The Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, has asked the federal government to lodge a strong protest against Dow Chemical Company’s sponsorship of the 2012 London Olympics, and suggested a boycott if the sponsorship continues, news reports said Thursday.
A gas leak at a Union Carbide Corporation plant in Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh state in 1984 led to the death of at least 3000 people. Union Carbide was taken over by Dow in 2001.
In a letter to federal Sports Minister Ajay Maken, Mr. Chouhan said it would not be appropriate that a company responsible for such a tragedy should be allowed to sponsor an event like the Olympics, which are expected to be an expression of fair play, the IANS news agency reported.
Mr. Chouhan said the liabilities related to the disaster had not been fully settled and were the subject of litigation.
The funds being spent by Dow on the Olympics could be put to better use by alleviating to some extent the misery suffered by the people of Bhopal, Mr. Chouhan’s letter said.
The Sports Ministry has not yet responded to the letter.
At least 25,000 people are still suffering from the effects of the gas leak in Bhopal, and there were high rates of congenital deformities and cancer among families who use the groundwater near the site of the plant, groups representing the victims say.
Five of these victims’ groups have also demanded Dow’s sponsorship deal be scrapped in a petition to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG), saying it was offensive to the spirit of the Games.
At least 21 Indian Olympians have endorsed the petition urging the organizing committee to scrap the sponsorship deal with Dow.
Dow Chemical Company is one of the global sponsors of the London Olympics. It is also funding and making a decorative wrap for the Olympic stadium in East London.
Dow has said it is disappointed that some people were trying to blame them for the Bhopal tragedy and that it had never owned or operated the facility in Bhopal.
“Dow acquired the shares of Union Carbide Corporation more than 16 years after the tragedy, and 10 years after the 470 million dollar settlement agreement — paid by Union Carbide Corporation and Union Carbide India, Limited — was approved by the Indian Supreme Court,” the company said in an email to the Economic Times newspaper.