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No justice for Bhopal gas victims: Opposition

Source: PTI
August 11, 2010 19:09 IST
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The Opposition on Wednesday charged the government with failing to ensure justice for the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy.

"Justice and accountability has been the real casualty," Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said while initiating a discussion on the issue.

He pointed out that 26 years have passed and 20,000 people died in the incident and asked the government to disclose the exact number of deaths in its record.

Prasad said that Union Carbide had sought permission to run the plant in 1970 and it was given the nod when emergency was imposed in the country on October 31, 1975.

Referring to negligence, he said there was prior warning of gas leak as a person had died, but no action was taken by the then government.

Terming the exit of the then CEO of Union Carbide Warren Anderson as a 'shameful incident', Prasad said he was arrested and then escorted by the district magistrate and the superintendent of police.

"He was allowed to go to Delhi in a state plane and from there to the United States," Prasad said.

He said, "We want to know who allowed Anderson to escape. Why action is not taken against anyone with a white skin -- be it Anderson or Quattrocchi?"

The BJP leader termed the Supreme Court judgment of 1996 as 'deeply regrettable' which diluted the charges against Anderson and said, "the Supreme Court treated it as a simple truck accident."

He also criticised the then chief justice of India A S Ahmadi for becoming the chairman of a hospital in Bhopal (run by Union Carbide).

Prasad criticised the Central Bureau of Investigation for the 'casual way' in which it treated the case and for not making attempts for the extradition of Anderson.

"Is your government going to make a sincere effort to extradite Anderson," he asked Home Minister P Chidambaram, who was present in the House.

Congress leader Ashwani Kumar said the Supreme Court was not infallible and therefore the present government has filed a curative petition in the court.
On the extradition of Anderson, he said the Union Carbide chief conveyed a desire to come to India in solidarity with the victims and one cannot draw an inference and make innuendos so many years after the incident.

"He (Anderson) was not a fugitive from law. He was not named in the FIR as only officials of the Union Carbide were named. He obtained bail and left the country," Kumar added.

The Congress member said the number of proven deaths as a direct consequence was 5,295 people and more than five lakh people were affected.

He said the total compensation was Rs 3,500 crore and a separate curative petition could be filed to increase the amount.

Defending the then Congress ruled governments at the Centre and the state, Kumar said the issue was now being dealt with new knowledge and facts.

Bahujan Samaj Party leader Naresh Chandra Agrawal wanted to know the exact number of people killed and those affected in the tragedy. Citing the recent example of an oil leak in the United States where British Petroleum had to pay heavy damages, he alleged that the life of human beings in India did not command much value.

Communist Party of India -- Marxist leader Brinda Karat said nobody has been jail even after the conviction of a few people by the court and demanded steps to bring back Anderson.

Janata Dal - United leader Shivanand Tiwari said the chief of the company responsible for the tragedy must be punished.

Defending the government, Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam leader T Siva said steps have been taken to compensate the victims.

Samajwadi Party leader Veerpal Singh Yadav asked the government to prepare a list of physically challenged children born after the tragedy and sought compensation for them.

Communist Party of India leader R C Singh said since it was a man-made tragedy, culprits should be brought to book.

Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan said. "Dow Chemicals should not be allowed to invest or do business in India till the matter is resolved."

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