Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Did UPA back Dow in 2006?

Press Trust of India
WASHINGTON/BHOPAL, 15 JUNE: An RTI response issued by the Indian Embassy here suggests that the UPA government had assured Dow Chemicals, the parent company of Union Carbide, in 2006 that it would not be held liable for the Bhopal gas tragedy ~ even when the matter was sub-judice.
In a letter to the then Indian Ambassador to the USA, Mr Ronen Sen, Dow Chemicals CEO Mr Andrew Liveris claimed that the Indian government had said that his company was not liable for the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984. A copy of Mr Liveris' letter dated 8 November, 2006, was obtained by US-based Mr Somu Kumar of the International Campaign for Justice for Bhopal from the Indian Embassy by invoking the Right to Information Act. A copy of the letter and other documents obtained by Mr Kumar were circulated in the Indian media here.
“Given the statements made by Government of India representatives... that Dow is not responsible for Bhopal and will not be pursued by the GoI, it will be important to follow through to ensure concrete, sustained actions are taken that are consistent with these statements,” Mr Liveris said in his letter to Mr Sen. .
“It is shocking that GoI representatives had announced that Dow was not liable even when an Indian court was still deliberating on this issue,” Mr Kumar said. Members of the International Campaign for Justice for Bhopal, including Mr Kumar demonstrated outside the Indian Embassy here.
In 2004, Jabalpur High Court began hearing the case on who should pay for the sanitisation of the defunct Carbide plant in Bhopal and in 2005, minister for chemicals and fertilisers Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, sought Rs 100 crore from Dow for the clean-up. In his letter, Mr Liveris sought withdrawal of the application seeking financial deposits for the clean-up.
According to the information provided by the Indian Embassy, Mr Liveris met Ambassador Sen on 21 September, 2005 and followed up the visit with two letters. Mr Liveris also met the then finance minister in New York on the sidelines of an Indo-US CEO Forum meeting on 25 October, 2006. He met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 14 September, 2005 in New York during a CEOs’ luncheon co-hosted by the Indian envoy.

Meanwhile in an embarrassment to the BJP, its senior leader and Madhya Pradesh minister Mr Babulal Gaur, today said the Union government headed by his party too had been “totally apathetic” to the problems of the Bhopal gas victims and that Mr Arjun Singh should not be blamed alone for the events after the disaster.

Source: The Statesman 16 June 2010

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