Times of India, May 30, 2008
NEW DELHI: The Union government on Thursday bowed to pressure from the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy activists and accepted their demand for setting up a specially empowered commission to carry out medical, economic, social and environmental rehabilitation of the gas victims.
Prithviraj Chavan, minister for state in the PMO, went and met the activists sitting in protest at Jantar Mantar and communicated the PM’s decision that the legal case being pursued against Dow Chemicals in the Madhya Pradesh HC would not be withdrawn and that the government would take action as per the decision of the court.
The announcement brought some sense of relief to the Bhopal groups. Earlier, they had mounted a sustained campaign after documents, obtained through the Right to Information and reported by TOI, had shown that the cabinet secretary had recommended that the case be taken out of court and be handled as a policy decision by the government.
Even the department of chemicals and petrochemicals had in an application filed in the high court requested the court to direct Dow Chemicals to deposit Rs 100 crore as an advance for environmental remediation. Dow had lobbied with the UPA government to withdraw the liability in order to facilitate investments, upwards of $1 billion. It had found success with senior ministers, as well as the Planning Commission, which supported the move.
The government is, however, yet to take a decision on pursuing the issue of extradition of the absconding Union Carbide officials as well as revoking the permission given to Reliance to purchase Carbide’s technology. A local court in MP had ordered the attachment of all property of UCC’s assets and the activists believe the permission to purchase intellectual property of the company is in infringement of the order.