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On Bhopal Gas Tragedy's 37th Anniversary, UK-based LGBT+ Activist Urges Dow Chemical's Head to Correct Injustice

Kashif Kakvi |
LGBTQ+ activist Peter Tatchell urged Dow Chemical head Jim Fitterling, a gay man, to send his subsidiary Union Carbide to court.
bhopal gas

Bhopal: On the 37th anniversary of 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy, well-known UK-based LGBT+ and Human Rights activist Peter Tatchell wrote a letter to Dow Chemical head Jim Fitterling, a gay man, urging to end the 50 years of racism, inequality and injustice towards Bhopal Gas-hit victims and end the suffering of victims by extending the compensation.

The activists working with the Gas-tragedy victims released the letter today during a press conference in Bhopal.

Condemning the Dow Chemical Company, USA, for its systematic discrimination against survivors of the gas disaster and victims of groundwater contamination, Sanjana Singh, an LGBT+ survivor of the Bhopal disaster, said, "Fighting discrimination against LGBT+ people teaches us to fight against all forms of discrimination in society. It is wrong for Fitterling, who came out as gay in 2014, to make claims of inclusivity while heading a company that starkly discriminates against the Bhopal survivors."

While Rashida Bee, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, pointed out, "Dow Chemical's premium product Chlorpyriphos is banned in the USA for causing possible neurological damage, reduced IQ, loss of working memory, and attention deficit disorders and congenital anomalies. However, in India, Corteva, a corporation with close ties to Dow Chemical, sells Chlorpyriphos with the trade name Dursban without mentioning its health hazards or its regulatory ban in the USA."

She further said, "In 2014, Dow donated water filtration systems and over 100,000 US dollars in aid to Flint, Michigan, in response to contamination of the city's drinking water source. However, in Bhopal, where mercury and cancer-causing chemicals have been found in the breast milk of nursing mothers, Dow quotes scientifically discredited reports of NEERI to claim there is no contamination of groundwater due to hazardous waste from the Union Carbide factory."

According to Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information & Action, Dow submits unquestioningly to government agencies and courts in the United States. In 2005, a Dow joint-venture pled guilty and paid an 84 million dollars criminal fine for participating in an international conspiracy to fix synthetic rubber prices in violation of the Sherman Act. In India, Dow has ignored six separate summonses to appear in the court's proceedings in the disaster claiming that Indian criminal courts have no jurisdiction over TDCC. Dow Chemical's double standards are evident in every aspect of their operations." Rashida Bee said.

Nausheen Khan, who works for Children who were born with disabilities owing to union carbide's gas leak, said, "In USA, Dow is paying for clean up of 171 contaminated sites including the Tittabawassee and Saginaw river plains near its headquarters in Midland Michigan. But on the matter of cleaning up the ongoing contamination in Bhopal, Dow says it is the responsibility of the Madhya Pradesh government."

Letter to Dow's Head Jim Fitterling

Referring to Dow Chemical head Jim Fitterling's stand against racism, rights of LGBT+ Group, Peter Tatchell wrote, "You are aware that Dow merged with Union Carbide 20 years ago. At that time, Union Carbide was a fugitive corporation, on the run from homicide charges related to the killing of between 5,295 - 25,000 people in Bhopal. Twenty years later, it is still an outlaw. Dow, the company you run, has not made Union Carbide, the company Dow now owns, attend court in India to answer these homicide charges."

"Instead, your company Dow defends your subsidiary company Union Carbide's 'right' not to be judged before the law. So, the prosecution of serious criminal charges for the world's worst-ever industrial disaster sits in limbo, for nearly four decades unresolved. As a direct result, hundreds of thousands of victims are left without restitution, without emotional or psychological closure, without social or economic support, without appropriate medical care and trapped instead in an endless cycle of re-victimisation. These are people just like you and me, except they are suffering a living hell of your company's making by its inaction," the letter reads.

In a four-page letter, Peter Tatchell further wrote, "You recently spoke commendably about addressing the rising tide of anti-Asian sentiment". Stating that the victims of Bhopal were Asian, he asked whether their suffering did not count. They are victims of much more than bigoted sentiment.

Referring to the Alaskan oil spill 1989 tragedy where the US-based company compensate for the tragedy, he wrote, "A few weeks after Union Carbide forced the Indian government to settle for damages – without consulting even one surviving victim – another US corporation, Exxon, spent around $50,000 rehabilitating each sea bird impacted by its Alaskan oil spill. The compensation given to 93% of Bhopal's human victims is a hundred times less than this. It takes, it seems, the suffering of 100 Indians before we reach the value of even one American sea bird."

Highlighting the aftereffect of the Gas tragedy on children, he wrote, "I haven't yet mentioned the next generations. There is ample evidence that exposure to MIC gas caused genetic damage. Children are born in great numbers in Bhopal with physical and mental impairments. A recent study found almost 9 times more congenital malformations in children of gas-exposed parents. Some are born so severely damaged that they cannot speak, stand or meet any of their own basic needs. Requiring lifelong care, many die prematurely. And never mind $500, not one has received even a cent from Union Carbide or from Dow. Their permanent injuries leave survivors vulnerable in other ways, too. Though they make up only 17% of the city's population, almost one in every two deaths from Covid-19 has been a victim of your subsidiary's gas disaster."

The letter also points out how Union Carbide's chemicals have contaminated groundwater of 48 communities. "There, reckless chemical waste dumping by Union Carbide has left 48 communities with groundwater unfit for human consumption. Scientific studies across more than 30 years have confirmed the presence of pesticides, heavy metals and dangerously poisonous chemicals in high concentrations more than 3 kilometres out from the abandoned factory site where the dumping occurred. Cancer-causing and mutagenic chemicals have been found in the breast milk of nursing mothers," it said.

In the end, Peter Tatchell urged Fitterling to send his subsidiary Union Carbide to court, so that people, who have suffered inhumanly for longer than most in their country have been alive, might see some truth, reconciliation, and restitution in what remains of their lives. He asked Dow to accept India's petition for further compensation to meet the reality of this endless disaster. "It will ease the suffering of those your company has condemned to a life of pain and despair. Ensure your company's mess is cleaned up and compensate those already irretrievably harmed," Tatchell said.

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