Bhopal GoM draws up Rs 1500 crore plan
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Last Updated: Tuesday, June 22, 2010, 09:57
  
Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: 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 on 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.

It was decided to make fresh attempts to seek extradition of 89-year-old Anderson, who now lives outside New York, on the basis of "fresh material" available now. Earlier attempts had failed.

A curative petition will seek enhancement of the punishment to the accused. A bench of the apex court headed by Justice A M Ahmadi in 1996 had given a judgement diluting the charges against the accused.

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.

Those afflicted by cancer and other serious ailments will get Rs two lakh, Surface Transport Minister Kamal Nath said adding the money would be given after deducting payments already made to the victims. He said the Centre would foot Rs 750 crore in this regard.

"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 GoM is also believed to have recommended to the government that it pursue the civil liability of Dow Chemicals, the successor of UCC world wide, by following up on a case in the Bhopal High Court in its Jabalpur bench.

The report will be considered by the cabinet in a special meeting to be convened on 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. On the legal front, the GoM recommended that the Centre will file a curative petition in the Supreme Court to seek restoration of the stringent charges filed in the CBI chargesheet against the accused in the case.

In 1996 the apex court had reduced the charge from Section 304-Part II (culpable homicide not not amounting to murder) to Section 304 A (criminal negligence) of IPC.

While Section 304 II provides a maximum imprisonment of 10 years, Section 304 A provides a maximum jail term of two years.

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.

Sources said the government was planning to transport the 500 tonnes toxic materials to Pitampura in Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh, where an incinerator has been put in place, for disposal. A trial run with 40 tonnes of toxic waste is expected to be carried out in the next two months.

All other material in the plant will be detoxified and dismantled using scientific methods.

However, 1.1 million tonnes of contaminated soil will be buried at the disaster site itself with a concrete slab, above which a memorial could be constructed.

The GoM is also believed to have favoured the take over of Bhopal Memorial Trust hospital, set up in the aftermath of the tragedy.

It has earmarked Rs 230 crore for the upgradation of this and six other hospitals.

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.

-Agencies inputs


First Published: Tuesday, June 22, 2010, 09:57


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