the BP’s Gulf Oil Spill, a leaked email from the Obama administration shows that it values profit over people, when the profit benefits American corporations. The victims of the world’s worst industrial disaster were disappointed to see today that the White House is not pursuing the same levels of accountability from American Dow Chemical as it has from BP.  When Dow purchased Union Carbide in 2001, the corporation acquired outstanding liability for the ongoing disaster in Bhopal, which has led to the deaths of an estimated 25,000 people in Bhopal, India following the 1984 Gas Disaster.

Today, Mumbai-based Times Now published an email chain between White House Deputy National Security Advisor Michael Froman, and Indian Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia. In response to an Ahluwalia’s email requesting assistance as India faces a sharp restriction in the World Bank’s lending, Froman replied:

“We are aware of this issue and we will look into it. We are hearing a lot of noise about the Dow Chemical issue. I trust that you are monitoring it carefully. I am not familiar with all the details, but I think we want to avoid developments which put a chilling effect on our investment relationship.”

Here Obama’s Deputy NSA apparently tied potential development aid to India with Dow Chemical’s liability in Bhopal. The White House denies any linkage between the IBRD lending and Dow’s ongoing lack of responsibility. Forman’s statement shows callous disregard for ongoing injustice and lack of accountability 26 years after the disaster.  The survivor organizations in India, 5 of which have been protesting in Delhi this past month, have faced infringements on their basic rights, especially through discriminatory police abuse.  A threatening statement from the Obama office could further repressive action from Indian Central Government of India.

Following months of safety cuts, on Dec 3, 1984 the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal leaked deadly gas containing Methyl isocyanate (MIC) over the city of Bhopal. In the immediate aftermath 8-12,000 people died.  Currently the death toll has risen to approximately 25,000 people. Over 100,000 people are still too sick to work because of long-term health disability.

The Indian Government has been forced to address the Bhopal issue in the recent months following a June 7 verdict convicting the officials of Union Carbide’s former Indian subsidiary on charges of criminal negligence. The charges and sentence, equivalent to a traffic violation, enraged the Indian public, as did the fact the Union Carbide and it’s former CEO Warren Anderson have refused to appear in court to face charges of culpable homicide. Bhopal survivors say that Dow Chemical should not be allowed to continue doing business in India until its subsidiary appears in court and cleans up the site of the disaster.

The International Campaign for Justice for Bhopal (ICJB) is a coalition led by four survivor organizations along with environmental, social justice, progressive Indian, and human rights groups around the world. ICJB works to hold the Indian Government and Dow Chemical Corporation (the current owner of Union Carbide) accountable for the ongoing chemical disaster in Bhopal, India. It was set up to address the grave injustices suffered by the half million Bhopal Gas Disaster survivors.

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