US child activists launch Bhopal appeal

Last Updated: Tue, Jun 15, 2010 03:18 hrs

New York: Child activists made an impassioned plea in New York on Monday for the 90-year-old former boss of Union Carbide to help victims of the deadliest ever industrial disaster in Bhopal, India.

Young activists from the New York-based group, "Kids for a Better Future," failed to gain access to the Dow headquarters but instead read out a statement from the group's 12-year-old founder Akash Mehta on the street.

"Mr. Warren Anderson, today you are known only for your role in the disaster, your name is met only with hatred by hundreds of thousands of Bhopalis, and people all over the world," it said.

"The only way that you can change that, to clear your name, is to make a moral statement for justice in Bhopal. And then, you can live the rest of your life in peace, with your head held high, knowing that you made a difference."

Also read: Bhopal victims urge Obama to extradite Anderson

The Indian government said last week the case against the chemical group's former CEO, Warren Anderson, was still open amid outrage over the lenient sentencing of some of the culprits.

Dow Chemical purchased Union Carbide in 1999, but says all liabilities related to the accident were cleared in a 470-million-dollar out-of-court settlement with the Indian government in 1989.

Anderson was arrested in India after the accident, which killed tens of thousands of people, but he then fled the country before requests for his extradition were turned down by US authorities.

He, like the local managers of Union Carbide's subsidiary in India, faced charges of criminal negligence. Seven of the local managers were finally convicted on June 7, while Anderson was named as an absconder.

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Amid anger in India about the perceived leniency of the sentences given to the Indian managers - two years in prison pending appeal - Anderson has again become a target and a lightning rod for a general feeling of injustice.

A lethal plume of gas escaped from a storage tank in the early hours of December 3, 1984, killing thousands instantly as they choked to death.

Research shows that 25,000 people have died from the consequences of exposure since 1984.

To this day, children are born grotesquely disfigured, with webbed hands and feet, weak immune systems, stunted growth, and congenital disorders.

Image: Kids for a Better Future founder Akash Mehta, 12, (L) and his brother Gautama, 15, address a press conference in front of a law office representing Union Carbide Corporation and its former CEO Warren Anderson, on June 14, 2010 in New York. (Copyright: AFP)