The Group of Ministers (GoM) on the Bhopal gas tragedy will meet on June 18 amid a growing demand for a higher compensation package for victims and against a political storm over the low quantum of punishment to the perpetrators, besides a blame game over the escape of Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson.
Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh directed the 10-member GoM to meet immediately and report to the cabinet within 10 days.
The GoM, headed by Home Minister P. Chidambaram will, according to the note sent out to the panel members, examine all issues relating to the Bhopal gas leak, including remediation measures, and make appropriate recommendations regarding relief and rehabilitation for victims.
The GoM is likely to focus on three aspects — fixing the financial liability of the world’s worst industrial disaster, announcement of a fresh compensation package for victims and a new law to insure the public against man-made mass disasters in future. It is also expected to discuss the Anderson issue — on whose escape the BJP demanded the GoM’s report within 15 days — and who should pay, and how much, for the massive clean-up operation needed at the non-functional Carbide plant which still has a huge quantity of toxic waste.
“It can be probed under which circumstances it happened and under what circumstances Anderson had to leave. What were the causes and how the punishment was reduced,” Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, a GoM member, said on the sidelines of a function.
Sources said that contrary to public perception, the UPA government still holds Dow Chemicals, which acquired the Union Carbide Corporation in 2001, liable for the unfinished work of its former company.
“My ministry is going to recommend to the GoM a fresh provision for time-bound awarding of financial damages to the people affected by industrial disasters, since the courts in India are conservative in providing liberal compensation,” said Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily, who is also in the GoM.
The GoM includes Azad, Moily S. Jaipal Reddy, Kamal Nath, Kumari Selja, M.K. Alagiri, Prithviraj Chavan, Jairam Ramesh and a Madhya Pradesh government minister.