Ensure Dow foots bill for disposal of toxic waste
By The New Indian Express
02nd July 2012 12:42 AM
It is unfortunate that a New York court has absolved the US-based Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) of all responsibility for the continuing environmental fallout of the deadly gas leak that killed thousands of people in Bhopal 28 years ago. The logic followed by Judge Keenan that since it was Union Carbide India and not its parent company the UCC that had generated the toxic waste, which allegedly polluted the plaintiffs’ drinking water and also because the UCC had sold its stake in the India unit to Dow Chemicals subsequently, the corporation was not liable to clean up the toxic waste lying at the site of the plant since 1984, is morally outrageous. It is difficult to accept that the UCC should have no responsibility for the misdeeds of its subsidiary company. Had this been the stance of a judge in a case involving a deadly gas leak in the US, would the American people not have been outraged? However, to what extent can one blame the judge or the people when our own government settled the original case against the corporation with the acceptance of a compensation that was downright measly.
That the 17 Indian plaintiffs fought the case in the US court with little help from the Indian government shows the gross insensitivity of the Indian establishment to a case where those affected were not influential people but largely poverty-stricken labourers and slum dwellers. The site clean-up issue has dragged on, with governments in New Delhi and Bhopal unsure of how to get rid of the toxic waste. It took a recent decree by the Supreme Court for serious action to remove the waste. The disposal of Bhopal’s toxic waste in Germany, about 6,500 kilometres away, will cost the Indian taxpayers about $4.25 million.
With Dow Chemicals having taken up the sponsorship of the Olympic Games in London it is important that India builds up moral pressure on that company to pay for the lifting and disposal of the waste. That is the least Dow must do in terms of corporate social responsibility — a mantra western companies never tire of swearing by.
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