Bhopal panel moots enhanced relief package, Anderson’s extradition

New Delhi, June 21 (Calcutta Tube) The ministerial panel on the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy has recommended that the government press for former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson’s extradition from the US and set aside Rs.1,500 crore as relief package for those affected by the world’s worst industrial disaster.

In its report submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday, the Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Home Minister P. Chidambaram has looked at issues, including relief and rehabilitation for the victims, with key recommendations on addressing the wrongs in the disaster that killed thousands.

‘We have dealt with all the issues, compensation, legal issues, including the issues of pursuing the extradition of Warren Anderson, the legal options available with the government of India,’ Chidambaram told reporters here after the panel finalised its report.

Anderson was Union Carbide boss in 1984 when on the night of Dec 2-3 nearly 40 tonnes of methyl isocynate gas leaked out of storage tanks of its Bhopal plant, killing an estimated 20,000 people over the years.

Sources said the panel has recommended Rs.10 lakh to the next of kin of the dead, Rs.5 lakh for the permanently disabled and Rs.3 lakh for those disabled partially.

‘The GoM has recommended Rs.1,500 crore be earmarked for the compensation,’ said a source privy to the final report submitted to Manmohan Singh in a sealed envelope.

The report will be considered by the cabinet in a special meeting to be convened Friday.

‘The prime minister indicated to me yesterday that he would hold a special cabinet meeting on Friday, June 25, to consider the report of the GoM,’ said Chidambaram.

He said the GoM ‘most importantly discussed the remediation matters and health and health-related matters. Kindly remember that our focus is on bringing relief to the people who have suffered. There are few thousands who continues to suffer. We think we have made significant recommendations.’

The panel convened four sessions since Friday. It has recommended a petition in the Supreme Court, seeking reconsideration of its order diluting charges against the accused and fixing criminal liability in the tragedy, the sources said.

The Supreme Court in 1996 had diluted the charges against the accused from culpable homicide not amounting to murder to negligence.

The panel also cleared a proposal to clean up the plant site in Bhopal of the toxic waste, recommending that the poisonous material be buried.

But the onus of cleaning up the site has been laid on the Madhya Pradesh government with financial and technical assistance from the central government.

This means that Dow Chemicals, which took over Union Carbide in 2001, will be spared from the clean-up job that will need some Rs.300 crore, the sources said.

The panel also recommended that the government take over the Bhopal Memorial Trust Hospital, which was established in the aftermath of the tragedy exclusively for the disaster victims. Some Rs.230 crore would be needed to upgrade it.

The high-level ministerial group reconstituted by Manmohan Singh last month held four sessions since Friday to finalise the recommendations. It was originally set up in 2008.

The panel also comprises Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily, Urban Planning Minister S. Jaipal Reddy, Roads and Highways Minister Kamal Nath, Tourism Minister Kumari Selja, Fertilisers and Chemicals Minister M.K. Alagiri, Minister of State in the PMO Prithviraj Chavan and Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

Madhya Pradesh’s minister in-charge of rehabilitation is a permanent invitee to the panel.

Chidambaram said the GoM was not over. ‘It will continue to address any issue that will come up before it.’

On June 7, a Bhopal court sentenced seven Indian executives of Union Carbide to only two years in jail and immediately granted them bail, a decision that sparked outrage in the country.

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