Twenty-three years after world's worst industrial disaster on Dec. 3, 1984, protesters arrived in New Delhi on 28th March, after marching 800 km from Bhopal, the city whose name has become synonymous with the catastrophe.
Survivors are demanding a cleanup of toxic chemicals at the abandoned factory site that have contaminated their groundwater and punishment for Warren Anderson, the CEO of the US company who is charged with culpable homicide in the disaster.
The toxic chemicals buried in and around the factory have entered groundwater, and we use the contaminated water for drinking, cooking and bathing.
Washington Post reports that in an e-mail response to questions, a Dow Chemical Company official in Midland, Mich., said the firm did not inherit Union Carbide's liabilities when it acquired the company.
"Anyone who knows of this issue has deep sympathy for the victims of the tragedy in Bhopal. Today, we all ask the same question, 'Why isn't this site cleaned up?' " said Scot Wheeler, a Dow spokesman. He said Dow had "never owned or operated the former Bhopal plant site and this situation is not Dow's responsibility, accountability, or liability to bear," adding that Union Carbide is a separate subsidiary company.
The fact is that Union Carbide is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow, so it has a criminal liability to produce the Warren Anderson in the Indian court. By not doing so, it is sheltering a fugitive. The responsibility to clean up the deadly factory site is Dow's civil liability.
On behalf of the Congress led UPA government Deputy Chairperson, Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, said: "We have not taken any position on the issues before the court. Dow is aware that they have to defend themselves in court as best they can." Ahluwalia and the Washinton Post forgot to mention that Abhishekh Manu Singhvi, the Congress MP and the Congress spokesperson is representing Dow in the court against the public interest.
Did we hear likes of Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, L K Advani, Prakash Karat or anyone from NHRC saying anything about Relief and Rehabilitation of these Displaced Persons?
Is Relief and Rehabilitation, the only remedy for the corporate crimes that political parties of almost all ilk promote by referring to them as projects of public utility, 'sustainable' development, "national interest" and greater common good.
The Supreme Court adjudicates saying, "...the projects of public utility cannot be abandoned...Where the commercial venture or enterprise would bring in results which are far more useful for the people, difficulty of a small number of people has to be bypassed. The comparative hardships have to be balanced and the convenience and benefit to a larger section of the people has to get primacy over comparatively lesser hardship."
What is Relief and Rehabilitation for "a small number of people" whose interest "has to be bypassed" for "the convenience and benefit to a larger section of the people".?
Lip-service paid to uprooted & displaced?
In his address to the National Conference on Relief and Rehabilitation of Displaced Persons in the presence of several Union Ministers, Justice S. Rajendra Babu, Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission says, “…our country has been witnessing an ever-widening gulf between individuals who have benefited from economic growth and the vast group of others who seem to have been left out of the process. This gulf was most vividly illustrated in last October when on the same day the sensex touched 20,000 points and nearly 25,000 people who had been marching on foot arrived in Delhi, seeking restoration of land to the dispossessed like them.”
He added, “Displacement of people from their natural habitat resulting in loss of source of livelihood is a manifestation of this ever-widening gulf. Displacement on account of development interventions has led to a lot of controversies and violence in a number of states, including West Bengal, Orissa and Goa in the past one year or so.”
The conference was organized by National Human Rights Commission on 24 March 2008, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi
Justice S. Rajendra Babu said, “Globally, there is now a shift in thinking regarding the provision of services by government to people. From a welfare or needs based approach that focused on beneficiaries who need a certain type of response which was decided by administrators, now there is a move towards adopting a rights based approach where the individuals are not regarded as mere beneficiaries who are at the receiving end of doles, but as bearers of rights who are entitled to these services as a matter of right - the rights that are spelled out in our Constitutions, laws and related international conventions to which India is a party.”
His speech is available at
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