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‘This is Your Achievement’; a letter of thanks to our supporters from our Executive Trustee

Aug 19 2014 by

This December marks two very important anniversaries. Whilst one marks the day where thousands of lives would be irreversibly and tragically changed, the other marks the publication of the Bhopal Medical Appeal’s first appeal, exactly ten years after the 1984 explosion at the Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal.

As Tim Edwards, the Executive Trustee of the Bhopal Medical Appeal, writes in the BMA’s latest letter to supporters, ‘Publication was risked on the wavering hope that this was not a world without care. Nothing really prepared us for what happened in the following days. People from all over Britain responded in such numbers that our volunteers were entirely overwhelmed.’

Since this first appeal, 20 years ago, the funds generated by our supporters kindness and generosity have helped open and sustain the Sambhavna Clinic and the Chingari Trust Rehabilitation Centre in Bhopal. Our supporters should take pride in what they have accomplished, with their help we hope that these clinics will continue to help those in Bhopal who still suffer from the ongoing affects and contamination of a disaster that continues to take its toll.

In Tim’s most recent letter he  thanks all our supporters and donors who in some  way have been a part of the success of these clinics, giving a short recap of the history of the Sambhavna clinic and its necessitated importance to the gas survivors, and their families, in Bhopal. He also provides a brief glimpse to what supporters can expect in our much anticipated Autumn Newsletter, which will look back at the developments and achievements in Bhopal that would never have been made possible if it weren’t for all those who have made contributions to the Bhopal Medical Appeal.

If you would like to read Tim Edwards letter please click on the following link: August 2014 letter to donors.

Old Women pic 484x488 This is Your Achievement; a letter of thanks to our supporters from our Executive Trustee bhopal medical appeal

This December will mark the 30th Anniversary of the Union Carbide factory disaster in Bhopal. If you would like to find out more about our plans for the anniversary, or if you would like to support us or get involved please contact us here.

 

 

 

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Independence Day Celebrated at Chingari

Aug 19 2014 by

On the 15th of August children, teachers, staff and family members at the Chingari trust celebrated Independence day commemorating the India’s independence from the British Empire on the 15th August 1947. some of the children at Chingari were chosen to march in a procession before the national flag was hoisted by Apa and Didi (Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla). There followed a small speech by Apa and Didi and an educational and cultural programme for the children. This featured a a song sung by Zaid and Kasheesh, a group performance by Alisha, Kausar and Afreen and a tabla (percussion instrument) performance by one of the Chingari children, Devesh, who played the tabla in five different styles. To finish of the celebrations a small skit on patriotism, where Shifon played the character of a soldier fighting for his country. all the celebrations were accompanied by refreshments for the children. Videos of some of the festivities can be seen below.

 

 

 

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#DowChemical to face civil & criminal cases over Bhopal

Aug 4 2014 by

 

DowCleanUpBhopal 484x189 #DowChemical to face civil & criminal cases over Bhopal  bhopal medical appeal

Dow Chemical to face civil  & criminal cases over Bhopal

‘Curative Petition’, Indian Supreme Court on August 5th &

Bhopal Chief Judicial Magistrate, in Criminal Case, 12th November.

US chemical giant Dow Chemical faces a ‘curative petition’ in the Supreme Court, New Delhi, on Tuesday 5th August. This curative petition is designed to address inadequacies within the 1989 settlement on the basis that the correct figures for dead and injured were not used.

The Indian government is now seeking an additional amount of up to $1.24billion, but the Bhopal survivors groups are quoting the Government of India’s own previously published numbers (Indian Council of Medical Research, epidemiological report, 2004), which are considerably higher, and would raise the required settlement amount to $8.1billion.

The other respondents are Union Carbide Corporation, Union Carbide India Limited and Eveready Industries.

Dow Chemical owns 100% of Union Carbide Corporation, which, in turn, always owned the controlling interest in Union Carbide India Ltd- the company operating the doomed pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, site of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Disaster.

Dow Chemical maintains that it’ ‘never owned nor operated’ the plant and that a ‘full and final settlement’ was reached (a 1989 civil settlement of $470m).

Whilst the first statement is not relevant, in the eyes of the law, the second statement is simply untrue.

In addition, Dow Chemical has been summonsed to appear in front of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, in Bhopal, to explain why Union Carbide along with erstwhile CEO Warren Anderson have never faced the criminal charges of culpable homicide outstanding against them. Despite 1989’s civil settlement, Union Carbide Co, have refused to face the criminal charges outstanding against them and are proclaimed absconders from Indian justice.

Dow Chemical is expected to argue that it should be immune from liability. Dow Chemical states that it is an entirely separate corporate entity to Union Carbide but that is not, of itself, a sufficient statement of law to divorce it from Union Carbide’s legal liabilities (see notes).

Colin Toogood, of the Bhopal Medical Appeal said: “Lifting the corporate veil between Union Carbide Corporation and Dow Chemical would be a major step towards seeing justice finally come to the survivors of A DISASTER THAT IS STILL GOING ON ALMOST THIRTY YEARS AFTER IT BEGAN.”

Amnesty International Statement: HERE


 NOTES:

1: Dow Chemical’s Role in the Outstanding Criminal Case

2: Dow Chemical Company’s Ownership of Union Carbide Corporation

3: Appeal Letter to Indian PM from Survivor’s Organisations

 

1: Dow Chemical’s Role in the Outstanding Criminal Case

Dow’s wholly owned subsidiary Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) is a ‘proclaimed absconder’ from Indian justice. It is wanted on CRIMINAL charges of ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’. Dow has total control of UCC but has not produced UCC in court. Instead, Dow used another wholly owned subsidiary to block a 2005 judicial summons, addressed to its Michigan HQ, requesting it explain the non-appearance of UCC in the courts. The Bhopal Chief Judicial Magistrate removed the illegal blocking order, in 2012, and a summons was issued to Dow in 2014 originally requiring it attend court on July 4th. This will now be delayed for a further 12 weeks. Dow will be required to explain why UCC has repeatedly ignored court summons in the ongoing criminal case.

2: Dow Chemical Company’s Ownership of Union Carbide Corporation

The Dow Chemical Company continues to maintain that it is not responsible for the acts of its wholly owned subsidiary the Union Carbide Corporation

Dow states that it is an entirely separate corporate entity to Union Carbide but that is not, of itself, a sufficient statement of law to divorce Dow from UCC’s legal liabilities. It is not possible to say, given that information, that “there is no justification for a claim being brought against Dow”.

A parent company may be held liable for the debts of its subsidiary in circumstances which vary between legal systems. But Dow has the legal power to control, and therefore the legal responsibility for, UCC’s current behaviour with regards to Bhopal.

This is because:

·        UCC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow. UCC’s board of directors is appointed by Dow and Dow can, through its shareholding, exercise actual control over UCC. If Dow wishes UCC to take, or refrain from taking, any steps with regard to its business, Dow can in practice require UCC to take those steps.

·        Dow’s relationship with UCC is much closer than a simple parent/subsidiary relationship: Dow manages all major aspects of UCC’s business: legal, accountancy, treasury, procurement, human resources, environmental, health and safety, management, etc. For all material purposes Dow runs UCC. This means that not only is Dow able to control UCC indirectly through its share ownership as a parent, it is able to control UCC directly because it manages all its business, including crucially its legal affairs. As a consequence, Dow cannot say that it is not responsible for UCC’s current behaviour when that behaviour is controlled, directly and indirectly, by Dow itself.

·        Dow’s and UCC’s operations are so intertwined that it is difficult to separate the two. UCC’s submissions to the US Securities and Exchange Commission present its business as a “component” of Dow’s business. UCC’s business is fully integrated with Dow’s. In addition, UCC sells substantially all its products to Dow (and Dow sells UCC’s products under Dow’s name). This means that a distinction between the two companies exists only in terms of formal “corporate personality”. In commercial and reporting terms the two companies are one.

·        UCC’s behaviour actually benefits Dow in so far as not paying a debt enhances a subsidiary’s ability to pay dividends to its parent. Importantly, Dow has almost certainly procured that conduct (denying Bhopal liabilities) since it is responsible for legal and accountancy services for UCC. UCC has paid dividends to Dow since completion of the acquisition in 2001. From 2009-2011 these dividends amounted to $2200m. Dow has made the choice not to require these funds to be used to compensate Bhopal survivors or decontaminate the affected area.

·        Dow is wholly responsible for the current conduct of UCC, and for how UCC chooses to deal with the “issues outstanding in Bhopal, particularly in relation to the remediation of the site”. It follows that Dow is necessarily responsible for UCC’s refusal to give further compensation to the victims of the Bhopal disaster, and its refusal to pay for the environmental clean-up of the Bhopal site. To state that “these outstanding issues are not the responsibility of the Dow Chemical Company” is therefore incorrect.

·        Dow distances itself from UCC implying that it does not have a relationship with UCC but Dow provides UCC products and dealing with Dow is no guarantee that products supplied are not UCC products. Given the total convergence of Dow’s and UCC’s business, stockholders and management, there is no substantive difference between dealing with UCC and dealing with Dow. For all material purposes, including those relating to ethics and corporate responsibility, any suggested dichotomy between Dow and UCC is a false one.

·        If UCC refuses to compensate victims of the Bhopal disaster, pay for the environmental clean-up, or submit to the jurisdiction of the Indian Court in criminal proceedings, those are all decisions for which Dow has direct management control and therefore responsibility (further to point 2 above).

·        Dow is no less responsible for UCC’s conduct with regards to Bhopal than any other supplier would be with regards to a fully owned subsidiary found to be abusing human rights. For example, if UCC was found to be employing slave labour, then Dow, the supplier, as parent would rightly be held “responsible” for the acts of its subsidiary.

3: Appeal Letter to Indian PM from Survivor’s Organisations

Honourable Prime Minister,

Government of India,

North Block,

Raisina Hill,

New Delhi 110 011

August 1, 2014

Sub. Urgent Directions for Filing of Application for Amending Civil Curative Petition No 345-347/2010 for Additional Compensation before Supreme Court on August 5, 2014.

 

Dear Sir,

On behalf of the survivors of the December 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal we wish to draw your urgent attention to the hearing of the Curative Petition filed by the Government of India on December 3, 2010 that is scheduled to be heard on August 5, 2014.

For the last several years we have attempted to apprise the Prime Minister’s office that the figures of exposure related deaths and injuries in the Curative Petition filed by the Government of India are wrong and without any basis.

The government’s curative petition mentions a figure of 5,295 deaths caused by the disaster, which happens to be one fourth of the figures of death reported by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in its epidemiological report published in 2004. Likewise, the petition mentions that 93 % of the victims were only temporarily injured which is against the findings of the ICMR.

You can stop a great injustice being done to the Bhopal victims by issuing directions for filing an application before the Supreme Court on August 5, 2014 for amendment of the Curative Petition. Figures based on ICMR’s scientific research can then be incorporated in the amended Curative Petition.

We request you to issue directions to concerned officials in the Ministry of Chemical & Fertilizers for filing an application before the Supreme Court for amendment of the Curative Petition on August 5, 2014.

signat 484x82 #DowChemical to face civil & criminal cases over Bhopal  bhopal medical appeal

DowCleanUpBhopal 484x189 #DowChemical to face civil & criminal cases over Bhopal  bhopal medical appeal

 

 

 

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Press Statement and letter to the Prime Minister from the five organizations working for the rights of the survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster August 02, 2014

Aug 2 2014 by

 

DowCleanUpBhopal 484x189 Press Statement and letter to the Prime Minister from the five organizations working for the rights of the survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster August 02, 2014 bhopal medical appealPress Statement from the five organizations working for the rights of the survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster August 02, 2014

At a press conference today, five organizations working for the rights of the survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster called upon the state and central governments to urgently respond to the juridical issues concerning the gas disaster and the ongoing contamination of soil and groundwater.

Balkrishna Namdeo of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morcha said that on 30th July, Justice Keenan in the Southern District Court of New York dismissed the matter concerning contamination of soil and ground water in and around the Union Carbide factory. According to him, the 17 plaintiffs from Bhopal represented by US based attorneys from– EarthRights International, Sharma & Deyoung LLP, and the Law Offices of Curtis V. Trinko will appeal against the unjust order before the second circuit court of appeals.

“The state government was served notice by the US court in early March but despite the Chief Minister’s declaration in the Assembly in 2010, the government made no efforts to present the case for clean up of the Union Carbide factory site and its surroundings till the matter was dismissed.”  said Rachna Dhingra from the Bhopal Group for Information & Action, a solidarity organization. “The state government can still appear before the court during the appeal process and make Union Carbide and/or Dow Chemical pay for their reckless dumping of hazardous wastes. ” she said.

The organizations also called for the Prime Minister’s urgent intervention in the matter of the Curative Petition for compensation that is listed for hearing before the Supreme Court on August 5. They have asked him to issue directions to ensure filing of an application before the Supreme Court for amendment of the Curative Petition.

According to Rashida Bee of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, amendment of the petition is essential for correct figures of death and injury caused by the disaster to be presented before the apex court. “If the judges do not get to know how much damage Union Carbide caused how can they make the company pay adequate compensation?” she asks.

Nawab Khan of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha said that the governments of the state and the centre have downplayed the numbers of death and extent of injury caused by the gas disaster. “The Prime Minister can stop a great injustice by ensuring that an application for revision of injury and death figures is submitted by August 5 at the hearing in the Supreme Court.” he said.

“These two matters in the US Federal court and the Supreme Court have both come up unannounced so we have sent faxes to both the Chief Minister and the Prime Minister calling for their intervention. We hope they will listen to us in this year of the 30th anniversary of the disaster.” said Safreen Khan, founder of Children Against Dow Carbide, an organization of second generation victims.

 

 

Letter to the Prime Minister from the five organizations working for the rights of the survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster August 01, 2014

Honourable Prime Minister,

Government of India,

North Block,

Raisina Hill,

New Delhi 110 011

 

August 1, 2014

Sub. Urgent Directions for Filing of Application for Amending Civil Curative Petition No 345-347/2010 for Additional Compensation before Supreme Court on August 5, 2014.

 

Dear Sir,

On behalf of the survivors of the December 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal we wish to draw your urgent attention to the hearing of the Curative Petition filed by the Government of India on December 3, 2010 that is scheduled to be heard on August 5, 2014.

For the last several years we have attempted to apprise the Prime Minister’s office that the figures of exposure related deaths and injuries in the Curative Petition filed by the Government of India are wrong and without any basis.

The government’s curative petition mentions a figure of 5,295 deaths caused by the disaster, which happens to be one fourth of the figures of death reported by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in its epidemiological report published in 2004. Likewise, the petition mentions that 93 % of the victims were only temporarily injured which is against the findings of the ICMR.

You can stop a great injustice being done to the Bhopal victims by issuing directions for filing an application before the Supreme Court on August 5, 2014 for amendment of the Curative Petition. Figures based on ICMR’s scientific research can then be incorporated in the amended Curative Petition.

We request you to issue directions to concerned officials in the Ministry of Chemical & Fertilizers for filing an application before the Supreme Court for amendment of the Curative Petition on August 5, 2014.

signat 484x82 Press Statement and letter to the Prime Minister from the five organizations working for the rights of the survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster August 02, 2014 bhopal medical appeal

 

 

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US Court rules in favour of Union Carbide but Indian Courts Beckon for Dow.

Aug 1 2014 by

DowCleanUpBhopal 484x189 US Court rules in favour of Union Carbide but Indian Courts Beckon for Dow. bhopal medical appealJudge Keenan, in the New York Southern District Court has ruled in favour of the defendant, the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), finding that the company could not be sued for ongoing contamination from the chemical plant. The action seeks relief and medical monitoring for the contamination in Bhopal caused by the indiscriminate dumping of toxic waste in and around the Union Carbide factory while it was in production i.e. before the 1984 Gas Disaster. The US courts accept that this is a distinct matter from the Gas Disaster, and has not been part of any pre-existing settlement, but the problem has been in holding anybody to account for it.

In the Sahu II case the plaintiffs, represented by EarthRights International, Sharma & Deyoung LLP, and the Law Offices of Curtis V. Trinko, argued that they had presented the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York with evidence that a UCC employee, Lucas John Couvaras, managed the construction of the plant. Union Carbide’s defence is based on the fact that they claim to have not been involved in the design, or construction, of the plant but the Earth Rights evidence seems to disavow that notion.

Statement from  the five organizations working for the rights of the survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster: HERE

Either way, the plain facts are that Union Carbide always owned a controlling share in Union Carbide India Ltd, which it claims to be responsible the responsible party, and this share never dropped below 50.9%. Common sense would describe this as a travesty of justice that the controlling company can walk away scott-free from this contamination disaster caused by the factory of which it was majority owner. Unfortunately the law does not necessarily work on principles of what is ‘right’.

EarthRights et al believe that an appeal may well be successful but they must hope that Judge Keenan recuses himself from the case as he previously sat on Sahu I and never found in favour of the plaintiffs.

Fortunately for the Bhopal Disaster survivors, this US case is not the only case that may see Union Carbide, or Dow Chemical, liable for some or all of the ongoing disaster in Bhopal. Dow Chemical is a named respondent in a forthcoming ‘curative petition’ in India’s Supreme Court that aims to address inadequacies within the 1989 civil settlement (U.S. $470 million) and a hearing will take place on August 5th 2014.

The Indian government is seeking an additional amount of up to $1.24billion, based on higher figures for the dead and injured, but the Bhopal survivors groups are quoting the Government of India’s own previously published numbers, which are considerably higher, and would raise the required settlement amount to $8.1billion.The other respondents are Union Carbide Corporation, Union Carbide India Limited and Eveready Industries.

In addition, Dow Chemical’s wholly owned subsidiary Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) is wanted on CRIMINAL charges of ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’ and is a ‘proclaimed absconder’ from Indian justice.

Dow has total control of Union Carbide but has not produced it in court. Instead, Dow used another wholly owned subsidiary to block a 2005 judicial summons, addressed to its Michigan HQ, requesting it explain the non-appearance of UCC in the courts. The Bhopal Chief Judicial Magistrate removed the blocking order, in 2012, and a summons was issued to Dow in 2014 originally requiring it attend court on July 4th. This will now be delayed for a further 12 weeks. The summons will require Dow to attend the Chief Judicial Magistrates Court, in Bhopal, and explain why UCC has repeatedly ignored court summons in the ongoing criminal case.

DowCleanUpBhopal 484x189 US Court rules in favour of Union Carbide but Indian Courts Beckon for Dow. bhopal medical appeal

 

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Yoga and the Women Who Never Heard of Lululemon

Jul 28 2014 by

Yoga and the Women Who Never Heard of Lululemon

Melanie Hadida writing for ‘Pass it to The Left’:

Since 2007, I have spent several months of my life living and working at the Sambhavna Trust Clinic in Bhopal, India. The Sambhavna clinic is the product of a vision born out of awe-inspiring community based activism in the wake of the world’s worst chemical disaster.

On December 3rd 1984, at 10 minutes past midnight, a Union Carbide pesticide plant, operating under extensive cost-cutting measures with sub-par safety facilities, leaked over 27 tons of methyl-isocyanate — a deadly gas — into the air. The gas released was carried by winds into the heavily populated slum neighbourhoods surrounding one side of the factory, affecting some of Bhopal’s most impoverished people.

Over half a million Bhopalis were exposed to this gas that night and 20,000 people died in the immediate aftermath as a result of their exposure, with many more dying each year from gas-related illnesses. The continuing disaster or “Second Disaster”, refers to on-going contamination and poisoning of 16 slum communities’ only water sources. The abandoned Union Carbide pesticide factory still stands in Bhopal today — a looming reminder of “that night” — rusting and decomposing, while bottles of highly toxic chemicals collect cobwebs and dust, and pose a very real threat to the thousands who live nearby.

The Sambhavna Trust Clinic was created by survivors and dedicated international supporters to provide gas and water contamination affected Bhopalis with free, integrative and holistic health care.

Free meaning free, integrative meaning patients aren’t just given pills and sent on their way, and holistic meaning patients’ minds, bodies and spirits are respected, healed and empowered.

MG 0280 Yoga and the Women Who Never Heard of Lululemon bhopal medical appeal

The Clinic believes in creating possibilities for patients by generating compassion. The work carried out by Sambhavna has proven that it is possible to evolve simple, safe, effective, ethical and participatory ways of treatment, monitoring and research for the survivors of Bhopal.

At Sambhavna, survivors are offered free medical care through allopathy, ayurveda (an indigenous system of medicine based on herbs), yoga, as well as through Western medicines. The 65 staff members of the Clinic (among whom 23 are survivors themselves) include doctors, yoga and Panchakarma therapists, gardeners, and community health workers and researchers who carry out health surveys, health education and community initiatives promoting better overall health in the gas and water affected neighbourhoods of Bhopal.

Provision of appropriate medical care is one of the central activities of Sambhavna. Great care is taken to ensure that any drugs that are prescribed do not add to the damage already caused. Patients who register at the clinic are given the liberty of choosing which system of treatment they wish to pursue: Allopathic or Ayurvedic medicine. Many patients are treated with a combination of both practices.

For years I’ve had the privilege of witnessing this unique and incredibly effective system of healing at play. One way in which Bhopal survivors are healing — especially women — is through Yoga therapy. The practice costs nothing, is sustainable – once learned can be practiced outside of the clinic — and most importantly, Yoga calls for the patient to be an active participant in her own healing.

Among the survivors, Women in Bhopal have been particularly badly affected by the contamination, suffering a plethora of complaints. In addition to respiratory, musculo-skeletal and neurological health complications experienced as a result of the disaster, thousands of women are also affected by gynecological and endocrinal problems. And in a city where many Muslim and Hindu women still wear the veil, intimate matters are not easily discussed with strangers.

When Yoga was first introduced at the Sambhavna Trust Clinic, many patients receiving free care thought the relief from their pain and health complications could come only in the form of a pill. But Yoga’s remarkable efficacy as a drug-free therapy has had tremendous impacts on the lives of Bhopali women of all ages.

The Sambhavna Trust Clinic carried out a study of how Yoga has affected the menstrual problems of gas-affected women. The sample was of women between 18 and 38 years old who were divided up into a test group and control group. In the month before the study began the women in the test group received a months training in specified Yoga asanas. After this, they took no medicines for six months for menstrual problems and only practiced Yoga, while the control group took medicine but didn’t practice any Yoga.

All the women in the test group practiced a special set of asanas. Surya Namaskara, which improves transmission of ‘vital air’ in the body. It helps balance the nervous system and the endocrine, and Bhujangasana, Shalabha Asana, Dhanurasana and Ushtrasana mainly affect the ligaments and muscles of the pelvic region.

When the study period ended, women brought their menstrual charts to the clinic hidden in the folds of their saris and burkas and shared them in complete privacy. The results were striking. Women in the control group showed no particular improvement in the regularity of their cycles or feelings of pain. However, in the test group more than half the women with abnormal cycles reported that they now had regulated and most of the women also reported significant relief from pain.

In the early days after the Gas Disaster, a tragedy caused by corporate greed and neglect, another industry was benefiting from a spontaneous windfall — the pharmaceutical industry. Government hospitals treating survivors were indiscriminately prescribing impoverished patients with steroids, antibiotics and psychotropic drugs, which compounded the damage caused by the initial gas exposure; the health status of the survivors and their children continued to deteriorate.

Sambhavna’s exceptional system of healing familiarizes patients with an ancient practice indigenous to India; it empowers them to detoxify their bodies and allows them transforms their lives.

You can find the article on ‘Pass it to The Left’ HERE

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Pressure building on Dow over Bhopal gas leak case

Jul 1 2014 by

Pressure building on Dow ( #DowChemical ) over Bhopal gas leak case

IMG 1538 copy 484x363 Pressure building on Dow over Bhopal gas leak case bhopal medical appeal

THE HINDU reports:

The Dow Chemical Company came under renewed pressure from human rights organisations this week as the date for its court appearance in Bhopal edged closer, to answer the court on why its wholly owned subsidiary, the Union Carbide Company (UCC), “repeatedly refused to appear in the ongoing criminal case,” concerning the 1984 industrial disaster involving the leak of deadly methyl isocyanate and the subsequent deaths of many thousands.

According to Amnesty International, Dow has been called upon to explain why UCC has not yet answered to the charges of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder,” and in addition they underscored that the companies were embroiled in two civil suits in India relating to the gas leak and ongoing environmental contamination at the former plant site.

Commenting on the court appearance issue T. Kumar, International Advocacy Director at Amnesty International USA, said, “Dow should not hide from the summons. Why is Dow afraid to face the courts in Bhopal?”

Mr. Kumar added that the Bhopal victims were “closer than ever to realising justice,” and so it was critical to keep public pressure on Dow to attend the July 4 court hearing to ensure meaningful corporate accountability for those affected and their families.

Although The Hindu reached out to UCC and its parent company, Dow Chemicals, for a response, no comments were received at the time this report went to print.

Last week, Amnesty International organised a rally outside Dow’s Washington DC offices to pressure the company to comply with the summons.

The Bhopal Medical Appeal, a UK-based disaster relief and charity organisation, added its voice to the protests, and said that Dow had responded to the demand that it appear before the Indian courts saying, “UCC is, and remains today, a separate corporate entity responsible for its own debts and obligations.” (more detail, see below)

However BMA argued, “A parent company may be held liable for the debts of its subsidiary in circumstances which vary between legal systems. But Dow has the legal power to control, and therefore the legal responsibility for, UCC’s current behaviour with regards to Bhopal.”

Earlier in 2014, plaintiffs in the case brought against UCC released new evidence that was said to demonstrate the company’s “direct role in designing and building the pesticide plant” in question.

According to reports that new evidence comprised statements by former UCC and Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) employees and evaluations by experts in waste disposal systems, all of which were said to establish that UCC “provided critical design for the plant and its waste management system and that this design caused the ongoing toxic waste problem in Bhopal.”

In February, in the case of Sahu II v. UCC, a Southern District Court of New York class-action lawsuit filed by residents of Bhopal whose land and water remain contaminated by waste from the chemical plant, plaintiffs’ evidence reportedly also showed that it was “a Union Carbide employee that oversaw and approved construction and design implementing Union Carbide’s plan for the Bhopal plant.”

However, in an email to The Hindu, a UCC spokesman, Tomm Sprick, denied that the evidence suggested that UCC was responsible for the creation of contaminated water in the area, arguing that the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals had recently dismissed “a nearly identical case” against UCC, Sahu I.

Mr. Sprick added that the court said that documents created at the time events took place established conclusively that “no reasonable juror could find that UCC participated in the creation of the contaminated drinking water.”

At the time co-counsel to the plaintiffs Rajan Sharma added, “These families have been living with Union Carbide pollution for decades and they deserve justice. Union Carbide refuses to submit to the jurisdiction of India’s courts and asserts that American courts may not grant relief without the participation of the Indian government.”

 

Further Information on Dow Chemical’s ownership of the Union carbide Corporation

The Dow Chemical Company continues to maintain that it is not responsible for the acts of its wholly owned subsidiary the Union Carbide Corporation

Dow states that it is an entirely separate corporate entity to Union Carbide but that is not, of itself, a sufficient statement of law to divorce Dow from UCC’s legal liabilities. It is not possible to say, given that information, that “there is no justification for a claim being brought against Dow”.

A parent company may be held liable for the debts of its subsidiary in circumstances which vary between legal systems. But Dow has the legal power to control, and therefore the legal responsibility for, UCC’s current behaviour with regards to Bhopal.

This is because:

  • UCC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow. UCC’s board of directors is appointed by Dow and Dow can, through its shareholding, exercise actual control over UCC. If Dow wishes UCC to take, or refrain from taking, any steps with regard to its business, Dow can in practice require UCC to take those steps.
  • Dow’s relationship with UCC is much closer than a simple parent/subsidiary relationship: Dow manages all major aspects of UCC’s business: legal, accountancy, treasury, procurement, human resources, environmental, health and safety, management, etc. For all material purposes Dow runs UCC. This means that not only is Dow able to control UCC indirectly through its share ownership as a parent, it is able to control UCC directly because it manages all its business, including crucially its legal affairs. As a consequence, Dow cannot say that it is not responsible for UCC’s current behaviour when that behaviour is controlled, directly and indirectly, by Dow itself.
  •  Dow’s and UCC’s operations are so intertwined that it is difficult to separate the two. UCC’s submissions to the US Securities and Exchange Commission present its business as a “component” of Dow’s business. UCC’s business is fully integrated with Dow’s. In addition, UCC sells substantially all its products to Dow (and Dow sells UCC’s products under Dow’s name). This means that a distinction between the two companies exists only in terms of formal “corporate personality”. In commercial and reporting terms the two companies are one
  • UCC’s behaviour actually benefits Dow in so far as not paying a debt enhances a subsidiary’s ability to pay dividends to its parent. Importantly, Dow has almost certainly procured that conduct (denying Bhopal liabilities) since it is responsible for legal and accountancy services for UCC. UCC has paid dividends to Dow since completion of the acquisition in 2001. From 2009-2011 these dividends amounted to $2200m. Dow has made the choice not to require these funds to be used to compensate Bhopal survivors or decontaminate the affected area
  • Dow is wholly responsible for the current conduct of UCC, and for how UCC chooses to deal with the “issues outstanding in Bhopal, particularly in relation to the remediation of the site”. It follows that Dow is necessarily responsible for UCC’s refusal to give further compensation to the victims of the Bhopal disaster, and its refusal to pay for the environmental clean-up of the Bhopal site. To state that “these outstanding issues are not the responsibility of the Dow Chemical Company” is therefore incorrect.
  • Dow distances itself from UCC implying that it does not have a relationship with UCC but Dow provides UCC products. Dealing with Dow is no guarantee that products supplied are not UCC products. Given the total convergence of Dow’s and UCC’s business, stockholders and management, there is no substantive difference between dealing with UCC and dealing with Dow. For all material purposes, including those relating to ethics and corporate responsibility, any suggested dichotomy between Dow and UCC is a false one.
  • If UCC refuses to compensate victims of the Bhopal disaster, pay for the environmental clean-up, or submit to the jurisdiction of the Indian Court in criminal proceedings, those are all decisions for which Dow has direct management control and therefore responsibility (further to point 2 above).
  • Dow is no less responsible for UCC’s conduct with regards to Bhopal than any other supplier would be with regards to a fully owned subsidiary found to be abusing human rights. For example, if UCC was found to be employing slave labour, then Dow, the supplier, as parent would rightly be held “responsible” for the acts of its subsidiary.

IMG 1585 484x646 Pressure building on Dow over Bhopal gas leak case bhopal medical appeal
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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