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Don’t allow Union Carbide escape court action, groups urge PM 

Bhopal, March 31

Organisations representing the survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy said on Saturday “inaction” on part of the government may lead to Union Carbide escaping criminal liability for the 1984 industrial disaster forever.

Madhya Pradesh and Union governments are showing “apathy” on the issue and this has raised the possibility of the American corporation, whose plant in Bhopal was the site of the disaster, escaping criminal liability, they alleged.

Addressing a press conference here, leaders of the organisations said Dow Chemical, the owner of Union Carbide, after merging with another American MNC DuPont, has announced plans to split into three entities by June 2019.

According to the leaders, Union Carbide is running away from facing the criminal charges, including culpable homicide, for more than 30 years.

The US company, as per criminal laws, will cease to be criminally liable for the tragedy, in which thousands of people lost their lives, after the three-way split, they said.

“More than a month ago, the organisations had written to the prime minister and other officials demanding specific steps to stop the American multinational’s imminent escape from criminal proceedings,” said Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action.

However, the organisations have not received any acknowledgement for their letters, let alone a reply, she bemoaned.

“We have sought the Prime Minister’s intervention in enlisting support of US agencies to ensure Union Carbide and Dow Chemical abide by the orders of Indian courts.

“He is fully empowered by the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the two countries to do this but so far he has chosen not to use these powers,” Dhingra said.

“We are worried inaction in this matter on part of the governments in the state and at the centre may allow the killer corporation to escape Indian courts,” said Rashida Bee of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh.

Leaders of other organisations, including the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morcha and the Children Against Dow Carbide, also demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi intervene in the matter.

The tragedy occurred on the night of December 2-3, 1984, when the deadly methyl isocyanate gas leaked from the pesticide plant of Union Carbide in the city.

It is estimated that more than 15,000 people had been killed in what was the world’s worst industrial disaster. More than five lakh people were affected due to the toxic gas leak.

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