Justice, accountability the real casualty: Opposition

Opposition members in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday blamed Warren Anderson, the former chairman of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) for the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, and urged the government to expedite his extradition to India.

They said 26 years had gone by since the “worst-ever industrial” disaster in the country and the government still had not come out with the exact number of victims.

Initiating a short discussion on recent developments relating to the tragedy, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said “justice and accountability” had been the real casualty.

He said the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) had sought permission to run the plant in 1970, and was not allowed because of its obsolete technology. But it was given the nod when Emergency was imposed in the country on October 31, 1975.

Terming Mr. Anderson's exit as a “shameful incident,” Mr. Prasad wanted to know who allowed him to escape. “Why action is not taken against anyone with a white skin — be it [Mr.] Anderson or [Ottavio] Quattrocchi?” He also criticised the then Chief Justice of India, A.M. Ahmadi, for becoming the chairman of a hospital in Bhopal that is run by the UCIL.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat pointed out that in the worst-ever industrial disaster in the country not a single person had been given a day's punishment.

Condemning the judicial and administrative system that had denied justice to the victims, Ms. Karat said the culpability of the parent company cannot be ignored. “Dow Chemicals has taken over the UCIL. If it has taken the assets, it has to take on the liabilities. Or else it should be blacklisted.”

The government must revise the death register, reassess the compensation to victims and the medical categorisation, she said, while questioning the BJP on its role while it was in power.

Asking the government to take lessons from the Bhopal tragedy she warned against the Nuclear Liability Bill that absolves and caps suppliers' liability.

Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan “saluted” the non-governmental organisations working tirelessly for the cause of the victims, and said that the government must pay attention to removal of toxic waste from the site and ask Dow to remove it outside the country.

BJP's Vikram Verma from Madhya Pradesh deplored the fact that “court came to Mr. Anderson at his rest-house in 1984 to grant him bail.” He said the Empowered Group of Ministers had limited the number of people to be compensated.

Ashwini Kumar and Satyavrat Chaturvedi of the Congress asked the Opposition not to make a political issue of the tragedy.

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