Published On:27 January 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Bhopal survivors felicitate Ms Meredith for resigning from ethics panel of London Olympics

By Pervez Bari

Bhopal: The survivors and victims of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy, the world’s worst industrial catastrophe, led by five NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) here on Thursday felicitated Ms Meredith Alexandar, who resigned as Chairperson of the ethics committee of the London Olympics Committee over sponsorship of the London Olympic Games by Dow Chemical, current owner of Union Carbide.

Placing a bouquet of pink roses before a picture of Ms Alexandar, Ms Rashida Bee, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Stationery Karmchari Sangh, said: “By speaking the truth so boldly Ms Meredith has nailed Dow Chemical’s lies that the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), and its Chairman, Lord Coe believed and propagated till recently. We hope this will make LOCOG dump Dow Chemical as a sponsor of the London Games.”

Ms Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action expressed the hope that Ms. Alexandar’s resignation will prompt the Indian government to express its opposition to Dow Chemical’s sponsorship more effectively. “To be taken seriously by the London Olympic Committee, the Indian Government has to do more than just send a protest note. It is time for LOCOG to be told that India will not take part in the London Olympics if it continues to be sponsored by a corporation responsible for continuing death and sufferings in Bhopal.”

It may be pointed out here that media reports emanating from London said that Sustainability Commissioner to the London 2012 Olympics, Ms Meredith Alexander, quit on Thursday in protest of the sponsorship deal with Dow Chemical Company for its connection to the Bhopal gas disaster. Ms Alexander was appointed by Mayor of London Boris Johnson to monitor the LOCOG.

Ms Alexander, head of trade and corporates at the charity Action Aid told the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 that she could no longer remain in the unpaid post given LOCOG's refusal to end the association. She was one of 13 commissioners.

She reportedly said: "I don't want to be party to a defence of Dow Chemicals, the company responsible for one of the worst corporate human rights violations in my generation. It is appalling that 27 years on, the site has still not been cleaned up and thousands upon thousands of people are still suffering. I believe people should be free to enjoy London 2012 without this toxic legacy on their conscience.

It may be stated here that Dow, a global Olympic sponsor since 2010, has stepped in to fund the hi-tech fabric wrap for the 2012 London Olympic Stadium which was ditched to save £7 million. Savings of £20 million had been called for.

Hundreds of survivors of Bhopal last month burned effigies of London 2012 chairman Lord Coe and Vijay Kumar Malhotra, the head of India's Olympic Committee, to protest against the Dow deal.

Dow has always maintained it did not own or operate the Bhopal plant and that legal claims regarding the gas leak were resolved when Union Carbide paid compensation for those killed or injured.

Welcoming Ms Alexander's resignation, Amnesty International said the London 2012 Olympic organisers must admit their mistake in awarding the lucrative seven million pound contract to the Dow Chemical Company.

The felicitation of Ms. Alexander was part of the day-long fast by Bhopal survivors seeking withdrawal of criminal cases on 2000 survivors and release of the 14 persons who are in jail for over six weeks in connection with the protest action on December 3 last, the 27th Anniversary of the disaster.

“We are demanding that the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister keep his promise of setting up an independent inquiry into the incidence of violence and withdraw the false cases on the protestors till that happens,” said Mr. Balkrishna Namdeo, president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha.

Nawab Khan, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, said: “The Madhya Pradesh state government has not filed a single criminal case against Dow Chemical or Union Carbide for their ongoing crime of poisoning the ground water of over 40,000 people and has charged 2000 gas victims with offences punishable by life imprisonment for peacefully demanding adequate compensation”.

Holding the Bhopal district administration and the police responsible for the violence on December 3, 2011, Ms Safreen Khan of Children against Dow Carbide said: “Despite reminders from the Madhya Pradesh State Human Rights Commission the district and police officials have failed to answer any one of the 13 questions on the violence during our peaceful protest. The officials hope to cover up their own misdeeds by putting people in jail and charging us under as many as 17 criminal sections of the Indian Penal Code, (IPC).”

Meanwhile, it may be mentioned here that on the eve of new year led by the five NGOs the survivors of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal had greeted the New Year 2012 with torch lights, music and dances by children. Holding flaming torches, survivors stood in a formation of the five Olympic Rings to demonstrate their resolve to continue with their campaign to oppose sponsorship of Olympic Games by Dow Chemical.

The organizations also had vowed to continue to pressure the government to present correct figures of death and injury in the curative petition before the Supreme Court to ensure adequate compensation for all gas victims.

It may be recalled here that 40 tones of methyl isocyanate, (MIC – a highly volatile toxic chemical), gas spewed out from the pesticide plant – owned by Union Carbide India Limited, (UCIL), a subsidiary of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), USA – in the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984. The gas leak killed 3,000 people instantly and more than 25,000 over the years and inflicting grievous injuries on countless others. Many were deformed for life and many children born with the toxic effect are sick and with congenital malformations. It also affected 100,000 people that night and estimates are that more than 500,000 continue to suffer till date.

[Pervez Bari is a senior Journalist based at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Madhya Pradesh). He can be contacted at pervezbari@eth.net]

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