Dow India, a subsidiary of US multinational Dow Chemical Company, has temporarily halted work at its proposed global research and development (R&D) centre at Chakan near Pune following instructions from Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh in the wake of objections from local people that the R&D facility would pollute the area, which is sacred to them.
Dow India would comply with all the directives stated by the government to work out a solution to the current situation, the company said in a statement.
Recently the company’s research facility at Chakan was razed by a group of villagers, following which members of the Warkari sect claimed responsibility for the act, saying they would not allow the facility to come up at a place which is sacred to the followers of the 17th century Bhakti movement saint Tukaram.
Following this, the sect members have joined hands with the anti-Dow brigade to initiate a Dow Quit India movement that aims to force Dow Chemical to own responsibility for the chemical waste dumped by the Union Carbide in Bhopal in 1984, killing several thousand people. The US multinational, in fact, had taken over Union Carbide after the disaster.
Ramesh Ramachandran, president and CEO, Dow India, said: “The company has complied with all laws of the state in seeking permission to set up the R&D centre at Chakan. We will continue to work with the government and its agencies to clear any doubts regarding R&D project.”
“The R&D centre will employ 500 Indian scientists who will work on projects like purifying water for consumption, energy efficiency and the effective use of green technology which will directly impact the Indian economy,” he added.
Dow India also clarified today that contrary to fears expressed by the Warkaris and others opposing the Chakan project, it is building an R&D unit at Chakan and not a manufacturing unit.
Meanwhile, Deshmukh’s order to halt the construction of Dow India’s R&D facility has started a contest between the political parties to claim credit for the decision and keep Varkaris — a powerful religious sect representing the Bhakti movement — in good humour.