"Parliament, governments let victims down"

Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram informed the Rajya Sabha on Thursday that there was no record of who from the Union Home Ministry made calls to the Madhya Pradesh Chief Secretary for letting off Warren Anderson, then chairman of the Union Carbide Corporation in December 1984. Mr. Anderson was arrested as soon as he landed in Bhopal on December 7, 1984, three days after the toxic gas leak from his factory killed thousands.

Expressing a “deep sense of guilt,'' the Minister admitted that Parliament and successive governments had let down the victims of Bhopal. “Everything was abdicated to the judiciary.''

He said that in the light of the fresh evidence that had been added to the record, a curative petition on criminal liability was being filed and the Ministry of External Affairs was working on seeking the extradition of Mr. Anderson.

Replying to a short duration discussion on the gas tragedy, he rejected the demand raised by CPI(M) member Brinda Karat for reviewing the categorisation and classification of deaths as, she said, 22,000 people had died, not merely 5, 295 from gas leak and 10,047 from severe injuries, as officially maintained.

The victims, who needed treatment for many years to come, would continue to get free medical aid for life.

Mr. Chidambaram countered questions from Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley on who ordered the release of Mr. Anderson and whether [the then Prime Minister] Rajiv Gandhi had a role in the release of the top U.S. executive of the killer factory by saying that the Opposition should not be “selective'' in quoting from Mr. Arjun Singh's intervention made in the House on Wednesday.

“The fact is that records are not there. Therefore we have to rely on contemporary media reports,'' he said, and quoted G.K. Reddy's report in The Hindu on December 7 that said, “It is quite possible that Mr. Rajiv Gandhi was not aware of the safe passage given to Warren Anderson.''

On the issue of clearing up toxic waste, an Oversight Committee with representation from the Centre and the State will decide on how best to tackle the 1.1 million tonnes of toxic waste lying at the site. “If we do the clean-up, we will claim restitution from Dow Chemicals, Union Carbide and Eveready either separately or collectively after their liability is fixed,'' said the Minister.

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