Revelations in The Hindu on the Dow Chemical Company — acquirer of Union Carbide (UC), associated with the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984 — are consistent with the lack of response from the Government of India thus far, despite numerous information requests, according to Somasundaram Kumaresamuthusamy of the Association for India's Development (AID), an NGO.
Commenting on the report “Sops for Chemicals?” (The Hindu, April 1) relating to the India cables from WikiLeaks, Mr. Kumaresamuthusamy said that since June 2010 he had been pursuing the Indian embassy in Washington to revert to him regarding a second Right to Information application that he filed.
In that application, he sought a copy of all communication between the Ministry of External affairs and the Indian embassy on the Bhopal tragedy starting 1984 to date. The Hindu is in possession of all the emails between him and the Indian embassy.
Mr. Kumaresamuthusamy also requested, in the RTI application, further clarity on whether there was a request from the Government of India to the U.S. government for extradition of UC head Warren Anderson and if yes, what the U.S. government's response was.
Despite numerous follow-up emails and requests for action, two months passed before Mr. Kumaresamuthusamy received the following response from the Indian embassy. “The matter raised in your RTI application is sub judice. Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India has received similar RTI applications, which are presently being examined by the Ministry. Any additional response would be based on outcome of that examination.”
As per emails shared with The Hindu, it was evident that Mr. Kumaresamuthusamy then attempted to appeal the decision by the MEA not to share further details on the extradition of Mr. Anderson and other interactions between the Government of India and Dow Chemical officials.
In particular, he also quoted to embassy officials an order passed, in September 2010, by Information Commissioner Annapurna Dixit of the Central Information Commission, directing the MEA to “provide information” on the issue whether safe passage was promised to Mr. Anderson.
Yet the only response Mr. Kumaresamuthusamy got from the embassy was a statement that said: “This is to inform you that the reply that the Embassy had sent you vide email dated August 19, 2010 was based on the advice of the Ministry of External Affairs. Any further response from the Embassy would also be based on the Ministry's instructions.”
“Shows the clout”
Commenting on the lack of substantive response from the MEA to his RTI application, Mr. Kumaresamuthusamy said: “I see this as a pattern of stone-walling information by government officials regarding Dow investments and action against them to the citizens while having a free-flowing communication with Dow Chemicals. The Dow CEO's conversation with [Vilasrao] Deshmukh [reported in The Hindu expose published last Friday] shows how much clout this company has in our political structure.”