Wikileaks cables prompt calls for new Bhopal probe
Activists also raise issue of compensation delays
Activists said today they have demanded a fresh probe into the Bhopal tragedy, dubbed the world’s worst industrial disaster, after a series of Wikileaks cables embarrassing the government, the Dow Chemical Co and the US were released last week.
The campaigners said they also want an investigation into delays in compensation payments by Dow, the US firm which in the 1990s took over Union Carbide whose Indian entity ran the Bhopal plant when disaster struck in December 1984.
Cables released over the last few days paint a picture of efforts towards evasion of responsibility, collusion by the US and India and negligence on the part of Union Carbide, said Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action at a press conference yesterday.
“It is clear that the federal government was hand in glove with Dow and the Union Carbide plant under pressure from the United States of America,” he said.
Cables released last week from the early 1970s, the so-called ‘Kissinger cables’, showed that Union Carbide decided to install unproven and extremely toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) technology. The company used the State Department to help it lobby to break foreign equity laws in India and seek loans from the US Exim Bank, actions which helped the Bhopal plant go ahead.
Some 40 tonnes of MIC leaked from the plant, leading to the deaths of about 5,295 people immediately and more than 25,000 in the years which followed, with more than half a million people sustaining debilitating conditions.
Cables from 2007 showed that senior US embassy staff were lobbying the Indian federal government to get Dow off the hook over compensation payments, contradicting stated central government policy in New Delhi.
Then US Ambassador David Mulford urged the Indian government to “drop its claims against Dow” in a cable sent on September 18, 2007.
In reply, then Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia assured Mulford that the federal government does not hold Dow responsible for the cleanup but is unable to withdraw its claims against the company because of “active and vocal” NGOs.
Rachna Dhingra, another activist, said the cables clearly indicate that the federal government consistently betrayed the interests of the victims and served the interests of Union Carbide Corporation and Dow.
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