Wednesday, Dec 08, 2021
Open Letter

'Reverse The Out-Of-Court Bhopal Settlement'

Activists write to the US President: 'Whose 'ass' should the citizens of Bhopal kick if governments selectively shield their corporations and officials from legal accountability?'

'Reverse The Out-Of-Court Bhopal Settlement'
| AP
'Reverse The Out-Of-Court Bhopal Settlement'

Mr Barack Obama 
United States of America

Dear Mr President Obama,

With a great deal of interest, we have been following your tough stand against BP for the oil spill in the Gulf Of Mexico, particularly your demand to know whose 'ass needs to be kicked'. We think your demand for corporate accountability for causing huge environmental damages is worthy of emulation by other governments around the World.

May we draw your attention to a bigger disaster that took place in the city of Bhopal in India in December 1984 that has officially killed over 15,000 people (about 25,000 people unofficially) and seriously injured nearly half a million people by now (the situation after twenty five years is attached for ready reference). This disaster was caused by another mega corporate entity called Union Carbide, headquartered in the United States of America, unlike BP whose parent company resides in Great Britain.

Through 'friendly' interventions of the Reagan administration that ruled the US in 1984, not only was Warren Anderson, the CEO of Union Carbide sent back from India even though he was arrested and cases were registered against him and the Union Carbide, but similar overtures resulted in all criminal cases against Union Carbide to be dropped in a shameful out-of-court settlement for a paltry US $470m. Twenty six years later, the local court in Bhopal, fettered by these collusive legal manipulations could at best convict six Indian officials of the Union Carbide India Limited for two years of jail, for which all the accused were given instant bail. The parent company based in the US, against whom charges exist in Indian Courts, is unanswerable. So no one pays for the death of over 15,000 people! Another major US corporate, Dow Chemicals, that bought Union Carbide in 2001, refuses to accept its liability for cleaning up the toxic wastes at the closed factory, that is still harming citizens of Bhopal, mainly from water that is contaminated with leached poisons stored in the abandoned factory; or liability for just compensation to the victims.

We are of course more than aware that the Indian Government and the Indian subsidiary of Union Carbide (UCIL) are as complicit in this disaster as the US government, the parent company Union Carbide Corporation and Dow Chemicals. For twenty six years the stricken but surviving gas victims of Bhopal have waged a sustained battle with the Indian establishment – governments at the centre and in the state of Madhya Pradesh, scientific, medical and industrial monitoring institutions – in courts and streets, and will continue to do so. But the subtle pressure of the US administration, contested alien tort laws of the US and the discriminatory legal functioning of the US system that puts a higher cost to a US life than that of in Bhopal has made it necessary for the victims to fight on both fronts – the US and the Indian administrations, corporations and judicial systems – for over a quarter of century now.

It is well documented that the UCC is a guilty party since it deliberately exported a defective plant whose safety systems were grossly lacking compared to the parent plant at Danbury, West Virginia. The UCC also hid facts about the toxicity of methyl-isocyanate, while it was aware about its deadly effects. The guilt about these criminal acts requires the US judicial system to act; just as the inability of the Indian inspectors to check these shortcomings requires the Indian judicial systems to book the culprits.

Is it too much to expect that you use the same yardsticks of accountability you are using for BP for the terrible oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, for corporations based in the country you rule? Whose 'ass' should the citizens of Bhopal kick if governments selectively shield their corporations and officials from legal accountability? How would you react, for example, if because of the pressure of the British media that is asking Prime Minister Cameron to ‘stand up’ to you, Mr. Cameron made a 'friendly overture' to you to back off from 'kicking anyone's ass', meaning British Petroleum's? If you wouldn't back off, then consistent with your stand, the citizens of Bhopal and the whole world demand from you that:

  1. You signal/order that judicial processes be allowed, both in the US and India, to take their course in fixing responsibility of corporations and individuals of the US, responsible for the Bhopal carnage; dismantling the manipulative obstacles put up in these intervening years. This is crucial to restore the subverted system of justice.
  2. You set processes in motion that make Dow Chemicals own up their responsibility for liabilities, that includes cleaning up the toxic mess that resides in the closed factory they now own. Any assurances to the contrary that they might have received from some Indian Ministers acting individually are laughably irrelevant and illegal. 
  3. You work with the same sense of collaboration with the Indian government on this issue to provide justice and proper compensation to Bhopal victims, that you proclaim you have achieved with the Indian government on the issue of 'global terrorism'.

Just as the US administration has demanded from the BP that it set up an escrow fund of US$20b for compensation pending legal settlements arising out of the oil spill, we demand from you to ask the erstwhile UC, Dow chemicals and the judicial system of US to reverse the out-of-court Bhopal settlement, and deposit amounts commensurate with the deaths of over 15,000 persons and half a million injuries in Bhopal, and process the extradition of guilty people immediately.

In anticipation of a prompt response and decisive action,

  1. Abdul Jabbar - Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan (organisation of Bhopal gas victims)
  2. Dr. Vinod Raina - a resident of Bhopal continuously working with the gas victims since the time of disaster
  3. N.D.Jayaprakash - Co-Convener, Bhopal Gas Peedith Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti, Delhi
  4. Mukul Dube - Editor, Writer; New Delhi
  5. Rohini Hensman
  6. *Anand Teltumbde; Committee for Democratic Rights, Mumbai
  7. Mathew Thomas
  8. Dr. Arif Ali Syed
  9. Akif Khan
  10. Dr. Vandana Shiva – Environmentalist
  11. Kunal Chattopadhyay, Professor, Jadavpur University, Kolkatta
  12. Soma Marik, Associate Professor in History, RKSM Vivekananda Vidyabhan
  13. Aditi Bhaduri, Independent Journalist
  14. Sukla Sen, EKTA (Committee for Communal Amity), Mumbai
  15. Sankara Narayanan, Bhubaneswar
  16. Dr. Vandana Prasad, Public Health Resource Network
  17. Enakshi Ganguly, Child Rights activist
  18. Shabnam Hashmi, Social Activist
  19. Jagmohan Singh, Voices for Freedom
  20. Sujata Patel, Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Hyderabad
  21. S.Faizi, Environment Expert, Thirivavantapuram
  22. Praveen Kumar, M.Phil(FT), Dept.of Education, Delhi University
  23. Vidya Bhushan Rawat, Human Rights activist, Delhi
  24. Gautam Bandyopadhyay, Nadi Ghati Morcha, Chhattisgarh
  25. Rabin Chakraborty
  26. Fr Ronnie Prabhu SJ, Mangalore
  27. Aseem Chatterjee
  28. Uday Prakash, Germany
  29. Dr. N. Raghuram, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Biotechnology, GGSIPU, Delhi
  30. Ramesh Babu Batchu, Royal Oak, MI USA
  31. Prof (Dr.)K L Chopra, Padma Shri, Former Director , IIT , Kharagpur & President, Society for Scientific Values
  32. Ravi Pathak, Research Fellow, Molecular Biology and Functional Genomic Lab, G.G.S.Indraprastha University, Delhi
  33. Arun Kumar Mishra
  34. Madavan Vasudevan, Applications Manager, Genomics & Bio-IT, Genotypic Technology Pvt. Ltd., Bangalore
  35. B.Venkatram, Hyderabad
  36. Harsh Gupta - student of IIT Kanpur
  37. Reva Yunus, Indore
  38. Prof. Sahadeva Sahoo, Bhubaneswar
  39. Ambarish Rai, Convenor, Public Campaign on Common School System
  40. Sachin Jain, Bhopal
  41. Prof. Badri Raina, New Delhi
  42. Rosemary Viswanath , Equations, India
  43. Feroz Mehdi, Alternatives International, Montreal, Canada
  44. Babu Mathew, ex Director, Action Aid India, Bangalore
  45. Dr Walter Fernandes, Director, North Eastern Social Research Centre, Guwahati
  46. Pradip Baksi.
  47. Mukul Sharma, Faculty of Public Health, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand
  48. Shaheen – a resident of Bangalore, India
  49. Ashok Chowdhury, NFFPFW, Dehra Dun
  50. Hamouda Soubhi, FMAS, Morocco
  51. Harsh Mander, Member, National Advisory Council, New Delhi
  52. Mahtab Alam, Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR)
  53. Harsh Dobhal
  54. Feroze Mithiborwala
  55. Jagori Bandyopadhyay
  56. Prakash K Ray, Cinemela Collectives
  57. Prof. Jandhyala Tilak, NUEPA, New Delhi
  58. Prof. Alok Rai, Delhi University
  59. Javed Akhtar, Poet/Lyricist, Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha)
  60. Prof. N. Panchapakesan, ex Professor of Physics, Delhi University
  61. Santanu Chacraverti, Kolkata
  62. Pradip Chatterjee, DISHA, Kolkata
  63. Jyotirmoy Samajder, Kolkata
  64. Prof Mushakoji Kinhide, ex vice - Rector, UN University, Tokyo
  65. Prof. Lau Kin Chi, Lingnan University, Hong Kong
  66. Dr. Mira Shiva, People’s Health Movement
  67. Sayantan Dasgupta
  68. Shobha Srivastava, Kolkata
  69. Premangsu Dasgupta
  70. Vikramjit Singh, Research Associate, Bioscience, Unilever Research, Bangalore
  71. Arun Bidani, New Delhi
  72. Kabir Arora, Indian Youth Climate Network
  73. Naaz Khair
  74. Ms. Roma, National Forum of Forest People and Forest workers.
  75. Arun Kumar
  76. Rohit Prajapati, Activist, Gujarat
  77. Trupti Shah, Activist, Gujarat
  78. Sheema Mookherjee, New Delhi
  79. Udaykumar Ranga, Professor, Molecular Biology and Genetics Unit Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore
  80. Apurva Bamezai, IFPRI-New Delhi
  81. Vivek John Varghese
  82. Nirotpal Mrinal, CDFD, Hyderabad
  83. Ashwin John George
  84. Akanksha Malhotra
  85. Sunila Hooda, GGSIPU, Delhi
  86. Ajit Kembhavi
  87. Kishore Jagtap
  88. Dheera Sujan, Amsterdam
  89. Sarba Raj Khadka, RRN, Kathmandu, Nepal
  90. Madabhushi Sridhar, Professor, NALSAR University of Law Hyderabad
  91. Jyoti Punwani
  92. Urvashi Jain; Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi
  93. Tapoja Chaudhuri - Member, International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, Seattle Chapter. USA.
  94. Sudeshna Basu, Kolkata
  95. Anand Patwardhan, Film maker, Mumbai
  96. Chandan Das Sarma
  97. Subhashish Mukhopadhya
  98. Bhaskar Gupta
  99. Prabir Chatterjee
  100. Kumares Mitra
  101. Asia Pacific Movement for Debt and Development, Manila
  102. Jubilee – South America
  103. Jubilee South – Global (a coalition of over 200 social movements all over the world)
  104. Mamta Munish
  105. Vaibhav Raaj, Delhi
  106. Prof. Ohashi Masaki, Keisen University, Tokyo, Japan
  107. Rashmi Paliwal, Hoshangabad, Madhya Pradesh
  108. N Anil Kumar

cc: 1. Prime Minister of India, Mr. Manmohan Singh
2. Mr. P. Chidambaram, Convener, GoM on Bhopal

Bhopal Gas Slp Final 2


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