New Internationalist

Justice for Bhopal: stop Dow Chemicals’ sponsorship of London Olympics

Dow Chemicals is sponsoring the London Olympics to the tune of millions of dollars. On the 3 December 1984 in Bhopal, India 25,000 people died inhaling poisonous gas that leaked from large tanks containing the lethal pesticide methyl isocyanate. Union Carbide, the company responsible for the mishandling of the tanks, is owned by Dow Chemicals.

Organizations fighting for justice say they have received only 15% of the actual compensation the Bhopal victims deserve. Union Carbide paid only a part compensation of $470 million in 1989. 

The compensations received then were based on incorrect numbers presented by the Indian government. The Justice in Bhopal website mentions that the compensation received considered 5,295 deaths but in reality 22,917 deaths have been reported due to the direct effects of the deadly gas. In addition, only 4,902 were listed earlier as permanently disabled – in complete contrast to the actual number, which stands at more than 500,000. No compensation was provided to victims with temporary disability or minor injuries. 

The politicians who have been constantly reminded by activists to bring the US company to trial have eventually won the attention of the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, SS Chauhan, who has joined the protests and asked for a boycott of the Games by India. The Indian government later asked the Indian Olympic Association to raise the issue with the International Olympic Committee but the Sports Minister has since confirmed that no such action will be taken by the Indian Olympic Association.

Sebastian Coe, Chair of the Organizing Committee for the London Olympics, has insisted that the organizers will go ahead with the sponsorship deal. This statement aroused massive resentment of Coe in Bhopal and effigies of him were burned.

This is not the first time Dow Chemicals have been accused of playing dirty games. It produced napalm for the US government during the Vietnam War and was also responsible for leaking poisonous plutonium in the US, for which they were sued. They have multiple sites in the US, which are harmful and are labelled as dangerous owing to Dow Chemicals’ irresponsible activities. The 10-year deal with the Olympic Committee means Dow Chemicals will supply its chemicals to the organizers for construction, raising millions of dollars.

Groups that have been responsible for keeping the fight alive have held numerous rallies across the city and the national capital Delhi. The most recent rally was the ‘Rail Roko Andholan’ (Stop the Trains Movement) which was highly successful – protesters stopped all trains passing through Bhopal, which lies at the heart of the country.

Please join the growing campaign to stop Dow Chemicals from sponsoring the London Olympics (a complete waste of money in its own right)! Log on to the link here and sign the petition!

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