The Group of Ministers (GoM) on Bhopal on Monday decided to set aside another Rs. 72 crore for another 4,000 victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy in 1984 who were not compensated for the injuries they suffered at the time.

Sources in the GoM, confirming this to The Hindu, said the government would also have to consider whether the Madhya Pradesh High Court's order suggesting that the Oversight Committee on Bhopal report to it, should be challenged through a review petition.

Simultaneously, unable to establish the precise extent of contamination at the site of the former Union Carbide plant in Bhopal — and its neighbouring areas — the GoM, headed by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, has decided that it will require further examination, the sources said. So far, reports submitted on the subject by the Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and the Hyderabad-based National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) have been questioned. There is need for more systematic studies, it was felt, to establish the precise extent of contamination.

As things stand, a Union Environment Ministry-constituted peer review group headed by Professor R. Kumar of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) said last week that the quantification of contamination by the NEERI and the NGRI was very high. According to the IISc report, the soil contamination does not cover more than 20,000 square metres, whereas the NEERI and the NGRI had estimated that 6,50,000 sqm of soil inside and outside the Union Carbide factory was contaminated.

The request for the additional compensation, which came from the Madhya Pradesh government, is intended to give compensation to 1,703 persons with permanent disabilities, 1,783 with temporary disabilities and some others with injuries of utmost severity, it is learnt.