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Twenty-nine years after the gas leak from Union Carbide’s factory in Bhopal killed hundreds, the Centre informed a commission that was set up to inquire into the tragedy that it does not have documents related to arrest and subsequent release of former chairman and chief executive officer of the company.
Warren Anderson, the company’s CEO, had reached Bhopal four days after the leak of toxic gas via Mumbai from United States. He was arrested for a few hours in Bhopal, then released on bail and subsequently left India, never to return to again despite a warrant from a court of law.
In 2010, the Madhya Pradesh government set up Bhopal Gas Tragedy Commission under justice S L Kochar after a local court convicted the then Union Carbide India chairman Keshub Mahindra and six others for causing death by negligence. The political clamour after the verdict had pushed the state government to set up the inquiry committee.
Last week, the Union cabinet secretary informed the commission that the Centre does not have any documents related to Anderson, which could end the political blame game over his release.
The local population still suffers from ground water contamination due to abandoned toxic waste in the Union Carbide factory. The governments --- Centre and the state --- has not been able to find a suitable place to burn the waste and therefore, no effort for ground remediation can take place.
In these years, the landscape around the factory has also changed. Buildings now touch the boundary wall of the highly guarded factory. One of the ponds used to dispose toxic waste on once barren land has been encroached upon. Open areas inside the factory now serve as a cricket pitch for children.
“The government sleeps as the people still continue to suffer,” Satinath Sirangi, who has fighting for the victims for the last 20 years, told HT a few months ago.