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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Going once....going twice......

You gotta be kidding me. Foot-in-mouth disease in Americans was something I was starting to take for granted, what with their commander-in-chief , a long-time patient, leading the way, but something I read in the newspaper today takes the cake.

It has been 24 years since a leaked container of methyl isocyanate scarred an entire generation in Bhopal, but Dow Chemical, the group that now owns Union Carbide, the offending company has mulishly refused to see the light. Sample this shocker from Kathy Hunt, the public affairs specialist from Dow Chemical.(This quote is from 2002)

"$500 compensation is plenty good for an Indian."

Even if you overlook the obvious bigotry, condescension, and Third-World antipathy on display here, this statement has further damage to do when you consider the history associated with this company.In 2000, Dursban, an insecticide manufactured by Dow Chemicals was banned by the US after it caused brain damage in a child. In this case, Dow Chemicals were happy to cough up $10 million in compensation. What is even more shocking is that Dursban, the same pesticide is still "aggresively marketed" in India! A high-level official of Dow even boasted about bribing government officers to allow the pesticide to be sold in India.

Activist and author Indra Sinha is one of about 300 people worldwide who are on a hunger strike to protest the government's dilly-dallying over the issue of victim compensation.His novel Animal's People which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, has the Bhopal Gas Tragedy as its focus.According to him, there is more to this than meets the eye. The government has for years now allowed this rogue company to flourish in our country, putting at risk the health of our own people, all the while turning a blind eye towards the plight of survivors and victims, most of whom do not have access to even rudimentary medical services, let alone compensation.

When Sinha brought the issue to the attention of the British media in 1993 via a massive two-page ad in The Guardian, there was much posturing and righteous outrage, but the bottomline is that the status quo was maintained.And now that some of the victims who were born after the tragedy have joined themovement, the question they are asking the government is "What have we done to deserve this ?"But I doubt that the government is listening. Botched nuclear deals and blood-thirsty hypocritical allies merit more attention than the simple matter of thousands of human lives, most of them mutilated for ever.

There you have it then, good people. All that remains is the auction itself.The first item up for grabs is the average deplorable Indian life. What bids shall I have, then? $500.....come now, surely.......Oh all right then.Going once , going twice.....SOLD! To the lady in the red,white and blue for $500!

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