Union Government to probe utilisation of gas relief funds
National Mail 6.6.2000

BHOPAL: The Union Government will institute a high level investigation into the utilization of 261crore US dollars gas relief and rehabilitation funds if the Madhya Pradesh Government failed to give accounts of the expenditure under this head.

Union Minister of State for Chemical and Fertilizers Ramesh Bais said that his ministry had sought details of the amount spent so far from the Sate Government following complaints of several regularities in this regard.

He said the Centre would consider the State Government's Rs 185 crore package for the gas victims only when it provided proper details of previous expenditure.

Bais said after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, which took place in the intervening night of December two and three in 1984, the Union Carbide Corporation had given 430 crore US dollars as compensation. This amount was deposited with the Reserve Bank of India at New Delhi. Of this, 261 crore US dollars had already been given to the State by the Centre for conducting relief and rehabilitation schemes.

Referring to complaints, Bais said the population of Bhopal at the time of the tragedy was 6.72 lakh. At that time, 36 wards were declared gas-affected. However more than ten lakh persons had been registered as gas victims.

He said four lakhs persons got themselves registered as gas victims when the Centre had given one more chance for submitting claims in 1992.

How the number of gas-affected persons in the city could be more than its total population, he asked adding such a statistics had placed a question mark on the relief distribution programme.

After a meeting with state gas relief and rehabilitation minister Arif Aqueel and other officials, Bais said he was told by the department secretary that works in this direction had begun after Aqueel assumed office. He said the Centre had provided funds for construction of new hospitals and expansion of existing ones from time to time but the under construction hospital had not been completed so far.

Bais said it had come to the notice that construction works had been delayed to the extent that the original cost had increased by three-fold. Besides, complaints of serious irregularities in building contract had also been received, he added.

He said it was also complained that where abouts of machines and equipments worth more than Rs 300 crore, which were brought all the way from United States and Russia for the gas victims, were not known.

He said no works was started out of the funds provided by the Centre for distributing the remaining chemicals from the local unit of the Union Carbide India Limited, removing the upper soil of the factory, plantation in its premises and construction of a memorium.

A meeting was summoned at New Delhi next month to discuss the matter, he said adding that the State Government's representatives, officials concerned and public representatives of Bhopal had been invited in the evening. (UNI)