Business Standard, April 18, 2008
Representatives of the three organisations working among people affected in Bhopal by the Union Carbide tragedy expressed satisfaction with the response of the group of ministers (GoM) on Bhopal. The organisations had led a march of 50 Bhopal survivors and their supporters from Bhopal to Delhi, and have been on dharna at Jantar Mantar for 20 days.
The GoM assured the delegation that it would endorse and forward the demand of the people of Bhopal for a special commission to address rehabilitation and legal action against Dow and Carbide to the Prime Minister. The GoM said it would have the law ministry examine the draft bill prepared by the Bhopal organisations before tabling in Parliament.
The GoM also emphasised that it has never conceded the Madhya Pradesh government’s request for inclusion of 20 additional municipal wards in Bhopal as gas-affected. The group clarified that it had requested the MP government to submit data regarding gas-related deaths and injuries in the 20 wards but no such data has been submitted till date.
GoM chairman and Human Resources Minister Arjun Singh said that a special commission for Bhopal is justified despite the lack of precedent for any such commission because the Bhopal disaster itself is of an unprecedented nature.
The GoM also expressed its support for demand of the three organisations for legal action against Dow and Carbide. Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister Ram Vilas Paswan assured the Bhopal delegation that the government will continue its efforts to make Dow Chemical pay the Rs 100 crore as advance for environmental remediation.
Paswan also admitted that after the recent fire incident at a toxic waste facility in Ankleshwar that was destined to receive Bhopal wastes, any attempts to send wastes anywhere else in India will be met with opposition from local residents.
Earlier, speaking to Business Standard, Paswan regretted that a rehabilitation package for Bhopal has not been announced 24 years after the tragedy. He said that he was also against any business dealings with Dow Chemicals or Union Carbide which has been bought over by Dow. Carbide owned the gas plant in Bhopal when the leak took place causing the disaster.
Representatives from the three organisations currently sitting on dharna at Jantar Mantar have, till date, met Ram Vilas Paswan (Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister), Chief Secretary to Prime Minister T K A Nair, Rajya Sabha MPs Rahul Gandhi and Sandeep Dixit, national secretary of the Communist Party of India D Raja, general secretary of All India Forward Bloc Devarajan, national president of BJP Rajnath Singh, Lok Sabha MP Hanan Mollah, and Cabinet Secretary Chandrasekhar. Minister of State for the PMO Prithviraj Chavan will meet the Bhopal delegation on 18 April.