THE STATE Assembly on Friday passed by voice vote a Private Members’ Bill seeking to declare the remaining 20 municipal wards of Bhopal as gas-affected. The Bill was moved by local BJP MLA Umashankar Gupta and will be forwarded to the Union Government along with details of debate on it.
Supporting the Bill, Gas Relief Minister Babulal Gaur said that the MIC gas which leaked from Union Carbide on the intervening night of December 2 & 3, 1984, had not spared any part of the City from its ill-effects. The then chief minister Arjun Singh had also arranged for distribution of ration, kerosene and other commodities in the entire City. Besides, claim forms were also filled from across the City for compensation, he added.
Gaur said the Union Government had enacted law for distribution of compensation in lieu of the State Government. The then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had also said that justice would be done to all MIC-affected people in the compensation agreement with the Union Carbide, he added.
Gaur said that compensation agreement also envisaged distribution of compensation to everyone in Bhopal. Later on, the Welfare Commissioner laid down the criteria that compensation distribution would be done on the basis of more-affected and less-affected wards of Bhopal.
He also provided that residents of more-affected 36 wards would be given compensation without having to prove injury due to exposure to MIC while residents of 20 remaining wards would be required to produce evidence of injury suffered, he added.
Gaur disclosed that Antulay Committee formed by the Union Government in this regard had also recommended that all the 56 wards of Bhopal should be declared gas-affected.
He said that former Union home minister Lalkrishna Advani and Union Minister for Human Resource Development Arjun Singh, who is also the chairman of Group of Ministers on Gas Relief, had also expressed agreement on extending compensation disbursement to remaining 20 wards.
Local Congress MLA Arif Aqueel, however, asked the minister why did the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government at the Centre did not take initiative for providing compensation to 20 remaining wards during its stints at the Centre. He said that additional funds should be sought for the purpose from the Centre and the funds for relief and rehabilitation of people in the 36 gas-affected wards should not be used for compensation to people in the remaining 20 wards.
CPM MLA Ramlakhan Sharma also said that there was no objection to giving compensation to remaining 20 wards but additional funds for the purpose should be sought from the Centre.
Gaur said that the State Government would only seek additional funds from the Centre, which it would realise from the Union Carbide. The House later passed the Bill by voice vote.