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London Olympics: Indian Olympians petition against Dow Chemical

Tuesday November 15, 2011 09:00:39 AM, Pervez Bari, ummid.com

Bhopal: Lending support to the struggling survivors of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy, the world’s worst industrial disaster, 21 former Indian Olympians have come forward and jointly petitioned the organizers of the London Olympics 2012, the London Organising Committee of Olympic Games, (LOCOG), to cancel the sponsorship of Dow Chemical Company of a curtain-style wrap to encircle a London stadium where some Olympic events will be held.

The Dow Chemical Company is the current owner of Union Carbide, the American multinational responsible for the continuing disaster in Bhopal.

The representatives of five NGOs working for the welfare of the survivors of the gas tragedy on Monday addressed a joint Press conference wherein four former hockey Olympians namely Inam-ur–Rehman, B. P. Govinda, Syed Ali and Syed Jalaluddin Rizvi and international hockey player Salim Abbasi have supported the demand were also present.

These Olympians who are amongst the signatories of the joint letter said that in view of the current plight of the victims and the environment in Bhopal, Dow’s sponsorship is offensive to the spirit of the Olympic Games. They said that national and international Olympians should oppose the unholy alliance with the company that has poisoned Bhopal.

 

They presented a list of 21 Indian Olympians who have so far signed on to an ongoing petition addressed to the organizers of the London Olympics 2012 – LOCOG.

 

The 21 former Olympians are: Ali Sayeed, B.P. Govinda, M.P. Ganesh, Mukhbain Singh, V.J. Phillips, Ashok Kumar Dhyanchand, Syed Ali, Vasudevan Baskaran, Jalaluddin Rizvi, Hardeep Singh Grewal, Vineet Kumar, Balwinder Singh, Sujit Kumar, Jagbir Singh, Gavin Ferreira, Dhanraj Pillay, Sameer Daad, A. B. Subbaiah (all Hockey) and Ashwini Nachapa (Track & Field).

The five NGOs who organized the joint Press conference are: Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha, Bhopal Group for Information and Action and Children Against Dow Carbide.

Meanwhile, according to Ms Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action, (BGIA), a section of British Members of Parliament, (MPs), cutting across party line and supporters of gas tragedy survivors in England would hold a demonstration outside London Olympic stadium at 1.00 pm local time on Tuesday to protest Dow Chemical’s sponsorship of London Olympics.

Ms Dhingra said that on the initiative of BGIA that the British MPs have taken up the issue of Olympics sponsorship. MP of Indian origin, Keith Vaz initiated an early day-motion on the issue in the House of Commons of British Parliament last month signed by 17 MPs.

It may be mentioned here that the International Olympic Committee has taken decision to partner with Union Carbide's parent company, namely The Dow Chemical Company, for the London Olympics 2012, the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2020 Olympics”.

The former Olympians requested all the concerned authorities that they reconsider their decision on accepting sponsorship from Dow Chemical Company for London Olympics and also the future Olympic Games.

The letter said: “We have been told by the victims of the world’s worst industrial disaster that Dow Chemical is the owner of Union Carbide Corporation; company responsible for the 1984 disaster. Indian courts have proclaimed Union Carbide Corporation as an absconder and have held Dow Chemical responsible to bring this corporation to the court. Dow Chemical has yet to fulfill its legal responsibility”.

“Union Carbide is responsible for creating an environmental disaster in Bhopal due to it. The toxic waste dumped inside and around the factory has led to the contamination of ground water of more than 40,000 people and the contamination poses grave risks to their lives and health. Countless children are being born with deformities and intellectual deficits due to the effect of these poisons”, the letter stated.

The ex-Olympians in the letter said: “The Government of India too holds Dow Chemical legally responsible for clean-up of the factory site, but again the company has refused to accept its responsibility. We, the members of International Olympic community feel that it will be against the basic principles of the Olympic charter to partner with a Dow Chemical, which is responsible for the ongoing disaster in Bhopal”.

However, Dow Chemical Company has maintained that it never owned or operated the Bhopal plant and that legal claims regarding the gas leak were resolved when Union Carbide paid $470 million as compensation for those killed or injured. The Indian Union Government is seeking an additional $1.7 billion for the victims.

Meanwhile, the Bhopal survivors’ organizations condemned the Indian government and the Indian Olympic Committee for their deliberate inaction regarding sponsorship of the Olympic Games by a corporation responsible for poisoning and maiming thousands of Bhopal citizens.

“It is three months since we requested the Prime Minister and the Acting Chairman of the Indian Olympic Committee to register the country’s opposition to Dow Chemical sponsoring the Olympic Games in London next year but neither of them has moved on this.” said Ms Rashida Bee of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh.

Satinath Sarangi of BGIA said that as 100 per cent owner, Dow Chemical is sheltering the Union Carbide that is absconding from charges of culpable homicide in Indian courts for the last 19 years. They pointed out that Dow Chemical is also violating Indian laws by refusing to clean up the toxic contamination of soil and ground water caused by reckless dumping of hazardous waste by Union Carbide, USA.

“We are certainly not against the London Olympic Games, said Balkrishna Namdeo of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha, “in fact we are opposing the besmirching of the reputation of the Olympic Games through its association with a criminal corporation.”

Ms Rachna Dhingra of BGIA pointed out that the Indian government has blacklisted Dow Agro-sciences for bribing government officials. She said that recently the government has also cancelled the registration of three pesticides of this wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemicals for the same criminal offence.

Nawab Khan of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha said that the survivors of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal would observe its 27th anniversary as a day of action against Dow Chemical’s sponsorship of the London Olympics. He said that Dow Chemical would be burnt in effigy in the form of a five headed monster snake holding the Olympic rings.

“Because of Dow Chemical’s refusal to clean up Bhopal’s poisons, hundreds of children are being born disabled. It is indeed shocking that the organizers of the London Olympics have not cared to find out about their sponsor’s misdeeds” said Safreen Khan of the Children against Dow / Carbide.

Meanwhile, Dow Chemical’s liabilities in Bhopal regarding soil and ground water contamination through reckless disposal of hazardous waste is enormous. From 1969 to 1984 Union Carbide generated thousands of tonnes of toxic waste that it dumped in insecure pits and ponds in and around the factory as part of its waste disposal system designed by the corporate headquarters in Danbury, USA.

 

There are more than a dozen scientific studies by government and non-government agencies starting from 1990 till 2010 that establish that cancer and birth defect causing chemicals have leached from the wastes and gone in to the ground water that the communities next to the abandoned factory use for drinking.

 

Over 40, 000 residents have been drinking this water for last 14 to 20 years and the injuries as a result of this slow poisoning have manifested as alarming rate of horrific birth defects, cancers and chronic diseases of the liver, kidneys, lungs, brain, abdomen and skin.

According to the “polluter pays” principle, established in both India and USA, the designer and supervisor of the waste disposal system in the Bhopal factory, Union Carbide continues to be liable for the environmental damage (at least till a distance of 3.5 kilometers from the factory and at least 100 feet deep).

 

Also, it may be pointed out that this was in clear violation of the lease agreement signed with the Madhya Pradesh Government that stipulated returning the land “in its original condition”. As per the “successor liability” principle, again established in both India and USA, as 100 per cent owner of Union Carbide, USA, TDCC is liable for the continuing environmental and health damage in Bhopal.

 

Holding TDCC liable for Union Carbide’s misdeeds, in 2005 the Government of India presented an application before the Madhya Pradesh High Court seeking Rs. 100 crores (22 million USD) from Dow Chemical as an advance for remediation of the toxic contamination in Bhopal. The application lies pending and the money remains unpaid till date.

TDCC is following a racist policy of double standards the corporation is following with regard to its legally inherited Bhopal liabilities. Till date the company refuses to accept this legal liability claiming instead that Union Carbide is a separate and independent company and therefore beyond its control.

 

Dow Chemical’s refusal is rather contrary to its stance in the USA where, following the 2001 merger, outstanding liabilities of Union Carbide are directly addressed by Dow representatives and, once paid, are registered as charges upon Dow’s consolidated earnings.


 

 

 

 

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