Justice favours corporate criminals in Bhopal?

Press release - 10 July, 2002

Greenpeace joins Bhopal survivors to protest moves by the Indian government to reduce homicide charges against Warren Anderson, former Union Carbide CEO, to negligence.

Greenpeace today joined protests in India to support survivors of the Bhopal disaster in their struggle for justice from Union Carbide, the U.S. multinational responsible for the disaster, and its new owner, Dow Chemicals (1).

The protests took place in Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai following moves by the Central Bureau of Investigation of the Indian Government to reduce outstanding charges of culpable homicide against Warren Anderson, former CEO of Union Carbide, to negligence. (2) Three of the protestors, two of which are survivors of the gas disaster, have been on hunger strike in Delhi for twelve days, since the CBI's impending move was announced. (3)

Anderson is still the subject of an Interpol warrant but has been hiding in the United States since the Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal leaked 40 tonnes of lethal gas in 1984, killing 20,000 people to date. If the Indian Government reduces the charges against him, Anderson would face a small fine or a maximum sentence of two years' imprisonment rather than a maximum custodial sentence of 10 years. He would also not have to appear for trial in India.

"The Government of India plays a major role in making sure that everyone responsible, the U.S. multinational Union Carbide - now Dow Chemicals - and its former CEO, are held accountable and liable for this ongoing disaster, just as they would be had it occurred in the United States," said Ananthapadmanabhan Ananth, Executive Director of Greenpeace India, speaking from the demonstration in Delhi. "It must not betray its people by allowing these corporate criminals to walk away from the death and contamination they have caused in Bhopal," he added.

Union Carbide cut safety corners at its Bhopal factory. That purely economic decision meant that, on the night of the poisonous gas leak, six safety measures designed to prevent such a leak had either malfunctioned, were turned off or were otherwise inadequate. In addition, the safety siren, intended to alert the community, was turned off. Afterwards, it failed to paid sufficient compensation and abandoned the factory, leaving tonnes of dangerous, highly toxic chemicals strewn around the site. (4)

"If the Indian government does not reject this move, it will give a clear signal that India is open to exploitation by other multinational corporations," concluded Ananth.

Greenpeace and Bhopal survivors' organisations (5) are campaigning to ensure that Dow Chemicals cleans up the factory site at its expense, as would be required in the U.S., to secure long-term medical treatment facilities and medical rehabilitation for the survivor's of the poison gas leak, to ensure economic compensation for the gas-affected people and their families, and to provide clean drinking water to communities that are forced to consume contaminated groundwater.

Take Action!

Tell Dow to do the right thing - take responsibility for the Bhopal disaster.

Notes: (1) In 2002, Union Carbide shed its name by merging with Dow Chemical, making Dow the world’s biggest chemical company. In buying Union Carbide for US$9.3 billion, Dow not only bought the company’s assets but also its liabilities in Bhopal.So far, it has refused to accept Carbide’s pending liabilities for environmental and human rights violations in Bhopal. (2) The court hearing is scheduled to take place in Bhopal on 17th July.(3) The hunger strikers are: Satinath Sarangi (48); Rasheeda Bee (45) and Tara Bai (35). Tara Bai, was three months pregnant at the time of the disaster. She miscarried as she fled the poisonous gas. Since then she has been unable to conceive and suffers from breathlessness, diminished vision and panic attacks. (4) In 1999, Greenpeace and Bhopal community groups visited the abandoned factory to assess the environmental condition of the site and its surroundings. The team documented the presence of stockpiles of toxic pesticides as well as hazardous wastes and contaminated material scattered throughout the factory site. The survey found substantial and, in some locations, severe contamination of land and water supplies with heavy metals and chlorinated chemicals.(5) Greenpeace is working in Bhopal as part of an international NGO coalition including the Bhopal Gas Affected Women Stationery Workers Association, Bhopal Gas Affected Pensioners Association, Bhopal Group for Information and Action, National Campaign For Justice in Bhopal, The Other Media and CorpWatch.