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Bhopal Row
Give report in 10 days, PM tells GoM
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, June 14
With late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi being implicated in the ongoing controversy over the release of Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson following the world’s worst industrial disaster 26 years ago, the UPA government and the Congress moved quickly today to quell the barrage of criticism directed against them.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh personally intervened to direct the recently reconstituted nine-member Group of Ministers (GoM) on the Bhopal gas tragedy to meet immediately and submit its report to the Cabinet within 10 days.

Having been on the defensive since the Union Carbide verdict, the Congress went into an overdrive today, launching a blistering attack against the BJP in general and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in particular, for their unrelenting campaign and charged that the Opposition had done little in this case when it was in power. The party was particularly incensed with Modi’s statement asking Congress president Sonia Gandhi to break her silence and say who was the “maut ka saudagar’ of the deaths in Bhopal.

On his part, the Prime Minister directed that the GoM “may meet immediately to take stock of the situation arising out of the recent court judgement, to assess the options and remedies available to the government on the various issues involved and to report to the Cabinet within 10 days”, said a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The GoM, which is headed by Home Minister P Chidambaram, is scheduled to hold its first meeting on June 18, but it could be advanced given the tight time frame underlined by the Prime Minister.

The panel is expected to look at a gamut of issues connected with this case, including the possibility of a fresh attempt for the extradition of Anderson, relief and rehabilitation of the Bhopal gas victims and cleaning up of the Union Carbide plant site.

The other members of the GoM are Ghulam Nabi Azad, M Veerappa Moily, S Jaipal Reddy, Kamal Nath, Selja, MK Alagiri, Prithviraj Chavan and Jairam Ramesh.

In view of the public outrage over the two-year sentence handed out to eight Indian officials of Union Carbide responsible for the disaster, the GoM is also expected look favourably at Law Minister Moily’s suggestion for a stand-alone law to deal with disasters of such magnitude. In addition, it will also consider appealing against the June 7 verdict.

Pushed on the backfoot for the past week, the Congress today sought to put the BJP in the dock for not taking sufficient steps to extradite Anderson when it was in power.

Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan said the BJP should explain why its then Solicitor General Soli Sorabjee gave one opinion in 2001 and then backtracked to say that Anderson could not extradited, based on the legal opinion he had obtained from a US law firm.

The BJP has alienated itself, not just from its allies, but also finds itself alienated from the people due to communal brand of politics practiced by leaders like Narendra Modi.

— Jayanthi Natarajan, Cong spokesperson

I do not think it is wrong to ask the Congress president and the Congress government to reveal the ‘maut ke saudagar’ (merchants of death) behind the Bhopal tragedy.

— Rajiv Pratap Rudy, BJP spokesman




Obama urged to act against Union Carbide

Bhopal, June 14
Seeking justice for the victims of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, its survivors have started a signature campaign for a memorandum to be sent to US President Barack Obama against Union Carbide Corporation (UCC).

“Your (Obama) tough stand against British Petroleum for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is worthy of emulation by other governments around the world and the same yardstick should be applied to the Bhopal Gas tragedy involving a US company,” the memorandum, scripted by, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan, an NGO working for the disaster victims, said.

“Your order that judicial process be allowed, both in the US and India to take their course in fixing responsibility of Union Carbide Corporation and individuals of the US, responsible for the Bhopal carnage is crucial to restore the subverted system of justice,” it said.

In the memorandum, Obama has been asked to set in motion the process to make Dow Chemicals (now the owner of US-based UCC) to take the responsibility for liabilities, that includes cleaning up the toxic mess that remained dumped in the now defunct Union Carbide factory.

“We are going to sent the memorandum to Obama shortly,” the NGOs convener Abdul Jabbar said. — PTI





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