continue to agitate, 37 years after the incident, as a result of Dow’s refusal to hold itself accountable and provide sufficient relief.n the occasion of the 37th anniversary of the Bhopal gas disaster, leaders of four survivors’ organisations (Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, Bhopal Group for Information and Action, Children Against Dow Carbide) in Bhopal condemned the Dow Chemical Company for its systematic discrimination against survivors. While the pesticide plant at which the leak occurred was operated by Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL), which was then controlled by Union Carbide Corporation, Dow Chemical Company, a multinational chemical giant in the US, has since acquired ownership of the company. The survivors of the tragedy
“In USA Dow is paying for clean up of 171 contaminated sites including the Tittabawassee and Saginaw river plains near its headquarters in Midland Michigan. But on the matter of cleaning up the ongoing contamination in Bhopal, Dow says it is the responsibility of the Madhya Pradesh government.” said Nousheen Khan of Children against Dow Carbide. The toxic remains at the plant are yet to be cleaned to date.
Presenting facts to counter Dow CEO, Jim Fitterling’s claims of non-discrimination, given that he was a member on the Board of Advisors of an LGBTQI+ organization, the four organisations also released a letter from senior LGBT+ activist Peter Tatchell asking Fitterling to own up to the company’s legal responsibilities in Bhopal. In his letter, Tatchell says, “If, rather than being poor, brown Indians, the victims of Union Carbide’s appalling 1984 gas disaster had been white, privileged Americans, I doubt that I would need ask why you appear to believe that your company shouldn’t subject itself to a criminal justice process that seeks legitimate redress for the avoidable deaths of thousands of innocent people? I really hope that you can be the person to put right the mistakes of the past, which is why I am writing to you with this heartfelt plea for action for the Bhopal victims.”
Sanjana Singh, an LGBT+ survivor of the Bhopal disaster said “Fighting discrimination against LGBT+ people teaches us to fight against all forms of discrimination in society. It is wrong for Fitterling, who came out as gay in 2014 to make claims of inclusivity while heading a company that starkly discriminates against the Bhopal survivors.”
Rashida Bee, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, accused the company of dishonesty and alleged: “Dow Chemical’s premium product Chlorpyriphos is banned in USA for causing possible neurological damage, reduced IQ, loss of working memory, and attention deficit disorders and birth defects. However, in India, Corteva, a corporation with close ties to Dow Chemical, sells chlorpyriphos with the trade name Dursban without mentioning its health hazards or its regulatory ban in USA.”
The US Environmental Protection Agency made a press release in August 2021, announcing that it would stop the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on all food to better protect human health, particularly that of children and farmworkers. “Today, EPA is taking an overdue step to protect public health. Ending the use of chlorpyrifos on food will help to ensure children, farmworkers, and all people are protected from the potentially dangerous consequences of this pesticide,” said Administrator Michael S. Regan. In May 2020, India moved to ban 27 pesticides, including key products like chlorpyrifos. In July 2021, the Centre informed the Rajya Sabha that 12 of them had been barred and six of them had been phased out. The Leaflet cannot confirm whether Dursban continues to be sold in India, although specifics for the product are available on Corteva’s website.
According to Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information & Action, in the United States, Dow submits unquestioningly to government agencies and courts. In 2005, a Dow joint-venture pled guilty and paid $84 million as criminal fine for participating in an international conspiracy to fix the prices of synthetic rubber in violation of the Sherman Act. In India, Dow has ignored six separate summonses to appear in the court’s proceedings in the disaster claiming that Indian criminal courts have no jurisdiction over it.
Leaders of all four organisations have called upon Dow to take responsibility for the disaster and stand trial in India in the criminal case, to provide enhanced compensation to the survivors, and to remedy the toxic waste that has plagued the water, soil, and air in the surrounding regions. Thatchell concludes his letter by saying:
“Human decency, Jim, demands you send your subsidiary Union Carbide to court, so that people who have suffered inhumanly for longer than most in their country have been alive might see some truth, reconciliation, and restitution in what remains of their lives.
Decency demands you accept India’s petition for further compensation to meet the reality of this endless disaster, and so do what you can to ease the suffering of those your company has condemned to a life of pain and despair.
Decency also demands you end the poisoning of yet more innocents in Bhopal, ensure your company’s mess is cleaned up and compensate those already irretrievably harmed.
You need to do all of these things, Jim, and you need to do them now. As you say yourself, ‘If you want to make a difference in the world—you have to take action. Words won’t cut it.”