Dow in the dumps?

Published: Sunday 31 August 2008

Dow Chemicals may run into trouble with its Indian investments. On August 8, Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizer Ram Vilas Paswan met some of the victims of the Bhopal gas leak disaster at their protest site in New Delhi and promised them action against the company. An empowered committee would be formed within two months to oversee the cleanup work at the Union Carbide site, heavily contaminated still, and to look into the compensation and health issues faced by the victims. He assured them that the department of chemicals and petrochemicals would not withdraw its application, seeking advance of Rs 100 crore from Dow Chemicals for cleaning up of the Union Carbide facility, which it has filed in the High Court of Madhya Pradesh. "The outcome is before the court and we should wait for the verdict," he said and added that the government would appoint a senior lawyer to argue the case for compensation claims. He reiterated that the offer of Ratan Tata to set up a site remediation fund was not acceptable as the proposal involved absolving Dow Chemicals of all charges regarding liability of environmental remediation. He informed the protestors that the CBI had been asked to expedite inquiry into allegation of bribe for the registration of four pesticides in India and that their licences might be revoked. The announcements were the result of decisions taken on June 11, 2008, by a group of ministers constituted to oversee matters on Bhopal gas leak. Among the other statements issued by the minister included a relook at the foreign technical collaboration between Reliance Industries and Dow Chemicals. These assurances satisfied victims to end the protests in Delhi, which had begun in April. But they will still go to court. Satinath Sarangi of Bhopal Information and Action Group, said they were planning to take legal recourse on de-registration of the four pesticides and Dow Chemicals-Reliance tie-up.

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