NATIONAL POLITICS: Delhi reopens Dow liability – Fresh look at deal to buy Carbide

NATIONAL POLITICS: Delhi reopens Dow liability – Fresh look at deal to buy Carbidemaking up for past national mistakes ?!!

Dow Chemicals - unmoving on the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Victims by Union Carbide, but interested only in UC's profits ?!!

BY JAYANTA ROY CHOWDHURY

New Delhi, June 13: The government will examine the deal under which Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide to see if Dow can be allowed to shrug off financial responsibility for cleaning up Bhopal’s environment.

“We will have to examine the nature of the purchase agreement by which Dow Chemical bought over Union Carbide and see whether it absolves them of financial liability for Bhopal,” said Salman Khursheed, corporate affairs minister.

In an interview to The Telegraph, Khursheed said if Dow had legally protected or indemnified itself against the liabilities of Carbide, it might be able to wriggle out.

“In principle, as a lawyer, I don’t think Dow Chemical may be held responsible for the liability. A successor’s liability depends on the arrangement under which the transaction has taken place.”

The minister, however, added the analogy of a “buyer of a house (who) cannot escape paying an electricity bill left unpaid by claiming he was unaware of the bill”.

Implicit in the statement is the indication that Dow would have to pay the dues that Carbide would have borne, if the purchase agreement did not protect it from past liabilities.

He said the government might have considered blocking the sale of Union Carbide to Dow till its dues were settled, but “I don’t know which official was dealing with this matter then and what actually transpired”.

The $45-billion (sales in 2009) Dow Chemical Company has set aside $2.2 billion to address future asbestos-related liabilities arising out of the Union Carbide acquisition.

However, the US multinational’s stand has been that it is not liable for Bhopal-related liabilities as Union Carbide had sold all its shares in Union Carbide India Ltd in 1994, seven years before Dow bought Carbide.

The Congress-led government has decided to refer to a group of ministers the issue of who will pay for cleaning up Bhopal’s air and groundwater pollution caused by the 1984 gas leak.

Khursheed said his ministry might also consider a law to enforce civil liability for major industrial disasters. “We will look at fixing of criminal liability in the case of such disasters but that has to be done carefully.”

This is the second group of ministers on the issue. The earlier one, led by Arjun Singh and formed during the tenure of the last UPA government, hardly held any meetings.

The new group will consider legal advice as well as a note prepared by the ministry of chemicals and fertilisers that argued against letting Dow walk away without paying for the clean-up.

It took the stand that courts of law should fix corporate responsibility and whichever company was considered a successor of Union Carbide should be asked to pay. It argued that since Dow had bought Union Carbide for $9.3 billion in 2001, under Indian corporate law it would be responsible as the successor for cleaning up the environment.

A proposal by Ratan Tata to organise a corporate clean-up was not found acceptable by the ministry, which represents the government in all legal cases related to the gas tragedy, as it went against the principle of making the successor pay.

Tata, who is also co-chair of the Indo-US CEO Forum, of which Dow president Andrew N. Liveris is a member, had proposed a corpus to be established jointly by Indian and US companies to clean up the site.

In response to a public interest litigation, Madhya Pradesh High Court had a few years ago ordered Dow to deposit Rs 100 crore to clean up the toxic waste and contamination in and around the factory.

The court wanted the chemical giant to clear some 70 tonnes of poisonous residue, which had contaminated the soil and groundwater at Carbide’s pesticides plant and penetrated vegetation and animal tissues in the surrounding area.

There are also demands to compensate about 20,000 people who have suffered health damage from exposure to contaminants in their drinking water and food.

Congress wants Arjun to restate ’84 stand – trying to find a way forward or a victim ?!!

Arjun Singh - still looking at all angles ?!!

RASHEED KIDWAI

Bhopal, June 13: Senior Congress leaders who served under Rajiv Gandhi want Arjun Singh to clear the air on former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson’s release, failing which they feel Sonia Gandhi should consider disciplinary action.

One of the triggers for the calls, ironically, appears to be Narendra Modi. The Gujarat chief minister has dared Sonia to name the “maut ka saudagar (merchant of death) in Bhopal”,  heightening anti-Arjun feelings within the Congress. Arjun is a member of the Congress Working Committee, the party’s top decision-making body.

M.L. Fotedar, Arjun’s close friend who was also an aide to Rajiv and Indira Gandhi, felt the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister should break his silence.

ML Fotedar - forthright advice ?!!

“Arjun Singh should come out in the larger interest of the country and the party. He should clear the air,” Fotedar, known not to speak his mind easily, told The Telegraph today.

State Congress chief Suresh Pachauri echoed the sentiment. “I cannot fathom why Arjun Singhji is not reiterating what he had said in December 1984. I have documentary evidence of the two main points that he had made after Anderson left Bhopal. Firstly, it was his (Arjun’s) decision and secondly, Rajiv Gandhi wanted the culprits of the gas tragedy to be punished severely.”

Pachauri said the leadership should ask Arjun to come out with the truth.

Fotedar said another key person was Arun Nehru. Nehru, a Congress general secretary then, also emphasised that as chief minister, it was Arjun’s call to let off Anderson on December 7, 1984, four days after the gas leak that killed over 15,000 people. He asserted that Rajiv had no role in the American’s release.

“It is obvious that chief minister Arjun Singh took the decision (to release Anderson) and informed the Centre, according to the press conference which the CM (Arjun) had addressed on December 7, 1984. He was the person in charge and he took the decision,” Nehru was quoted as saying by a news agency today.

Nehru subsequently fell out with Rajiv and quit the Congress. Now, he is politically inclined towards the BJP, but spends more time as a psephologist and columnist.

But old timers like Fotedar, Pachauri, Buta Singh, Satish Sharma, Arif Mohammad Khan, Vishwajeet Prithvijeet Singh and others close to Rajiv feel Nehru’s assertions are significant because the burly politician is no longer in the Congress and, therefore, has almost no reason to present facts in a biased way.

A senior Congress leader recalled Nehru’s influence during the tumultuous days of November-December 1984. “If there were three important persons close to Rajiv then, they were Arun Nehru, Arun Nehru and Arun Nehru.”

Within the Congress, however, Arjun and Nehru never got along well. When Arjun led the Congress to victory in the 1985 Assembly elections, he was removed as chief minister within 48 hours of being sworn in.

Rajiv sent Arjun off to Chandigarh as governor of Punjab at a time the state was battling militancy.

Arjun’s supporters suspect that Nehru conspired to shift Arjun out of Bhopal, even though the Congress had achieved a landslide in the state elections, winning 250 of the 320 seats under Arjun’s leadership.

Pranab on Anderson

Pranab Mukerjee - mouthpiece for Arjun ?!!

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee today said Arjun had decided to send Anderson out of the country in view of the deteriorating law and order situation after the gas tragedy.

“Singh (Arjun) had clearly said there was deterioration of law and order after the gas leak. People’s anger was also very high. Therefore, it was thought right to send him (Anderson) out of Bhopal,” Mukherjee said in Calcutta, citing Arjun’s statement days after the gas leak.

Mukherjee, who even then was holding the finance portfolio but had developed differences with Rajiv, said: “People’s frenzy was on high, therefore it was thought necessary to move out Warren Anderson.”

On the question of extraditing Anderson, the finance minister said: “The question of extradition has come up. The government would look into the legal avenues available for the possible extradition.”

MEANWHILE

Narendra Modi attacks Sonia Gandhi for ‘silence’ on Bhopal gas tragedy verdict – wrong political sound-bites directed at the wrong person; as if she was ‘directly involved’ or is the Prime Minister or the President, a very snide and unethical personality without a proper conscience – helping or hindering the BJP ?!!

Narendra Modi - knows not when to keep silent ?!!

From DNA India

Patna, Sunday, June 13, 2010 19:39 IST, PTI: Attacking Congress president Sonia Gandhi over her “silence” on the Bhopal gas tragedy verdict, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi today asked her to explain who was the ‘Maut ka saudagar’ (merchant of death).

Sonia Gandhi had during the campaign for the 2007 Gujarat Assembly polls called Modi a merchant of death for the 2002 riots in the state in the aftermath of the Godhra train carnage.

“Why is Sonia Gandhi silent on her party and government’s failure in ensuring justice to the Bhopal gas tragedy victims? Now will she explain who is the maut ka saudagar?,” he said while addressing the ‘Swabhiman Rally’ of the BJP on conclusion of the party’s two-day national executive here.

Modi said several thousands had died during the Bhopal gas leak in 1984 when Madhya Pradesh was ruled by the Congress party.

“The verdict in the case has come out recently after a 26-year delay. But Sonia Gandhi is maintaining a comfortable silence on the matter,” the BJP leader said.

Modi alleged that Gandhi’s silence on the issue of price rise of essential commodities “was killing thousands of poor in the country”.

He said the UPA under Sonia Gandhi had come to power with the promise of eradicating poverty, but even after completing a year in their second term, the plight of the poor in the country was only worsening every day.

The Gujarat chief minister claimed that the UPA government was helpless when it came to bringing the spiralling prices of essential commodities under control.

“Sonia Gandhi is a mother too. How come she does not understand the burden of a poor mother, who is not able to feed her child due to the high cost of the essential commodities,” he said.

On the Naxal problem, Modi said some sections in the Congress party claim it was a socio-economic issue and that Maoism grew when there was no development.

“The Congress party has ruled the country for over 50 years out of the 60 years since Independence. If there is no development in the country and if it is giving rise to Naxalism, then who is to be blamed but the Congress party,” he said. (or the communists ?!!)

Modi said the Naxals killed innocent people and the extremists should be answered in their own language.

“Development was important, but security of the common man was equally important,” he said.

Modi also thanked the people of Bihar for the generous help rendered to Gujarat for relief work after earthquake hit the state in 2001.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had yesterday objected to advertisements brought out by Gujarat government saying that it had liberally donated to the state following the Kosi floods.

Congress says Narendra Modi’s politics disruptive, divisivedefinitely short circuiting BJP national respect, stature and also destroying faith the NDA coalition – too focused on greedy  “Prime Ministerial” ambitions ?!! Quite Unacceptable to India ‘Aam Aadmi’ or the World ?!!

Narendra Modi - spitting into the wind ?!!

From DNA India

New Delhi, Sunday, June 13, 2010 21:22 IST, PTI: The Congress today criticised Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for “dragging” Sonia Gandhi into the issue of Bhopal gas tragedy case, saying the BJP leader practiced “disruptive, divisive and a low level of politics”.

“Narendra Modi has always practiced disruptive, divisive and a low level of politics and we reject his suggestions with contempt,” Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan told reporters when asked to react to Modi’s comments at a BJP rally in Patna.

Attacking the Congress chief over her “silence” on the Bhopal gas tragedy verdict, Modi today asked her to explain who was the ‘Maut ka saudagar’ (merchant of death).

Sonia Gandhi had during the campaign for the 2007 Gujarat assembly polls called Modi a merchant of death for the 2002 riots in the state in the aftermath of the Godhra train carnage.

“This is the brand of intellectually, morally and politically bankrupt politics which is being practiced by Narendra Modi. There is absolutely no moral right on Modi’s part for dragging in Sonia ji after 26 years of the Bhopal tragedy, when she was not in politics at the time he was talking about,” she said, adding the BJP itself had a lot of explaining to do on the issue.

The Congress spokesperson said that Modi’s brand of politics had brought him to a stage when his own alliance partner, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, refused to share platform with him, and the Gujarat chief minister goes to the extent of placing false advertisements in newspapers.

“The BJP itself has a great deal to answer regarding why they Bhopal gas tragedy. What has the BJP done in the last 26 years in Bhopal?” she said.

Natarajan said her party had made it “absolutely clear” that the government had set up a group of ministers, who will once again go into the issue and that the party wanted all the facts to come out in the Bhopal tragedy episode.

She also questioned the BJP on what it had done in the six years it was in power at the Centre.

“Let Modi please explain why did the BJP government — including the present Shivraj Singh Chauhan government in Madhya Pradesh — ever try (to get justice to the Bhopal victims), why did they reject the Centre’s request to set up an empowered commission into the Bhopal incident to help the victims. Why does not Modi answer that? ” she said.

She also asked why the BJP government accepted the legal opinion given by an American law firm, which said that extraditing Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson (to try in the Bhopal tragedy case) should not be done.

“Why did the BJP government accept that (legal opinion),” she queried.

Natarajan also asked why the NDA government in Bihar refuse to use the central funds for cleaning up the water table in the state.

FURTHERMORE

Modi rubs salt with own praise – Gujarat a ‘gleaming’ example for Bihar just out of ‘pothole’, says CM – interfering in another state to scupper alliances for short term gains ?!!

Narendra Modi's souped up Ad - too eager for publicity at any cost, and what an unfortunate fall-out ?!!

BY RADHIKA RAMASESHAN

Patna, June 13: Narendra Modi told the people of Bihar today that it was time they junked “vote-bank politics” and embraced “development politics”.

“If the politics of development is adopted, any state can come out of adversities,” the Gujarat chief minister said.

This was the closest Modi came to cutting down the chief minister, Nitish Kumar, in his speech at a BJP rally at Gandhi Maidan this evening.

“Vote-bank politics” was an allusion to Nitish’s strategy of cultivating electoral blocks (the Maha-Dalits, the extremely backward classes, women and Muslims) through development schemes and freebies.

Nitish had publicly put down Modi for releasing ads that were condescending towards Bihar and his government and extolled Gujarat as a “model state” in regional newspapers before the BJP national executive meeting.

Senior leader L.K. Advani reached out to Nitish without letting down Modi. He recalled that the NDA was built in 1995 when Nitish, then in George Fernandes’s Samata Party, agreed to become a BJP ally and hoped he would continue as one.

In an address that was neither confrontational nor conciliatory towards Nitish, Modi underlined the contrast between a “gleaming” Gujarat and a Bihar that just about peeked out of the “pothole”, in which it was submerged by successive dispensations. When he deemed it appropriate to praise Bihar, he singled out the BJP’s deputy chief minister, Sushil Modi, rather than Nitish for it.

“Bihar is a gaping hole. Sushil and his friends have just managed to fill the hole. As the finance minister, he left no stone unturned to fund deserving projects,” he said.

Modi indicated his response to the rebuff was not particularly Gandhian even if it was not quintessentially Modi.

As for Gujarat, it seemed as though the chief minister would run out of epithets to list his “credits”. “No village is without 24-hour electricity,” he claimed before people more used to being without power.

“You are blessed with Ma Ganga. In Gujarat, excepting the Narmada, there are no perennial rivers. I am cursed with registhan (a desert) and Pakistan as my neighbour. But thanks to public pressure, I have done rain-harvesting, built check dams, terrace lakes and what not.

“The result is that in five years agricultural production increased from Rs 19,000 crore to Rs 50,000 crore. I have no coalmines. I buy coal from Bihar and Jharkhand. Yet I have surplus power to lend to other states. The point is if you toil, you can overcome the most adverse circumstances,” said Modi.

He rubbed in the fact that this was his first visit after 2001. “Therefore, my first duty is to thank the people for the massive help they rendered during the earthquake when Gujarat was enveloped in a blanket of grief. You wiped our tears,” he said, as people shouted “Modi zindabad”.

The earthquake allusion was a palliative to undo the effect that an ad, trumpeting the Gujarat government’s help for the Kosi floods, had on Nitish. The Bihar CM had described it as “uncultured”.

Yesterday while virtually announcing that Modi was unwanted in Bihar, Nitish said he would return the Rs 5 crore that Gujarat had given as aid during floods in his state.

The other speakers, who included BJP chief ministers Ramesh Pokhriyal, B.S. Yeddyurappa and Prem Kumar Dhumal, and senior leaders Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj, ignored Nitish.

BJP smells Naveen in Nitish – again short-circuited by an overzealous Modi ?!!

Nitish Kumar - unimpressed ?!!

RADHIKA RAMASESHAN

Patna, June 13: The BJP thinks (thanks to an overzealous Narendra Modi ?!!) Nitish Kumar might do a Naveen Patnaik and pull out of the Bihar coalition before the Assembly elections after the first serious rupture in its relations with the Janata Dal (United) over Narendra Modi.

While the BJP has decided not to exacerbate the breach, it is also unlikely to put itself out to salvage the alliance and accede to Nitish’s terms. It will throw its weight behind the Gujarat chief minister.

The approach was encapsulated in spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy’s response that was crafted after several rounds of talks.

Rudy said: “We are a mature party, with a mature leadership that shows a great sense of resilience. But our self-respect is most important.”

BJP chief Nitin Gadkari said: “We will follow coalition dharma but with self-respect.” (damage control after egoistical petty politics ?!!)

The stress on “self-respect” was reflected in Rudy’s defence of Modi: “He is a leader and a successful chief minister. He is hailed by his supporters for the way he is ruling Gujarat and some overzealous ones among them have made efforts to widen his appeal by showing the truth (in the Modi ads that angered Nitish).”

Although Modi has more than his share of detractors in the BJP, the party rallied round him after Nitish called the ads “uncultured, unethical”. Nitish’s apologists in the party were told to get off when they sued for peace. Before Gadkari took a view, the local MLAs insisted the BJP must not yield to Nitish.

An MLA from north Bihar said that after the episode, the workers in his constituency phoned to requisition 10 instead of the original two buses to ferry people to the Patna rally on Sunday.

“There is tremendous enthusiasm for Modi,” he told Gadkari.

The “Rashtriya Swabhimaan” (national pride) rally had morphed into a “Modi Swabhimaan” one, the MLAs said.

Asked if Modi could deliver Bihar to the BJP if its relations with the Dal (United) were over, a state leader said: “That’s not the point. If Modi becomes negotiable today, tomorrow we will be told you will get only 50 seats.”

A section of the BJP is convinced Nitish is preparing for a “go solo” line. “A normally cautious person like him would not have made extreme statements had he not already decided he was better off without us. ”

Patnaik, the Orissa chief minister, had taken a calculated risk when he sundered ties with the BJP on election eve after the communal baggage from Kandhamal got too heavy to carry. BJP sources said a similar consideration might weigh with Nitish.

But while Patnaik faced no state-level rivals, Nitish has formidable adversaries in Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan. (both ready to go with Congress if Nitesh Kumar looses ?!!)

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