Lokayat organizes Rally against outrageous Bhopal gas tragedy case judgement On Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Date: Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Time: 6.30 pm to 8 pm

Route: From Corporation Bus Stand via Shivaji Road to Tilak Putla, Mahatma Phule Mandai

Lokayat is organizing a rally against the outrageous judgement delivered in the Bhopal gas tragedy case on June 7, 2010, in which all the Indian officials have got away with mild sentences. The accused have got away so lightly, because of the “criminal negligence” by the government in prosecuting those responsible for the world’s worst industrial disaster. The Supreme Court in 1996, in a horrible judgement, diluted the charges against the Indian accused, effectively converting the Bhopal disaster to the equivalent of a traffic accident, and the CBI made no attempt to challenge this legally unsound judgement. It also made glaring omissions in presenting the evidence against the Indian accused. The worst part is, for the last 18 years, the CBI has made no attempt to bring the prime accused – Union Carbide USA and its former Chairman, Warren Anderson – to trial, they are supposed to be absconding. In fact, even after an order in 2005 by the CJM Court of Bhopal to Dow Chemical, which has taken over Union Carbide, to bring its subsidiary before the court, the CBI has for the last 4 years made no attempt to implement this order. In fact, documents available with us show that government officials at the highest level have assured Dow Chemical that they will try their best to absolve the company of all its liabilities arising out of the Bhopal gas tragedy.

All this indicates that the inept handling of the Bhopal case by the CBI is because of government pressure. In order to appease the giant multinationals of the United States and the US government – whose basic task is to protect the interests of its corporations – the government of India deliberately pressurized the CBI to “go slow” on the case. In fact, in their two decade long struggle for justice, the Bhopal gas tragedy survivors have not only had to fight Union Carbide and its successor company Dow, but also the government of India which has been more interested in currying favour with American corporations rather than protect the interests of its citizens.

The immense outrage among the people  caused by the patently unfair judgement and its scathing criticism in the press have put the government on the backfoot. The hurried steps taken by the government like setting up a group of Ministers to examine all aspects of the tragedy appear to be an attempt to cover up its complicity with Union Carbide and Dow Chemical. Considering the past record of the government on not just on the issue of Bhopal gas tragedy, but also on other issues of corporate crime, these  steps  appear only to be an eyewash, an attempt to buy time, till the uproar dies down.

We call upon the Prime Minister, as Minister in Charge of the CBI, to accept responsibility for the failure of the CBI in its role as the prosecuting agency. We demand  the creation of a Special Prosecution Cell for effective and timely action on extradition of foreign accused and prosecution of Dow Chemical.

Do join us for this important protest. I am attaching a pamphlet we are bringing out for this protest. This is the english draft, the pamphlet will be brought out in Marathi.

You may send in your comments as the draft is going for printing tomorrow morning.

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Bhopal Survivors Call Verdict and Trial Utter Disappointment

International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, Press Statement for immediate release on June 7, 2010

Contact: India, Nityanand Jayaraman: +91 9444082401; US, Shana Ortman, 415-746-0306

www.bhopal.netwww.studentsforbhopal.org

Terming today’s verdict and sentence against 7 officials of Union Carbide India Ltd., and the company an utter disappointment, Bhopal survivors today said they are resolved to challenge it in higher legal fora. “We feel outraged and betrayed. This is not justice. This is a travesty of justice,” said Hazra Bee of International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal. “The paltry sentencing is a slap in the face of suffering Bhopal victims.” Survivors have condemned the Indian government’s “criminal negligence” in the prosecution of those accused of responsibility for the world’s worst corporate massacre.

They said that as the Minister in charge of the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Prime Minister must accept blame for the prosecuting agency’s incompetence and mishandling of the case.

UCIL’s 7 Indian officials were awarded a 2-year prison sentence and a paltry fine of Rs. 101,750 (about $2100) today, while Union Carbide India Ltd (now Eveready Industries India Ltd) was fined Rs. 5,00,000 ($11000). All accused are out on bail of Rs. 25,000. Today’s verdict was in the case against only the 9 Indian accused (8 individuals and UCIL), one of whom died in the course of the trial. The foreign accused – Union Carbide Corporation, Warren Anderson and Union Carbide Eastern – are absconding and the CBI has failed to take action to bring them to India to face trial.

The verdict was greeted with protests, slogan-shouting and die-ins by irate Bhopalis who defied prohibitory orders to vent their anger outside the court. “By handling those those guilty of the world’s worst industrial disaster so leniently, our courts and Government are telling dangerous industries and corporate CEOs that they stand to lose nothing even if they put entire populations and the environment at risk,” said Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action.

The organizations said that in 18 years the CBI had not even been able to bring the principal accused; Union Carbide, USA and its former Chairman Warren Anderson, to face trial. Further, because of CBI’s inept handling, a third foreign accused – Union Carbide Eastern Inc, Hong Kong has managed to escape the criminal proceedings altogether. “There is documentary evidence that Union Carbide, USA and Anderson knew that the Bhopal plant design was based on “untested technology”, they were in full control over operations and safety of the factory and it is they who directed reckless cost – cutting. Justice cannot be done in Bhopal till these principal accused are brought to trial,” said Rashida Bee who has lost six people in her family due to the disaster.

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Comment on the Bhopal gas tragedy judgement from ICJB and Lokayat

Comment by Lokayat on the Judgement given in the Bhopal Gas Tragedy case on behalf of

lnternational Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB)

On behalf of struggling victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy who have been fighting for the last 25 years for justice, we’d like to thank the media for the excellent and sympathetic coverage given to the case and the strong comments given by the media on the judgement.

The judgement is indeed disappointing. It is indeed a making mockery of the victims of the world’s worst industrial disaster. After 25 years of trial, in an accident wherein more than 25000 have died so far and more than 1 lakh are sick with severely impaired lungs, eyes, reproductive and immune systems, and mental health, yet the company’s Indian officials have only been sentenced to a mere 2 years in jail and a nominal fine. They have immediately got bail, and in all probability, they will never go to jail. Such a minor sentence, which is similar to the sentence given for rash driving. When it was not an accident, the company was being run in such a risky way so as to maximise its profits that the gas leak was bound to happen. In fact the safety officer of the company resigned six months before the December 1984 gas leak, saying in his resignation letter that the way the company was being run, an accident is bound to happen sooner or later.

The gas leak was waiting to happen. Union Carbide had knowingly designed the plant with inferior and unproven technology. Then, to enhance profits, the company went on a cost cutting drive: reducing personnel, adopting hazardous operating procedures, and cutting down on vital safety measures and plant maintenance. In 1982, a safety audit warned of a high potential for a gas leak. Workers injuries, gas leaks, even deaths predated the disaster. But all these warnings were ignored, in the lust for profits. On the night of the disaster, none of the six safety systems designed to prevent or contain a leak were working! Some of them had deliberately been shut down to save electricity bills!!

Despite all this evidence, the investigation was carried out so shoddily by the CBI that all the accused have got away with very light sentences. The reason for this shoddy investigation is that there was no political will to pursue the cases strongly: from the very day of the disaster, the government has tried its best to ensure that Union Carbide gets away lightly. The Chief Executive Officer of Union Carbide Mr. Warren Anderson was allowed to fly back to the USA on bail, and since then no attempt has been made to extradite him to India. The Supreme Court has also sided with the company rather than the people of India. When the government entered into a completely unjust out of court settlement with Union Carbide wherein all that the company had to pay as compensation was a mere $470 million (or merely Rs. 25000 for each survivor for a lifetime of illnesses), the Supreme Court upheld the settlement. Not only that, in 1996, the Supreme Court also diluted the charges against the company’s officials, which is one of the reasons why these officials have got away with such minor sentences.

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Bhopal Survivors announce an Indefinite Dharna 15th April

“Even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilized man.” ~ Aung San Suu Kyi.

Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh

Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha

Children Against Dow-Carbide

Bhopal Group for Information and Action.

13 April 2010

At a Press Conference today, four Bhopal based organizations representing people exposed to Union Carbide’s toxic chemicals and their children announced their indefinite protest in the capital calling for the establishment of an Empowered Commission on Bhopal for long term medical care and rehabilitation of the victims. “Our people will reach Delhi on 15th and will stay as long as it takes the Prime Minister to fulfill his two year old promise to set up the Empowered Commission,” said Rashida Bee, President of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, who has been awarded Goldman Environmental Prize for her work in Bhopal.

The Bhopalis, including two survivors of the December 1984 disaster and two children exposed to toxic contamination from Union Carbide’s untreated chemical waste, presented a document read out on 29 May, 2008 by the then Minister of State for PMO, Prithviraj Chavan, in which he publicly declared the Government’s “in-principle” agreement to set up an Empowered Commission on Bhopal. This was followed by a decision of the Group of Ministers on Bhopal, headed at that time by Arjun Singh, recommending the setting up of the Empowered Commission.

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Public Meeting against Dow Chemicals: A Report

Press Release

Public Meeting against Dow Chemicals at Tilak Putla, Mandai on June 16, 2009

The Kick Out Dow Save Pune Movement, organised a protest public meeting against Dow Chemicals at Tilak Putla, Mahatma Phule Mandai, Pune in the evening on Tuesday, June 16, 2009. Nearly 100 activists of Lokayat, Pune Jilla Molkarin Sangathana and Shramik Mahila Morcha attended the public meeting. The public meeting had been organized to demand the immediate cancellation of permission given to Dow Chemicals to set up its Research and Development Unit at Chakan.

Speaking at the public meeting, Alka Joshi of Lokayat and a committee member of Kick Out Dow Save Pune Movement stated that despite the intense agitation by the people of Shinde Vasuli and nearby villages, and widespread protests by Warkaris all over western Maharashtra against the proposed Dow Chemicals plant, the Maharashtra government had not yet cancelled permission granted to Dow to set up its Research Unit. When the anti-Dow movement was at its peak, many political leaders including Ajit Pawar and other senior leaders of NCP had extended support to the agitation and had stated that Dow would not be allowed to set up its polluting research unit at Chakan. But it now appears that those statements were mere electoral gimmicks, and had been made keeping in mind the coming Parliamentary and Assembly elections. In reality, the government had not cancelled its permission to Dow to set up its plant. Dow had been asked to merely suspend construction of the plant. On June 9, the government reconstituted the committee set up to investigate the environmental impact of the plant. It is expected that the committee would give its report after the assembly elections. Since the committee is merely a rubber stamp committee, as all its members are government officials, and there is not a single independent expert on it, once the elections are out of the way, it is obvious that the committee would give consent to Dow to begin construction of its plant. And with the elections over, the government would then resort to strong arm measures to try and crush the movement of the Warkaris against the plant. Alka Joshi warned that the anti-Dow movement had taken deep roots in the entire region, and any attempt to restart construction of the plant would be fiercely opposed by the people.

Medha Thatte, general secretary of Shramik Mahila Morcha and committee member of Kick Out Dow Save Pune Movement, stated that this is not the first time the government is adopting such tactics. When the movement was at its peak, the government had set up such a committee which consisted of only government officials. The villagers of Shinde Vasuli and Kick Out Dow Save Pune Movement had boycotted the committee at that time saying that it was a rubber stamp committee, and their fears proved to be true as the committee went ahead and gave permission to Dow to continue its construction, without even seeing the project report of the Research Unit! Till today, the government has not revealed what is there in the project report. RTI applications have revealed that the Research Unit is going to do research with 20 hazardous chemicals. The use of these chemicals is going to generate more toxic chemicals. In any case, R&D is far more hazard prone than a normal manufacturing process, as here these chemicals are going into an unknown process with unknown results. So this plant is obviously going to be very hazardous. It is because of this that the government is illegally hiding the project report, even though by the rules of the industries department, all such project reports are supposed to be public documents and should actually be on the website of the Industries Department. Medha Thatte warned the people of western Maharashtra to be wary of government intentions, and not be taken in by the promises being made by the political leaders and government officials, and be ready to resume the agitation if there are any signs that Dow resumes construction at Chakan.

Neeraj Jain of Lokayat recalled the history of Dow, that it is one of the most notorious and polluting chemical companies of the world. He gave numerous examples of its manufacturer of toxic chemicals, such as DBCP which can cause liver, kidney and lung damage, and has made tens of thousands of workers who manufactured and handled this chemical permanently sterile; it has marketed the chemical chlorpyrifos so expertly that today it is one the world’s bestselling pesticides, even though it is well established that it causes neurological and developmental brain damage in children, and may result in blurred vision, fatigue, muscle weakness, memory loss and depression; the herbicide 2,4,D, which is proven to affect the nervous system, and causes many kinds of cancer and also results in birth defects. Yet Dow has never accepted that it makes toxic chemicals; even when its chemicals are banned in USA for toxicity, it has brazenly sold them in third world countries like India. It has fought in courts, and bribed politicians and officials to prevent its toxic chemicals from getting banned. This has happened in India too, where Dow has itself admitted that it has bribed officials to get three of its pesticides registered in India, one of which is Dursban, banned in USA for household use but which Dow continues to market in India as safe. It is also infamous for making illegal and banned war chemicals for the US military, which have been used by USA in its war on Iraq. Its record in India is no better. In 2001, Dow took over Union Carbide, the company responsible for the Bhopal Gas Disaster. Despite holding full ownership of Union Carbide, it is refusing to accept any liabilities for the disaster, even though people continue to die from diseases acquired from the gas leak. To the extent that Dow is even refusing to clean up the toxic wastes and the contaminated soil and groundwater around the plant site. More than 20,000 people living in the area have no alternative but to drink this contaminated water. The result: even today, deformed children are being born. Such is the history of Dow. And now Dow is trying to set up deadly research unit near Chakan, even though it was denied permission in Europe and USA to do so. Neeraj Jain warned the government of Maharashtra that the people of the region would not remain quiet to their machinations and would once again launch an agitation if any attempt was made to grant permission to Dow to restart construction at Chakan. He called upon the people of the region to come together and not just throw out Dow from Maharashtra, but from India itself.

Abhijit M., Vandana Vange, Ajit Penter, Balkrishna Sawant, Chandrakala Sapkal also spoke at the meeting. The public meeting ended with some inspiring songs calling upon the people to unite and fight injustice.