The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is miffed at the organisers of the 2012 London Olympics entering into a sponsorship deal with Dow Chemical, which is involved in several compensation claims related to the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster.
The IOA has asked the government to take a stand on the issue and indicated that it should take up the matter with the organisers.
"It is a matter of great concern for us. A company which is responsible for the death of so many people and against whom case is still pending in the courts is being roped in," IOA’s acting president VK Malhotra said on Monday.
"The government will have a major say in these matters. Earlier also, twice or thrice, some decisions were taken by various governments. Once the entire Western block objected to it and once the Eastern or the Russian block objected. But in this case, the government has to be taken into confidence," he added.
Former hockey player Aslam Sher Khan urged the IOA and the sports ministry to convince the organising committee to cancel the deal and said India should boycott the Games if the organisers don’t oblige.
Stating that the feelings of the people of Bhopal would be hurt if Dow was allowed to be associated with the Olympics in any manner, the Olympian said: "If the organising committee carries out the deal with Dow Chemical, we will ask the government to boycott the 2012 Olympics." The Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984 left over 15,000 people dead, over five lakh injured and polluted the groundwater of the city, leading to deformities in newborns.
Dow had taken over Union Carbide Corporation in 2001, and it was the latter’s Indian arm that was running the factory when the tragedy occurred.
Organising committee chairman Sebastian Coe had stated last week that Dow would fund a "spectacular" £7 million artwork that would "wrap" around the main Olympic stadium throughout the Games, and the wrap would have the company’s name emblazoned on it.
Reports in the British media have slammed the move as a ‘shame’, amid claims by the company that it is no longer liable to the victims since Union Carbide had reached a ‘compensation settlement’ of $470 million in 1989. It has also refused to clear the toxic waste from the site.
"Although Dow never owned nor operated the plant, we, along with the rest of industry, have learnt from this tragic event and tried to do all we can to ensure that similar incidents never happen again," a Dow spokesperson was quoted as saying by British media website express. co. uk . At Thursday’s announcement, Dow’s UK boss Keith Wiggins admitted his industry had been responsible for "awful legacies" but said it was now time to concentrate on the good that chemicals can do.
But campaigners for Bhopal victims have insisted on a prime ministerial intervention. They said they are particularly shocked by Coe’s lack of reaction, since "his grandfather was from India". Their spokeswoman Rachna Dhingra said: "We have a message for Seb Coe: ‘Surely, it’s possible to do the Olympics without taking money from this company?’ By dealing with a corporation like Dow, which has the blood of Bhopal on its hands, the reputation of the London Games and its legacy will be tarnished’." Dhingra told the British press: "They (Dow) have a PR machine working for them day and night.
They can pretty much get away with anything.
"They’re so powerful and have so much money. They hire the most expensive lawyers in this country and they dangle the carrot of investment in India. Children are still being born with all sorts of disabilities and water is still contaminated with toxic waste, and yet this corporation continues to make profits every day. Dow took over Union Carbide’s liabilities in the US but not in India. They have a completely double standard."