People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 26

June 27, 2010



On the Recommendations of the GoM


N D Jayaprakash


FROM media reports, it appears that the Group of Ministers (GoM) on the Bhopal Gas Tragedy has made the following recommendations: 1. That the Union of India would take necessary steps to seek extradition of accused No.1, Warren Anderson, from the US. We welcome this recommendation. While it is necessary to seek extradition of Warren Anderson, it is equally important to note that he is only one of the several officials of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), USA, who are directly responsible for creating conditions that led to the Bhopal disaster. The CBI has failed to name the other concerned officials of UCC because even after twenty-five years it has still not completed the necessary investigations in this regard in the US. The CBI has also not carried out a comparative study of the safety systems of the MIC units at the Bhopal and the Institute (West Virginia, USA) plants of UCC for verifying whether UCC had adopted dual safety standards. The Union of India has failed to execute the Letter Rogatory (letter of request) issued by the chief judicial magistrate (CJM), Bhopal, twenty-two years ago on July 6,1988 for the purpose.


2. That the Union of India would file a curative petition against the order of the Supreme Court that reduced charges against accused Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) and its eight officials from 304 Part-II to 304-A of IPC.  We welcome this recommendation. We presume that the said curative petition is against the order of the Supreme Court dated  March 10, 1997 that dismissed the review petition filed on  November 29, 1996 by the Bhopal Gas Peedith Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti, the Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sanghathan and the Bhopal Group for Information and Action in Criminal Appeal Nos.1672-1675 of 1996.]


3. That the government of India would ensure that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) would reopen its Bhopal centre and restart medical research [which the ICMR had abandoned in 1994]. We welcome this recommendation. However, it is equally necessary to enquire into the reasons as to why the ICMR had abandoned such vital research work in 1994.


4. That the government of India would take over the Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust (BMHT) and that it would institute a probe into its functioning until now. We welcome this recommendation. However, further decisions regarding the functioning of the BMHT should be taken in consultations with representatives of organisations representing the cause of the gas-victims.


5. That the government of India and the Madhya Pradesh government would take necessary steps to clean up the contaminated site in and around the former UCIL plant. We are not very clear as to how the central government and the state government propose to implement this decision. The fact is that neither the government of India nor the Madhya Pradesh government possesses the necessary technical know how to do the clean up; if it had the necessary means, it could have remedied the problem long ago. In the first place, a proper study to estimate the degree and extent of soil and water contamination in and around the UCIL plant has still not been carried out. Moreover, the question of liability of UCC and its present owner the Dow Chemical Company, USA, has not been addressed; in fact the “polluter pays principle” appears to have been sidestepped. We are of the firm opinion that the entire contaminated materials must be sent to the US, which possesses the necessary technical means, for appropriate remediation. The other option is to do an on-site remediation by importing the necessary technology and equipments. Either way, the entire expenses for the same, including appropriate compensation to all the victims of environmental pollution, must be borne by UCC and its present owner, the Dow Chemical Company, USA.


6. That the government of India has decided to disburse about Rs1500 crores as additional compensation.  The fact is, Rs 1500 crores in the year 2010 is merely equivalent to about Rs 350 crores at the 1989 value of the Rupee vis-ŕ-vis the US dollar. This is a pittance compared to the actual amount, which is required to compensate adequately the 574,367 awarded death and injury cases. Apparently, the package will benefit only about 44,208 gas-victims, which would effectively deny any benefit from the said package to over 5,30,159 gas-victims. A petition filed by members of the Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sanghathan and the Bhopal Gas Peedith Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti in this regard, which the Supreme Court has admitted on  April 23, 2010, is pending before the court. The GoM has apparently not made any commitment about supporting the said petition, which is highly regrettable. What is required is re-estimation of the number of deaths and degree of injuries suffered by the gas-victims on the basis of medical records and enhancement of compensation accordingly.


7. That the Union of India would take necessary steps to vacate the stay issued by the MP High Court on March 17, 2005 against the order of the CJM, Bhopal, who had issued notice to the Dow Chemical Company, USA, on  January 6, 2005. The said notice had directed DOW to appear before the court on behalf of the absconding accused No.10, UCC, USA, in MJC No.91 of 1992. We welcome this recommendation (if this report is true.) Some of the issues which the GoM has not apparently addressed are as follows:


While some of the recommendations of the GoM, on the face of it, appear to meet the expectations of the victim-organisations, there are obviously serious differences of opinion between the GoM and the victim-organisations on the data relating to death and severity of injuries suffered by the gas-victims. The victim-organisations have also grave doubts about the seriousness with which the government of India would pursue the criminal case against UCC and its current owner, the Dow Chemical Company.


The dispute about facts and figures and about the requisite action in the case can be resolved only if the recommendations of the GoM are examined by an all-party committee along with representatives of victim-organisations. Considering that all political parties are agreed that justice must be meted out to the gas-victims, there should be no problem in holding such an all party meeting with representatives of victim-organisations to resolve all issues arising and related to the Bhopal gas leak disaster.