July-August 2010

Table of Contents

  1. Down With These Undeclared Emergencies !

  2. Corporate Genocide, Judicial Treachery, Appeasement of Imperialism

  3. When Corporations Subvert Democracy

  4. What the US Government Owes to Bhopal

  5. Indo-US ‘Strategic Dialogue’: Binding India Closer in Imperialism’s Embrace

  6. CPI(ML) Team Visits Anti-Posco Struggle Area

  7. RSS Goons Attack CPI(ML) Leader in Kalahandi

  8. Scrap Indo-Israel Arms Deals

 

 

Politics in India

 

Down With These Undeclared Emergencies !

 

– Liberation, July, 2010.

 

June 26, 2010 will mark the 35th anniversary of the imposition of the infamous Emergency. Formally speaking, there has been no second imposition of Emergency since 1975. The Congress party that had imposed Emergency in 1975 suffered its first defeat at the Centre in 1977, in the first post-Emergency election. On the face of it, it may therefore appear that the ruling classes and their parties have drawn their lessons and we can look back at the 1975 Emergency as an aberration. But a closer look at the state of our democracy clearly reveals that 1975 was no aberration but a trend-setter. Indian democracy is now permanently embellished with several undeclared mini emergencies.

 

In states like Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and several North-Eastern states, the armed forces enjoy special powers which grant them not only the ‘right’ to shoot and kill (and also rape) but also impunity. During his recent visit to Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh waxed eloquent about human rights and said human rights violations by armed forces would not be tolerated. But independent observers and even official reports record any number of fake encounters, custodial killings and mass rapes over the last two decades of virtual army rule in the valley. The J&K state police, for example, report 52 rape cases by armed forces between November 2002 and January 2009. From time to time the Government of India talks of improvement in the situation in the valley, but withdrawal of armed forces and scrapping of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) remains an absolute no-no.

 

Where there is no AFSPA, there is Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and Operation Green Hunt. The other day the whole country was treated to a most shocking glimpse of Operation Green Hunt from Lalgarh in West Bengal. Central paramilitary and state police forces are jointly spearheading a combing operation in the area for last one year. The other day, as the operation approached its first anniversary we were told that the joint forces have had a major success in a close encounter with a Maoist squad and 8 dead bodies and lots of weapon and one injured Maoist had been captured from the site. The identity of the killed Maoists was never revealed, the captured weapons were never displayed, but we had a shocking televised display of how the dead are treated by our security forces.

 

Security forces were seen carrying the body of a young woman exactly the way the carcass of a wild animal displayed as a ‘trophy’ of a hunt would have been carried – trussed up on a bamboo. How better could we possibly expect the Indian state to treat the ‘preys’ of Green Hunt! The oppressed poor are denied their right to human dignity even in their death. The same security forces presented a mute and mentally challenged young man named Rameshwar Murmu as a hardcore Maoist “too stunned to speak”. The reality of Operation Green Hunt as a war on the oppressed poor could not perhaps have been revealed more graphically than what we saw in the “anniversary victory” footage of the combing operation from Lalgarh.

 

Even in the rest of the country where there is no ‘insurgency-like situation’, the state is no less repressive while dealing with popular protests and struggles. In rural areas where the poor are asking for land and food, or jobs and wages, or the peasants are demanding seeds, water and power – the state routinely showers lathis or even bullets and imprisons people in false cases. Every struggle of workers is facing victimization by employers, with the administration and judiciary often siding with the employers to crush the genuine grievances and demands of the workers. The scene is similar in most of our university campuses where students are being systematically denied their democratic rights to organize and struggle against injustice. And the Union Home Minister loses no opportunity to target human rights organizations and dissenting intellectuals.

 

When the footfalls of Emergency get louder, it is surely time for the people to heighten their vigilance and intensify the resistance. Let us insist on the scrapping of all draconian laws and bringing all perpetrators of crimes against the people and democracy to justice.

 

Bhopal Special

 

Corporate Genocide, Judicial Treachery, Appeasement of Imperialism

 

– Kavita Krishnan, Liberation, July, 2010.

 

More than 25 years after the infamous Bhopal Gas Disaster, the verdict of a trial court in Bhopal is nothing but a cruel mockery of justice. With charges already diluted by the Supreme Court of India, the trial court verdict could only be a formal burial of justice. Not only does the verdict insult the victims of one of the world’s worst industrial disasters by letting off the mighty CEOs who were the chief perpetrators either scot-free or with a ridiculously light sentence, it amounts to an assurance to MNCs they will enjoy total impunity in India even when their negligence and violations of regulations leads to loss of thousands of Indian lives and injury to several thousand more.

 

In December 1984, 40 tonnes of Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) leaked out of the Union Carbide Corporation’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, exposing over 5,00,000 people to the toxic fumes. 25,000 people died as a result, and hundreds of thousands of persons suffered irreversible damages to their health. The poison in the soil and water continues to affect future generations.

 

After over 25 years, the trial Court gave its verdict allowing the Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson (declared an absconder) to go scot-free, while convicting eight representatives of the Indian operatives Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) for a mere two years.

 

The injustice of the Bhopal verdict is not just a comment on judicial betrayal of justice – it rings a warning bell that every Indian should heed. It warns us as to how the Indian establishment’s policy of pandering to the United States and its corporations (a policy of which the Civilian Nuclear Liability Bill is the latest example) is injurious to the health and safety of India’s people. The US establishment is fully aware of these implications: it has reacted to the Bhopal verdict by “hoping that the verdict will not affect” the growing ties between India and the US and the Nuclear Liability Bill in particular, and instead will provide “closure” for the victims of the tragedy. The US double standards – of seeking ‘closure’ in a case where a US corporation caused thousands of deaths while pursuing criminal charges against corporations responsible for American lives lost – are all too apparent!

 

Facing flak over revelations of how the Congress Government of Madhya Pradesh (MP) in the wake of the Bhopal Gas Disaster helped Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson to flee India and evade justice, the Congress party and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government are now in damage control mode. The UPA Government set up a GoM to look into remedies for Bhopal victims and it has come up with a range of recommendations. Meanwhile some sections of the Congress are seeking to blame Anderson’s escape on Arjun Singh who was then MP chief minister (CM), and Pranab Mukherjee has instead sought to defend both Arjun Singh as well as the then Central Government headed by Rajiv Gandhi. None of these attempts, however, can conceal Congress’ culpability in the crime of shielding and exonerating Bhopal’s perpetrators.

 

Nor is Congress’ culpability restricted to spiriting Anderson away from justice. In a bid to protect Union Carbide, the MP Government in 1984-85 even banned treatment of the disaster victims by sodium thiosulphate, for fear that success of this treatment would establish that the poisonous Methyl Isocyanate had entered the bloodstream and result in heavier damages for Carbide. In other words, the Congress-led MP Government was callous enough to withhold the only effective treatment for the victims because for it protecting Carbide was more of a priority than saving lives!

 

More than 25 years later, nothing much has changed. Even today, the Congress-led UPA Government is busy shielding Union Carbide and its successor Dow Chemicals while shedding crocodile tears for the victims of these companies, denied justice as well as clean-up and compensation. Moreover, it is further seeking to send suitable signals of submissiveness and sell-out to US MNCs by pushing the Nuclear Liability Bill which will institutionalise the impunity that Carbide-Dow have enjoyed in the Bhopal case, by protecting US reactor supplier firms in advance from any responsibilities towards compensation or clean up in the event of any disaster. In 1984, a CIA document commenting on Bhopal expressed the apprehension that “Public outcry almost certainly will force the new government to move cautiously in developing future foreign investment and industrial policies and relations with multinational – especially US – firms.” Governments from 1984 till the present have bent over backwards to prove to the US that these apprehensions are misplaced, and that they are willing to ignore or trample upon any public outcry in order to protect MNCs, especially US MNCs.

 

If Anderson remains an ‘absconder’, his successor, Dow CEO Andrew Liveris is a proud member of the US-India CEO Forum, which continues to play a key role even in the recent Indo-US Strategic Dialogue. Liveris, along with Indian counterparts like Ratan Tata have for years lobbied to free Dow from responsibility for cleaning up the Carbide factory site and other affected areas. Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia as well as Congress leaders and UPA Ministers P Chidambaram and Kamal Nath have since 2006 been actively pushing Dow’s and Tata’s suggestion that a ‘Site Remediation Trust’ be set up, funded by Indian CEOs, that will effectively free Dow of any responsibility to clean up the disaster area. Can it be a coincidence that the very same Chidambaram and Kamal Nath are members of the GoM on Bhopal?

 

The BJP, which is trying to score political points over the Congress over Bhopal, too must be confronted with the fact that it has partnered the Congress in betraying the people of Bhopal. The Vajpayee Government never demanded that the US extradite Anderson. And in December 2009, the BJP State Government of MP joined Union Minister Jairam Ramesh in declaring that the factory site was free from contamination and proposing to turn it into a ‘tourist site’!

 

The GoM has come up with recommendations including enhanced compensation for the Bhopal victims; pursuance of extradition of Anderson; a curative petition against the Supreme Court’s 1997 order that diluted charges against UCC and UCIL from ‘culpable homicide’ to ‘negligence’; and funds and proposals towards clean-up of the contaminated site. In a nutshell, the GoM’s brief and intent seem to be to exonerate Rajiv Gandhi and the Congress leadership from charges of colluding with the US in saving Anderson and the UCC and hushing up the debate by announcing enhanced compensations. In other words, while bailing out the Congress rulers and corporate criminals, the GoM taxes the Indian people to bear the cost of compensation and clean-up.

 

But even on this score, the GoM uses the dubious figures used in the infamous 1989 sellout brokered by the Supreme court. For example, the GoM puts the number of the dead at 5,300 as against the actual figure of 22,146. Likewise, the figures for the permanently and temporarily injured are also gross underestimations.

And the biggest betrayal is once again on the issue of Dow’s liability. While the State Government of MP and the Centre will now argue about who foots the bill and bears the responsibility for clean up of the site, and Indian taxpayers will pay for compensation, there is virtual silence on Dow. The recommendations include no proactive measures to push Dow to pay for compensation and clean up or penalise it for not doing so. Rather, the attempt is to tacitly ‘settle’ the Bhopal issue without bringing Dow to book. It is significant that Chairman and CEO of Dow Chemicals Andrew Liveris will not attend the Indo-US CEO Business Forum meeting scheduled to be held in Washington on June 22 even as a high-level Indian delegation led by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee alongwith Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia and prominent corporate leaders from India will be attending the meeting.

 

The GoM recommendations are also silent on the prevention of future Bhopals: they ignore the protection offered to future corporate offenders by the Nuclear Liability bill.

 

If justice is to be served, what we need and must demand is an independent and time-bound probe to fix culpability for the escape of Warren Anderson, and for subsequent attempts to absolve Dow Chemicals of responsibility. Dow must be made to pay for cleaning up the polluted sites and for medical care of the victims and must be blacklisted forthwith, the Nuclear Liability Bill must be scrapped, and Bhopal victims must be guaranteed not only comprehensive compensation and clean up, but also justice. Only these measures can ensure that the tragedy of Bhopal and its shameful consequences are never repeated on Indian soil!

 

Bhopal Special

 

When Corporations Subvert Democracy

 

– Gopal Krishna, Liberation, July, 2010.

 

The June 7 verdict by the Bhopal court sets a precedent for the worst of corporate crimes and even nuclear disasters too to be treated like a traffic accident. Bhopal’s verdict was constrained because of the order of Justice A.M. Ahmadi Bench of the Supreme Court dated 13 September 1996 in which the charges against Indian officials of Union Carbide India Limited (subsidiary majority owned by Union Carbide Corporation) were diluted. Since February 2001, the culpability lies with the Dow Chemical Company which took over Union Carbide Corporation-USA.

 

All the seven convicts in the Bhopal gas tragedy have been sentenced to two years in jail and a fine of Rs 1 lakh (100, 000) each and, got bail for a surety of Rs 25, 000 each. Union Carbide’s subsidiary in India has been found guilty and is fined to the order of Rs 5 lakh for the industrial disaster. All the officials who were accused in the Bhopal catastrophe including Keshub Mahindra, the former chairman of the Union Carbide India Ltd, a unit of US based Union Carbide Corporation and current chairman of Mahindra & Mahindra Company too has been let off lightly for the industrial disaster that happened during his tenure. The convicts have been held guilty under Sections 304-A (causing death by negligence) besides 336, 337 and 338 (gross negligence) of the Indian Penal Code instead of 304-II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder).

 

What is quite clear from the verdict is that generations to come will view Supreme Court’s act of reducing the charge against Union Carbide Corporation officials in 1996 from manslaughter (which is punishable with imprisonment up to 10 years) to death caused by a rash or negligent act (carrying a maximum penalty of two years) with deep suspicion that belittles its moral stature.

 

As early as in 1973, Carbide CEO Warren Anderson was aware of the flaws of the Bhopal plant – untested technology, faulty design and its unsafe location besides its unsafe operation. In December 1987 Central Bureau of Investigation filed criminal charges of culpable homicide against 10 officials including Union Carbide Company’s President Warren Anderson. Why was this charge diluted? Warren Anderson who was the Chairman and CEO of Union Carbide Company when the lethal methyl isocyanate (MIC) leaked from a pesticide plant of the company’s Indian subsidiary on the night of December 2-3, 1984. Anderson was arrested and then released on bail by the Madhya Pradesh Police on December 7, 1984 and left for US even as victims continued to suffer because of the industrial disaster. Anderson who lives in New York served as Union Carbide CEO till 1986 till his retirement.

 

In 1992, Anderson was declared a fugitive by the Bhopal court for failing to appear for hearings in a case of culpable homicide after that his case was separated from the case in which eight people employed by Union Carbide were convicted. In July 2009, an arrest warrant was issued for him. Government of India took some 19 years to move a formal request for his extradition in May 2003 but the US rejected India’s request for the extradition of Anderson in June 2004 saying the request did not “meet requirements of certain provisions” of the bilateral extradition treaty.

 

US Double Standards

Feigning forgetfulness about the industrial disaster caused by a US Corporation in India, referring to the worst environmental disaster in US caused by British Petroleum, a British global energy company which is the third largest energy company and the fourth largest company in the world, on May 27, 2010, US President Barack Obama said, “As far as I’m concerned, BP (British Petroleum) is responsible for this horrific disaster, and we will hold them fully accountable on behalf of the United States as well as the people and communities victimized by this tragedy. We will demand that they pay every dime they owe for the damage they’ve done and the painful losses that they’ve caused.” He has accused the British company of ‘nickel and diming’ using an American phrase to describe someone who pays a paltry sum far below what is due.

 

The question is: Isn’t the US corporation Dow Chemicals ‘nickel and diming’ Indian citizens in Bhopal? Why is Obama hypocritically silent about the extradition of Warren Anderson, former chairman of Union Carbide Company and the liability of Dow Chemicals? The deafening silence of US President and US legislature to ensure justice to the victims of the mass disaster engineered by a US Corporation constitutes “yet another instance of American imperialism” in the words once used by US Judge Keenan who heard the Bhopal case in New York district court.

 

Bhopal GoM Stacked With Dow’s Defenders

The 55 page PMO documents gathered using Right to Information Act (RTI) shows manifest collusion between ministers, officials and Dow Chemicals to protect it from the liabilities of Industrial catastrophe of Bhopal. The documents reveal how some of the ministers who have been made part of Group of Ministers (GoM) on Bhopal by the Prime Minister have been acting to safeguard the interest of the US corporation in question, which is liable for Bhopal disaster.

 

The documents gathered using RTI reveal how Chidambaram and Kamal Nath, as well as Deputy Planning Commission Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia have already expressed their support for Dow Chemical Company’s proposal to save it from Union Carbide Corporation’s liability which it inherited in 2001 after merger.

 

Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow, and the Indo-US CEO Forum of which he is a member, have been pushing hard for freeing of Dow from UCC’s liability for compensation and clean up (‘remediation’) in Bhopal. Ratan Tata (now Chairperson of Indo-US CEO Forum from the Indian side) in his role as the Chairman of the three-member Investment Commission, set up in the Ministry of Finance in December 2004 by the Government of India wrote to P Chidamabram, the then Finance Minister suggesting setting up a Fund for remediation on the site of Bhopal disaster that “would cost approximately Rs 100 crores.”

 

Donning another hat Tata wrote again as the Chairman, Tata Sons Limited to Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Government of India on October 9, 2006 with regard to resolution of “various legacy issues” of “Dow Chemicals” pursuant to the recommendations of the Indo-US CEO Forum pointing out how the Investment Commission has not had “much success” in this regard. He referred to the interest of Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemicals with regard to approaches/solutions to the issue. As Chairman, Tata Sons Limited, Tata wrote again to Montek Singh on November 26, 2006 referring to letter of Andrew Liveris that was sent to Ronen Sen, India’s Ambassador to US wherein a request was made saying that “it is critical for them to have the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers withdraw their application for a financial deposit by Dow against the remediation cost, as that application implies that the Government of India views Dow as ‘liable’ in the Bhopal Gas disaster case.”

 

In a letter dated November 10, 2006, Chidambaram wrote to the Prime Minister about his visit to United Sates to review issues with the Indo-US CEO Forum in New York wherein he submitted a tour report mentioning his comments on a prior note by Ahluwalia regarding Ratan Tata’s letter. In his comments dated 5th December, 2006 Chidambaram refers to Ratan Tata’s offer for Indian corporations to take over remediation in order to free Dow from liability, saying, “I think we should accept this offer”. In December 2006, Dr S Jaishankar, Joint Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs in note titled “Issues Emerging from Indo-US CEO’s meeting” underlies how Dow has “sought a statement from GOI (Government of India) in the Court clarifying that GOI does not regard Dow as legally responsible for liabilities of UCC” and wants to avoid “cloud of legal liability”.

 

Notably, Liveris had complained to Ronen Sen about how “GOI (Government of India) has taken position adverse to Dow“, in the Madhya Pradesh High Court. The case is still pending. On 5 January 2007, Tata (as Chairman, Tata Sons Limited) wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, putting on record the meeting of the members of Investment Commission with the PM to discuss “the old Union Carbide tragedy”. The PMO’s letter from B V R Subramanyam, Private Secretary of the Prime Minister dated January 12, 2007 assured Tata that “the matter is being examined” and “the Prime Minister has seen” his letter and “ has taken note of its contents”.

 

In February 2007, Kamal Nath even wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the matter suggesting that it would send “an appropriate signal to Dow Chemicals, which is exploring investing substantially in India and to the American business community” if “a group under the chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary be formed to look” in the matter of the liability of the Dow Chemicals “in holistic manner in a similar manner as was done in respect to the Enron Corporation with respect to Dabhol Corporation”. The immorality of his suggestion lies in the fact that it ignores the Enron scandal that led to the bankruptcy of the Enron Corporation, a US energy company.

 

The real issue arising out of Bhopal verdict that has necessitated the setting up GoM is its fallout on the proposed Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill that is pending in the parliament. After all, the Bhopal verdict underlines that any future liability regime must include criminal liability and must not cap the amount of civil liability because the damage from a nuclear or chemical disaster depends on the direction and nature of the wind at the time of the accident. The GoM’s gestures of compensation etc are nothing but an attempt to shield Dow and deflect attention from the protests against the Nuclear Liability Bill’s proposed protection of US nuclear companies from liability.

 

Seeds of Bhopal Disaster Sown during Emergency

The affidavit from Central Bureau of Investigation’s most recent affidavit in the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Bhopal provides information that implies that had Emergency been not imposed, Bhopal’s catastrophe caused by the US Corporation’s acts of omission and commission would not have happened. There is a compelling logic for an independent probe in the entire issue ranging from granting of industrial license, escape of Warren Anderson, role of Indo-US CEO Forum to lobbying by industrialists and ministers to absolve Dow Chemicals of liability.

 

It emerges that industrial license to the US Corporation’s chemicals plant was granted during the period when the country was under the Emergency from 25th June 1975 to 21st March 1977 during 21-month regime. According to the CBI’s recent affidavit, on 1st January 1970, Union Carbide Company had “applied for industrial license for manufacture of 5000 tonnes MIC- based pesticides” required under The Registration and Licensing of Industrial Undertakings Rules, 1952. The application was signed by E. A. Munoz, a General Manager in the company. The company did not get industrial license for more than 5 years. There must have been sufficient reason to withhold permission for industrial license. After the imposition of Emergency, the company was granted the license on till 31st October, 1975.

 

Officials from the then Ministry of Industrial Development have informed that the entire department was against granting of the industrial license. The officials in the Ministry knew that obsolete and discarded technology and machinery was being transferred to India for which the license was granted by bypassing the due process. Clearly, there was political interference in the granting of the industrial license.

 

The manufacture of Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) commenced on 5 February, 1980, information regarding which was sent to the Department of Chemicals and Fertilizers vide letter dated 19th February, 1980. The company informed the Ministry of Industrial Development on 12 November, 1982 about the commencement of production in 1980, while requesting for renewal of agreement that was to terminate in 1982.

 

Obsolete Technology and Unsafe Procedures

There is incontrovertible evidence that Union Carbide Corporation (now a subsidiary of Dow Chemicals) is guilty of knowingly setting up the Bhopal plant with obsolete and discarded technology and absence of emergency safety systems available in Union Carbide’s West Virginia plant, and of allowing Bhopal plant operations to continue in the full knowledge of unsafe procedures and cost-cutting measures risking workers and public safety. Page 25 of the Bhopal verdict notes, “(z) It is worthwhile to mention here that the Government of India and the Team of Scientists admittedly was never permitted to visit the Plant at Virginia, USA. No brochure, or any other documentary evidence demonstrating the similarity between the two plants at Virginia and Bhopal has been produced before the court by the defence.”

 

On page 95 of the verdict, it is stated, “Mr. Warren Anderson, UCC USA and UCC Kowloon Hongkong are still absconding and therefore, every part of this case (Criminal File) is kept intact along with the exhibited and unexhibited documents and the property related to this case, in safe custody, till their appearance.” The verdict quotes the expert evidence of Dr. S. Varadarajan, the Head of the team of experts who visited the Plant Site very next day of the incident: evidence that establishes the many defects in design and defaults in the safe treatment of toxic substances like MIC. Although the design fault by the US corporation is established, the criminal liability of the Union Carbide’s case is yet to be settled.

 

In 1987, after Union Carbide insincerely argued in the court that it had given a flawlessly designed plant which was operated negligently, the Government of India amended the Factories Act 1948. A new chapter IV A was added with the “provisions relating to hazardous processes” In Section 7 B, sub-section (5) absolved the person (who) designs, manufactures, imports, or supplies” plant and machines from the responsibility for the effect that the plant and machines has on risk and safety, provided the user gives an assurance “to take steps specified in such undertaking to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the (plant and machinery) will be safe and without risks to the health of workers when properly used, the elimination or minimisation of any risks to the health or safety of the workers to which the design or article may give rise.” (emphasis author’s) This demonstrates how, even after the Bhopal experience, corporations succeeded in getting a law enacted that provided them with a convenient loophole in case of negligence (i.e they can blame disasters on improper use of machinery!)

 

To conclude, we must acknowledge that the plight of Bhopal – India’s ‘Baghdad’ – too is a consequence of a considered political act of the US Government in defence of the interests of US corporations.

India’s geo-strategic and ecological position in relation to the US has been compromised for good under a narrative which misleadingly equates corporate interests, investment needs and national interests to the profound detriment of freedom and democracy.

 

Ecological disasters caused by corporations in pursuit of profit are acts of genocide – and for such monumental acts of genocide, there is a need for a trial similar to the Nuremburg Tribunal, wherein a few German corporations were held guilty of connivance with genocide.

 

Bhopal Special

 

What the US Government Owes to Bhopal

 

– Liberation, July, 2010.

 

The US government and its legislature must make corporations like Dow Chemicals and British Petroleum liable and accountable for their acts of omission and commission. The following steps are required in US towards that end:

 

1. The US government should accept the submission of the Government of India that “the corporation and its subsidiaries are treated as a unit, without regard to the location of responsibility within that unit”. Consequently, an illegal act by it should be deemed as the act of the corporation, without consideration to its location of responsibility. The customary alibi of corporations like Dow Chemicals is an act in sophistry designed to conceal fact of crime and criminals of the ‘upperworld’. The US government should disclose all the trade secrets of the Union Carbide Corporation and its Research and Development (R&D) Centre to facilitate a probe as to whether the Bhopal disaster was a consequence of experimenting with war time chemicals is yet to be probed.

 

2. The US government must take note of the verdict by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, and in the interest of justice for the Bhopal victims, the US government should expedite the process of extraditing Anderson at the earliest.

 

3. The Dow Chemicals Company has set aside $2.2 billion to address future asbestos-related liabilities arising out of the Union Carbide acquisition. How is that Dow Chemicals can take the asbestos liability of Union Carbide and not the liability for the industrial catastrophe in Bhopal? The US government should volunteer its assistance in ascertaining the Bhopal disaster’s inherited liability of Dow Chemicals Company.

 

4. The US government should promote acceptance of the resolution of the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights that approved the “UN Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights” as a step towards ensuring corporate accountability. Article 18 of the Norms called on transnational corporations and other business enterprises to make reparations for damage done through their failure to meet the standards spells out: “Transnational corporations and other business enterprises shall provide prompt, effective and adequate reparation to those persons, entities and communities that have been adversely affected by failures to comply with these Norms through, inter alia, reparations, restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for any damage done or property taken. In connection with determining damages, in regard to criminal sanctions, and in all other respects, these Norms shall be applied by national courts and/or international tribunals, pursuant to national and international law.”

 

5. In memory of victims of Bhopal, US and Indian governments should call for a mandatory regime for regulating transnational corporations unlike UN’s voluntary Global Compact and reject the report of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Business and Human Rights wherein it underlined the need for voluntary regulation and self compliance by the companies saying, “While corporations may be considered “organs of society,” they are specialized economic organs, not democratic public interest institutions.

 

If there is one lesson that democracies across the world have clearly not learnt from industrial disasters, it is to ascertain the nature of all the genocidal acts of corporations and the very legal design of the corporation so as to make it genuinely governable by democratic legislatures. A befitting tribute to victims of Bhopal lies in learning this lesson in order to prevent future industrial warfare that irreparably undermines intergenerational equity.

 

Politics in India

Indo-US ‘Strategic Dialogue’: Binding India Closer in Imperialism’s Embrace

– Kavita Krishnan, Liberation, July, 2010.

The Indo-US Strategic Dialogue that has taken off early this June in Washinton DC, capital of the United States, is an attempt to bring various key Indian sectors closer into the US embrace. The process, begun during President Bush’s visit to India, with the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture being launched alongside negotiations towards the Nuke Deal, is now being taken much further and deeper.

The ‘Strategic Dialogue’ saw India represented by Minister for External Affairs S M Krishna, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission and architect of the neoliberal project in India Montek Singh Ahluwalia, human resource development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal, and Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan, and the US by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as representatives of the US Security and Intelligence establishment.

According to a ‘US-India Strategic Dialogue Joint Statement’ issued on conclusion of the Dialogue, the Dialogue covered the many opportunities to deepen cooperation between the two countries – in security and counter-terrorism, trade and investment, science and technology, infrastructure investment, climate change, energy security, education, agriculture, food security, and healthcare. As Robert O. Blake, Jr., US Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, indicated in his press briefing on the eve of the Indo-US Strategic Dialogue, “On the bilateral front, we have 18 separate dialogues underway between the United States and India to really try to capture the full scope of the opportunities ahead of us.”

In the same press briefing, the US Assistant Secretary categorically informed his American audience that the US was keeping a close eye on the nuclear liability legislation in India, which when passed “would provide a very important legal protection and open the way for billions of dollars in American reactor exports and thousands of jobs.” In the wake of the recent Bhopal verdict, it is clear that while the liability legislation spells “billions of dollars” and “legal protection” (read impunity) for US reactor companies, it spells more corporate crimes and endangering of the safety and health of people in India.

The US interest in education legislation in India, in particular the Foreign Universities Bill, also came out clearly, with US representatives expressing the hopes that this Bill would soon be enacted. Behind the US eagerness for the Indian education market lie not just commercial interests but long-term political and foreign policy objectives. The US-educated Indian-American community has played a key role in facilitating the present phase of Indo-US strategic partnership. With Indian students getting American degrees on Indian soil, the pro-American constituency within Indian middle classes and policy-making establishment is likely to expand further. The ‘Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative’, already launched last year, is yet another mechanism through which the US is likely to influence and shape the education agenda in India.

The Strategic Dialogue comes in the wake of the launching of ‘Economic and Financial Partnership’ between India’s Ministry of Finance and the US Department of the Treasury in April 2010, the Indo-US ‘Framework for Cooperation on Trade and Investment’ in March 2010 and the ‘Memorandum of Understanding on Agricultural Cooperation and Food Security.’ The thrust of all these ‘partnerships’ was indicated by Hillary Clinton’s urging of India “to reduce or ease caps on investment in critical sectors.” She also noted that “the US military holds more exercises with India than with any other country”. The US military-industrial complex is clearly looking to corner the huge Indian market for arms imports – a key part of the “strategic dialogue” agenda.

US Under Secretary for Political Affairs William J. Burns, on the eve of the Strategic Dialogue noted that India had “$1 trillion worth of new projects to build highways, airports, electrical power stations and other infrastructure”, representing “major potential opportunities for American firms”, and also argued for “easing of caps on investment in critical sectors” to facilitate the entry of US firms.

While there was much talk of shared counterterrorism objectives, there was conspicuous silence, even on the Indian side, on the dubious and murky attitude of the US to David Headley, one of the key masterminds of the Mumbai terror attack.

The Headley episode and the Bhopal gas disaster are just two reminders of the deep inequalities between the US and India and double standards of the former towards India. Any ‘strategic partnership’ between the two can only be scripted and directed by the US in its own interests – and is bound to be deeply damaging to the interests of the Indian people. We must resist this growing US interference in critical sectors of Indian economy and national life and defend and assert India’s sovereignty and independence with all our might.

 

Struggles in India

CPI(ML) Team Visits Anti-Posco Struggle Area

– Mahendra Parida, Liberation, July, 2010.

 

A CPI(ML) team of leaders from Odisha comprising State Secretary Comrade Khitish Biswal, State Committee member Comrade Yudhisthir Mahapatra and All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) leader Comrade Mahendra Parida visited the anti-Posco struggle area on 7 June 2010 and talked to several activists and local people involved in the anti-Posco people’s struggle. Five years ago, Posco had signed an MoU with the Odisha government for setting up a steel plant in Jagatsinghpur. Billed as the biggest ever FDI project in India (involving an investment of $12 bn or Rs. 52,000 crore), the project has invited tremendous mass opposition ever since the MoU was signed five years ago. The project involves more than 4,000 acres of land including 3,000 acres of forest land and a proposed port at Jatadhari near the Bay of Bengal which clashes with the jurisdiction of the Paradip port.

 

While the local people have successfully resisted the Posco project for so long, official pressure for the beginning of the project has intensified in recent months. CPI leader Abhay Sahoo had a leading role in the movement, but during the last Lok Sabha elections the CPI entered into a seat-sharing alliance with the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and won from Jagatsinghpur (the constituency that covers the proposed Posco project area) with BJD support. And then this year, the South Korean President was the guest of honour for the Republic Day parade and he threw all his official weight behind the project. In a clever move to divide the anti-Posco movement, Naveen Patnaik has requested Posco to relinquish its claim on the 300 acres of privately owned land leading to speculation that the government would like to facilitate a deal by separating the state land from privately owned land. In their discussion with movement activists, the CPI(ML) leaders cautioned against the government’s ploy and reiterated the party’s unflinching support for the land and livelihood issues of the people over the entire 4,000 acres of land and against any attempt to reduce the movement to the question of defending only the 300 acres of privately-owned land. Unfortunately, during the Rajya Sabha election the CPI had a discussion with the BJD under which the movement leaders have been persuaded to allow Posco officials to enter the area in the name of carrying out land survey.

 

 

Struggles in India

RSS Goons Attack CPI(ML) Leader in Kalahandi:

Police Station Gheraoed in Protest

– Liberation, July, 2010.

 

In protest against the brutal attack by Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and BJD goons on Orissa state committee member Com Nilanjan Bhattacharya and demolition of tribal and dalit Christian houses in Ulladani village panchayat of Rampur block in Kalahandi district, nearly 500 activists of CPI(ML) gheraoed Kalahandi police station on 19 June. The CPI(ML) has been fighting for last four years for land and housing rights of local tribal and dalit Christian people. The local RSS unit however has been trying its level best to stop these people from getting their land rights so that communists did not get any foothold in that area. Yet defying RSS pressure, the land rights campaign succeeded in securing patta for some people. The RSS-BJP-BJD goons then forcibly demolished the huts set up by the CPI(ML) supporters on 9 June. When on the next day, Comrade Nilanjan went to investigate the case, the RSS-BJP-BJD goons assaulted and abducted him. Following intervention by the State Committee and a visit to the area by State secretary Comrade Khitish Biswal on 11 June, Comrade Nilanjan was eventually released. On 19 June nearly 500 people led by Comrades Nilanjan Bhattacharaya, Mahendra Parida, Arjun Majhi, Sanjay Naik, Balaram Hota and Joseph gheraoed the Kalahandi police station and asked the SP to take immediate action against the RSS-BJP goons. It may be noted that the area borders the Kandhamal region where the RSS-BJP had repeatedly unleashed anti-Christian communal violence in recent past.

 

International

Scrap Indo-Israel Arms Deals

– Liberation, July, 2010.

 

The Israeli actions have prompted an avalanche of protests the world over calling for international sanctions and isolation of Israel, with several European countries summoning their Israeli ambassadors for explanation. But in India, the Ministry of External Affairs did not go beyond issuing an insipid condemnation while choosing to be conveniently silent on the increasing strategic and military intimacy between India and Israel. The words of condemnation will remain hollow and ritualistic until all arms deals with Israel are scrapped.

 

Since 2008, Israel has gained the status of India’s top defence supplier. While these deals, secured in utmost secrecy, remain mired in corruption allegations, the moot issue is that through these deals India actually subsidises Israel’s massive war economy and in fact contributes to the killings of Palestinians.

 

CPI(ML) stands in solidarity with the demand for international sanctions against the state of Israel and demands for an immediate lifting of the blockade in Gaza.

 

CPI(ML) calls for an urgent scrapping of India’s military and strategic ties with Isreal and cancellation of India’s arms deals with Israel.

 

 

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