Letter to Editor

Sold down the river

re: Decades Later, Toxic Sludge Torments Bhopal

Published: New York Times, July 7, 2008

Dear Editor,
What the Chairman of DOW means by “the appropriate investment climate” is a climate in which corporations are not held liable, and in case of disaster, exemplary punishment would be meted to residents for the crime of living near a factory. Survivors of all other such tragedies would be dismissed, “if Bhopalis couldn’t get justce after 23 years struggle, what hope for you?” Even today in corporate law conferences, people audibly shrug off Bhopal “That happened in 1984 …” they say, as if expecting that any survivors must be dead by now. With no liability for the corporation, the path is clear for more such investments, irresponsible industries and escape routes ready in advance.

This is not the first time that matters of justice have been subordinate to concerns for foreign investment in India. In the Narmada Judgment (2000), the Supreme Court of India placed the security of foreign investment over the fundamental rights of its own citizens. This is fancy language for saying that Indians, or “third-world” Indians can be sold down the river by their first-world compatriots. If we buy this and call it democracy, we are indeed living in Orwellian 1984. The only way out is to remember that We All Live in Bhopal.

Aravinda Pillalamarri

well the limit is 150 words. here is the short version sent to NY Times:

Dear Editor,

By “appropriate investment climate,” DOW Chairman means, a climate in which corporations are never liable. In case of disaster, exemplary punishment would be meted to residents for the crime of living near the factory. Complaints would be dismissed, “Bhopalis couldn’t get justice, what hope for you?” Today in corporate law conferences, people loudly shrug off Bhopal “That was 1984 …” they say, as if any survivors must be dead. With no corporate liability, the path is clear for more investments, industries and escape routes ready in advance.

This is not the first time that matters of justice have been subordinate to concerns for foreign investment in India. Gujarat argued for this in the Narmada case (2000). This is fancy language for saying that Indians, or “third-world” Indians can be sold down the river by their first-world compatriots. If we buy this and call it democracy, we are indeed living in Orwellian 1984.

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