Protest the invitation of Dows Chairman to the Global IIT 2005 Conference sign now

We, the students and alumni of IIT, are appalled that William Stavropoulos, Chairman of Dow Chemical Company, has been invited to address the upcoming Global IIT 2005 Conference on May 20-22nd in Washington DC. (1)
Dow Chemicals acquired Union Carbide in 2001, the company responsible for the Hiroshima of the chemical industry, the 1984 Bhopal disaster. Amnesty International estimates that 7,000 Bhopalis were gassed to death; 15,000 have died in the years since. (2) More than 120,000 remain severely disabled from a disaster now widely acknowledged as the worlds worst-ever industrial catastrophe. (3)
Bhopal was not only a disaster, but a corporate crime. The disaster occurred because Union Carbide had under-invested in an inherently hazardous facility located in a crowded neighborhood, used admittedly unproven designs, stored lethal MIC in reckless quantities, dismantled safety systems and cut down on safety staff and training in an effort to cut costs. (4) Numerous people, including Union Carbide's own workers and design engineers, had warned of the potential for a huge disaster in the factory. (5) Today, twenty years after the Bhopal disaster, 30 people die each month from the effects of the gas, (6) and the chemicals that Union Carbide left behind in Bhopal have contributed to an epidemic of cancers, birth defects, and other afflictions. (7)
Union Carbide has not come forward to clean up its toxic wastes, and its new owner, Dow Chemical, has argued that the polluted, not the polluter, should pay for the clean up. (8) According to US, Indian, and International corporate law, Dow acquired Carbides liabilities in Bhopal with its purchase of the company (9) but Dow refuses to assume Union Carbide's environmental and criminal liabilities in Bhopal, claiming Union Carbide to be a separate company. (10)
In the past Dows spokespeople have argued that $500 is plenty good for an Indian (11) and asserted that Union Carbide is not subject to the jurisdiction of Indias courts. (12) By honoring the Chairman of Dow with its invitation, IIT is endorsing Dows refusal to accept its liabilities in Bhopal, and its scorn for Indias people and its courts.
IIT is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious institutions in the world. We are proud to be part of an institution so well respected and renowned, and we are dismayed that IIT would associate itself with a corporation that has knowingly caused and perpetuated such misery in India.

We strongly urge the Global IIT 2005 Conference Committee to do the following:

1) Send a letter to Dow that Union Carbide should respect the rule of law and obey the summons of the Chief Judicial Magistrates court in Bhopal to present itself to face longstanding criminal charges, and that Dow should no longer harbor its subsidiary but compel it to appear for trial;
2) Allow IITians to briefly discuss Bhopal before the conference attendees and question William Stavropoulos on Dows intention to address its liabilities in Bhopal.
3) Formally dissociate this and future conferences from Dow until Dow fulfills its liabilities in Bhopal.

The undersigned IIT students and alumni

1) See
2) See Clouds of Injustice, November 2004, Amnesty International. Available at
3) The Washington Post. India Seeks to Reduce Charge Facing Ex-Union Carbide Boss. Rama Lakshmi, July 8, 2002. According to The International Medical Commission, Bhopal, it is our opinion that, if properly defined, categories of permanent damage, partial or total disability, could include about 200,000 survivors. International Perspectives in Public Health, 1996, Volumes 11 and 12, p. 27.
4) According to Union Carbides own documentation, obtained through discovery in the New York civil suit. Much of this documentation is available online at See also New Scientist Magazine. Fresh evidence on Bhopal disaster. December 2, 2002. Available at: And: The Financial Express. Global Funds Tell Union Carbide To Settle Bhopal Gas Leak Claims. Ajay Jain, December 5, 2002. Available at:
5) In May 1982, an American safety audit found a total of 61 hazards, 30 of them major and 11 in the dangerous phosgene/MIC units. It had warned of a higher potential for a serious incident or more serious consequences if an accident should occur. Though the report was available to senior U.S. officials of the company, nothing was done. See The New York Times. Union Carbide Had Been Told of Leak Danger. Philip Shabecoff, January 25, 1985. See also The New York Times. 1982 Report Cited Safety Problems at Plant in India. Thomas J. Lueck, December 11, 1984. Also: The Christian Science Monitor. Confidential Indian report blames both US firm and subsidiary for Bhopal disaster. Mary Anne Weaver, March 26, 1985. And: Time Magazine. Clouds of Uncertainty; For Bhopal and Union Carbide, the tragedy continues. Pico Iyer, December 24, 1984.
6) According to The Centre for Rehabilitation Studies (an office of the Madhya Pradesh governments Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Dept.) 1998 Annual Report, the mortality rate among the exposed community in 1997 was 6.70/1000, whereas in the unexposed community it was 5.37/1000, producing a figure of 665 deaths above the mortality rate in the exposed community - or approximately 50 gas related deaths per month. No official figures exist for subsequent years. Further, according to a 1987 ICMR report, the mortality rate in the exposed community was 9.98/100 and in the unexposed community was 6.03/1000, meaning approximately 150 gas related deaths per month in 1986. Assuming a steady ratio of depreciation in mortality of 6\% per year, in 2003 there were therefore over 30 deaths per month due to gas exposure. However, it is worth noting that six monthly morbidity studies conducted by the ICMR between 1987-1991 show that the number of people with gas related symptoms actually increased in that period.
7) In 1999 local soil and groundwater testing revealed mercury levels 20,000 to six million times higher than those expected, and other cancer, brain-damage- and birth-defect-causing chemicals at levels up to 50 times higher than EPA safety limits. (See The Bhopal Legacy, Greenpeace Research Laboratories, University of Exeter, November 1999, available at: Testing published in a 2002 report revealed poisons such as 1,3,5 trichlorobenzene, dichloromethane, chloroform, lead and mercury in the breast milk of nursing women. (See Surviving Bhopal 2002: Toxic Present Toxic Future, published in January 2002 by the Fact-Finding Mission on Bhopal (FFMB). Available at:
8) Dow has argued that since it does not own the former Union Carbide factory site in Bhopal (the site was only leased from the Madhya Pradesh government, and that lease has expired), it cannot be held responsible for the contamination there. This stand is contradicted by the Hazardous Waste (Management and Handling) Rule of 1989 594(E), Section 3 Sub section (1) and Section 4(1), which stipulates that the producers of the contaminated waste are responsible for decontamination. The polluter pays principle is also enshrined in the Environmental Protection Act, passed in India in 1986. Ruling in Vellore Citizens' Welfare Forum v. Union of India (1996) 5 SCC.647, the Indian Supreme Court declared that, . . .Once the activity carried on is hazardous or inherently dangerous, the person carrying on such activity is liable to make good the loss caused to any other person by his activity irrespective of the fact whether he took reasonable care while carrying on his activity. The rule is premised upon the very nature of the activity carried on. Elaborating on the polluter pays principle in MC Mehta v. Union of India (1997) 2 SCC 353, the Supreme Court ruled that polluter pays principle as interpreted by the Court means that the absolute liability for harm to the environment extends not only to compensate the victims of pollution but also of restoring the environment degradation. Nevertheless, Dow continues to argue that the Madhya Pradesh government is responsible for the cleanup (see the Daily Environment Report, No. 144, Monday, July 28, 2003). Additionally, an estimated $300 million of Union Carbides 1989 settlement remains undistributed to the victims. Although these funds exist solely to compensate the Bhopal victims for the loss of their health, their livelihoods, and their loved ones, Dow has suggested that the balance of these funds could be used to pay for a cleanupturning the polluter pays principle entirely on its head. In summary, Dow has said both that local government should pay for the clean up AND that gas survivors should paythe first is in contravention of lawful principle and common sense, while the second contradicts all notions of human decency. See The Midland Daily News. Annual Meeting Draws Protests, Questions. Beth Medley Bellor, May 10th, 2002, available at:
9) See Considerations in Taxable Corporate Acquisitions, Thomas C Lacey, Jr., October 29th, 1998, p. 2. Available at:
10) These liabilities remain despite a 1989 settlement between Union Carbide and the Government of India. The settlementfor $470 millionresolved civil claims arising from the disaster, but did not address the environmental damage that Union Carbides operations had left behind. Nor did the settlement resolve the companys criminal liability, a product of criminal charges that have been filed against the company in the Chief Judicial Magistrates court in Bhopal. The Union Carbide Corporation, like its former CEO, Warren Anderson, has been charged with culpable homicide. If convicted, Union Carbide can be sentenced to a fine which has no upper limit. See The Detroit Free Press. Group Seeks Dow Liability. Alexa Capeloto, May 8, 2003.
11) $500 is the average compensation received by Bhopals gas victims, or pennies per day. This statement was made by Dow spokesperson Kathy Hunt in July 2002: see
12) See
Union Carbide and its former CEO Warren Anderson both stand accused of culpable homicide (manslaughter), grievous assault, poisoning and killing of animals and other offenses before the Chief Judicial Magistrates Court in Bhopal. See The Washington Post. India Seeks to Reduce Charge Facing Ex-Union Carbide Boss. Rama Lakshmi, July 8, 2002. See also the BBC.India to Extradite Bhopal Boss. September 6, 2002. Available at: Both Union Carbide and Warren Anderson have acted in contempt of due process and the rule of law by refusing to appear for trial, and both have been officially labeled absconders by the court.

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Ronald WatsonBy:
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IIT 2005 Global Conference Organization Committee


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