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Congress wants Bhopal compensation hiked

By Renu Mittal
June 24, 2010 00:37 IST
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In a move meant to score political points and to garner some of the credit for resolving the Bhopal issue, the Congress leadership is learnt to have asked the prime minister to ensure that the compensation given to the victims of the Bhopal Gas tragedy is "adequate".

Sources said this was done after the GOM had ended its deliberations and prepared its report to be submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It is learnt that the leadership wants the compensation amount to be increased and this decision would be taken by the union cabinet which is meeting on Thursday evening to discuss the GOM report.

The decision to ask for the amount to be enhanced was taken after internal deliberations within the party, say highly placed sources. While there has been some criticism from the Madhya Pradesh government, the Left Parties and some NGOs, what is interesting is that two members of Sonia Gandhi's National Advisory Council (NAC) have also criticized the compensation amount on the grounds that it is inadequate and that all the victims would not be covered by this amount. They are Aruna Roy and Harsh Mander.

The Congress president, who is seen as a leader at the forefront of the battle to bring in pro-poor social legislation, would also like to be seen as having more than a sympathetic attitude towards the Bhopal gas victims, particularly in the wake of criticism that it was her husband the late Rajiv Gandhi, who had allowed the Union carbide chief Warren
Anderson to leave India.

It is also in the context of the party wanting a Madhya Pradesh leader to take credit for the recommendations of the Bhopal GOM that Kamal Nath, one of the senior-most Congress leaders from the state who is a Cabinet minister and who is a member of the GOM, spoke to the media after the report was finalized in violation of the diktat issued by P Chidambaram that members should not speak to the media. It is learnt that Kamal Nath had the prior clearance of the leadership before he spoke to the media on the steps that the GOM had recommended on the matter.

Sources said Dr Singh had called up Pranab in the US, asking him to arrive in India earlier as the Cabinet meeting to discuss the GoM report has been pre-poned by a day. But Mukherjee said he already had his schedule in place and would not be able to return earlier. He is slated to come back Thursday evening. The cabinet meeting is now being held on Thursday evening.

The Congress is now of the view that the swift action of the GoM in putting together a wholesome package on Bhopal will go a long way in closing the issue and take the spotlight away from the Congress which was in power both in the Centre and the state in December 1984 when the Bhopal gas tragedy took place.

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Renu Mittal in New Delhi
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