New Delhi, Nov 4 (UNI) More than a thousand alumni and former faculty members of various Indian Institutes of Technology have signed a petition addressed to the directors of all IITs, urging them to bar Union Carbide's owner, The Dow Chemical Company, from any partnership or role in the premier institute.
The petition was released by two eminent IIT alumni -- noted columnist Praful Bidwai and Magsaysay Award winner and Right to Information activist Arvind Kejriwal.
Among the other signatories are noted social activists Dunu Roy, Magsaysay winner Sandeep Pandey and anti-dam activists Himanshu Thakkar and Shripad Dharmadhikari.
Separately, another petition circulated within IIT Madras urging its Director to bar Dow from recruiting students on campus has generated over 90 signatures, including 22 from faculty.
As a fall-out, the company has cancelled its briefing talks in IIT Madras and IIT Mumbai without giving any reason after students raised an issue about its entry into the IIT.
In May 2005, more than 1200 IIT alumni in the US petitioned the organisers of the Global IIT Conference and forced them to cancel a keynote address by the then Dow Chemical CEO Wiliam Stavropoulos.
The public outrage stems from Dow's continued evasion of its legal responsibility in Bhopal, where noxious gases emanating from a Union Carbide plant, killed hundreds of people, in 1984 -- the world's worst industrial disaster.
''Dow has acquired Union Carbide -- not just its assets, but its liabilities as well,'' said Mr Bidwai. ''The company has to clean up the toxic wastes in Bhopal, compensate the victims of contamination, and force its subsidiary to face criminal trial in the Bhopal court. Otherwise it will be met with hostility wherever it goes in India.'' The IITians, who support the struggle of Bhopal gas survivors, said survivors and their substantial supporters across the world had opposed the UPA Government's plan to write off Dow's liabilities in return for investments in India. Dow has warned India that it will not invest in the country unless Carbide's substantial liabilities are written off.
Besides being held responsible for the clean-up of the toxic wastes and groundwater in Bhopal, Union Carbide was declared an absconder in 1992 by the Bhopal Magistrate for its failure to honour summons to face charges of ''culpable homicide not amounting to murder.'' Ever since it took over Carbide in 2001, Dow Chemical has actively shielded the company from Indian courts while profiting from the illegal sale of its products in India, they said.
The IITians also alluded to Dow's chequered track record and questionable ethics. ''The fact that Dow is sheltering Union Carbide and arm-twisting the pliant Indian government to grant it immunity from legal proceeding finds mention in our petition,'' they said.
The IIT alumni also referred to two instances of Dow's ''dishonesty and corruption'' to argue that the ''unethical'' company should be barred from gaining legitimacy through association with the IITs.
''In early 2007, Dow was caught for paying more than 200,000 dollars (Rs 80 lakhs) in bribes to senior agriculture ministry officials to expeaite registration of three pesticides, including one that is banned for household use in the United States owing to its toxicity,'' they said.
Further, in 2005. the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) was forced to cancel a technology contract with Dow after survivors demonstrated that Dow had lied to IOC about the ownership of the technology. It had tried to pass off a Union Carbide-owned technology as its own to avoid legal action because of Carbide's action as an absconder.
Mr Bidwai and Mr Kejriwal called upon IIT students to bar Dow from entering their campuses. ''In the absence of any screening mechanism in IITs, all kinds of companies, including those with horrendous environmental and human rights track records or those found in the corrupt and unethical practices like Dow enter the campuses easily,'' said Mr Kejriwal.
''This situation has to be remedied because technology without ethics is precisely what led to the world's worst industrial disaster,'' he added.