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Past haunts govt, Anderson freed on orders from top: Ex-collector
NEW DELHI/ BHOPAL, JUN 9 (AGENCIES/ IANS):
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Published on 10 Jun. 2010 12:13 AM IST
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Perhaps the biggest fallout of this week’s verdict in the Bhopal gas tragedy has been the refocusing of attention on Warren Anderson, and the fact that he has not been tried for his role as the senior-most executive of the company that caused the world’s biggest industrial disaster. Anderson, who was Chief Executive Officer of Union Carbide Corp in 1984, flew into India after the gas leak from a Carbide plant choked Bhopal on the 2-3 of December. He was charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Yet, just four days after the tragedy, Anderson flew out of Bhopal on the official plane of Arjun Singh, who was at the time the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh.
The Chief Secretary at that time called me to the room and told me to arrange for the departure of Warren Anderson,” said the then collector of Bhopal, Moti Singh.
“Mr Anderson, Keshav Mahindra and BR Gokhle came by service flight from Mumbai to Bhopal and they were taken into our custody at the airport. We put them inside Union Carbide guest house, Shamara Hills, after arrest and at around 2 pm, the Chief Secretary called police chief and me and told us to release Anderson and send him to Delhi by plane. Accordingly we went to that place, did the formalities, and he was released on bail and sent to Delhi by plane, Moti Singh added. From Bhopal, Anderson flew to Delhi where he met with President Giani Zail Singh for a cup of tea.
In the years since then, the government now offers, it has tried to get America to extradite Anderson, who lives in New York state.
On Tuesday, BR Lall, who headed the CBI’s investigation into the Bhopal tragedy April 1994 to July 1995, told NDTV that he had received a letter from the Ministry of External Affairs, asking him to drop proceedings connected to the extradition request for Anderson. Not true, says K Vijaya Rama Rao, who was the Director of the CBI at that time. “At no stage... neither the MEA nor the CBI... gave up efforts to extradite Anderson. MEA is sharing with us their difficulties which are very simple that is the unwillingness of US to extradite him to India.”
Reacting to the issue, the External Affairs Ministry today said that it has time and again requested for Anderson extradition, which has been turned down by the US for want of more “evidential links”. Sources in the government say a US court flatly rejected the extradition of Anderson in 2003.
Commenting on the issue of Anderson’s extradition, Congress party today said that Warren Anderson should be extradited. “Anderson’s extradition process should be completed,” said Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan.
Ministers’ panel
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has named Home Minister P. Chidambaram as head of the reconstituted high-level ministerial panel tasked with suggesting remedial measures to help victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, the world’s worst industrial disaster.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, termed the prime minister’s effort as an “eyewash”.
“Yes, the empowered group of ministers has been reconstituted as on May 26. It had been originally set up in 2008,” a senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office told IANS Wednesday, adding that Home Minister P. Chidambaram will be heading the high-powered panel.
The other members of the group are Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Law Minister Veerappa Moily, Urban Development Minister S. Jaipal Reddy and others.
Road Transport Minister Kamal Nath, Housing Minister Kumari Selja and Fertiliser Minister M.K. Azhagiri.
Minister of State for Environment Jairam Ramesh and Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan are also its members, while the minister for Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Department in the Madhya Pradesh government is a permanent invitee.
“The terms of reference of the group are to examine all issues relating to the Bhopal gas tragedy. The group will make appropriate recommendations on remedial measures that can be taken for rehabilitation of victims and their families,” the official added.
The BJP slammed the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government over the reconstituted Group of Ministers, calling it an “eyewash”.
“The Group of Ministers for Bhopal gas tragedy is an eyewash. The government has woken up only due to the pressure from people and will go back to sleep again,” BJP spokesperson Syed Shahnawaz Hussain told reporters here.
The BJP also demanded that the civil nuclear liability bill should be withdrawn in the wake of the Bhopal gas tragedy verdict that handed out a meagre penalty to the accused, 25 years after the accident.
The bill fixes the maximum amount of liability in case of a nuclear accident at Rs.500 crore, to be paid by the operator of the nuclear plant. The legislation makes the operator exclusively liable in case of an accident, but there is no mention of the suppliers’ liability.
The Congress, meanwhile, said the government should make every effort to extradite Warren Anderson, who was the CEO of Union Carbide Corp when the Bhopal gas tragedy took place.
“The Congress is of the firm opinion that the extradition process should be completed and he (Anderson) should be brought back. We hope the government will take it to its logical conclusion,” Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said.
A senior official of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the government would decide on renewing a request to the US for extraditing Anderson, after getting additional evidence from investigating agencies on the Bhopal gas tragedy.
“The MEA has been pressing investigating agencies for additional evidence,” the official said.
“There is no conflict between the MEA and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The government will take a collective view on it and proceed accordingly after consulting agencies,” he said.
Tonnes of lethal gas had leaked from the Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal on the night of Dec 2-3 in 1984, killing about 3,500 instantly and thousands later.
A court in Bhopal had Monday held the Union Carbide India and seven of its officials guilty of criminal negligence and had sentenced the officials to two years’ imprisonment. The seven were later released on bail.
MP govt to appeal against Bhopal verdict
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said Wednesday that the government will file an appeal in the high court seeking enhancement of the punishment awarded to seven convicts in the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy.
A five-member committee of legal experts is being constituted to study the verdict before going in for the appeal, he told reporters.
“Since the verdict is disappointing, we have decided to file an appeal to get justice for the victims and to get the sentence of the convicts increased,” Chouhan said.

 
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