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Navin's News: Bhopal Disaster

Brent and Harrow AM Navin Shah calls for rethink on Dow Chemical Olympic deal

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By David Hardiman

A Harrow politician has led calls for Olympic officials to review their sponsorship contract with a chemical company with links to the 1984 Bhopal disaster.

London Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow, Navin Shah, led a move by the Assembly to call for a rethink on the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) deal with Dow Chemical, which is one of 11 global Olympic sponsors.

He said that organisers should pay more attention to environmental, social and ethical records of companies when awarding high-profile contracts.

He said: “Almost thirty years after the horrific Bhopal chemical disaster, the factory site has still not been cleared up and the survivors and their families continue to fight for compensation.

“It is time for LOCOG and the IOC to take their ethical and sustainability code seriously and exclude Dow Chemical from future sponsorship deals.

“It’s not too late to clean up their act. We owe it to the victims and their families to demand actions and implement changes to keep out the likes of Dow Chemical from future Games.”

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Up to 25,000 people in Bhopal, India, died in the aftermath of a gas leak at a pesticide factory that was owned by a subsidiary of Union Carbide in the 1984 disaster.

Dow, which bought Union Carbide in 2001, has repeatedly denied any responsibility for Bhopal and has refused demands, including from the Indian government, to increase a $470million compensation package that Union Carbide paid to victims in 1989.

Mr Shah has been a long supporter of the campaign to increase compensation and support for the victims affected by the leak.

In a statement, LOCOG said: “Dow was appointed as the supplier of the Olympic stadium wrap in August 2011 following a thorough and competitive procurement process.

“We assessed all bids on the ability to deliver a sustainable solution and Dow met this criteria by some distance.”

Anti-Dow campaigners continue Olympic protest

 

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It is considered one of the world’s worst industrial catastrophes of all time. The 1984 Bhopal disaster killed thousands when chemical gases leaked out of a pesticide plant in India.

Due to contaminated water, the disaster continues to affect the health of hundreds off villagers in surrounding areas. In 2001 the Bhopal plant was sold to American multinational Dow Chemicals whose Olympic sponsorship is causing quite the stir.

Navin Shah, a protester and member of the London Assembly, said: “Lord Coe (Chair of the London 2012 Organising Committee) would make you believe, the Mayor of London would make you believe, even the prime minister would make you believe that there is no problem with the sponsorship with Dow. That is completely bogus. It is offensive, they really need to apologise for the kind of offence that they have caused to the poor victims of Bhopal but none of that is happening.”

Anti-Dow campaigners protested in central London ahead of a meeting of the International Olympic Committee’s inspection team. Protesters say the leak and its fallout have killed some 25,000 people and are calling for the company’s sponsorship of a fabric wrap around the Olympic Stadium to be cancelled.

London 2012 Olympics: Dow Chemical puts blame for ongoing crisis in Bhopal at Indian government's door

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By Jacquelin Magnay

George Hamilton, Dow’s vice president of Olympic operations said the Indian government should bear the brunt of questioning about the contamination of Bhopal, rather than his company, which has come under sustained heat for a £7 million sponsorship of the London Olympic Games stadium wrap and the Olympic Movement in a $100 million deal.

As the first of the wrap’s 336 triangular panels is due to be installed around the Olympic stadium within weeks, the issue was once again debated in the London Assembly on Wednesday.

A motion to ban Dow Chemical officials from London House, to scrap the sponsorship and demand an apology from Locog to the victims of Bhopal for the offence caused by Dow’s sponsorship was rejected 10-11.

Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow, Navin Shah, said Dow failed to meet Locog’s ethic and sustainability code and noted: “I’m disappointed the Liberal Democrats and Conservative Assembly Members voted against the motion, and equally saddened that Lord Coe has decided to continue with the deal with Dow.

"This is damaging to the credibility of the Games and the reputation of London.”

Dow Chemical purchased the parent company of Union Carbide, 17 years after it was responsibile for up to 25,000 deaths from a gas leak in 1984.

But in a rare analysis of the Bhopal issue, Hamilton told Telegraph Sportthe government of India had the financial liability in relationship to the Bhopal disaster and that if there was any corporate liability, it rested with Eveready.

Hamilton said the government responsibility had been confirmed by the Supreme court back in 1991 and it was then reinforced after the state government struck a deal back in 1998 with the then landowners Eveready.

Eveready (at the time called Macleod Russel India Limited) had purchased all of Union Carbide Indian assets.

Essentially, Hamilton says, when Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide, it didn’t own any of the Indian assets. They were owned by Eveready, which still operates in India.

Hamilton questioned why the Indian government was now seeking to attach Dow Chemical to a financial remediation plan when it was the government who had had the responsibility to clean up the site for more than a decade.

Hamilton said: ”If there is any questioning it has to be to the Indian government and why have they sat on their hands for 13 years?

”They [the government] took back the land from Macleod Russel India specifically to remediate the land and it has done nothing.

”Now the government is seeking to attach Dow to financial liabilities and responsibilities, when to date every court has said you can’t attach liability to a company that had no association, and this is the same government that has an obligation for additional claims.”

Hamilton argued that if people had a real interest in helping the people of Bhopal they were going about it the wrong way.

”It is very curious that the facts are clear and publicly available but repeated attempts by activists and some politicians are misguided, misinformed and misdirected,” he said.

”The company that purchased Union Carbide was now under Eveready. No one has interviewed Eveready, no one has targeted that company, Dow is not connected with it, but others are clearly connected with it, including the Indian government.”

However protest groups maintain that Dow Chemical, as the owner of the Union Carbide India’s parent company was ultimately responsible.

There are court cases debating the legal position including a long running case in the Southern District of New York.

Eveready said on its website that ”Eveready is neither responsible for the pollution as reported, nor is it liable for the clean up of the toxic material."

It says the responsibility lies with Dow Chemical through its ownership of Union Carbide USA and while it purchased the majority shares of Union Carbide India in 1994 at an auction sale, it has no relationship with the gas leak.

”The present business of the company is manufacture and marketing of fast moving consumer goods and has no connection with the pesticides business of Union Carbide,” the company says. It further adds that the Bhopal plant was closed permanently and all licenses cancelled by the government.

Eveready also claims that the state government took possession of the Bhopal plant ”unconditionally” in 1998.

NRG councillor from UK ups ante against Dow

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By Priya J. Adhyaru-Majithia

Navin Shah Intensifies Campaign In London And Bhopal To Seek Justice

An Ahmedabad native and the first Indian in the London Assembly — which holds the mayor of England capital to account —has launched a robust campaign against Dow Chemicals, a sponsor of the 2012 London Olympics. Navin Shah, the NRG seeking justice for the Bhopal gas tragedy victims, is a councillor representing the northwest London boroughs of Brent and Harrow. The areas accommodate the highest Indian population in the UK (50,000). But Shah has spoken up for Indians in Bhopal as well.

He led a protest march in the Madhya Pradesh capital this week. He feels it would be embarrassing for Indians if they don’t stand up to a company that is getting space on the Olympics platform despite the disaster. The gas leak killed 25,000 people and about 1,00,000 still suffer its after-effects.

Shah recently urged Lord Sebastian Coe — a former Olympic champion and chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG ) — to withdraw Dow Chemicals’ sponsorship of a decorative wrap around the Olympics stadium.

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“London games are governed by a code of environmental, cultural and ethical values,” Shah said. “Dow Chemicals’ record in Bhopal is in total contrast to those important values established by the LOCOG.” Shah said that since he represented the voice of 50,000 Indians and because he is a British-Indian, the matter of sponsorship had a special significance for him. Shah was born and brought up in Sarkhej till he finished his primary schooling.

“I stood outside the compound wall of the Union Carbide factory, stunned with mixed emotions of sadness, shame and anger,” he said. “Sadness, because 25,000 people were killed; shame because the tragedy occurred at the factory owned by Union Carbide which was bought by Dow Chemicals in 2001; and anger because Union Carbide/Dow Chemicals to date are refusing to fully admit their liabilities and have treated victims like dirt.”

Shah said he felt deeply ashamed that LOCOG had decided to award the wrap contract to “the very company at the centre of the ongoing and inhumane conduct leading to the ongoing injustice to the victims of Bhopal.” The International Olympic Committee has reportedly rejected India’s protest and has backed Dow Chemicals’ sponsorship. But Shah is undeterred.

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“The protest is getting stronger day by day,” said Shah. A few weeks ago, he joined a campaign in London launched by Barry Gardiner, an MP, for the immediate withdrawal of the Dow Chemicals’ sponsorship. That was followed by the creation of a petition in the Sattavis Gam Centre in Brent. “We are hopeful of getting justice and are grateful for the the Brent Indian Association’s support,” Shah said.

His campaign was an apolitical initiative, Shah said. He has called for more support and has uploaded the petition at his website, www.navinshah.com. The public has been invited to sign the petition. During his visit to Bhopal, Shah launched a local petition. Indian organizations like Sambhavna Trust and Chingari Trust from Bhopal have backed his campaign.

Amdavadi forever

“I was born in Sarkhej. I have an ancestral home in Sarkhej and a residence near Adalaj,” Shah said. “My extended family including siblings and relatives, and large number of friends reside in Ahmedabad — a city where I completed my primary schooling. I reside in London but my heart is in Ahmedabad.” He said major humanitarian issues were close to his heart. “As an Indian, I could not stand by and see the massive injustice meted out to the poor in Bhopal.” TNN

Shah’s demand

Navin Shah says the decision to award the sponsorship to Dow Chemicals was inconsistent with ethical standards. The victims deserved justice and fairness, he said. “It is also important to protect London’s reputation and the Olympics legacy,” he said. TNN

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8th December 2011

'Bhopal tragedy was like a dance of death'

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By Ted Jeory

ON ITS website, Britain’s Olympic stadium sponsor Dow Chemical states the “role of chemistry is to do more good in the world”.

It says: “We are committed through chemistry to the betterment of global humanity”, that “we place a high value on listening to our communities and strive not just to be a good neighbour, but a global corporate citizen”.

These boasts may have persuaded 2012 boss Lord Coe and his friends on the International Olympic Committee to invite the US giant into their big Games Family, but the people of Bhopal beg to differ: literally.

Within a few hundred yards of the derelict Union Carbide pesticide plant that spewed deadly gas over the Indian city’s slums on December 3, 1984, is a clinic run by two angels of mercy dedicated to nursing hundreds of children who are still born maimed to this day.

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Rashida Bee, 55, and Champa Devi Shukla, 59, who themselves suffered, grieved and survived the disaster, are founders of Chingari Trust, which scours slums to warn pregnant women the well-water they are drinking is most likely contaminated due to a failure to clear the plant.

The two women and a team of 17 staff have about 400 youngsters on their books but a lack of funds means they can only cater for 128 at any one time.

Dow, owner of Union Carbide since 2001, and Lord Coe like to talk about “sustainability” when it comes to the Olympic Games but the word has an ironic feel to many in Bhopal. The clinic costs about £31,000 a year to run, while Dow, which has failed to clear the contamination from the Bhopal plant or contribute a penny to medical efforts in the city, is funding a £7million “sustainable” fabric wrap around the 2012 stadium in return for exclusive marketing rights.

As Rashida Bee and Champa Devi point out, £7million would allow them to treat hundreds more children and sustain their efforts for 60 years.

They founded the clinic in 2006 by donating the entire £90,000 they were given two years earlier as winners of the prestigious Goldman Environment Award, which is regarded as the Nobel prize for environmental efforts.

Bhopal, with its crumbling roads and choking pollution, is no place to be disabled and judges recognised the pair’s 15 years of selfless work with those gas victims, particularly women, whose rights they now champion. The pair had noticed that children in the areas closest to the pesticide plant were born with appalling disabilities, including twisted limbs and mental problems.

With the money from the award, they were able to expand their work and the spotless clinic is now a shining example of community action. From Monday to Friday, they bus in the children, all of whose parents are gas victims, and give them speech and physical therapy, while on Saturdays they venture among the slums and educate inhabitants who are culturally afraid to show their disabled children in public.

Last year, ironically, a number of youngsters such as smiling nine-year-old cerebral palsy sufferer Aman Quereshi, participated in India’s Special Olympics for disabled children.

What inspires Rashida Bee and Champa Devi is their own history and a desire to right what they see as corporate and political injustice that killed up to 25,000 people and injured about 500,000 more. Rashida lost her father, sister and four close relatives as a result of the leak, while Champa Devi saw her late husband suffer for years with cancer caused by the tragedy. Her son suffered so badly with the pains in his lungs, it drove him to suicide.

“He couldn’t live with it any longer,” she said. “The leak destroyed my family. Gas had rushed into our house. We couldn’t breathe. We ran out, it was like a dance of death, people were actually wanting to die the pain was so bad.

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“White foam was coming out of my daughters’ mouths. We headed for the hospital but the doctors had no clue how to cope. Some victims who fainted were thrown on to a pile of corpses.” Rashida added: “I was woken by people shouting, ‘Run for your lives, you’ll die.’ We ran, but later my eyes shut tight, I couldn’t open them, but when I did all I could see were corpses.”

They both now say that Dow, although it has never owned the plant, “is our enemy” because they “should show some morality, clean the waste and take it back to America”. Rashida said: “They knew about this waste and the suffering it causes when they bought Union Carbide. They’ve spent billions of dollars on their business, but they’ve not contributed anything to Bhopal. It is left to the women here to fight.”

On Friday, as a campaign escalated in the UK, groups in Bhopal burned effigies of Dow’s stadium wrap and of Lord Coe, who many want to visit the city. The anger was intense but campaigners, including the British based Bhopal Medical Appeal, which funds Chingari Trust, are also glad of the renewed global attention brought by Lord Coe’s decision to give Dow a clean bill of health. The campaign was losing momentum – waiting for a bigger anniversary than the 27th on Friday.

It is also a city divided by what campaigners see as a deliberate betrayal of victims by politicians and multinational company bosses. After the 1984 leak, state officials declared only parts of the city “gas-affected” so when Union Carbide agreed to set up a fund of £250million in 1989, claimants were restricted to those areas.

Wealthier areas suffered less, largely because it was their residents, the ruling class, who gave Union Carbide the go-ahead to build its plant close to the city centre and its slums. Judges were said to have treated desperate victims like criminals, handing out meagre compensation awards.

The US Union Carbide bosses were allowed to escape India without facing questions or trial.

The Indian government owned half of the Union Carbide subsidiary and Dow’s lawyers say it is up to them to clean the site. Ashutosh Shukla, a Bhopal journalist, said: “The history of Union Carbide shows a democratic country like India can be bought by multinational companies who can get away with a crime of this magnitude.”

 

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Dow now wants to build water treatment plants in India, but not in Bhopal. London Assembly member Navin Shah, who visited the city on Friday, said: “I hope Coe and Dow do the right thing. If the Olympics legacy is to mean anything, they have to be serious about morality.” Dow insists it has no liability towards Bhopal and is dedicated to creating a safer chemical industry.

The International Olympic Committee said: “Dow never owned or operated the facility in Bhopal, and the state government of Madhya Pradesh owns and controls the former plant site.”

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4th December 2011

UK Assembly member opposes 2012 Olympics Dow sponsorship

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By Zafar Alam Khan

More trouble is brewing up for the Dow Chemicals sponsored London Olympics 2012 as the boycott call by the gas victims’ relatives, survivors and the organisations working for their welfare got a shot in their arm through support from an unexpected ally, a member of the Greater London Assembly Navin Shah.

Shah who is in India for a family function and would be visiting the State capital on Friday while talking to The Pioneer from Ahmedabad over the issue said, “It is ethically wrong to get sponsorship from a company which is responsible for homicide of hundreds of Indian fellows and is not responding to Indian apex court orders.” Shah who represents Brent and Harrow constituency in  North West London further said, “I represent a  constituency of London that has a sizeable population of Indians. Londoners have principles that are based on ethics and moral code and if we are serious about London and its reputation than we should oppose the wrong and unethical sponsors of the games that are going to be held in our city.”

He said, “These Olympics were meant to be about a fitter Britain, but they’ve got a series of sponsors associated with ill-health and death. You’ve got Coca Cola, you’ve got MacDonalds hamburgers which are the key culprits for childhood obesity, and now you’ve got Dow that was once responsible for killing hundreds of people. It’s just a grotesque contradiction in terms to talk about the Olympics, but to have so many sponsors who have negative connotations when it actually comes to good health.”

Shah said that the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) has “got it wrong” and Dow sponsorship is unethical and immoral. The LOCOG has awarded the contract to build the decorative wrapping on the Olympic Stadium to Dow.

The London Olympics 2012 boycott call over the sponsorship by Dow Chemicals given by the organisations working for survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide gas leak in Bhopal has started gaining momentum. Former Olympians from the country were the first to extend their support for the cause that was followed by politicians including the Chief Minister and the latest to join the bandwagon is none other than the member of the Greater London Assembly, Navin Shah.

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2nd December 2011

Ex-Olympians to lead rally for gas survivors

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BHOPAL: A member of Indian origin in the Greater London Authority, Navin Shah, and several former Olympians are expected to lead a rally on Thursday here, endorsing support for the Bhopal gas victims and voicing their opposition to allowing Dow Chemicals to be a sponsor of the 2012 London Olympics 2012 .

The rally was jointly announced today by gas survivor's organisations who demanded that the Indian government oppose Dow's sponsorship of the Olympics games and make it pay up an adequate compensation the deaths and lingering hurts caused by the disaster of 1984.

The organisers said Olympians Ashok Dhyanchand, Jalaluddin Rizvi, Sameer Daad and others have confirmed their participation Navin Shah said he was joined by the Labour Party's Friends of India and a cross-party coalition of MPs at the Olympic site to urge the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) to review its decision to have Dow as a sponsor.

The LOCOG had awarded the contract to build the decorative wrapping on the Olympic Stadium to Dow.

The rally beginning in the afternoon, will start from the Bharat Talkies crossing and wind its way through Union Carbide's abandoned factory. At the end of it, a public meeting will be held in front of the factory, and the Chairman of the London Olympics organising committee, Lord Sebastian Coe, will be burnt in effigy.

 

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1st December 2011