Bhopal: In a sensational claim, the district collector of Bhopal at the time of the gas tragedy claimed Wednesday that the state government had actively helped Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson to escape law.
Detailing the sequence of events on December 7, 1984 – three days after the deadly leakage of tonnes of toxic gas from the Union Carbide factory that left thousands dead -Ex IAS officer Moti Singh said, “I was summoned by Chief Minister Arjun Singh to his residence at 8 am that day. CM told me that Warren Anderson would be arriving shortly at the airport; however, the airport officials have been instructed to not let his plane land till the district collector is present.”
“I immediately rushed to the airport, but by the time I arrived the plane had landed but its door had not yet been opened. I was told that Anderson was being accompanied by the chief of India operations Keshub Mahindra and managing director Vijay Gokhale.”
Singh said that they were arrested as soon as they set foot in Bhopal. All the three were then taken to the Shyamala Hills guest house of Union Carbide; Anderson was wearing a mask, Singh remembered.
Later the Bhopal Police filed a criminal case them under Section 304 of the IPC.
“Then at 2 pm, Chief Secretary Brahm Swaroop called me and Superintendent of Police Swaraj Puri to his office. He told us that a plane was waiting at the airport for Anderson and asked us to complete the formalities so as to ensure that he flies to Delhi as soon as possible,” Singh claimed.
However, Moti Singh refused to take a guess on whose orders did the Chief Secretary act so as to ensure safe passage to Anderson, adding that he could, obviously, have not asked the Chief Secretary about it.
“We arranged for a Union Carbide employee to secure his bail for a surety of Rs 25000,” Singh revealed.
Interestingly, as per him, Anderson was not willing to leave Bhopal. “He was not willing to go; he wanted to see the affected area. I said you are not welcome, you have to leave Bhopal,” Singh said.
Singh also observed, “What struck me was the level of Anderson’s knowledge about the plant and the sequence of events of that deadly night. He told me that when the gas leaked there was no wind, so the gas went up initially but around midnight when the wind started to blow southwardly it took the deadly gas along with it.”
Clearly, Singh’s claims have raised important, yet uncomfortable, questions about the role of the Arjun Singh led state government and the Centre in the days that succeeded the world’s biggest industrial disaster.
First Published: Wednesday, June 09, 2010, 15:41