Daily News Archive

Fasting Bhopal Survivors Bring Demands for Justice to Dow Annual Shareholder Meeting and CEO
(May 9, 2003) Eight days into an indefinite fast, two women survivors of the world’s worst chemical disaster in Bhopal, India brought the disaster home to top executives of Dow Chemical, Union Carbide’s new owners. The survivors addressed Dow shareholders and leadership at Dow’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), demanding that the company take responsibility for the health consequences and environmental impacts of their operations in Bhopal and other communities poisoned by Dow and its subsidiaries elsewhere.

With graphic eleven-foot banners of gas-affected Bhopal residents as a backdrop, activists held up photographs of Bhopal residents affected Dow's pollution at a rally outside the shareholder meeting in Midland. More than thirty people from the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, a global coalition campaigning to hold Dow accountable for the Bhopal legacy, attended the rally and shareholder meeting.

A delegation from the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal will meet Dow Chairman and CEO William Stavropoulos on May 8th after the AGM. The delegation will reiterate its demands of Dow and will also extend an offer to Mr. Stavropoulos to personally come and visit the Bhopal community and abandoned factory site.

Mrs. Rasheeda Bee and Mrs. Champa Devi Shukla, survivors and leaders of the trade union Bhopal Gas Affected Women Stationery Workers Association, and long-time Bhopal activist Satinath Sarangi, launched their fast on May 1, 2003, at a demonstration in New York's financial district. To date more than 130 people have fasted in solidarity with the trio, thirteen indefinitely.

"We're fasting to insist on the truth and to let the world know that the world's largest chemical corporation is now responsible for the liabilities in the world's worst industrial disaster," said 51-year old Devi, referring to the February 2001 Dow-Carbide merger, and Dow's inheritance of Carbide's Bhopal liabilities. Devi’s husband and five children were exposed to Carbide's gases during the disaster, with her husband succumbing to cancer in 1997. Devi's granddaughter was born with deformities, a condition common to children born to gas-affected parents.

"Dow can deny its liabilities all it wants. But its liabilities and our struggle will only grow as time passes. As long as Carbide's toxic legacy continues to haunt Bhopal, Carbide's liabilities will haunt Dow and its shareholders," said Sarangi. On April 25, victims and survivors organizations reopened a recently dismissed class action suit seeking clean up and compensation for contamination-related damages, by filing an appeal in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. Union Carbide currently faces criminal charges, including manslaughter, in a Bhopal court for their role in the gas disaster.

Last year, socially responsible investment firms with over $13 billion in assets sent a letter to Dow highlighting its liabilities in Bhopal and express the need for urgent action. Since the Union Carbide merger, Dow has suffered serious financial losses, prompting industry observers at Forbes and Business Week to highlight the Carbide purchase as a likely bad investment and future liability for the company.

"Dow's irresponsible behavior on the Bhopal issue is in line with its corporate ethos. What can you expect of a company that has poisoned its own nest," said Terry Miller of Bay City-based Lone Tree Council. Miller, who is a resident of Bay County, says Dow facilities in Midland have contaminated large areas in the vicinity, including the
Tittabawasee river flood plain. Trillium Asset Management has filed a resolution asking the company to report to shareholders on dioxin and persistent toxic compounds. The resolution seeks information on all contaminated areas, potential liabilities, and future plans related to the company's operations and products.

The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal calls upon Dow to face longstanding criminal charges against Carbide in India, release toxicological information regarding the poison gases, arrange for long-term medical rehabilitation and monitoring, provide economic rehabilitation and social support for survivors children, and clean up the toxic wastes and contaminated groundwater in and around Carbide's old factory site.

For more information, visit: www.bhopal.net.

Krishnaveni Gundu
U.S. Coordinator
International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal
(Coalition of environmental & social justice organisations led by women's survivor groups of 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster)
Cellphone: 1- 832-444-1731
Email: [email protected]