Refuse Dow sponsorship for International and INNCOM-6 Conference at IIT Kanpur sign now

The Director
Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur

The Head of the Department, Mechanical Engineering
Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur

30th October 2007

Dear Sir:

We, the alumni, students and faculty from Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur are appalled that Dow Chemical, the owner of Union Carbide, has been invited to sponsor the "INCCOM-6 and International Conference on Future Trends in Composite Materials and Processing" to be organised by Mechanical Engineering Department at the Institute from 12th - 14th Dec'07 (1).

Dow Chemical acquired Union Carbide in 2001, the company responsible for the "Hiroshima of the chemical industry" - the 1984 Bhopal disaster. Union Carbide is a key accused in a criminal case related to the Bhopal disaster where the company is charged with "culpable homicide not amounting to murder". But it has failed to honor the summons issued by the Bhopal court and hence it was declared an absconder in 1992. Dow Chemical has also failed to obey the law and is currently being challenged in the criminal court for sheltering a fugitive (2).

The use of unproven technology, serious lapses in process safety measures due to economic pressures, and disregard of several forewarnings by Union Carbide are well documented and were the key topic of discussion during the "International Conference on Bhopal Gas Tragedy and its Effects on Process Safety" organized by IIT Kanpur in December 2004 (3).

Aside from the disaster, Union Carbide's routine operations in the Bhopal factory have resulted in a massive groundwater contamination problem that has not been addressed till date. At least 10 governmental and non-governmental studies document and confirm the spread of toxic contamination besides Union Carbide's own documents asserting the possibility (4).

More than 25,000 people are forced to consume this contaminated water in the absence of any alternative. Tests carried out at IIT Kanpur, by a New Delhi based fact finding mission on Bhopal showed the presence of toxic chemicals such as chloroform, chlorobenzenes, dichloromethane and heavy metals such as lead and mercury in the breast milk of mothers in these communities (5).

However, Union Carbide and Dow Chemical have refused to contribute towards clean-up of the contamination and groundwater. Dow Chemical, has argued that those affected by pollution, not the polluter, should pay for the clean up (6).

Not only does Dow Chemical have one of the worst environmental records, but also one of the most controversial histories in the corporate sector today (7). Dow Chemical's track record in India and abroad is poor on various counts such as:

1. Earlier this year, the company was fined $325,000 by the US Securities Exchange Commission for having paid $200,000 in bribes to Agriculture Ministry officials for expediting the registration of three of its pesticides including Dursban (chlorpyriphos) which has been withdrawn from use in domestic settings in the US owing to its demonstrated deleterious effects on the mental development of children (8). Recently, the Central Bureau of Investigation raided Dow offices all over the country as part of its enquiry into the bribery scandal (9).

2. In 2005, Indian Oil canceled a technology tie-up with Dow Global Technologies Inc., a subsidiary of Dow Chemical, because the company had attempted to sell a Union Carbide technology by passing it off as its own (10).

3. Dow is exerting tremendous pressure on the Indian Government to get the Government to absolve it of all liabilities related to Bhopal. Letters unearthed by the Bhopal survivor groups indicates that Dow has written to the Indian ambassador in an attempt to dictate the Government's course of action in a case against it for environmental clean-up in the Madhya Pradesh High Court (11).

The struggle of Bhopal survivors has always been supported by IITians while Dow's poor track record, particularly with respect to Bhopal, has made it very unpopular both in India as well as abroad:

1. In May 2005, more than 1300 IIT alumni intervened and forced the organizers of the Global IIT 2005 Conference to cancel the key note address by William Stavropoulos, the then CEO of Dow Chemical (12).

2. In March 2007, the University of California, Berkeley, returned a donation by Dow Chemical towards organizing the UC Berkeley Energy Symposium after students voted overwhelmingly against accepting funds from the tainted company. The decision was made considering the Resolution #198 passed in 2004 by the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) (13).

3. In October 2007, more than 1000 alumni, students and faculty members endorsed the petition urging IIT authorities to reject any association/relationship with Dow Chemical (14).

Dow Chemical's motive behind the relationship is an attempt to acquire legitimacy and credibility by associating itself with the IIT. IIT Kanpur 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 International and INNCOM-6 Conference Committee and IIT Kanpur Authorities to do the following:

1. Formally dissociate this and future conferences from Dow until Dow fulfills its liabilities in Bhopal.

2. Adopt selection criterion and guidelines for corporate screening in the IITK for recruitment/sponsorships/other such associations giving students an informed choice to affiliate with the companies. Only through such initiatives can IITians reaffirm a choice to have responsible and ethical use of their technological and professional expertise.

The undersigned IIT Kanpur students, alumni and faculty


1) See:\%7Ekamalkk/indexx.htm

2) Union Carbide Corporation, proclaimed an absconder - or a fugitive from justice - by Indian courts since 1992, is now a 100\% owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical since 2001. Union Carbide's proclamation as absconder removes any doubt that the Corporation is guilty, if not of causing the disaster, then at least of ducking the law. In January 2005, the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Bhopal, summoned Dow to ongoing criminal proceedings to ensure that Union Carbide is presented in court to answer charges of culpable homicide and other serious offences:

3) See:

4) According to Union Carbide's 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. And The Financial Express: "Global Funds Tell Union Carbide To Settle Bhopal Gas Leak Claims." Ajay Jain, December 5, 2002.

5) See:

6) 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 Carbide's 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.

7) See:

8) In 2000, following documentation by the Environmental Protection Agency of adverse health effects - particularly neuro-toxic injuries among growing children - of Dow chemical's insecticide "Dursban", Dow was forced to withdraw sale of Dursban for residential use. See Also See

9) Earlier this year, Dow Chemical was pulled by the US Securities and Exchange Commission for having paid more than $200,000 in bribes to Indian agriculture ministry officials to expedite registration of three pesticides, including one (Dursban) that is prohibited for domestic use owing to its proven toxic effects on the mental development of children. In August 2007 CBI officials raided seven offices and houses of Dow Agrosciences for investigating this crime of bribery. See

10) Dow is prepared to lie and shield Union Carbide's relationship to its own products. In 2005, Indian Oil revoked a technology contract after it found out that Dow had lied to it about the origin and ownership of the technology. Dow sought to pass off Union Carbide-owned technology as it's own in order to avoid questions about UCC's status as a fugitive. See:

11) Dow wants the benefits of investing in booming India but it doesn't want the legal, social and environmental responsibilities that go with it. Documents gained through the Right to Information Act show that Dow is exerting pressure on Indian officials at the highest possible level to rid it of legal liabilities inherited from Union Carbide. Also see:

12) See:

13) Resolution #198 was passed in 2004 by the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC). The basis for the resolution is an ongoing international debate on the responsibilities of Dow Chemical as a result of its purchase of Union Carbide Corporation, owners and operators of the 1984 industrial disaster site in Bhopal, India.(For the full text of the resolution, click here)

14) See: Also see news reports on Reuters and Business Standard. (More Stories at Google available here)

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Roxanne MaloneBy:
Technology and the InternetIn:
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The Director, IIT Kanpur


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