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May 30, 2008

Bhopal gas tragedy: Case against Dow won't be withdrawn

Times of India, May 30, 2008

NEW DELHI: The Union government on Thursday bowed to pressure from the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy activists and accepted their demand for setting up a specially empowered commission to carry out medical, economic, social and environmental rehabilitation of the gas victims.

Prithviraj Chavan, minister for state in the PMO, went and met the activists sitting in protest at Jantar Mantar and communicated the PM's decision that the legal case being pursued against Dow Chemicals in the Madhya Pradesh HC would not be withdrawn and that the government would take action as per the decision of the court.

The announcement brought some sense of relief to the Bhopal groups. Earlier, they had mounted a sustained campaign after documents, obtained through the Right to Information and reported by TOI, had shown that the cabinet secretary had recommended that the case be taken out of court and be handled as a policy decision by the government.

Even the department of chemicals and petrochemicals had in an application filed in the high court requested the court to direct Dow Chemicals to deposit Rs 100 crore as an advance for environmental remediation. Dow had lobbied with the UPA government to withdraw the liability in order to facilitate investments, upwards of $1 billion. It had found success with senior ministers, as well as the Planning Commission, which supported the move.

The government is, however, yet to take a decision on pursuing the issue of extradition of the absconding Union Carbide officials as well as revoking the permission given to Reliance to purchase Carbide's technology. A local court in MP had ordered the attachment of all property of UCC's assets and the activists believe the permission to purchase intellectual property of the company is in infringement of the order.

Posted by tim at 03:05 PM | Comments (0)

Govt continues to gas Bhopal victims

The Economic Times, May 30, 2008

NEW DELHI: The government has finally lent an ear to the victims of Bhopal gas tragedy. But coming after 25 years it’s certainly a case of too little too late. The government has accepted “in principle” their demand to set up a commission to carry out medical, economic, social and environmental rehabilitation of the victims. However, dissatisfaction persists as demands of legal action against Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals are yet to be met.

Reading out the prime minister’s statement, minister of state (PMO) Prithviraj Chavan said central government is “in principle” in agreement on the demand for a specially empowered committee and that the matter of legal action against Dow Chemicals on environment and health of the surviving victims is still pending before the Madhya Pradesh High Court. “The department of chemicals and petrochemicals has already filed an application requesting the court to direct Dow Chemicals Company, and associated companies, to deposit Rs 100 crore as advance for environmental remediation. The central government will take further action as per the decision of the court,” Mr Chavan said.

Three organisations—Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, and Bhopal Group for Information and Action—have been leading the struggle for rehabilitation and justice. There are two set of demands: first, the commission for rehabilitation; and second, legal action against Union Carbide and Dow Chemical, which took over Union Carbide in 2001.

The demand for legal action includes pursuing the ministry of chemicals application in the Madhya Pradesh High Court seeking money from Dow Chemicals for toxic clean up in Bhopal. This has been met. However, the other three issues under legal action have not been addressed. These include extradition of former Union Carbide chairperson Warren Anderson and the authorised representative of Union Carbide Corporation; revoking the approval given to Reliance Industries for purchase of Union Carbide’s Unipol technology which is intellectual property that should be confiscated because the corporation is absconding since 1992; and the cancellation of the registration for all four pesticides, including Dursban, that were obtained by Dow Chemical by bribing agriculture ministry officials as established by the US Securities & Exchange Commission.

The first has been agreed to “in principle”. On the second, the government has said that the demands have not yet been agreed upon. Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action said, “we are continuing with our protest. It would appear that the government would want us to walk away after fulfiling one of our demands and forget the rest.”

The organisations are apprehensive about the final course of action in holding Dow Chemicals responsible. Apprehensions are justified. Union Carbide and Mr Anderson, both of whom face charges of culpable homicide and grievous assault, are absconding from Indian courts since 1992. The union ministry of commerce and industry has in the meantime approved collaboration between Reliance Industries and Dow Chemicals for the transfer of Union Carbide-owned and patented technology. This inspite of opposition from ministry of chemicals.

The apprehension that the judicial matter may not be resolved in favour of the gas tragedy victims persists despite a PMO internal memo which quotes the law ministry opinion clearly holding Dow Chemicals legally liable for actions of Union Carbide. Activists say that there is a clear message that the biggest objection to resolving the matter comes from the ministry of commerce and industry.

“There is a lot of pressure from the commerce ministry and the American lobby to let Dow off the hook. For two years now the ministry of chemicals has been communicating to us about the pressure that the ministry of commerce is bearing upon the case,” sources said. Mr Chavan assured that the outstanding demands would be resolved soon. Sources said that a meeting has been slated for June 3 for a conclusion on all demands. The meeting will be attended by the ministry of chemical and petrochemicals, ministry of external affairs, and CBI, DIPB.

Posted by tim at 03:02 PM | Comments (0)

Commission to rehabilitate Bhopal gas victims to be set up

Aarti Dhar, The Hindu, May 30, 2008

Centre will take initiative soon to work out modalities

Committees on various rehabilitation aspects will be subsumed

Drinking water from Kolar reservoir for localities around Carbide plant by year-end

NEW DELHI: The Centre has agreed “in principle” to set up an empowered commission to rehabilitate the survivors and victims of the Bhopal gas leak that happened 23 years ago.

It is in “in principle agreement with the demand for a specially empowered commission to carry out medical, economic, social and environmental rehabilitation of the victims and would soon take the initiative to work out the modalities,” Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Prithviraj Chavan said in a statement here on Thursday.

He read it out, on behalf of the Prime Minister, when he met the survivors and victims at Jantar Mantar, where they have been on a dharna for the past two months.

The Centre would set up the commission, subsuming the committees on various rehabilitation aspects constituted by the Supreme Court, the Centre, the Madhya Pradesh government and the Madhya Pradesh High Court and other courts.

“Also, the Madhya Pradesh government is being asked to prepare a detailed plan of action for schemes for rehabilitation of the victims with estimates of the funds required. The Centre will examine this speedily and sympathetically once it is received,” Mr. Chavan assured the protesters.

The Centre also decided to upgrade the Coordination Committee, set up in the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals and it would now be chaired by the Secretary.

On the demand for provision of clean drinking water from unpolluted sources in 14 localities around the Union Carbide plant, which was the source of the gas leak, Mr. Chavan said the government had already sanctioned a project, under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission at an estimated cost of Rs. 14.18 crore, to the Bhopal Municipal Corporation. This was to provide safe drinking water through pipelines from the Kolar Reservoir to localities around the Union Carbide plant. “The work is likely to be completed by the year-end and the Centre will also monitor the progress.”

The Health Ministry would be asked to continue research, through the Indian Council of Medical Research, on the adverse effects of the gas leak on the health of the surviving victims and their descendants.

Mr. Chavan said the protesters’ demand for taking legal action against Dow Chemicals — this company and Union Carbide have since merged — for environmental and health damage and soil and water contamination was pending before the Madhya Pradesh High Court. The Department of Chemical and Petrochemicals had filed an application requesting the court to direct Dow Chemicals and associated companies to deposit Rs. 100 crore as advance for environmental remediation. Further action would be taken according to the court decision.

Protest will continue

Welcoming the announcements, the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha and the Bhopal Group for Information and Action, however, said they would continue with their protest as their demand for legal action against Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals had not been addressed.

Posted by tim at 12:08 PM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2008

Commission for Bhopal grievances

Chris Morris, BBC News, March 29, 2008

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PLEASE CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO SEE THE BBC'S FILM

The Indian government says it will set up a commission to examine some of the grievances of victims of the world's worst industrial disaster.

The gas leak in the city of Bhopal in 1984 claimed thousands of lives.

Campaigners from Bhopal have been camping out on the streets of Delhi for the last two months trying to publicise their cause.

They say their protests will continue as the government has not addressed one of their key demands.

Emotive

The Bhopal campaigners say they are pleased that the government has agreed to some of their demands. That includes the setting up a new commission to look into a variety of medical, social and economic concerns.

But the sit-in protest on the streets of Delhi will continue.

That's because the prime minister has yet to respond to the most emotive demand of all - that legal action be pursued against Union Carbide, the company which ran the Bhopal plant and against Dow Chemicals, which now owns Union Carbide.

It is nearly a quarter of a century since the industrial disaster which killed thousands of people.

Tens of thousands more have suffered from a variety of ailments ever since and many of the issues surrounding the terrible events of 1984 remain unresolved.

That is why campaigners for the victims of gas leak say that only by staying in the public eye, on the streets of the capital, do they have any realistic chance of getting political leaders to take them seriously.

Posted by tim at 08:50 PM | Comments (0)

India to set up panel for Bhopal survivors: minister

AFP, May 29, 2008

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Survivors of Bhopal Gas tragedy shout slogans during a protest in New Delhi

NEW DELHI (AFP) — India is to set up a panel to help victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas leak, which killed more than 15,000 people, a minister said Thursday after meeting survivors of the tragedy.

Junior minister Prithviraj Chavan also said India would press the US company that owns the former Union Carbide to clean up the site of what has been called the world's worst industrial accident.

The Bhopal disaster occurred when a storage tank at a Union Carbide India pesticide plant spewed deadly cyanide gas into the air, killing more than 3,500 slum dwellers immediately.

The death toll has since climbed to more than 15,000, the government says.

Activists and protesters want the site to be cleared of thousands of tonnes of toxic waste embedded in the soil as well as jobs and compensation for health problems suffered by the victims.

The panel will cover the "medical, economic, social and environmental rehabilitation" of the victims, said Chavan, a junior minister in the premier's office.

The federal health ministry "will continue medical research on the adverse effects of gas leakage on the health of survivors," he added, after meeting a group of about 100 activists who have been camping in New Delhi.

US-based Dow Chemicals bought Union Carbide 15 years after the disaster, and survivors are demanding it pay 25 million dollars to clean up the site.

The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal said activists were particularly pleased the government had said Dow Chemical was responsible for the "liabilities" of Union Carbide.

"They hope that the government will summon the political will to take appropriate legal action against Union Carbide and Dow Chemical for their crimes in India," it said.

Dow says all liabilities were settled in 1989 when Union Carbide paid 470 million dollars to the Indian government to be allocated to survivors and families of the dead.

Bhopal activists say the plant site still contains around 5,000 tonnes of toxic chemicals, which have contaminated soil and water up to five kilometres (three miles) away.

But local court cases in India have since challenged Dow's stand and called for more compensation for victims as well as for the environmental damage.

Posted by tim at 04:58 PM | Comments (0)

New panel to rehabilitate Bhopal gas tragedy victims to be set up

IANS, May 29, 2008

New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) Smiles and hugs, signifying a part of the battle won, were exchanged Thursday among the Bhopal gas tragedy victims, who are protesting in the capital, as one of their key demands for setting up a commission had been met. They were, however, not completely satisfied. In a statement issued by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s office, the first of their demands - setting up of a commission to carry out medical, economic, social and environmental rehabilitation of the Bhopal gas victims - was readily agreed to.

“The central government is in `in principle’ agreement with this demand,” said the statement read out by Prithviraj Chauhan, minister of state in the prime minister’s office.

While the central government will work on setting up a commission, “the government of Madhya Pradesh is also being asked to prepare a detailed action for rehabilitation schemes of the Bhopal gas victims and the funds required”.

The statement added that on the demand of provision of clean drinking water in 14 localities near the former Union Carbide plant, a project under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission has been sanctioned at an estimated cost of Rs.141.8 million.

Although the protesters, some of who marched all the way from Bhopal to Delhi and have been camping at the capital’s Jantar Mantar area, are happy with one of their demands being met, they are not satisfied with the fact that other key demands have not been mentioned.

“Legal action against Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals, the main culprits of the gas tragedy, has not yet been decided,” complained Satinath Sarangi, an activist.

The PMO’s statement said that the matter of legal action against Dow Chemicals on environment and health of the surviving victims is still pending before the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

“The department of chemicals and petrochemicals has already filed an application requesting the court to direct Dow Chemicals and associated companies to deposit Rs.100 crore (Rs.1 billion) as an advance for environmental remediation,” the statement added.

“Union Carbide and its former chairperson Warren Anderson, both of whom face charges of culpable homicide and grievous assault, are absconding from Indian courts since 1992. No fresh attempts have been made by the government to enforce their appearance in court.

“Then the Union Commerce Ministry approved collaboration between Reliance Industries and Dow for the transfer of Union Carbide-owned and patented technology, which is not legal and should be revoked. To these demands the Prime Minister’s office has assured us that a meeting will be held June 3 and a conclusion on these demands will be made,” Sarangi said.

The Bhopal gas leak holocaust, frequently cited as the world’s worst industrial disaster, took place in 1984. A Union Carbide pesticide plant leaked over 40 tonnes of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas, killing at least 3,800 people and affecting many more in Bhopal.

The PMO’s statement said that the Union Ministry of Family and Health Welfare will be asked to continue research work on the adverse effects of the gas leakage on the health of the surviving victims through the Indian Council of Medical Research.

The protesters said Thursday they would discuss the PM’s response and decide whether they will continue their dharna in the capital.

“But we will fight till all our demands are met,” said Sarangi.

Posted by tim at 12:09 PM | Comments (0)

Dow Chemical: Liable for Bhopal?

Manjeet Kripalani, Business Week, May 28, 2008

The 1984 disaster was Union Carbide's fault, but many Indians want to hold Dow accountable

For nearly a quarter century, the name Bhopal has been synonymous with the dangers of industrialization. In the wee hours of Dec. 3, 1984, a toxic gas leaked from a pesticide plant in the central Indian city of Bhopal. Since then, some 20,000 people have died from the contamination, including thousands on the day of the disaster.

Today, Bhopal is also coming to mean endless litigation. Although a civil case on compensation for victims was settled 19 years ago, Indian courts have yet to rule on several other issues involving Bhopal. And the continued legal wrangling now threatens to trip up a company that had nothing to do with Bhopal in the first place: Dow Chemical (DOW).

What's Dow's connection to Bhopal? Seven years ago, Dow bought what was left of Union Carbide, the company that owned the Bhopal plant. Even though Union Carbide had sold off the unit that ran the Bhopal facility a decade before Dow bought in, many Indians believe Dow should now take responsibility for the accident. Even if Dow never has to pay any damages, Bhopal has become a thorny public-relations issue for the company. It faces increased scrutiny of its activities, and some people—both in India and abroad—believe Dow may ultimately have to help clean up the site, where toxins have leaked into groundwater that's used by some 25,000 people.

Whose Responsibility?
The latest headache for Dow is a May 14 letter by shareholders to the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. Signed by nine investors, the letter says the company hasn't disclosed potential liabilities related to Bhopal. "Up to $1 billion in Dow Chemical investment in India may be impeded," the shareholders write. They're worried about a $22 million deposit that India's Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers wants from Dow to cover the cleanup pending a final determination of costs, which could be many times that amount. This follows a December, 2007, resolution by heavyweight shareholders, such as TIAA-CREF and the New York City Pension Funds, asking the company to address issues concerning Bhopal.

In 1989, Union Carbide agreed to pay $470 million to victims—$1,500 per death and $550 per contaminated individual. But a criminal case against Union Carbide is far from resolved. The company was charged with "culpable homicide not amounting to murder." No one from Union Carbide headquarters appeared in court, though, and a magistrate declared the company and its chief executive "absconders" from the law. Victims' groups and some lawyers argue Dow could therefore be drawn into the criminal case for allegedly giving shelter to Union Carbide—now considered a fugitive—a notion Dow calls "ridiculous." Environmental litigation might also be a liability, since toxic chemicals at the plant weren't properly disposed of.

While Dow has expressed sympathy for the victims of Bhopal, the company says it has no responsibility to clean up the Union Carbide facility. Dow "never owned or operated the Bhopal plant site and Dow did not inherit any liabilities of Union Carbide Corp.," says spokesman Scott Wheeler. The company hasn't paid the $22 million deposit, which it calls "inappropriate," and says the shareholder letter is without merit. Any cleanup, Dow maintains, is the business of the state of Madhya Pradesh, where Bhopal is located. In 1997 the site was handed over to the state, and a court suggested that the state and federal governments start cleaning up the Bhopal facility.

Activists: "We Will Win"
But all this has rattled Dow enough to spur the company on to intense lobbying. Dow CEO Andrew N. Liveris has been in touch with top Indian executives and government ministers. One business leader, Tata Group Chairman Ratan N. Tata, suggested to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that Indian corporations create a fund to clean up Bhopal. The Prime Minister and many companies agreed to Tata's proposal, but the Chemicals Ministry would have none of it. In February it sent Singh an opinion from the Ministry of Law that contained a bombshell for Dow: "If there is any legal liability, it would have to be borne by Dow Chemical," and some of the company's investments in India could be at risk.

Dow's Indian troubles extend beyond issues directly related to Bhopal. In Chakhan, some 120 miles from Mumbai, Dow is building a $100 million R&D center. But since January, residents of nearby villages have staged a sit-in, blocking access to the site. The villagers of Chakhan are worried that what befell Bhopal awaits them, despite full-page reassurances, paid for by Dow, published in local papers. Dow's reputation in India took another hit last year after the company revealed that some employees had bribed Indian officials, resulting in a $325,000 fine from the SEC.

Meanwhile, activists are stepping up the pressure. About 50 victims of the disaster walked to Delhi from Bhopal this spring and have set up camp near Parliament, demanding that toxic waste be removed, clean water be provided to area residents, and legal action be taken against Dow. "Our victory will be against Dow," says Satinath Sarangi, founder of the Sambhavna Trust Clinic, which provides free health care to Bhopal victims. "“And we will win."

Kripalani is BusinessWeek's India bureau chief.

Dow Chemical: Liable for Bhopal?
All Reader Comments
page 1 of 1

Percyflage
May 29, 2008 10:44 AM GMT
That's three shrieking denials in one final sentence, Scot. Deny this: Delaware law controls the issue of 'successor liability' between Union Carbide and Dow. Under Delaware law "[A] court can pierce the corporate veil of an entity where there is fraud or where a subsidiary is in fact a mere instrumentality or alter ego of its owner." Though Carbide was a fugitive in India due to non-appearance in criminal proceedings, it continued selling products there through third party agents. "The recent case of MM Global Services, Inc. v. Dow Chemical Co., 404 F. Supp. 2d 425, 428-9 (D.Conn. 2005), those undisclosed third-party agents sued Dow as UCC's parent alleging that Union Carbide and its affiliates ceased acting consistently with their alleged contractual and legal obligations and, in particular, undertook efforts to establish Dow, untainted by the Bhopal tragedy, in place of the plaintiffs as a direct seller of products to end-users in India. This type of conduct is precisely the sort of 'fraud' or 'public wrong' that permits a court applying Delaware law to pierce the corporate veil..." More here:
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Pavan
May 29, 2008 10:18 AM GMT
@graw Did you want a photograph of the thousands of corpses instead ? @Tom Let the law take it's own course. India does not stand against capitalism or progress. India's pace of reforms supports that
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graw
May 29, 2008 9:44 AM GMT
Did you have to select the ugliest one available for the cover story photo ?!!
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Scot Wheeler
May 29, 2008 9:25 AM GMT
I think it's obvious that those of us at Dow mourn for those who survived the 1984 gas disaster in Bhopal. It is a human tragedy. We hope that the Indian Government will help address their grievances and we're encouraged by the latest news we've heard. However I want to be clear - because there continue to be politically-motivated misunderstandings on this point - DOW IS NOT RESPONSIBLE. Dow did not own or operate the facility when the disaster occurred, and the legal case against Union Carbide was resolved in a legal settlement in 1989 which the Indian Supreme Court upheld in 1991, calling the settlement "just, equitable and fair". Dow is not liable, never has been, and never will be found liable in a court of law.
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Tom Dardridge
May 29, 2008 9:17 AM GMT
Somehow I think the naysayers will lose again - and they should. There's always someone standing against capitalism and progress.
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percyflage
May 29, 2008 8:53 AM GMT
By mechanism of law - Delaware law under which Dow is incorporated - Dow has become successor in liability to Union Carbide. To suggest elsewise is akin to saying that Carbide's assets do not belong to Dow either. Acknowledged Carbide liabilities - such as US asbestos cases - appear in Dow's SEC filings. Bhopal constitutes Dow's unacknowledged liabilities. That doesn't make them any less real. The huge contamination problem - unrelated to the Bhopal disaster and so unrelated to the 1989 compensation deal - falls under 'polluter pays' principle. The polluter was Dow's 100% owned subsidiary Carbide. Dow has also been summoned to criminal proceedings in Bhopal pending against the fugitive Carbide. As a result, Dow's assets and far flung business strategy in India are in extreme jeopardy. In 1992 the Indian courts seized every dollar of Carbide's Indian assets due to it not appearing in court to face homicide charges. The same will happen to Dow unless it submits to proceedings that have the power to levy punitive and resitutionary fines that have no upper limit. Denials issuing from Dow are designed to reassure stockholders and investors: they're becoming increasingly shrill.
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John
May 29, 2008 7:44 AM GMT
The gas leaked was 1/4 century ago. It has nothing to do with DOW. The victim already compensated. Dow should not pay a penny to them. The Indian gov. should pay for the clean up.
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pranav Jha
May 29, 2008 7:12 AM GMT
Dow can not shrinks its responsibility of paying the liability.The mental trauma and the physical pain the sufferers have gown through can never be compensated then least they can do the paying for the damaged caused at least in a monetory term.I appreciate the view point Of Mr. Ratan Tata who calls for generousity from the corporate world to set high ethical standard.All the big Corporates should come forward to build some sort of Fund for all unforeseen calamities esp.caused by the negligence of there operation like people residing area near to URENIUM mines etc. are more prone to cancer caused by rays emmition and all.
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toya
May 29, 2008 6:12 AM GMT
For business ethics

Posted by tim at 11:15 AM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2008

CPI slams UPA for failure to constitute Bhopal commission

Zee News, May 22, 2008

New Delhi, May 22: Criticising the UPA for its "failure" to form a high-powered commission to redress the grievances of Bhopal gas tragedy victims, the CPI on Thursday said such a government has "no moral right to continue in office which cannot work for its people".

"The UPA government's attitude towards the Bhopal gas tragedy victims is callous, insensitive and irresponsible," CPI national secretary D Raja said addressing the victims, who were released today after being detained for protesting in front of the Prime Minister's residence.

"The government is celebrating its successful completion of fourth year in office. But it has failed to understand the pathetic condition of the (Bhopal tragedy) victims, so they have no moral right to stay," Raja said.

About 200 victims have been staging demonstration at Jantar Mantar in the national capital for past 52 days, after marching on foot from Bhopal.

"I urge the government to form a high-powered commission to look into the matter," he said, adding CPI is not going to let down the people of Bhopal on the issue.

Criticising the UPA government for allowing US-based Dow Chemicals, the present owner of Union Carbide, to invest in India, RSP MP Abani Roy said "this government is not ready to pay heed to the sufferings of its people but is ensuring that there is no harm to the interest of the United States."

Noted columnist Kuldip Nayyar and activists of various social organisations were present in the meeting.

Posted by tim at 07:38 PM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2008

Press photos from PM House protest

IBNLive, May 21, 2008

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THE HUMAN CHAIN
Thirty-seven survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy were arrested when they chained themselves near Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's residence on Wednesday demanding that the Government address their grievances immediately. (Pic: AP)

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WHERE'S THE KEY TO FREEDOM?
The police said the people chained themselves to the railings opposite the heavily-guarded Prime Minister's House at 7, Race Course Road in the Capital. (Pic: AP)

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DOWN WITH IT
Around 80 protesters, carrying white flags and banners bearing messages like "No more Bhopals", lay on the road when the police tried to whisk them away in a bus. (Pic: AP)

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COP-ING WITH TROUBLE
Police used chain cutters to free the protesters, then took them and their fellow activists away in vans to the nearest police station. However, they are likely to be released soon. (Pic: AP)

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THE LONG WAIT FOR JUSTICE
Under the banner of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha and Bhopal Group for Information and Action, the protesters sought legal action against Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals, which own the Bhopal chemical plant, and demanded better rehabilitation of the Bhopal victims. (Pic: AP)

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PAST TENSE IN BHOPAL
On the night of December 2-3, 1984, a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal spewed tonnes of poisonous methyl isocyanate gas, killing some 3,800 people instantly and many more later. Dow Chemicals later bought Union Carbide. The world's worst industrial disaster also affected thousands, many of whom continue to suffer from various chronic diseases. (Pic: AP)

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SURVIVORS' TALE
Many of the survivors have been staging a protest in New Delhi for nearly two months. They had sought a meeting with the Prime Minister in January. An activist even wrote a letter to the Prime Minister using blood drawn from the Bhopal victims, seeking an hour of his time. Since then, 2,800 people from 18 countries have sent fax messages to the Prime Minister's Office, seeking a meeting with Manmohan Singh. (Pic: AP)

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THE APPEAL
NGOs working among the survivors have demanded a commission to execute social, economic and medical rehabilitation of the victims, environmental clean-up of the area and provision of clean drinking water for the residents of the area. (Pic: AP)

Posted by tim at 07:49 PM | Comments (0)

Bhopal gas survivors knock PM's door

Aradhana Sharma, NDTV.com, May 21, 2008

Survivors of the Bhopal Gas tragedy demonstrated outside the Prime Minister's house on Wednesday. This is the latest in the recent series of protests by the victims of Bhopal gas tragedy towards the government apathy.

These victims have been on dharna in the Capital for over 50 days now. They want an empowered commission which will rehabilitate gas tragedy victims and a clean up of the union carbide site.

Three generations of victims were chained to their cause at the Prime Minister's residence reminding the nation that the Bhopal gas tragedy cannot be forgotten.

''People die one day. But we are dying everyday because of the situation we live in,'' says Bano, one of the victims.

It's not only a battle for compensation but also a clean-up of the toxic union carbide site as even two decades after the gas leak, children are born with deformities.

''We want a National Commission which will look into rehabilitation, medical care and pension. We also want action against those responsible for the gas leak,'' says Ajay, one the victim's son.

Miffed by the government's laxity, these protestors are ready to go upto any limit to make their voices heard.

''No one hears us out. All we are given are assurances. But this time we want more or we will just die here,'' says Nagina Bi.

It has been a long march for them from Bhopal and then a two-month long dharna in Delhi. And they only want to know when will the Prime Minister meet them and address their problems.

But even this show of desperation didn't get them an audience with the Prime Minister.

Posted by tim at 05:36 PM | Comments (0)

Bhopal survivors chain themselves near PM's residence

Times of India, May 21, 2008

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NEW DELHI: Thirty-seven Bhopal gas disaster survivors, including 22 women, were arrested Wednesday when they chained themselves near Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's residence here to demand that the government address their grievances.

The police said the people chained themselves to the railings opposite the heavily-guarded prime minister's residence.

"They were not allowed to go near the PM's house, so they chained themselves. We cut their chains and took them into custody," Joint Commissioner of Police (New Delhi Range) Ajay Kashyap said.

Under the banner of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha and Bhopal Group for Information and Action, the protestors sought legal action against Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals and better rehabilitation of the Bhopal victims.

On the night of Dec 2-3, 1984, a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal spewed tonnes of poisonous methyl isocyanate gas, killing some 3,800 people instantly and many more later. Dow Chemicals later bought Union Carbide.

The world's worst industrial disaster also affected thousands, many of who continue to suffer from various chronic diseases.

Contaminated groundwater around the plant area still infects people with various ailments ranging from skin problems to birth defects, say activists working among the survivors.

Many of the survivors have been staging a protest in New Delhi for nearly two months. They had sought a meeting with the prime minister in January.

Nityanand Jayaraman, an activist, said: "On April 16, a Bhopal boy wrote a letter to the prime minister using blood drawn from the Bhopal victims, seeking an hour of his time.

"The letter was delivered to the prime minister along with handwritten notes from more than 500 children from across the country," he said.

Since then, 2,800 people from 18 countries have sent fax messages to the prime minister's office seeking a meeting with Manmohan Singh.

"Twenty-three years is too long. This is a matter of our lives and liberty, and our children's health. We are not prepared to wait, and will do what it takes to ensure that the Prime Minister realises that we, and not American corporations, are his priority," a joint statement from the protesting groups said.

NGOs working among the survivors have demanded a commission to execute social, economic and medical rehabilitation of the victims, environmental clean-up of the area and provision of clean drinking water.

Posted by tim at 12:31 PM | Comments (0)

India Police Detain 62 Protesters Over 1984 Gas-Leak Disaster

Muneeza Naqvi, AP, May 21, 2008

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NEW DELHI (AP)--Indian police detained 62 protesters calling for a cleanup of the 1984 Bhopal industrial disaster as they demonstrated near the prime minister's official residence Wednesday, an organizer said.

Some of the protesters had walked nearly 800 kilometers from the site of a toxic gas leak at a pesticide plant in the central city of Bhopal that killed at least 10,000 people and affected about 550,000 others, said Madhumita Dutta, a spokeswoman for the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal.

Thirty-seven demonstrators chained themselves to prime minister's gates Wednesday, demanding that the disaster site be cleaned up and survivors be adequately compensated, Dutta said.

Authorities have banned protests in the security zone around the prime minister's residence.

Police used chain cutters to free the protesters, then took them and their fellow activists away in vans to the nearest police station, Dutta said. They were likely to be released later Wednesday.

Police confirmed the arrests, but would not comment further.

The Bhopal gas leak is considered one of the world's worst industrial disasters. A subsidiary of U.S. chemical company Union Carbide ran the plant at the time of the accident.

For decades, survivors have been fighting to have the site cleaned up, but they say the efforts were slowed when Michigan-based Dow Chemical Co. (DOW) took over Union Carbide in 2001, seven years after Union Carbide sold its interest in the Bhopal plant.

In 1989, Union Carbide paid US$470 million in compensation to victims of the gas leak and said responsibility for the cleanup lay with the Indian government.

The protesters want an official panel to work on social, economic and medical rehabilitation for the gas victims, and to arrange for the cleanup of the site and the drinking water in the area, Dutta said.

Activists working with survivors say that nearly 10,000 tons of toxic waste is still lying in and around the site.

Dow says it is not responsible for cleaning up the site.

The plant is now under the control of India's Madhya Pradesh state, which has agreed to pay an Indian company, Bharuch Environ Infrastructure Ltd., US$220,000 to dispose of the waste.

However, work on the cleanup has yet to begin, an executive of Bharuch Environ said Wednesday, saying that court cases must be resolved before work can start. He declined to be named.


Dow Jones Newswires
05-21-08 0634ET
Copyright (c) 2008 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

Posted by tim at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2008

Bhopal activists in India want Dow Chemical to pay for clean-up

AFP, May 12, 2008

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International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal activist Satinath Sarangi (left)

NEW DELHI (AFP) — Activists for victims of India's 1984 Bhopal gas leak said Monday that as the owner of the former Union Carbide, Dow Chemicals should pay for a clean-up before any new business in the country.

Dow Chemicals, which bought Union Carbide in 1999, 15 years after toxic gases leaked from a plant in Bhopal in central India on the night of December 3, 1984, is not "immune" to responsibilities of compensation, said activist Rachna Dhingra of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal.

The group, citing what they said was an Indian law ministry document obtained through the Right for Information Act last week, which they said holds that "irrespective of the manner in which Union Carbide has been acquired by Dow Chemicals, if there is any legal liability it would be borne by Dow Chemicals."

"We are happy to say that the law ministry is saying something we have been saying all along," said Satinath Sarangi of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal.

The gas leak, described as the world's worst industrial accident, occurred when a storage tank at a Union Carbide India pesticide plant spewed deadly cyanide gas into the air in Bhopal, killing more than 3,500 slum dwellers immediately.

The death toll has since climbed to more than 15,000, the government says.

Survivors and activists want US giant Dow Chemical to pay for the clean-up and health damages.

Dow says all liabilities were settled in 1989 when Union Carbide paid 470 million dollars to the Indian government to be allocated to survivors and families of the dead.

But local court cases in India have since challenged Dow's stand and called for more compensation for victims as well as for the environmental damage.

Dow Chemicals has sought help from the government and local companies such as Tata Group to settle the matter so it can proceed with investments in India estimated at one billion dollars.

The Bhopal activist group however says the plant site still contains around 5,000 tonnes of toxic chemicals, which have contaminated soil and water up to five kilometres (three miles) away.

Posted by tim at 04:29 PM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2008

Bhopal gas victims gate-crash PM house, held

CNN-IBN, May 6, 2008

New Delhi: The night of December 2, 1984 has stretched into 23 years, but the Bhopal gas tragedy lives on in the minds of people and in their bodies.

One of the survivors of the tragedy, Rashida Bi says that they are still forced to drink contaminated water as they do not have access to clean water.

Sometimes to survive is also to perish, like 70 of the survivors did, by breaching a high-security zone to literally knock on the Prime Minister's door, hoping that he would hear them.

However, the only ones who heard the victims gate-crashing the PM's residence were his security, who carried the protestors — including 39 children — away, and these survivors once again became victims and landed in the police station instead of getting the justice that they were hoping would be doled out to them.

Fighting ill health, the victims of the 1984 tragedy had walked to Delhi two years ago. A hunger strike that time had won them a meeting with the Prime Minister and they had been promised that their demand for clean drinking water for the 25,000 survivors would be met.

An activist for the victims of the tragedy, Nityanand says, "We walked to Delhi in 2006. Two years have passed and we are yet to receive even a drop of clean drinking water."

Meanwhile, the Group of Ministers on the Bhopal gas tragedy, headed by Arjun Singh is yet to hear them out for an empowered commisson on Bhopal, and a separate law for the gas-affected people, and most importantly, to deliver justice to them.

It has been a very long walk from Bhopal to Delhi and a long wait in Jantar Mantar for the victims of the gas tragedy, which include physically and mentally challenged children.

However, it seems as if the matter was not important enough for the Prime Minister to even consider meeting them — not even when they tried to gate-crash into his residence in a desperate bid to get what every human being deserves, clean drinking water.

Posted by tim at 05:27 PM | Comments (0)

Bhopal children knock at Manmohan’s door

The Hindu, May 6, 2008

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Police personnel preventing Bhopal gas victims from staging a surprise demonstration with their children outside the Prime Minister’s residence in New Delhi on Monday.

NEW DELHI: More than 40 gas-affected children from Bhopal virtually knocked at the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s door at Race Course Road to draw his attention to their demands.

The children, along with their parents, made a sudden appearance near the Prime Minister’s residence demanding livelihood and clean environment.

“We are of the same age as the Prime Minister’s grandchildren. Would he let his grandchildren drink poisoned water or see them sitting on the streets for days,” Yasim Khan, who walked from Bhopal to Delhi, said.

On April 16, Yasim wrote a letter to Dr. Singh with blood drawn from the Bhopal gas victims, seeking constitution of an empowered commission to look into economic and medical rehabilitation, environmental clean-up and other issues related to the gas victims.

Posted by tim at 03:45 PM | Comments (0)

'The media has ignored the Bhopal tragedy'

Rediff.com, May 6, 2008

Dominique Lapierre, author of Five Minutes Past Midnight, a book on the tragedy that visited Bhopal in the midnight of December 2, 1984, talks to Sreelatha Menon on the continuing suffering and neglect of the survivors of the Union Carbide gas leak. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan on Monday.

You have written a book on Bhopal and you have continued to visit the survivors since 1984. What is the difference between then and now?

A lot of problems are pending. On May 5, the activists and survivors who went to appeal to the prime minister have got arrested. I think there are a number of questions like cleaning up of the site of the disaster which is absolutely essential.

For lack of cleaning it, the underground water is completely poisoned and people are drinking poisoned water. I think they should be given the right to safe drinking water.

What went wrong? Why has the lot of Bhopal victims remained unaddressed for so many years?

I don't know. It is something to be worried about. Social, health and economic rehabilitation is needed. I have given money from the royalties of my book to build the gynaecological clinic at the Sambhavna Trust.

The trust treats 160 people... free of cost daily.

Yes. These are people who are never diagnosed, people who had only one aspirin tablet for curing their horrible condition caused by inhaling the toxic gas.

This is a very lethal gas. It has gone into the genes of the people. We don't know how many generations would be affected by it. Today, malformed children are still being born, women are getting cancer of the cervix. This is worrisome.

What has been the role of the Indian media?

I am very sad that the Indian media is ignoring this tragedy. When I started doing my research for my book on Bhopal, the media was asking me, 'Why on Bhopal?'. And I was shocked. Had there been a media outcry day after day, no government would let people suffer like this.

Do you think that the issues concerning Bhopal have been neglected because the victims are the poorest of the poor?

Yes. If the rich were involved then the response of the government and the media would definitely be different. On Sunday I was sitting on the sidewalks with the survivors who are camping here in Delhi's Jantar Mantar demanding to be heard by the government. I found that not a line was being written about them in newspapers here.

As you said once that the wind blew that night in the direction where the poorest people were living.

Very true.

You have equated Warren Anderson of Union Carbide with Osama bin Laden, killing more than the latter did, and remaining a fugitive. What do you think about Dow? Should they take responsibility?

They should assume responsibility of Union Carbide. I am sure of that. They should at least clean the toxic affluent.

They say that Carbide has its own mechanism of dealing with liabilities.

I don't know that. I know that Dow must take responsibility at least for the clean up of the toxic wastes.

Have you spoken to Dow?

No, never. But in the future I may talk to them.

Today you will receive the Padma Bhushan from the government of India which you have criticised for not acting enough on Bhopal.

I am just sad not critical. I have no right to be critical as I am an outsider. If I have a chance I will talk about these people. It is sad the voice of these people is not reaching the government.

Posted by tim at 11:15 AM | Comments (0)

May 05, 2008

Indian police hold 80 Bhopal protesters

Ashok Sharma, Associated Press Writer, Boston Globe, May 5, 2008

ap pic.bmp
Nida, 10 months old, an allegedly Bhopal gas leak disaster victim's deformed daughter, looks out from the window of a bus after being arrested along with her parents from outside Indian prime minister's house, in New Delhi, India, Monday, May 5, 2008. More than 40 children of Bhopal gas tragedy victim along with with their parents demonstrated outside prime minister house demanding economic and medical rehabilitation, environmental clean-up and provision of clean drinking water. Bhopal Gas leak disaster killed at least 10,000 people and affected some 550,000 others in the central Indian city of Bhopal in December 1984. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

NEW DELHI—Police detained 80 people who walked nearly 500 miles from the site of a catastrophic 1984 gas leak in central India to protest Monday outside the prime minister's residence, an organizer said.

more stories like thisThe protesters, including 52 children, were calling for the site of the Bhopal gas leak to be cleaned up and for survivors to be compensated, said Rachna Dhingra, a spokeswoman for Bhopal Group for Information and Action.

Guards took the protesters to a nearby police station soon after they arrived outside Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's official residence, Dhingra said. They were freed two hours later.

Police officer Jagat Singh said the protesters came without an appointment with the prime minister, and protests are not allowed around the official residence.

The leak from the Bhopal pesticide plant in 1984 killed at least 10,000 people and affected about 550,000 others. A subsidiary of U.S. chemical company Union Carbide ran the plant at the time.

For decades, survivors have been fighting to have the site cleaned up, but they say their efforts were slowed when Michigan-based Dow Chemical Co. took over Union Carbide in 2001, seven years after Union Carbide sold its interest in the Bhopal plant.

The protesters want an official panel to work on social, economic and medical rehabilitation for the gas victims, and to arrange for the clean up of the site and drinking water in the area, said Nityanand Jayaraman, an organizer.

Jayaraman said nearly 10,000 tons of toxic waste was still lying in and around the site.

In 1989, Union Carbide paid $470 million in compensation to victims of the gas leak and said responsibility for the cleanup lay with the government of India.

Dow has also maintained that it is not responsible for cleaning up the site.

The plant is now under the control of India's Madhya Pradesh state, which has agreed to pay an Indian company, Bharuch Environ Infrastructure Ltd., $220,000 to dispose of the waste.

© Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
more stories like this

Posted by tim at 05:37 PM | Comments (0)

Police detain Bhopal protesters

BBC News, May 5, 2008

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Bhopal protesters say babies born since the disaster suffer illnesses

Police in India's capital have detained dozens of protesters demanding more help for victims of the world's worst industrial disaster, at Bhopal in 1984.

They were briefly taken into custody after an unauthorised protest outside Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's office.

They are demanding more compensation and a better clean-up of the site.

Several thousand people died in Bhopal on the night of the gas leak from a Union Carbide factory. Thousands more died in the weeks that followed.

Compensation

The protesters wanted to meet the prime minister to press their case for more to be done to clean up the site around the former factory, which still contains thousands of tonnes of toxic chemicals.

Dozens of demonstrators, including a number of children, were taken to a nearby police station but were freed two hours later.

Police said the protesters had no appointment with the prime minister and demonstrations around the official residence were not permitted.

Many of the demonstrators have been in Delhi for more than a month, after walking 800km (500 miles) from the site of the 3 December 1984 disaster.

The BBC's Chris Morris in Delhi says one key issue is the plight of children born in Bhopal since the disaster who suffer from a variety of mental and physical disorders.

Union Carbide was bought by the Dow Chemical Company in 2001. Dow says it is not responsible for cleaning up the site, which sits on land owned by the Madhya Pradesh state government.

Union Carbide paid $470m in compensation to victims in 1989.

Posted by tim at 05:16 PM | Comments (0)

Fight for justice for Bhopal gas victims going in vain

IBNLive.com, May 5, 2008