Bhopal: Hope of justice fades as Dow Chemicals is now DowDuPont

Following acquisition of stakes by DuPont Company, Dow Chemicals is now DowDuPont, a new entity. The change has further diminished possibility of compensation as the new company has disowned liability of Bhopal gas victims. Alarmed at the development, gas victim organisations have sought Prime Minister’s intervention to ensure appropriate compensation to victims.

Union Carbide, USA has been criminally charged for causing deaths of thousands of people and illness to over half million residents of Bhopal under various sections of the IPC after world’s worst industrial disaster in 1984. The US Corporation was declared an absconder in 1992 by Bhopal District Court and continues to evade prosecution, said Rachna Dhingra, convener of Bhopal Group for Information and Aid. Union Carbide’s 100% owner Dow Chemical- last year completed a merger of equals with DuPont Nemours, USA to form DowDuPont Incorporated, said Rachna after she obtained papers from US court.

This company intends to complete a three-way split of its merged businesses by June 1 2019. According to regulatory Form 10K filings in the U.S.A, Union Carbide will itself be divided between resulting companies, said Colin Togood of Bhopal Appeal, working for Bhopal gas victims in the UK.

DowDuPont managers announced that the first of the spin-off transactions – for the Materials Science company – will be completed in Spring 2019. As a portion of its business will be split into this new company, Union Carbide will be a fundamentally changed entity by March 2019 at the very latest, said Colin.

After these developments all organisations working for gas victims wrote to PM Modi explaining that criminal liability cannot be transferred from one entity to another, not even to a succeeding one. Therefore once Union Carbide ceases to exist in its current form, Indian courts would not be able to pursue and enforce grave criminal charges still pending against it, explained Dhingra. All gas organisations urged PM Modi that the CBI must obtain a prohibitive writ to prevent the break-up of Union Carbide and dissipation of its assets.

Since the 2001 merger with Dow Chemical, Union Carbide’s asset value has already fallen by around 40% while Dow’s has risen by over 150%. Rachna, citing court proceedings, said that ‘even the claimed ‘full and final’ 1989 settlement is under review with a ‘curative petition’ in the Delhi Supreme Court, where the Union Government’s stated aim for the petition is to: ‘cure the gross miscarriage of justice and perpetration of irremediable injustice being suffered by the victims of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy… based on certain factual assumptions which have been found to be completely incorrect and far removed from reality’.

She added that by an estimate Union Carbide India Ltd could be liable for about $8.1 billion to settle the case. Dow is also a named a respondent in a PIL seeking environmental clean-up and remediation of the abandoned factory site.

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