Prime Minister, keep your promises

Documents unearthed by Bhopal activists regarding the Empowered Commission on Bhopal (ECoB) through the RTI Act reveal substantial support for the Commission among various relevant ministries. Despite the support, though, nothing has moved toward formation of the Commission. This release is the first in a two part series on the Empowered Commission based on documents obtained from the Central Government through the RTI Act.

An Empowered Commission to plan and oversee long-pending rehabilitation measures for Bhopal survivors and their children was the most prominent demand of survivors during their padayatra and dharna in New Delhi in 2006 and 2008. At a meeting convened by the Prime Minister on June 3, 2008 at 7 Race Course Road, it was decided that “The Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals will submit a detailed proposal to set up the Specially Empowered Commission which will include the terms of reference, the modalities of implementation. . .for early action on setting up of the Commission.” [Refer Document 2]

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The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare [Doc 8], Ministry of Environment & Forests [Doc 6], the Planning Commission [Doc 8], and the Group of Ministers on Bhopal [Doc 4] communicated their support for the concept and suggested improvements. These comments were received by the Ministry of Chemicals which had circulated a Draft Resolution/Executive Order for the setting up of an Empowered Commission to various relevant Government departments on August 6, 2008.

However, the process seems to have stopped with the receipt of comments. “The Government’s enthusiasm seems to last only as long as the Bhopalis are camped out in Delhi. After the spurt of activity in 2008, the Government has not even reconvened the Group of Ministers on Bhopal after the 2009 Lok Sabha elections,” said Bhopal survivor Hazra Bee. Hazra Bee is in New Delhi for the 3rd time in the last four years on an indefinite dharna to demand action on the Commission. Executing the Government decision on the Empowered Commission is the sole item on the agenda of the agitating survivors this summer.

The RTI documents reveal that the Government of Madhya Pradesh was totally in favour of an Empowered Commission during the Group of Ministers held on 17 April, 2008. The minutes record that the Minister in-charge of Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation (MP Govt) “clarified that although there were number of Committees existing on different rehabilitation aspects. . .nonetheless, it would be better if a single Committee is entrusted with the work of effective implementation and monitoring of rehabilitation measures.” The minutes say that the Minister “endorsed the proposal for the setting up of an Empowered Commission. . .”

However, in a letter to the Prime Minister in August 2008, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Mr. Shivraj Singh Chouhan has rejected the proposal for an Empowered Commission. According to him, the functions of the proposed Commission are all lawfully to be discharged by the State Government.

Rashida Bee, Champa Devi Shukla.
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
Syed M. Irfan. Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha
Rachna Dhingra, Satinath Sarangi.
Bhopal Group for Information and Action. 9582314869
Safreen Khan, Children Against Dow Carbide.
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