People who protested against Pune facility upset at lobbying for MNC

A day after The Hindu carried the WikiLeaks exposé, people who had protested demanding the shifting a Dow Chemical unit out of Maharashtra reacted strongly to mediation by a Shiv Sena MP between the U.S. multinational and agitating villagers, and sought a judicial probe into the issue.

The report, published on Friday, said Dow Chemical appointed a public relations manager recommended by the Shirur MP, Shivajirao Adhalrao Patil, on a monthly salary of $20,000, to defuse opposition from locals.

The allegation was contained in a confidential Mumbai Consulate cable sent to the U.S. State Department in 2008 and accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks. Dow wanted to establish its research and development facility on a 100-acre plot near Chakan in Pune district during 2008. However, the locals opposed the plant citing the company's association with Union Carbide, which was responsible for the 1984 Bhopal gas leak tragedy.

Mr. Patil has since denied the allegation terming it baseless.

Ironically, the Sena, ahead of the general elections, backed the locals and opposed the Dow plant.

The cable says the then Maharashtra Chief Secretary, Johnny Joseph, had also called on Dow “to express his support but asked for time to defuse the situation.”

Activists who protested against the proposed plant are agitated over the alleged involvement of politicians and administrative officers “for lobbying in favour of Dow.”

“We demand an independent judicial enquiry into possible kickbacks, the unwarranted interest shown by Shri Adhalrao Patil, the local Shiv Sena MP, and the State and Central administration's undue eagerness to support Dow Chemical,” Vilas Sonawane, who, along with others, spearheaded the anti-Dow agitation, said in a statement. The statement is also signed by Banda Tatya Karadkar, a leader of the Warkari sect that opposed the Dow plant.

During the entire agitation, the role of Mr. Patil was “suspicious,” says the statement.

“The protests by political parties are always a farce and we knew this then. Our agitation has been independent of any political influence,” Banda Tatya Karadkar told The Hindu.

“I am not surprised to hear about Mr. Adhalrao Patil's involvement because political forces have always been pro-corporate. That is why we wanted to keep a distance from them during the agitation,” said the retired judge, B.G. Kolse Patil.

According to the cable, the Sena MP told U.S. officials in July 2008 that he had advised Dow to explain the project to the villagers “preferably through a public relations company that was experienced at this.” After a Dow vehicle was burnt down, Mr. Adhalrao Patil reiterated his advice to hire a public relations outfit “like the one that the local company Bharat Forge hired when it ran into problems, and give donations to local villagers to resolve the situation.”

The cable says Dow's head of Corporate Affairs Rakesh Chitkara met consulate officials. He told them that three months earlier, Dow “hired the public relations specialist Mr. Patil had recommended for $20,000 per month.” The cable further adds, “Mr. Chitkara said that the PR specialist is a ‘close associate' of Mr. Patil.”

Substantiating the issue of donation — as mentioned in Mr. Adhalrao Patil's interaction with the U.S. officials — Datta Temghare, the then sarpanch Gokarnanath Temghere's brother, told The Hindu over telephone that the multinational did offer donations to build a temple and a school at Shinde Vasuli village.

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