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CHENNAI: The Dow Chemical Company, an American multinational that bought the infamous Union Carbide, appointed a public relations manager recommended by a Shiv Sena parliamentarian at a generous monthly salary of $20,000. This was done in the hope that it would put an end to the protests the politician was spearheading against its proposed research facility in Pune.
Over in Gujarat, the company had to put on hold a proposed investment by its European arm in a state-owned unit because a Union Minister allegedly “demanded a large sum of money” to clear the project, which Dow refused to pay.
These allegations are contained in a confidential Mumbai Consulate cable sent to the U.S. State Department in late-2008 and accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks.
Asked by The Hindu to respond, the two politicians, Shiv Sena MP Shivajirao Adhalrao Patil and Ram Vilas Paswan, at the time the Union Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister, denied the allegations as totally baseless. Attacking Dow and Union Carbide as “criminals in my mind,” Mr. Paswan asserted that they were trying to tarnish his image because he and his Ministry “strongly opposed their plans to establish a presence” in Gujarat even while “the case of remediation costs for the Bhopal disaster” remained unresolved.
The cable was sent under the name of Consul-General Paul A. Folmsbee ( 173725: confidential, October 15, 2008) after Consulate officials reported they had heard detailed separate versions of Dow's troubles from company representatives and the Shiv Sena MP, Shivajirao Adhalrao Patil.
The cable drew an outline of politicians seeking to exploit Dow's handicap in India – arising from its association with Union Carbide and the legacy of the 1984 Bhopal gas leak disaster – for direct or indirect personal benefit. But even where politicians and government functionaries were reassuring or sympathetic, when crunch-time came, they were of no help.
As for Dow, the Mumbai Consulate concluded it did not have the nous to grasp the political implications of being associated with Union Carbide and the legacy of the Bhopal gas disaster, especially with the 2009 parliamentary elections just months away.
Dow's Pune facility was to come up on 100 acres of grazing land in Chakan, Shinde village. Just a day before the Maharashtra government ordered a temporary halt to the construction at the site on September 26, 2008, and appointed a commission to inquire into the complaints against it, the Consul General had met Mr. Patil, the Shiv Sena MP from Shirur in Pune district, to talk about the protests against Dow.(This article is a part of the series "The India Cables" based on the US diplomatic cables accessed by The Hindu via Wikileaks.')
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