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'Why should taxpayers, not Dow Chemicals, pay Bhopal victims?'

June 21, 2010 22:14 IST

The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left Front on Monday slammed the Group of Ministers on the Bhopal gas issue for recommending that the government pick up the tab on payment of compensation to victims.

"The GoM report has disappointed the people," BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said. Communist Party of India - Marxist leader Nilotpal Basu told PTI, "It is unfair that the taxpayer has to pick up the compensation bill, which should have been the responsibility of Union Carbide."

The Congress said the party will be in a position to say something on the GoM's recommendations only after the report is made public.

"Though we are happy that this government has given compensation to the victims, there is no mention of who helped Anderson, the killer of 25,000 people, flee the country," Hussain added.

The CPI-M leader rued that the GoM has not fixed accountability at any stage -- be it going into details about UCC being in the know about the hazardous nature of the plant site or the judgment of the Supreme Court diluting charges against the company officials.

"When the Supreme Court diluted the charges, why was a review petition not filed," he said.

Communist Party of India leader D Raja attacked the ministerial panel for suggesting that the government pick up the tab for payment of additional compensation to the victims.

"What about fixing responsibility on UCC? Why should the Centre take responsibility of paying compensation," he asked.

Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group of Information and Action also questioned the suggestion that the government pick up the tab for compensation. "It is the taxpayers' money? Why should we pay? The money should be paid by Dow Chemicals," Sarangi said.

The BJP and the Left were united in their demand that the government treat the controversy over the Bhopal gas tragedy as a 'wake-up call' and learn lessons from it while dealing with the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill.

At a Congress briefing, party spokesperson Manish Tewari said the party will be in a position to say something on the GoM's recommendations only after the report is made public.

Referring to Anderson, BGIA's Satinath Sarangi said that not only he, but representatives of the Union Carbide units in the United States and Hong Kong should also be extradited for facing trial in the country. Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangthan Convenor Abdul Jabbar also termed the Rs 10 lakh compensation as 'inadequate'.

There is no provision in the recommendations for the social and economic rehabilitation of the victims, he said.

However, expressing satisfaction over the Rs 1,320-crore package, Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee president Suresh Pachouri said it was a 'positive' step taken by the GoM for rehabilitation of the gas victims.

On the other hand, the recommendation for compensation and cleaning of toxic waste was 'inadequate and incomplete,' CPI-M state secretary Badal Saroj said in a statement. "The hike in compensation announced by the GoM is irrational and is a repetition of the past mistake," he claimed.

"The Centre should remember that after the gas tragedy, it itself had demanded $ 3.3 billion and the present amount is far less than what it had claimed at that time," Saroj said.

"While re-framing the charges against UCC/UCIL, the possibility of experimentation of using hydrogen cyanide as a war gas under the cover of the Bhopal gas disaster should be included in the GoM recommendations," Zahreeli Gas Kand Sangharsh Morcha convenor Alok Pratap Singh said.

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