Will Pune be India’s next Bhopal?

Indiatime, April 28, 2008
The government of Maharashtra has now given a go-ahead to Dow Chemicals to build a $100 million Research and Development facility in Pune. There are reports that indicate an unusual hastening and extraordinary facilitation of normal procedures to give a green signal to the company which still owes reparations to thousands of Indian citizens for one of the worst chemical disaster tragedies in history.
It is hard, even for a moment, to believe, that Dow Chemicals is not getting special favors from Indian government. Despite recent exposes of a Dow subsidiary paying off government officials to get approvals on poisonous pesticides, and despite Dow’s tainted history with its Indian companies, the government hasn’t come clean to people on if and why the approval process was subverted for Dow’s newest ventures in India. There is enough initial evidence suggestive of special favoritism that has led to Dow’s new plant in Pune:
1. The MIDC (Magharashtra Industrial Development Corporation) CEO approved Dow’s initial application in 48 hours.
2. The state pollution board approved Dow’s applications in a record time of a few months
3. The state allowed Dow to start construction on the site, way before environmental clearances came in.
4. The land in question is near Chakan, a town where the Maharashtra’s powerful NCP leader has been campaigning for an international airport for a few years. Needless to say, NCP is one of the parties sharing power in Maharashtra.
It has been reported that Dow’s plant in Pune is being set up to use hazardous chemicals. Seems we haven’t yet learnt any lessons from Bhopal’s terrible mishap 25 years ago. For the center and the state to pander to and serve a private corporation’s purpose and put the lives of millions of its citizens in danger with so much as a 48 hours of regulatory oversight, the whole episode has the stench of a Faustian pact of sorts. I am equally appalled by the docile ignorance of Pune’s sleepy young population who are so engulfed in making money, eating out, watching TV and disco dancing in the clubs, that they don’t see the lurking danger in their backyard.

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