Calcutta Telegraph, August 9, 2008
New Delhi, Aug. 8: The Centre has rejected industrialist Ratan Tata’s proposal that Indian companies clean up the environmental damage in Bhopal caused by the 1984 gas disaster.
Chemicals minister Ram Vilas Paswan today said the Group of Ministers (GoM) handling the case had rejected Tata’s proposal since it effectively “absolves” US firm Dow Chemicals of its liabilities.
Dow now owns Union Carbide, whose factory had leaked the deadly gas that killed and maimed thousands and continues to pollute groundwater in Bhopal 24 years later.
The Centre is seeking a Rs 500-crore compensation from Dow for environmental damages in a case filed in Jabalpur High Court. But letters Tata wrote last year to Planning Commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia and India’s envoy to the US, Ronen Sen, had raised concerns among Bhopal victims that the government might withdraw the case.
The letters, made public under the RTI, included the proposal that a group of Indian companies clean up the chemical waste from the leak. A report by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute revealed dangerous levels of chemical remnants from the tragedy in Bhopal’s groundwater.
The GoM, headed by human resource development minister Arjun Singh, will ask the CBI to speed up the extradition of Warren Anderson, Union Carbide boss at the time of the leak, Paswan said.