New Delhi: Senior Congress leader Arjun Singh, who was the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh when the deadly gas tragedy struck Bhopal in 1984, has finally spoken up on the matter, indicating he had no role in the letting-off of the then Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson.
Speaking to a leading national daily, Singh said “I have no locus standi on this issue”, clearly bringing back the focus on the then Central government.
He further said that his autobiography will contain the details of the Anderson saga.
Congress, which has so far been targeting Arjun Singh, however, declined to comment on his remarks.
"GoM is looking into the whole matter and the party has nothing to say. The party has already said whatever it had to say on the issue," AICC general secretary and media department in-charge Janardhan Dwivedi said, when asked to comment on Singh`s remarks published in the newspaper.
Arjun Singh has been in the crossfire ever since the Bhopal gas tragedy verdict came, with fingers being pointed at him as well as the then Rajiv Gandhi government at the Centre for allowing a safe passage to Anderson post the gas leak disaster that killed thousands.
A former US diplomat, who was the deputy chief of mission at the New Delhi embassy, has even gone on to say that Anderson had come to India following the gas tragedy only after getting assurance of "safe passage" from the Indian government.
This has been confirmed by the then Foreign Secretary MK Rasgotra who said that the Rajiv Gandhi government had promised "safe passage" to Anderson.
Anderson, who was briefly arrested in Bhopal on December 7, 1984 and then quickly released on bail, was later declared a proclaimed offender by an Indian court. He is now retired and lives in the US.
The gas disaster struck the Madhya Pradesh capital on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984, killing over 3,000 instantly and many others over the years.
A Bhopal trial court on June 7 declared Anderson a proclaimed offender while sentencing seven former Union Carbide India officials to two years imprisonment. However, they were immediately given bail.
Meanwhile, a Bhopal panel – the reconstituted Group of Ministers (GoM) on the 1984 gas tragedy – yesterday held its first meeting 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 today and tomorrow before submitting its report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday.
In its first meeting, the panel met discussed relief and rehabilitation measures for the victims of the tragedy, Chidambaram informed. Sources said the GoM has favoured enhanced compensation as one of the key ingredients of a healing touch package.