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Bhopal issue in RS; HM says Oppn should have raised the issue earlier
Published on 13 Aug. 2010 12:04 AM IST
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Countering the Opposition charge of inaction in the Bhopal gas leak case, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said on Thursday that the opposition parties should have raised questions on the tragedy in 2001 when they were in the government.
Chidambaram, replying to the debate in the Rajya Sabha on the December 1984 gas tragedy, made the statement in reply to persistent questions raised by Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley, who was the Law Minister in 2001.
“Then you were in the government. You had an active Home Minister (L.K. Advani),” Chidambaram said. “Now, ten years later, many of the persons involved in the case are not around,” the Minister pointed out.
Chidambaram said the Opposition had raised several issues with the intention to prove that former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had intervened to release the Union Carbide (the company which owned the factory in Bhopal) chief Warren Anderson from custody. “Their intention was to show Rajivji was responsible for the safe passage of Anderson from the country,” he said.
But the statement of Arjun Singh (then chief minister of Madhya Pradesh) in the Upper House on Wednesday had foiled their intentions, Chidambaram said. “Arjun Singhji had said that it was his own decision to arrest Anderson. He said that there were calls from the Union Home Ministry then for his release.”
Saying there were no records in the Ministry of External Affairs or the Home Ministry on “who had met whom” regarding the Anderson issue, Chidambaram said the then Union Carbide chief might have been given the passage on the suggestion of the Home Ministry.
Admitting that the Bhopal case handling was a failure of successive governments in the country, Chidambaram said the recently-formed Group of Ministers (GOM) had recommended a substantial hike in the compensation to the victims. As per the new decision, families of each of those killed in the tragedy will get Rs.10 lakh while those who suffered permanent injuries will each get Rs.5 lakh.
He said the Bhopal trust hospital has been taken over by the Central government.
He said the government will pursue the efforts for the extradition of Anderson.
The political establishment and executive let down the victims of Bhopal gas tragedy by leaving the judiciary to deal with its aftermath, Chidambaram said.
“The elected political establishment let down the victims. What complicated the matter was the intervention of the judiciary,” he added.
Chidambaram pointed out that all the legal proceedings, distribution of compensation and issue of extradition of Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson happened during tenures of multiple prime ministers and when Parliament was very much in session.
“We are now in the sixteenth Lok Sabha. While today, I share the grief, pain and sorrow, I feel a deep sense of guilt that now in all the 26 years the Executive and Parliament have not exercised the vigil that they should have done,” he said.
The Home Minister said that “the elected representatives thought they could hide behind the judiciary”.
“This is another example where the Parliament and Executive ought not to abdicate its responsibility in favour of the judiciary. Let this be a lesson to all of us,” said Chidambaram.

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