Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee joined senior Congress leaders in putting the onus of Union Carbide Corporation chairman Warren Anderson’s easy exit from India in the wake of the Bhopal gas disaster on the then Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Arjun Singh.
Breaking his silence on the issue, Mukherjee on Sunday gave a new twist to the Congress tale, seeking to justify Arjun Singh’s action in letting Anderson off the hook.
“There was people’s frenzy all around Bhopal. People’s tempers were running high. The law and order situation was getting out of control. So, it was felt necessary to send him (Anderson) out of Bhopal,” Mukherjee said, recalling Singh’s statement on December 8, 1984.
Mukherjee, who was not a member of Rajiv Gandhi’s cabinet in 1984, said the United Progressive Alliance government would seek to get Anderson to India to stand trial for the world’s worst industrial disaster.
“The issue of extradition has come up. Naturally, we will explore the possibility of extradition,” the Finance Minister said. Mukherjee’s comments came after several Congress leaders dismissed suggestions that Arjun Singh had acted at then PM Rajiv Gandhi’s behest and mounted pressure on the senior Congress leader to break his silence on the issue.
The Opposition has been attacking the Congress for having allowed Anderson to leave the country and for having done little to secure justice for the families of more than 15,000 people who died in the gas leak and lakhs who were injured or maimed for life.
Anderson visited Bhopal on December 7, four days after the lethal methyl isocyanate gas leaked from the Union Carbide pesticide plant. He was received at the airport by Bhopal’s district collector and superintendent of police and driven to the company’s guest-house where he was arrested but let off within a few hours. He was then flown on a state government plane to New Delhi, from where he flew to the US after two days.