Survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy have decried the negligence of Union government and 'sheltering' by the American government for the failure in bringing former Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson to trial for the worst industrial disaster in the world.
They have also sought punishment for those responsible for his escape from India immediately after the tragedy in December 1984. Anderson died on September 29 in United States, but the news became public on Friday.
The survivors vowed to carry on their struggle for justice and to ensure that the present owners of the company — Dow Chemical — is made to fulfil its liability to the sufferers of the tragedy and for the clean-up of the contamination in and around the abandoned Union Carbide factory.
Interestingly, when HT contacted him at 1.40 pm, state gas tragedy relief and rehabilitation minister Narottam Mishra said he was not yet aware of the news of Anderson’s death as he was involved in a BJP state unit programme. Later in the day, he said that any death was sad, but this death would not stop justice from being dispensed to the gas tragedy victims.
Activist Abdul Jabbar of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan said that Bhopal district court had issued non-bailable warrant for Anderson in March 1992 and also declared him an absconder. But it is a shame that Government of India (GoI) could do nothing in 20-odd years to present him in Bhopal court.
"If it has have any sincerity for the issue left, the Indian government should immediately announce that it would punish those responsible for allowing Anderson to escape," Jabbar said.
Satinath Sarangi of Bhopal Group of Information and Action reacted saying "It was a shame that due to the protection offered by the US and the deliberate negligence of Indian government, the worst corporate criminal of world has died unshackled."
Co-convener of Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti ND Jayaprakash said that successive governments at the Centre are guilty of lowering the prestige of the Indian judicial system by trying to project it as a hapless institution incapable of trying and prosecuting foreign accused, charged with committing heinous crimes. "The seriousness with which the Central government initiates steps to bring the guilty to book would provide proof of its real character," he said.
State home minister Babulal Gaur, who held the gas relief and rehabilitation portfolio for several years, said while speaking to media persons that even if Anderson was dead, other officials of the defunct Union Carbide and Dow Chemical could be brought to trial for their criminal liability in the case. He said that complexities of international accords and laws prevented Anderson’s extradition.