New Delhi, June 18 (Calcutta Tube) The Group of Ministers (GoM) on the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy held its first meeting here Friday and discussed relief and rehabilitation for the victims of the world’s worst industrial disaster.
The panel, headed by Home Minister P. Chidambaram and tasked to recommend proper compensation for the victims of the Union Carbide gas leak 25 years after it happened, is to meet again Saturday and Sunday before submitting its report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday.
Chidambaram told reporters after the first meeting that the panel met for over two hours and discussed relief and rehabilitation measures for the victims of the tragedy.
‘The GoM met today. We discussed the matter for about two hours. The mandate is to look at relief, rehabilitation, remediation and all options that are available to the government,’ he said.
Manmohan Singh reconstituted the high-level ministerial group, originally set up in 2008, following the public outrage after a Bhopal court June 7 sentenced seven Indian executives of Union Carbide to only two years in jail and granted them bail immediately.
The Dec 2-3, 1984, toxic gas leak from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal killed an estimated 20,000 people over the years, over 3.000 of them on the same night.
‘We have identified the areas that require in-depth consideration. There are legal issues, health issues, remediation issues and all other issues. We are looking at them separately and then will take a comprehensive view. We are now looking at the number of people affected. We will give them the best and sympathetic consideration,’ Chidambaram said.
He said there will be more meetings Saturday and Sunday. ‘Tomorrow there will be two sessions. Then a session on Sunday, may be two before finalising our recommendations.’
Chidambaram refused to divulge details of the Friday meeting.
‘We will not be able to share with you any conclusions until we submit our report to the PM. Please don’t ask any sensitive questions. We won’t be able to answer,’ he said.
He noted: ‘We are proceeding, I believe, in the right direction.The GoM will address all the issues.’
According to sources, the panel in its next meetings will discuss plans to clean the mess left behind by the now defunct Union Carbide. The environment ministry will be the nodal agency that will oversee the cleaning operation.
The source said the panel may also take up the issue of extradition of Warren Anderson, then CEO of Union Carbide, who was allowed free passage to the US – following an agreement between the US and the Indian governments – even after a case was registered against him in Bhopal.
The panel also consists of Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Law Minister M.Veerappa Moily, Urban Planning Minister 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.