`UC, govt responsible for Bhopal gas tragedy`

The main Opposition BJP on Wednesday termed the Bhopal gas tragedy as the ‘case of corporate manslaughter’ and blamed the government for letting off the main accused.

Updated: Aug 11, 2010, 15:30 PM IST

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: Opening a fierce debate on the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, the main Opposition BJP on Wednesday termed it as the ‘case of corporate manslaughter’ and blamed the government for letting off those responsible for the industrial disaster.

“The tragedy which took place in Bhopal some 25 years ago was not an ordinary incident. It’s a clear case of corporate manslaughter in which Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson - the main accused in the Bhopal tragedy – was easily let off. Government allowed this incident to happen, to save money and to make profit. They took Indian lives for granted and let this incident happen,” said Sushma Swaraj, the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha.

Swaraj continued by saying, “Through this august House, I would like to ask the ruling party why Warren Anderson was let off. Why was he allowed to leave the country when he could have been made responsible for the death of thousands of innocent residents of the Bhopal. Why the then government took no action against him and instead provided a safe exit to the main culprit. I hold Union Carbide as well as the then Congress government responsible for the unfortunate incident.”

In a veiled reference to the then government of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the BJP leader said, “Neither the Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh nor the then Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Arjun Singh is breaking their silence on the issue of Anderson’s easy escape to the US.

Demanding a fresh probe into all aspects of the case, including Anderson`s exit from the country, she accused the Congress government at the centre of complicity in the escape of Anderson.

Citing reports of several inquiry panel, which were set up in the aftermath of the tragedy, Swaraj said, “The tragedy occurred because the US multinational paid no heed to the mandatory safety regulations and endangered the lives of thousands of citizens by openly violating the safety norms.”

Sushma, while raking up the issue of "inadequate compensation" to the victims and their kin said, “Even after 25 years of the tragedy the government is not listening to the victims’ plea. Rather than making necessary amendments and providing ‘immediate’ and ‘adequate’ compensation to the victims, the government is still denying justice to them.”

Dubbing as "paltry" the relief announced recently for Bhopal disaster victims, Swaraj stated, “While a demand for compensation of Rs 3,900 crore was made, the government agreed for only Rs 615 crore in the 1989 settlement.”

Swaraj demanded a substantial increase in it and asked the government to become a party to a petition filed in a US court to extract compensation from American firm Dow Chemicals.

“India should become a party in the suit filed by some NGOs from Bhopal in the New York South court to get thousands of crore as compensation for the victims from Dow Chemicals, which now owns the assets of the Union Carbide,” she contended.

Swaraj further said that the government must take a cue from the Rs 90,000 crore compensation secured by the US from British Petroleum due to the recent oil spill in Gulf of Mexico to strengthen the case in a US court for more relief to the Bhopal victims.

In an hour-long speech, Swaraj said the victims of the tragedy have suffered "several betrayals" since the disaster struck 25 years ago and it was strange that some concerned
judges, who handled the case, were "compensated adequately".

"One judge went on to become a member of the International Court of Justice, while another became head of several commissions and even a member of the Rajya Sabha. The gas victims were only deceived," she said.

She was also critical of former Chief Justice A S Ahmadi for a judgement that limited the punishment to the accused to only two years.

She concluded by demanding that Parliament pass a resolution scrapping the 1989 out-of-court settlement between Union Carbide and the government and provide speedier justice to the victims.

However, BJP’s charges were countered by Manish Tewari of Congress, who said the government had moved the US courts, which had ruled that the cases be pursued in India.

He charged the BJP with "doing politics over the dead bodies" of the victims of the tragedy.
In the early hours of December 3, 1984, around 40 metric tonnes of toxic Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked into the atmosphere and was carried by wind to surrounding slums.
The Government says around 3,500 died in one of India’s most horrific of industrial disasters. Rights activists, however, claim that 25,000 people have died so far.