Giving Dow a heart (Kids for a Better Future)

December 9, 2009

From the YouTube page:

On the 25th Anniversary of the Bhopal Gas Disaster, Kids for a Better Future tried to give hundreds of hearts to DOW Chemicals. With new hearts, the hoped that the heartless company would finally take responsibility for its mess in Bhopal, where they have killed 25,000 people and left another 150,000 seriously ill. Scared silly of these kids, the company closed down its offices for the day and ran for cover.

There’s also a photo album here, and a report here.

All links courtesy Akash and Gautam Mehta. As their father (who, by the way, wrote this a few days ago), said to us via email, “My children, Gautama (14) and Akash (11) are involved with activism around the Bhopal issue. Their work shows that Bhopal is not forgotten in America, and there’s a second generation that’s taking up the struggle for justice.”

(The Kids For a Better Future website)


If you’re angry, pass this on

December 7, 2009

A friend who visited my blog left a comment about the futility of raving and ranting — he had just visited my link to this site here — and he wondered what to do about the sense of outrage he felt .

We exchanged a few comments, but I continued thinking about the issues — not just Bhopal, but the lack of interest in the 25th year anniversary. A couple of days later (i.e., today) I posted a comment at my blog which I’m re-posting here:
Read the rest of this entry »

Bhopal: 25 years of poison (The Guardian)

December 6, 2009

Bhopal: 25 years of poison – Indra Sinha, in the Guardian:

“Wake up people of Bhopal, you are on the edge of a volcano!”

In September 1982, Bhopali journalist Raj Keswani wrote a terrifying story, the first of a series of articles, for the city’s Jansatta daily. Bhopal was about to be annihilated. “It will take just an hour, at most an hour-and-a-half, for every one of us to die.”

Keswani’s information came from worried staff at the Union Carbide factory, where a worker, Ashraf Khan, had just been killed in a phosgene spill. The first world war gas was used in the production of MIC (methyl-isocyanate), a substance 500 times deadlier than hydrogen cyanide, and so volatile that unless kept in spotless conditions, refrigerated to 0C, it can even react explosively with itself. Cooling it slows reactions, buys time, but MIC is so dangerous that chemical engineers recommend not storing it at all unless absolutely necessary and then only in the tiniest quantities. In Bhopal it was kept in a huge tank, the size of a steam locomotive.

Far from the shining cathedral of science depicted in Union Carbide adverts, the Bhopal factory more closely resembled a farmyard. Built in the 70s to make pesticides for India’s “green revolution”, a series of bad monsoons and crop failures had left it haemorrhaging money.

Read on.

चलती हुई ज़िन्दगी का ठहराव

December 4, 2009

आज फिर भर आई हैं यह आँखें
क्या करूँ , कमबख्त मानती ही नहीं
कितना समझाया कि मुझे इससे क्या
मेरा इससे के क्या वास्ता
पर फिर भी बार बार भर आती हैं …
तमाम शोरगुल के बीच निकलकर
आती हुई सिसकियाँ …
अनजाने में ही भेद देती हैं अंतर्मन को ..
हवा में घुली वो बेजुबान सिसकियाँ
मेरी बेबसी को और बड़ा देती हैं
और में इस बेबसी के बचने के लिए
स्वयं को इन सब के दूर कर लेता हूँ …
…लेकिन वो ज़मीं जिस पर में रोज़ चलता हूँ
वो पानी जी रोज़ पीता हूँ
वो हवा जिसमे रोज़ सांस लेता हूँ
रोज़ मुझे मेरे इसका हिस्सा होने का एहसास दिलाती है
पर में स्वयं को इससे दूर कर लेता हूँ
समस्त एहसास और जिम्मेदारियों के दूर …
…शायद एक और ऐसी रात का इंतज़ार …
ताकि में अपनी निष्क्रियता कि जंजीरों को हटा पाऊँ …
…पर तब तक हर साल यह आँखें
यूँ ही तारीखों कि तरह भारती रहेंगी
और जाती हुई हवाओं के साथ सूख भी जाएँगी .
कहते हैं ज़िन्दगी ऐसी ही चलती है
पर क्या वाकई ऐसा होता है..
बस एक बार ३ दिसंबर १९८४ से रूबरू तो हो
… तो जानोगे कि चलती हुई ज़िन्दगी का ठहराव क्या होता है …


Animal’s return to Bhopal (Himal Southasian)

December 4, 2009

In early December 1984, a poisoned cloud spewing from a factory lacking in safety mechanisms killed, maimed and choked tends of thousands. Twenty-five years on, the legacy of that fateful night is playing out in the tortured souls and bodies of the survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster. In this issue, Indra Sinha, in a story written for Himal to commemorate the disaster, resurrects Animal, that creature on all fours – at once angry, funny and hopeful.

To complement Animal’s indomitable spirit in this issue, artist Venantius J Pinto gives life to his ferocity, seemingly riding on the River Styx in a netherworld of frustration and despair. Yet somewhere lurks the ability to perceive and derive strength from rejection and the denial of compassion.

Animal in Bhopal By Indra Sinha
Regional winner of the 2008 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, Indra Sinha, in this exclusive for Himal resurrects Animal, who continues to be boundless, refusing to accept the restraint of human law, custom or convention.

December 1984 By Sathyu Sarangi
Many of the battles begun 25 years ago, in the aftermath of catastrophe, continue today.

The specious ‘corporate veil’
Interview with H Rajan Sharma, international lawyer practicing in New York, currently lead counsel in a class-action litigation against Union Carbide.

A Cloud Still Hangs Over Bhopal (New York Times)

December 4, 2009

Suketu Mehta writes in the New York Times:

IN the Mumbai kindergarten my son went to, the children never had to clean up after themselves; that was the servants’ job. So I really liked the school my son attended when we moved back to Brooklyn, where the teachers made the children tidy up at the end of the day. “Cleanup time, cleanup time!” my 6-year-old sang, joyfully gathering his scraps. It’s a wonderful American tradition: you always clean up the mess you made.


Union Carbide and Dow were allowed to get away with it because of the international legal structures that protect multinationals from liability. Union Carbide sold its Indian subsidiary and pulled out of India. Warren Anderson, the Union Carbide chief executive at the time of the gas leak, lives in luxurious exile in the Hamptons, even though there’s an international arrest warrant out for him for culpable homicide. The Indian government has yet to pursue an extradition request. Imagine if an Indian chief executive had jumped bail for causing an industrial disaster that killed tens of thousands of Americans. What are the chances he’d be sunning himself in Goa?

The Indian government, fearful of scaring away foreign investors, has not pushed the issue with American authorities. Dow has used a kind of blackmail with the Indians; a 2006 letter from Andrew Liveris, the chief executive, to India’s ambassador to the United States asked for guarantees that Dow would not be held liable for the cleanup, and thanked him for his “efforts to ensure that we have the appropriate investment climate.”


The survivors of Bhopal want only to be treated as human beings — not victims, not greedy money-grabbers, just human beings who’ve gone through hell and are entitled to a measure of dignity. That includes concrete things like cleaning up the mess and providing health care for the sick, and also something more abstract but equally important — an acknowledgment that a wrong was done to them, and an apology, which Bhopalis have yet to receive.

That was another fine thing my son learned in the Brooklyn school: when you’ve done something bad, you should say you’re sorry. After a quarter of a century, Dow should acknowledge that it is responsible for a very big mess. And now, it’s cleanup time.

Read the whole piece.

Song, 2

December 3, 2009

Annie Zaidi

Poison breath, poison blood
Poison milk, poison mud
Poison pump, poison tap
Poison in your mama’s lap
Eyes of milk, limbs askew
Dow child mine, is that you?

Baby-making, weird art
Many arrive with half their parts
You don’t know the nuts and bolts
Little girls bleed, women don’t
There’s mercury and chromium too
Dow child mine, is that you?

Applications, admin blues
So many don’ts for one big do
Petition-petition boring game
How to run if you are lame
Dharna-dharna, starve and sue
Dow child mine, is that you?

Leader comes, toxin pet
Says I’m fine, not dead yet
He fought toxin long ago
Now he’s paid for, top to toe
Back bent whole, toothless too
Dow child mine, is that you?

© Annie Zaidi, December 2009