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Kurushetra of words…

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The Dean of Anna University had responded with a letter to everyone who wrote to him expressing their angst over their association with Dow Chemicals. I have shot back a letter to him.

Dear Dr. Sekar
Thanks for your reply. If you had written to me before the festival had begun and opened a channel for communication, I would have called you and explained you in chaste Tamil why this partnership is disastrous. It is a little disheartening that you chose to write after the festival is over but “better late than never”.

The tone of your letter is very patronizing and you want to wash away your responsibilities. Sir, if Dow has been associated with your University for four years and you still continue to take money from them, as the head of the institution you are supposed to be hang your head in shame for not doing the due diligence on a human rights violator. It is even more painful that you have heard Gandhian speak about the disaster and you still did not connect the dots with Dow. It makes me think that the whole approach of the University in knowing about the disaster is very superficial – an obligation to the syllabus book and not a genuine concern for the survivors.

Sir, if the Central Government and State Government err, is Anna University going to keep its mouth shut and toe the line of the Governments? I am sure Mr. C.N. Ayynnadurai, from whom your institution derives its name and his mentor Periyar would have disapproved of such cowardly behavior. Also, please let me school you on the facts of the disaster – The Central and State Government have always acknowledged the disaster. Elected Representatives from the U.S. [similar to MPs in India] have written to Government of India repeatedly asking them to hold Dow accountable.

The industry university collaboration is very important but it just should not blindside the university society trust and commitment. By legitimizing Dow, you are sending a message that you want your students to be obedient corporate servants [ like Indian servants of the East Indian Company] rather than responsible citizens who stand for truth and justice.

I would like you to use the next one year to study a lot more about Dow because you are clearly misinformed. KIndly use 2010 to come upto speed on Dow [] and I plan to help you by sending you emails regularly on this subject. I am also posting a copy of the book called “Trespass Against Us: Dow Chemical and Toxic Century” for your reference. [] . If you still have questions, then we should have a meaningful public discussion and I am sure you will come out more enlightened and so will your students.


PS: Dow has contimated water bodies across the world and it not one or two minor hiccups that can be overlooked. Kindly google “Agent Orange” and see some pictures
Dear Friend,

I am really happy to note your societal commitment and I am proud of
you to have reacted so quickly to condemn the action of an institution
in accepting contribution from a so called ‘tainted’ industry. Your
concern was so acute that you did not wait to verify the facts and
obviously you do not have the channel for that.

As a responsible citizen myself (and as the head of institution who
has done a great mistake, as projected by the passion kindling
patriots}, I am duty bound to reply and bring to your notice the
following points. Ultimate judgment should be yours and yours only

1. I have not said at any point of time that I was not bothered about what
happens elsewhere in the society and the institution did not care for the
same. This false information has been spread to kindle passion and to
create an outcry for immediate reaction. It is needless to say that this
institution is one of the most responsible organizations which readily
gives helping hand and supporting voice through its strong and dedicated
student force.

2. The company in this controversy has been associating with our
University for more than four years now, as can be verified from the
website and from news items of leading newspapers in their archives.

3. All these years nobody ever pointed out the misdeeds of the company and
warned us.

4. Please note that we have not accepted the contribution after the
controversy broke out. As in the previous years, this company was the
first to respond to our request for sponsorship.

5. Having requested the sponsorship and accepted the contribution from a
long standing associate, all of a sudden we cannot say that we do not want
the relation because of the public outcry created by a group of people,
even though, the demand made some sense.

6. Every major company will have some hiccups here and there, during their
operation – I am referring to the company’s problems in US and other
places. That cannot be sighted as reasons for totally banning them

7. The company claims that it is not directly responsible for the
disaster and it has no legal or administrative binding for cleaning up.
This point is not disputed by anybody. All of us are talking only about
moral grounds on which the company should act.

8. More importantly, neither the state government which has taken the
possession of the land nor the Central government which has arranged the
compensation want this company to carry out the further remedial measures.

9. This company has signed up a number of industrial ventures in this
country which goes to show that they are doing their business as usual.

10. My reply to the honourable lady who talked to me about this issue only
explained the institute – industry collaboration angle.

11. In our own auditorium, through NSS, we have arranged a meeting last
year, wherein a Gandhian and a victim of the tragedy, explained to our
students the problems and plight of all the affected people.

12. We accept the response of all the people and thank them. But I do not
know whether one can blame a reputed and tradition-rich institution to the
level of denouncing it without verifying the facts and figures. Passions
can be kindled easily but that must be directed in a proper direction.

13. There were also messages which declared obituary for the Dean as a
person because of this issue. We appreciate the innovative idea of these
people, in whatever taste it is.

14. For your information, the facts have already been explained by our
Vice chancellor to the media , giving respect to the representation made
by so many caring human beings.

15. Thank you and keep in touch. Look at our website to know
more about us.

On behalf of the entire Kurushetra 2010 team,

Dean, College of Engineering Guindy
Anna University Chennai

Written by Sudarshan Suresh

January 24, 2010 at 1:02 pm

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