The twenty one year battle continues to bring justice for the victims of the catastrophic chemical spill which afflicted the Indian city of Bhopal in 1984, exposing half a million to highly toxic gasses. The current death toll is 20,000, with 120,000 still suffering the effects. The company responsible was Union Carbide – now part of Dow Chemicals – and they have been trying to wash their hands of the problem ever since.
Yet while Dow are ducking and diving from a safe distance in the US, those in Bhopal still live with the aftermath of the accident, which was never cleaned up, in their backyard. The site of the abandoned pesticides factory still oozes a cocktail of carcinogenic and mutagenic toxins, which leach from the 5,000 tonnes of waste chemicals chucked into pits.
Naturally the $48 billion company Dow thinks somebody else, anybody else, should pay for the clean up. When nobody warmed to the idea that gas survivors’ meagre compensation should be used for this purpose they suggested that maybe the Indian taxpayer should cough up instead. When that didn’t work, along came Cherokee Investment Partners.
Cherokee makes its money by helping businesses avoid bills for cleaning up the environmental messes left by the world’s biggest polluters. On its website, the company promises those saddled with a polluted land problem that they will be able to evade all financial and legal responsibility for any contamination. With a service like that, business is booming as polluters line up for shareholder friendly advice.
So how do Cherokee do it? Well there’s the usual array of backhanders which encourage politicians to grant the company contracts in the first place. Then they buy up toxic land on the cheap, rake in public-funded subsidies and do whatever it takes (like just burning the nasties or chuck them into landfill) so it’s ready to be used for yuppie loft apartments or golf courses and sold on for a huge profit. This ‘vulture capitalism’ has made Cherokee into a multi-billion dollar multinational enterprise and they’re coming soon to a cesspit near you.
Such pioneering work in setting dirty, hazardous industries free to pollute without compunction has won Cherokee many influential friends, but as their primary business is private, no one’s really sure who exactly is investing in them. That is, until oily Chief Executive Officer, Tom Darden got into Bhopal. Tommy boy presents himself as a ‘green philanthropist’ and is a member of the same Anglican sect as the Bushes. Darden combines this with his mission, as director of Crown’s Financial Ministries (CFM), to “teach God’s financial principles to 300 million people by September 15, 2015”, in order that they can reach “True Financial Freedom™” (no we don’t make this stuff up, and no we don’t know what’s with the date). CFM is an evangelical Christian organisation teaching financial principles based on the Bible, using Crown Biblical Financial Studies “to train people to handle God’s money.”
When Bhopal survivors questioned Cherokee’s interest in the lethal site, Darden piously accused them of making money from it. One careless email later and the membership of his posse was laid bare: on the ‘cc’ list were officials from Tata, Citibank and the US State dept., all major players in a corporate committee, the US-India CEO forum, which is pressuring India to open its economy to profit hungry US investors. The same committee has urged a quick resolution of ‘the Bhopal issue’ to make India more attractive to US investors. Surprise, surprise – also lurking on the ‘cc’ list was one other member of the US-India CEO forum: The Dow Chemical Company.
Last week survivors held a demo in Bhopal to protest at the collusion between P S Dubey, the dodgy chairman of the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board and Cherokee; and also last week a Bhopal activist disrupted and commandeered a presentation featuring Dubey and Darden at Duke Universirty, North Carolina, to confront the suits with the reality on the ground in Bhopal.
For more see http://bhopal.net