Since the past couple of days a lot of activists have been urging the political establishment in India, especially the Union Sports Ministry and the Indian Olympic Association to boycott the London Olympics to be held next year in order to protest against the sponsorship rights given to Dow Chemicals (A company who has inherited the legal liabilities of Union Carbide in connection to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy by over taking it).
I don’t find this as a feasible way of protesting. I have ample substantial reasons to support my claim. Firstly, a lot of athletes train really hard for the Olympics and it’s their dream to go and perform at such a grand stage. We cannot deprive them of their right to compete at such global levels. Many of them have put in a lifetime of training to prepare themselves for this event and so we cannot afford to upset them. Secondly, as far as Dow Chemicals is concerned I want to make one very valid point. Over the years Dow Chemicals has continued to operate in India by means of many ways. They are supplying fertilizers and pesticides to the Government of India. They are making a total of 500 million dollars by means of their business in India. We cannot expect the organizers of London Olympics to break away all their ties with Dow Chemicals as we have ourselves not done that and in such testing times for the economy we cannot even afford to ignore an organization of such high stature. Lack of economic engagement with Dow will invariably affect the Indian Economy. But there are a number of steps which we can take to make Dow fulfill its legal liabilities in connection to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.
Since Dow has taken over Union Carbide (Organization responsible for the Bhopal Gas Tragedy) it is now imperative on its part to fulfill those obligations which belonged to Union Carbide. So how do we do that? The point is that if we’ll boycott the Olympics then we’ll get absolutely no profit out of it. India isn’t seen as a major sporting power to reckon with at the Olympics (which doesn’t happen to be like the Cricket World Cup). Our decision to boycott the games will make headlines only for a few days and after that all will be forgotten. The logical stand that we can take is that we can go for the Olympics and fight for the victims at the Olympics only. What we can do at the Olympics is some constructive awareness. In order to fight for the rights of the victims of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy all our athletes can wear a black armband while performing at the games. Every time somebody wins a medal he can walk up to the podium with a black flag and dedicate the medal to all the victims of the Bhopal tragedy. The medal winners can appeal from the podium to Dow Chemicals to fulfill its liabilities. Our athletes and the entire Indian delegation can talk about the tragedy and the injustice which has been done to the victims at each and every press conference in front of global media giants like CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera and obviously all our own media channels.
We can tie up with environmentalists all around Europe and keep bringing up this issue during the whole course of the London Olympics. All this will help our country in bringing up this issue in front of the global audience. They will further research into the matter and will eventually turn up into our favour. This effective teaching and persuasion will make people cutting across countries support us which will ultimately make Dow fulfill all its remaining liabilities. The global pressure mounted on Dow will surely make them give appropriate compensation to the victims and their families and they will also take up the initiative of cleaning up the contaminated groundwater which continues to affect and poison people.
What we must understand is that it’s better to be a propagandist than being an agitator. In India what we have increasingly seen is that time and again our activists resort to agitations and demonstrations. Same is the case with our leaders who have turned various State Legislatures and the Union Parliament into an agitation and demonstration venue. We must understand that reasoned propaganda is something which is far more reasonable, logical and ethical way of putting forth our views and protesting in a dignified way. If you don’t like something then write about it. Write to the Government, speak to the media houses, organize public rallies, help in mobilizing support by means of logical reasoning and build up constructive public opinion in your favour. That is how you’re supposed to go about things. What we see in our country is constant agitations where a set of people come and block roads, disrupt traffic, even make rail traffic come to a standstill by means of camping on the rail tracks and ultimately this whole campaign leads to vandalism where we see agitators and activists destroy public property and offices. Sometimes these agitations even lead to economic blockade which leads to a massive loss to the State Exchequer. It is important for us to resort to propaganda instead of agitation. If Dow doesn’t fulfill all its liabilities even after all our dignified protests then we can scrap all our ties with them at the cost of the economy because the sentiments of our people are of paramount importance. From my side there is a big ‘no’ to giving the Olympics a miss. We need to participate in the Olympics and take up this issue at the Olympics only for the welfare of our citizens or to be more precise for the victims of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.