The U.S. multinational Dow Chemical Company -- the new owner of Union Carbide of Bhopal notoriety -- is in Johannesburg to talk sustainable development. Also, in Johannesburg are representatives and supporters of the victims of Union Carbide's gas disaster in Bhopal. Since July 17, 2002, survivors of the world's worst industrial disaster and their supporters have been on a worldwide relay hunger strike. More than 700 people have fasted till date to protest against Dow-Carbide's refusal to acknowledge the pending liabilities in Bhopal, and against the Indian Government's betrayal of the victims merely to protect the interests of the U.S. multinational.
Even as the worldwide protests against Dow Chemical gather momentum, activists of the Campaign for Justice in Bhopal have decided to take their protests to Johannesburg, to Sandton, to the WSSD at the Sandton Convention Centre, right into the proverbial belly of the beast. "If there's one protest the authorities can do nothing about, it is our hunger strike, and we'll take our protest against the hypocrisy of Dow and other multinational corporations right into the Summit venue," says Mrs. Rasheeda Bee, a Union Carbide victim and leader of a long-standing women's struggle for justice in Bhopal, also in Johannesburg. We invite you to join us.
Here's what you can do on August 27
1. FAST FOR A DAY or more- (send your name, city, and country to firstname.lastname@example.org)
2. WEAR A RED ARM BAND FOR A WEEK TO EXPRESS SOLIDARITY
3. JOIN THE WORKSHOP & PRESS CONFERENCE, 11 AM, NASREC, BRKAWAY 3
4. VISIT THE BHOPAL PHOTO GALLERY, 7 PM, SANDTON MALL, FOUNTAIN CT
5. TELL YOUR FRIENDS ABOUT THE DAY OF ACTION!!
For more information, visit www.CorpwatchIndia.org and www.bhopal.net or call Amit Srivastava at 072 477 2267 in Johannesburg.
December 3, 1984: More than half a million people were hit by a poison gas cloud released from Union Carbide's ill-designed pesticide factory in Bhopal. At least 8,000 people died agonizing deaths in the immediate aftermath. The death toll has risen to 20,000 till date.
February, 2001: U.S. multinational Dow Chemical acquires Union Carbide despite being warned by Bhopal survivors of Carbide's pending liabilities in India.
Today in Bhopal: At least 150,000 people in Bhopal, including children born to gas-exposed parents, continue to suffer debilitating exposure-related chronic health effects. The death toll has risen to over 20,000 and more than 30 persons still die each month from exposure related causes. More than 80,000 are too ill to work. Treatment of the victims is impeded because Dow-Carbide still refuses to share medical information on the toxic effects of the gases released that night. Dow-Carbide, which has abandoned thousands of tons of toxic wastes on the factory site, has refused to clean up the mess. The poisons have seeped into the community's groundwater and is showing up in mothers' milk.
Nearly 95 percent of the survivors have received $500 or less for lifelong injury and loss of livelihood. This works out at 7 a day -- enough for a cup of tea every day -- for 18 years of suffering. Adding insult to injury, Dow Chemical's PR official, one Ms. Kathy Hunt, maintains that "$500 is plenty good for an Indian."
Still Waiting for Justice: The disaster occurred because Dow-Carbide knowingly installed a poorly designed factory in Bhopal, and cut costs by compromising on safety and maintenance systems. For this, a criminal case was filed against Warren Anderson - chairman of Union Carbide at the time of disaster - and Union Carbide. Neither Anderson nor any official of Dow-Carbide has appeared for trial in India. The Indian Government is yet to move on the orders of the Court to extradite Anderson. The reluctance is reportedly because of pressure from the US government which is said to have warned that any action against U.S. corporations for their crimes in Bhopal will adversely affect the corporate investment climate.
The Ultimate Betrayal: The Indian Government has decided to reward Anderson and Dow-Carbide's criminal acts and contempt of the Indian court by diluting criminal charges in absentia from "homicide" to "negligence." This dilution would reduce the world's worst industrial disaster to the legal status of a car accident, and in effect allow the criminal corporation to get off the hook.
Separately, the Government is planning to use a portion of the funds set aside to compensate victims of the disaster to pay for the clean up of the toxic wastes abandoned by Dow- Carbide. Again, this act is meant solely to avoid having to make the polluter - Dow-Carbide - pay for the substantial costs involved in cleaning up.
For more information, visit www.CorpWatchIndia.org and www.bhopal.net
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