No ban on Union Carbide, says minister

The government today denied any proposal to blacklist and ban Union Carbide that is now called Dow Chemicals in the country, after it was bought over by another US firm in a rescue act in the wake of the Bhopal gas tragedy.

Minister of state for chemicals and fertilisers Srikant Kumar Jena informed the Lok Sabha today that there was no such proposal under the consideration of the department of chemicals and petrochemicals.

The minister's statement comes after the BJP and Left parties alleged that the US was trying to arm-twist India to let Dow Chemicals go scot-free with regard to its liability in the Bhopal gas tragedy.

D Raja of the CPI quoted media reports saying that there was an exchange of emails between Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and US deputy national security advisor Michael Froman on the issue.

Raja said there seemed to be a trade off between US support in the World Bank for India's borrowing and the Dow Chemicals issue. "We are hearing a noise about Dow Chemicals issue...I think we want to avoid developments, which put a chilling effect on the investment relationship," Raja quoted Froman as saying in the e-mail.

Jena said the high court of MP at Jabalpur is hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed in the matter of environmental remediation of Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) plant site at Bhopal.

The department of chemicals and petrochemicals had filed an application praying that the respondents in the case, namely, Dow Chemicals Company, USA, Union Carbide Corporation and Eveready Industries (India) Limited, should be directed to pay for the environmental remediation of the UCIL plant site.

He said, the department of chemicals and petrochemicals had filed another affidavit on 15 July 2010 requesting the high court to expeditiously decide the question of liability of Dow Chemicals Company and other companies in the case.

The minister said the department of chemicals and petrochemicals has not received any report of alleged corrupt practices in the running of Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC).

However, he said the government has decided to take over the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC) through the Department of Bio Technology and the Department of Atomic Energy. This hospital will be strengthened, upgraded and run as a super speciality and research hospital.