Survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy have written to President Barack Obama, requesting him to “end his double standards” and “meet with a delegate of Bhopalis” during his India visit, which begins on November 6.

“We the people of Bhopal, poisoned by Texas-based Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) and Michigan-based Dow Chemical Company, are seeking your help to make these two U.S. corporations answerable to Indian courts,” begins the letter.

It brings to the U.S. President's notice that “The Indian court has charged Warren Anderson, a U.S. citizen, and these two U.S.-registered corporations with manslaughter and other serious offences, declaring them absconders from justice in 1992. The U.S. government has so far denied requests from the Indian government for extradition of the accused in the criminal case.”

The letter, signed by five survivor organisations — the Children Against Dow-Carbide, the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha, the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh and the Bhopal Group for Information and Action — urges Mr. Obama to treat UCC and Dow at par with British Petroleum by establishing universally applicable standards of corporate accountability

(Mr. Obama had made British Petroleum pay for the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, securing a compensation fund of $ 20 billion for the victims of the Gulf Oil Spill).

Moral responsibility

Pointing out that Mr. Obama was bringing with him the largest contingent of U.S. corporate representatives, Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action said the survivors would remind him that as promoter of American corporate interests in India, it was his moral responsibility to ensure legal accountability of U.S. corporations operating in this country.

“This is particularly significant because a number of the corporations accompanying the President have a sordid criminal and environmental history,” he said.

Representatives of the organisations pointed out that among the prominent corporations in the delegation, General Electric discharged as much as £1.3 million of toxic chemicals into the Hudson River and was yet to clean it up.

They alleged that Boeing had contaminated large areas of southern California with toxic and radioactive waste, and Pepsico's soft drink products in India were found to contain 36 times the level of pesticide residues permitted under European Union regulations.

The letter requests Mr. Obama to “schedule a time to meet with a delegate of Bhopalis while you are in Delhi. A discussion with you could be an essential first step towards justice in Bhopal.”