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New Group Opposes Shifting Lawsuits To India With PM-Union Carbide Bjt

August 13, 1985

NEW YORK (AP) _ Union Carbide’s effort to have lawsuits from the Bhopal chemical disaster moved to India faces new opposition from a coalition of U.S. environmental, labor and religious groups which says the case belongs here.

The coalition, the Citizens Commission on Bhopal, said Monday it will try to formulate a relief plan for the victims and press for ″stringent policies, rules and standards″ to prevent a similar catastrophe elsewhere.

More than 2,000 people were killed and an estimated 200,000 injured when methyl isocyanate gas leaked from a pesticide plant owned by Union Carbide India Ltd. at Bhopal on Dec. 3.

Union Carbide spokesman Harvey Cobert said the company could not comment on the group’s announcement until it receives more information, but repeated its position that the more than 100 Bhopal lawsuits now pending in the United States should be sent to Indian courts. Many legal experts have said the company would face much smaller damage awards in India.

Meanwhile, a lawyer for the Bhopal victims said plans to funnel $5 million in emergency aid to the central Indian city remain unresolved. Attorney Jack S. Hoffinger said negotiations are ″moving ahead″ for the money donated by Union Carbide through the Indian Red Cross, but final arrangements are incomplete.

The coalition is concerned that relief efforts have been flagging and that the events surrounding the accident will not receive a complete airing unless the cases are handled here, said Dr. A. Karim Ahmed, the co-chairman and a staff scientist and research director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

″There’s a feeling that the Indian government is not paying enough attention to these people because they were not middle-class Indians or upper- class Indians; they were slum dwellers,″ he said.

The new organization does not plan to enter into court cases, its leaders said, but instead will try to encourage studies of chemical hazards around the world to influence courts and legislatures.

″The state of knowledge is woefully inadequate about the hazards that surround us,″ said Rhoda Karpatkin, the other co-chairman.

Other groups involved in the coalition include the National Audubon Society, the Consumer Federation of America, the District 8 Council of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union; the Council on Economic Priorities and the United Church of Christ Commission on Racial Injustice.

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