Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Dow Row

Dow is a sponsor of London Olympics. Some people want India to boycott London Olympics if Dow continues to be the sponsor because Dow bought Union Carbide which was responsible for Bhopal gas tragedy in 1984. IOC has said Dow is not responsible for Bhopal gas tragedy and Dow sponsorship for Olympics will continue till 2020.

India has not boycotted Olympics any time. In 1980 USA and many countries boycotted Moscow Olympics. In 1984 USSR and some countries boycotted Los Angeles Olympics. In 1976, 22 African countries boycotted Montreal Olympics.

In 1974 India refused to play South Africa in Davis Cup final due to South Africa’s apartheid policy. In 1986 India boycotted Commonwealth Games in UK because UK had refused to put sanctions against South Africa. In 1974 Italy had refused to play South Africa in Davis Cup semi-final. In 1986 Nigeria, Kenya and many other countries had boycotted Commonwealth Games.

If India boycotts London Olympics due to Dow sponsorship it is likely to be alone. In 2008 India won one gold medal and two bronze medals in Beijing Olympics. India’s participation or absence will not make much difference to London Olympics. Besides, India will have to boycott Olympics in 2016 and 2020.

The victims of Bhopal gas tragedy should have been left to pursue cases of compensation in American courts where the compensation amounts could have been higher. The victims did not have to pay the lawyers if they did not win the cases and if they won they had to pay a percentage of compensation amounts as fees. The Government of India bungled by taking up all cases and clubbed them together and they were fought in India. Then the Supreme Court should have left the cases to proceed. Instead in February 1989 it got into arbitration and fixed the compensation amount at 470 million dollars and all civil and criminal liabilities were waived off. Those who did not want arbitration kept quiet after the emotional outburst of the CJI. The compensation should have been to victims alone but all residents of Bhopal got compensation thus diluting the claim of victims.

It is a different matter that after some years criminal liabilities were brought back and some Union Carbide officials were prosecuted and found guilty. That raises the question of finality of Supreme Court judgment. If liabilities waived off by Supreme Court are restored after some years where is the certainty of the closure?

There is a question of genuineness of protests on 3/12/2011. Some leaders had used a manual and a video to train protesters. The training was for over a month.

Sports Minister Ajay Maken has written to IOA to take up the matter of Dow sponsorship with IOC. There is no love lost between Ajay Maken and IOA. IOA derives its powers from IOC and has used it to fight against the government.

Milkha Singh and some other people want Indian athletes to participate in London Olympics. Boycott means many athletes will miss the chance of a lifetime to participate in Olympics and win a medal. If Bhopal victims did not get justice it is not entirely due to Union Carbide.

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