The Hindu, August 9, 2008
NEW DELHI: Bhopal gas leak survivors ended their four-month-long dharna here on Friday after the Centre formally announced the setting up of an Empowered Commission and promised legal action on the civil and criminal liabilities of Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals.
Thousands of people died when a toxic gas leaked out of the Union Carbide plant in the Madhya Pradesh capital in December 1984. The company has since merged with Dow Chemicals.
Allocation of resources
Chemicals and Fertilizers Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said the commission, to be set up after approval from the Group of Ministers, would allocate resources for rehabilitation schemes or research projects, issue tenders and identify the implementing Central and State government agencies.
It could also change the agencies, if their work was unsatisfactory.
The commission would be headed by a sitting judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court and would have four other members. The draft of the commission had been sent to the Law and Finance Ministries for approval.
Mr. Paswan pointed out that the Madhya Pradesh High Court had said the decision on fixing responsibility on Dow Chemicals to provide Rs. 100 crore for hazardous waste clean-up would be taken later.
Both the Central and State governments had contributed Rs. 50 crore each. The issues of tender process for appointing an agency to carry out the clean-up and the site where the hazardous waste would be disposed of were still to be finalised.
Mr. Paswan said the government had forwarded to the Planning Commission a Rs. 982.75-crore rehabilitation proposal submitted by Madhya Pradesh.
Expressing happiness over the fresh announcements, activists of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha and the Bhopal Group for Information and Action said they were assured that the scope of the commission would include environmental, social, economic and medical rehabilitation.
The organisations expressed the hope that the panel would also take up the disposal of thousands of tonnes of hazardous waste dumped by the factory management at the accident site.