Fighting for people over profits
Sanjay is a Bhopal resident-turned-activist whose life and family were irrevocably changed due to the Bhopal disaster in India.
My name is Sanjay Verma and I grew up in Bhopal, India. I was six months old when an explosion at a chemical factory across from my neighbourhood leaked 40 tons of the potent neurotoxin methyl isocyanate. My sister saved my life by bundling me up and fleeing from our home into the panicked streets of Bhopal. My sister and 13 year old brother survived, but my parents and five of my siblings died that night.
My sister and I lived in an orphanage for 7 years. Sunil, our eldest brother, took two jobs just to take care of us and keep us with him. Tragically, he suffered terrible mental health issues and, after several attempts at taking his life, he committed suicide in 2006. He was found hanged, wearing a T-shirt with the slogan- ‘No More Bhopals’.
I have dedicated my life to fighting for justice for my community, and holding Dow responsible for the Bhopal disaster.
Thanks to you, over 50,000 SumOfUs.org members have signed a petition to the London Olympics Organisers denouncing their sponsorship of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
The London Olympic Organisers are feeling the pressure and have agreed to meet with victims and activists. However, they are still keeping Dow as a sponsor. Today, on the 10,000th day since the Bhopal disaster, I have travelled from India to the UK to tell Lord Coe in person that we cannot stand Dow’s Olympic sponsorship. Will you join me?
Will you send a message to Lord Sebastian Coe, the head of the London Olympic Committee, and tell him to drop Dow as a sponsor?
After all my family and community went through — and for the many people who continue to suffer to this day — I have devoted my life to seeing that Dow answers for the Bhopal disaster and that my home is cleaned up so that innocent people no longer have to suffer.
I need your help to make sure the London Olympic organizers hear our story, and know that we will not stand for Dow’s Olympic sponsorship.
Will you send a message to the London Olympic Organizers to tell them my community’s story?
If enough of us tell the London Olympic Organizers that we won’t stand for this partnership, we can help show the Olympics the true meaning of the Olympics — global unity, not backroom deals and corporate sponsorships.
Thanks for helping ensure that those behind the Bhopal disaster pay for the damages wrought, and for helping bring justice to my community,
What happened in Bhopal?
On December 2-3, 1984, as the people of the central Indian town of Bhopal slept, an explosion caused over 40 tons of a deadly toxic gas, methyl isocyanate (MIC), and other gases from the Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant. The company executives could have warned the public, but instead they chose not to sound the emergency alarm bell in town.
The event occurred in the early hours of the morning of Dec 3rd 1984, at approximately 12:30 a.m. By 2am, most of the MIC had been dispersed over an area of 25 miles (40km), and the first deaths were reported to the police by 3am. By morning, there had been 1,000 reported deaths, some as far as 5 miles (8 km) from the plant. 90,000 patients were seen in local hospitals and clinics within the first 24 hours, and in total, about 200,000 people suffered acute effects of the leak.
The preventable Bhopal disaster has claimed over 20,000 lives, and it is not over yet because members of the community continue to suffer from chronic health problems, cancer and birth defects.
Now, despite loud protests by the Indian Olympic delegation, Dow has signed a controversial sponsorship deal with the Olympics expected to make Dow $1 billion. With Dow counting on that revenue, we have the best chance in years for them to finally assume responsibility and clean up the disaster. We are finally hitting the company where it hurts: its bottom line.
How has Dow responded?
Dow claims that it is not responsible for the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy in any way. Despite that, they hired the same public relations firm that worked to tell people tobacco didn’t cause cancer, and that Foxconn hired to repair its public image around working conditions in Apple factories in China.
Union Carbide paid $470 million in compensation to existing victims in 1989, amounting to less than $500 per victim whether they were blinded by the gas, developed terminal cancer from exposure, or suffered debilitating birth defects. To date, neither Union Carbide nor Dow has paid to clean up the site, and they have refused to even decommission the factory after the accident.
Why is Dow responsible for the situation?
No one disputes the fact that Dow bought Union Carbide after the disaster occurred. But when Dow purchased Union Carbide, it took on liability for the Bhopal tragedy. It would be terribly convenient for Dow and other massive corporations if the slate was wiped clean when a company was purchased. But Dow didn’t just buy the profit sheet, the shares and the expertise from Union Carbide. They also bought their legacy, the environmental tragedy of Bhopal and the responsibility for it. Dow must ensure that the site is cleaned up and the victims finally get true justice and proper compensation. If a company could escape liability for its malpractices by arranging a merger or takeover, then companies would be able to abuse human rights and damage the environment with impunity.