The White House on Tuesday refused to respond to a petition regarding the Bhopal gas tragedy filed by civil rights activists from India and across the world. The petition demanded that the United States government take action against Dow Chemicals, arguing that the US Department of Justice had not summoned the company to explain the present state of Union Carbide Corporation, the company responsible for the gas tragedy. Dow Chemical bought UCC in 2001.
The petition, which surpassed the required signature count of 100,000, read: “31 years of US protection of UCC and Dow must end. We insist that the US government meet its obligations under Treaty & international law by immediately serving notice upon Dow to attend court in Bhopal on July 13, 2016.”
In their response to the petition, the White House declined to comment on the request, quoting its Terms of Participation.
“‘… to avoid the appearance of improper influence, the White House may decline to address certain procurement, law enforcement, adjudicatory, or similar matters properly within the jurisdiction of federal departments or agencies, federal courts, or state and local government.’ That’s why we’re declining to comment on the specific request raised in this petition.”
The response then asked readers to refer to the highlights of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States in June this year. “The President and Prime Minister made important strides together to advance a strategic partnership on energy security, clean energy, and climate change and reaffirmed our two countries’ cooperation on environmental stewardship.”
Titled “Uphold international law! Stop shielding Dow Chemical from Accountability for Corporate Crimes in Bhopal, India”, the petition had, among its signatories, the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy, MIT professor Noam Chomsky, Hollywood actor Martin Sheen who played the role of Warren Anderson in the film ‘Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain’ as well as several international Human Rights organisations.
The Bhopal gas tragedy refers to a leak at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal on the night of December 2, 1984. Methyl isocyanate leaked from the plant and brought a sudden or a painful death to thousands and maimed lakhs for life. It is regarded as the world’s worst industrial disaster.