According to victims, the project manager who approved all of the detail design for the Bhopal plant stated in a newly-submitted declaration that he was working for Union Carbide, which the lower court chose to disregard
Victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy have filed an appeal in a higher court at New York contesting a lower court’s decision that Union Carbide Corp cannot be sued for the ongoing contamination from the chemical plant.
The survivors and members of the surrounding community near the plant site in Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh for toxic contamination, along with the property owners whose wells have been fouled by toxins from the plant, have filed the appeal in the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
The plaintiffs allege that UCC was intimately involved in the creation and disposal of toxic wastes at the Bhopal plant by designing, providing, approving and overseeing the construction of an inadequate waste management system.
The manager, who oversaw the construction of the plant confirmed that he worked for UCC, not for the Indian subsidiary that officially operated the plant, the plaintiffs said.
In July, however, a federal trial judge ruled that UCC was not sufficiently involved in the acts at the plant and that the project manager actually worked for the subsidiary.
“The plaintiffs have provided substantial new evidence that demonstrates UCC’s involvement. But the court chose to improperly assess the weight and credibility of this evidence, assessments that are supposed to be left to the jury,” counsel for the plaintiffs and Litigation Coordinator for EarthRights International, Rick Herz said.
Non-governmental organisation EarthRights International said since judges are not supposed to weigh evidence without letting a jury hear the case, the plaintiffs believe that the Second Circuit will correct the error in judgement against UCC.
Another defendant in the case was Warren Anderson, who was the CEO of UCC at the time of the Bhopal disaster. He died in September this year at a nursing home in Florida at age 92.
In the appeal filed last Friday, the plaintiffs said the Project Manager who approved all of the detail design for the Bhopal plant, Lucas John Couvaras, stated in a newly-submitted declaration that he was working for UCC, which the court chose to disregard.
“The new evidence here — most notably the declarations of Couvaras and the experts — fills the gaps identified in (the case). A rational jury could credit Couvaras’ declaration that he was a UCC employee, and agree with Plaintiffs’ experts that UCC’s manufacturing process and waste disposal strategy were causes of the pollution. Summary judgment must be reversed,” the appeal said.
In December 1984, poisonous gas from the chemical plant enveloped nearby communities, killing over 5,000 people. UCC then largely abandoned the site, allowing toxic wastes to leach into the local water supply.
EarthRights had filed the lawsuit in the Southern District of New York on behalf of residents of Bhopal, saying land and water of the citizens are being contaminated by waste from the plant.
In his July ruling, US District Judge John Kennan had ruled that UCC was not sufficiently involved in the acts at the plant and that the project manager actually worked for the subsidiary.
Of the total Rs21,422 crore mopped up in the current fiscal, Rs14,193 crore was mobilised from 119 issues listed on the BSE and NSE
Funds mobilisation by listed companies through preferential allotment of shares dropped by 38.5% to Rs21,422 crore during the first seven months of 2014-15 compared to the same period last year.
According to the latest data compiled by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), during April-October 2013, companies garnered Rs34,851 crore through issuance of shares to their respective promoters and shareholders on a preferential basis.
However, the cumulative number of preferential issues during April-October 2014 stood at 293, about 42 issues more than what was witnessed in the preceding period.
Month-wise, funds mobilised in May were highest at Rs5,142 crore, followed by Rs3,271 crore raised in June.
Besides, companies had raised Rs3,160 crore in April, Rs2,159 crore in July, Rs2,265 crore in August and Rs2,821 crore in September.
During October, there were 39 preferential allotments valued at Rs2,605 crore, a decline of 7.65% in terms of value over the preceding month.
The latest data with SEBI is available only till October.
Of the total Rs21,422 crore mopped up in the current fiscal, Rs14,193 crore was mobilised from 119 issues listed on the BSE and NSE.
Moreover, Rs4,437 crore was raised through 61 issues listed on the BSE, while funds amounting to Rs3,324 crore were garnered from 126 issues on the NSE during the period under review.
As it tries to disinvest its holding in PSUs, the Modi government is paying the price of not even making lip service to reform public sector undertakings
While the stock market hit an all-time high just yesterday, there is one part of the market, which is yet to enjoy Achche Din: stocks of public sector undertakings (PSUs). And this is making it difficult for a confident government to execute its ambitious disinvestment plans.
Take a look at the performance of the PSU indices on BSE and NSE. The week before Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won its massive mandate, the market sensed that Narendra Modi is likely to head the government and the indices shot up and continued to rally. Sensex is up by 27.04% from 8th May till now and Nifty is up 27.27% over the same period. However, the two PSU indices have not performed as well as the broad market indices. In fact, the PSU indices shot up initially when the market players expected the Modi government to get cracking on reforming various institutions.
The first blow to such expectations was a tax-and-spend Budget in July, which included an ambitious programme to disinvest shares of select PSUs. Secondly, very soon thereafter, the government unveiled a different set of priorities, launching Jan Dhan Yojana, Clean India and Make in India campaigns.
While the government is entitled to decide how to prioritize its actions, the stock market is in no mood to wait for it to act on PSUs. The shares of PSUs started drifting down. Indeed, not only has there been no talk of reforming the PSUs but public sector banks (PSBs) have continued to report large bad loans. PSU banks, however, are under no pressure from the ministry of finance and Reserve Bank to act against defaulting promoters. This was probably because the government depended on them for a successful rollout of opening 7.5 crore new accounts under Jan Dhan Yojana.
Now, when time is running out for disinvestment, the government has woken up to languishing stock prices of its PSU jewels. With just four months left to complete its disinvestment, the government is rushing to sell stakes at least in some companies. According to the current plan, Coal India, ONGC, Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), and NHPC will hit the market soon.
Indeed, Coal India and ONGC could even hit the market for further divestment within next two weeks, according to some media reports. According to a business newspaper “the department of disinvestment was watching market conditions”, whatever that involves. It may follow it up with disinvestment in SAIL.
However, there is no clarity yet on stake sales in Container Corp, Rural Electrification Corp and Power Finance Corp.
While the government is preparing for the sale of stakes in ONGC and Coal India, it has taken no steps to assure institutional investors that it will allow these companies to be run professionally. This means that PSU stocks will not rise much, after the disinvestment. Who would want to buy such stocks in that situation? While ONGC’s share price has slid a bit because of declining crude oil prices, Coal India has continued to suffer from gross mismanagement, unclear business environment and a highly unionized labour. It has given no returns from the time it was listed over four years ago.
According to a newspaper report, the sale of stake in Coal India could take place in tranches, as the government felt the company’s shares were “undervalued” now. While the babus may have a sound understanding of market valuation of shares, it would have helped the valuations of PSUs, if the government actually did something to improve their performance or even talked about doing something, which would have improved the market perception about them.
Indeed, it could well be that the government will have to sell these shares not at the so-called “undervalued” prices but even lower, at a discount. The netas and babus may be unaware of how indifferent the market is to PSU shares. To make the disinvestment a success, they will have to be sold at a discount.
The government could have got a lot more from ONGC and Coal India when the market was hot – that is immediately after the budget. However, the government had priorities other than raising revenues then or was too confident about its disinvestment programme.