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12 April 2012

Bhopal gas tragedy survivors agitate outside residence of IOA chairman in New Delhi

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By Pervez Bari


Bhopal: One hundred survivors of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal on Tuesday chanted slogans and sang prayers outside the New Delhi residence of V. K. Malhotra, acting-chairman of the Indian Olympic Association.


According to a press release, the Bhopal survivors sang Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite prayer to Lord Rama for good sense to prevail upon all, and demanded that the India Olympic Association (IOA) boycott the Olympic Games in London this year. Mr. Malhotra met with the survivors and assured them that he will write to the International Olympic Committee, (IOC), and ask the committee to ensure that no money sponsored by Dow Chemical is sent to the Indian Olympic Association.


Ms Shehazadee Bee, a survivor of the disaster, alleged that the IOA headed by Mr. Malhotra was betraying the Bhopal victims in exchange of funds from Dow Chemical, the owner of Union Carbide. “The International Olympics Committee has received hundreds of millions of dollars from Dow Chemical as a sponsor of the Olympic Games till 2020. A part of this money has been transferred to IOA or will soon be. This is the reason why the IOA has chosen to make only ineffective gestures against Dow Chemical’s sponsorship of the London Games,” she said.


It may be pointed out here that Ms Shehazadee lives in one of the community wherein groundwater is contaminated with toxic chemicals leaching from the Union Carbide’s abandoned factory.


Mr. Balkrishna Namdeo, president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha, said that as a senior member of the BJP, Mr. Malhotra should take inspiration from the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Mr. Shivraj Singh Chouhan who is from his own party. Mr. Chouhan had called for a boycott of the London Olympic Games in January this year.


Ms Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action said that Dow Chemical is evading its civil, criminal and environmental liability in Bhopal ever since it took over Union Carbide in 2001. She alleged that the corporation has accepted its subsidiary’s liabilities in USA but is refusing to accept the liability for deaths, injuries and environmental damage caused by the Union Carbide in Bhopal.


“Dow Chemical is sponsoring the Olympic Games to whitewash its Bhopal liability and Mr. Malhotra is helping the American company in its attempt to escape its legal liabilities,” Ms Rachna said.


Nawab Khan, president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, demanded that the IOA must immediately tell IOC that it will not accept Dow Chemical’s money. “It is a matter of national shame that the IOA and Mr. Malhotra have succumbed to the temptation of American dollars and ignored the fact that these dollars are coming from a company responsible for death and poisoning of thousands of Indian citizens,” he said.


Meanwhile, it may be mentioned here that the Bhopal survivor organisations had termed IOA and the Government of India's opposition to Dow's involvement in the London Olympics as “insincere”. They had said that both should stop “shedding crocodile tears” and take real action on conveying India's displeasure to IOC. The organisations pointed to instances where Dow had managed to jockey itself into associations with the IOA and the Government of India. Dow's website claims it supplied insulation material through the IOA to the Commonwealth Games 2010.


[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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