Bhopal gas victims slam Dow sponsoring London Olympics

The victims of the 1984 Bhopal tragedy have joined British MPs and rights groups in opposing the 2012 London Olympics being sponsored by Dow Chemical Company, which owns the now-abandoned unit here whose gas leak killed thousands, an activist said Tuesday.

The survivors of world’s worst industrial disaster fighting for justice for nearly 27 years recently raised concerns that Dow was sponsoring the Olympics.

On the night of Dec 2-3, 1984, tonnes of methyl isocyanate gas had leaked from the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, now owned by Dow Chemical, leading to the death of 3,000 instantly and 25,000 over the years. Over 500,000 people have been affected so far.

“British MP Keith Vaz raised the issue of Dow sponsorship of the London Olympics in an Early Day Motion Oct 10 in the house of commons. His motion has already got support from 14 MPs,” Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) told reporters.

“Amnesty International has written to the chairman of organising committee of the Olympic Games expressing serious concerns on selecting Dow Chemical as a sponsor,” she said.

The survivors, led by five organisations, said that there was massive outrage in Britain but what was absolutely disgusting was that neither Prime Minister Manmohan Singh nor the acting president of Indian Olympic Association Vijay Kumar Malhotra had issued any letter of concern on this sponsorship.

“In August, Malhotra told different media channels that the issue of Dow sponsoring the Olympics was a grave concern and that he would write to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) chairman. The survivors have been regularly following up with his office but Malhotra does not seem to have time to write the letter,” she said.

“The response from the Prime Minister’s Office has been pretty much the same. The five organisations working on this issue had written a letter to Manmohan Singh and Malhotra asking them to register protest with the British government and LOCOG chair,” she added.

The survivors said that they would also write to LOCOG chairman Lord Sebastian Coe and tell him that as the 100 percent owner of Union Carbide, Dow Chemical was responsible for the continuing deaths in Bhopal caused by the 1984 gas disaster.

Dow had refused to clean up the contamination in and around the abandoned Union Carbide plant that was still causing birth defects and deaths, they alleged.

Apex court to hear plea to hike Bhopal gas victims’ relief

The Supreme Court Thursday said it would hear a petition of the central government seeking enhancement of compensation for the victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy to the tune of Rs.7,500 crore.

The apex court bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice Altmas Kabir, Justice R.V. Raveendran, Justice B. Sudershan Reddy and Justice Aftab Alam passed the order after considering the government’s petition during the in-chamber hearing.

The court in its brief order said: ‘Place these petitions seeking enhancement in court along with curative petition in CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) vs Keshub Mahindra on Feb 28 at 2 p.m.’

The gas tragedy killed 3,000 people instantly and affected over 15,000 due to a leak of methyl isocyanate gas from the Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in the heart of Bhopal.

On Dec 3 last year, the 26th anniversary of the Bhopal Gas tragedy, the central government moved a petition in the court seeking revised compensation for the victims and the consequent environmental degradation.

The government sought the enhancement of compensation, determined by the apex court in 1989, on the grounds that the settlement arrived in 1989 was based on the ‘assumptions of truth unrelated to realities’.

The petition said that the revised amount sought in 2010 was on account of devaluation of rupee, interest rate and purchasing power parity and inflation index.

At the time of calculating earlier compensation, the number of dead was taken to be 3,000, which subsequently turned out to be 5,295. Similarly the victims with minor injuries were taken as 50,000 which eventually turned out to be 527,895.

The total revised amount being sought in the petition is $1,241.38 million as per Aug 22, 2010 rates.

The basis for calculating this amount was that the compensation awarded in February 1989 was Rs.675.96 crore. When converted into dollars at the then prevailing rates it would have been equal to $442.67 million.

The petition contended that if the amount had remained invested in dollars on yearly basis and based on London interbank offered rate it would have become $1,241.38 million by Aug 22, 2010.

The amount of compensation to be paid in 2010 varies based on the parameters of calculating it. The compensation awarded in February 1989 is being claimed in 2010, the petition said.

The petition placed various options before the apex court for calculating the enhanced compensation. That included the levying of interest, calculating by taking inflation index in consideration and basing calculation on dollar value as prevailing today.

The petition also sought the recovery of Rs.1,743.15 crore which the central government and the Madhya Pradesh government spent in the aftermath of the tragedy for the relief and rehabilitation of the victims.

The petition said that this was the tax payer’s money, which could not be spent on the wrong committed by the Union Carbide.

Another component of the revised compensations was Rs.315.7 crore which, the petition said, was spent on the handling of the toxic waste left behind by the gas leak.