The Tunnel With No End -Bhopal gas tragedy The GoM belatedly sugarcoats the bitter pill --vs BRITISH PETROLEUM ASKED TO PAY BILLIONS OF DOLLARS FOR OIL SPILL IN U.S.A==DOUBLE STANDARDS FOR INDIA AND U.S.A DISASTERS.

Punishing wait Women blinded by the Bhopal gas tragedy outside court on June 7, the day it pronounced a verdict that has shocked many
Dow In India
  • Dow India boasts annual sales in excess of $500 million
  • Dow AgroSciences has a plant in Lote Parashuram, near Mumbai
  • Dow Europe is in a JV deal with GACL for a unit in Dahej
  • Dow has an R&D centre in Pune
  • Dow Automotive has a design centre in Pune; Dow also has other engineering and research centres in Mumbai and Pune.

Twenty-six years after the Bhopal gas tragedy and just about a fortnight after the shocking court verdict that has let off former officials of Union Carbide India Ltd with just two years’ imprisonment, the cabinet on Thursday accepted all of the proposals put forth by a group of ministers (GoM) tasked with stringing together a slew of remediation measures. Here is what the government, which has been under immense public pressure since the trial court verdict, is now offering the survivors of the tragedy in a package that will cost the exchequer Rs 1,500 crore:
  • An enhanced compensation package, with Rs 10 lakh for the dead, Rs 5 lakh for the permanently disabled, Rs 2 lakh for those suffering from cancer and Rs 1 lakh for the temporarily disabled. Any amount paid earlier will be deducted.
  • A time-bound clean-up plan of Rs 330 crore. The waste lying in the plant will be incinerated by year-end and the site cleaned up in another two years.
  • A renewed push for extraditing former UCC chairman Warren Anderson.
  • Relocating those living near the plant.
  • The Centre will take control of the Bhopal Memorial Hospital.
  • Correction of ‘wrong’ judgements.
As news of this decision trickled in, activists and victims of the tragedy, who were demonstrating just a few kilometres away from the prime minister’s office, termed these measures insufficient. The Bhopal Group for Information & Action (BGIA) and other groups have said that this money is unlikely to touch over 90 per cent of the victims. Disbursement is still with the state government, which has in the past been guilty of misappropriating the funds, says Sathyu Sarangi, a BGIA member.
Moreover, what has worried activists and victims more is that the GoM proposals do not explicitly mention what the government will do to make Dow (read Union Carbide) or the present owner of the plant, Eveready Industries, pay up for the cleaning  operations. “The government would like to figure out who’s liable,” said I&B minister Ambika Soni when asked if the government was going to make the polluter pay. A case in the Madhya Pradesh High Court seeks to identify the polluter and the ensuing liabilities. The cabinet has now asked the court to expedite its decision-making process.
Says Sarangi, “There is nothing in these proposals about how the government plans to get Dow to submit to the jurisdiction of Indian courts.” The MP High Court has asked Dow to put the case of Union Carbide, its subsidiary, before the court. “For five years, the Dow’s lawyer has come and maintained that being an American corporation, it is not subject to Indian courts,” he adds. Even the money set aside for clearing the site has been deemed insufficient, with many arguing that India does not have the necessary technology to safely dispose of the waste. The incineration plant that has been set up near Indore is already facing complications. “While the Central Pollution Control Board stipulates that there should be no human habitation within 500 metres of an incineration plant, the one near Indore has a village (Tarpura) just 200 metres from it,” Sarangi points out.
The outrage since the June 7 verdict has forced a rethink on how the legal system can best help correct past legal wrongs. A note by attorney-general Goolam E. Vahanvati, presented by law minister Veerappa Moily at the recent GoM meeting, severely criticised the 1996 SC judgement reducing charges against the Indian accused from “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” to “causing death by negligence”. The law ministry also suggested a curative petition to correct the judgement.
Vahanvati told Outlook, “The apex court itself took a contradictory view in its 1996 judgement and said that the prima facie evidence showed that there were not only structural defects in the plant but even operational failures—reason enough for a review petition.” But no review petition was filed. The deadline to file one has elapsed, so Vahanvati says a curative petition can be filed instead. The note also gives fresh impetus to the hitherto lethargic attempt to extradite Anderson. The law ministry notes point out that the SC had observed the culpability of the officers of UCC who were fully aware of the plant’s defects. This could be ground for a fresh appeal for extradition. Tall promises these may be, but they have clearly come far too late.

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