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US pressure dictated Bhopal tragedy handling: Digvijay Singh

Senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh, who was a minister in the Arjun Singh government when the Bhopal gas leak happened in 1984, has said that American pressure could have been a factor that dictated the handling of the tragedy and its aftermath.

delhi Updated: Jun 10, 2010 14:07 IST

Senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh has said that American pressure could have been a factor that dictated the handling of the Bhopal Gas tragedy and its aftermath. Singh was a minister in the Arjun Singh Government in Madhya Pradesh when the Bhopal gas leak happened in 1984.

He told NDTV that he did not know all the details as he was not in Bhopal at the time of gas leak.

Warren Anderson, chairman of Union Carbide when the tragedy took place in 1984, is one of the main accused yet to be brought to book under allegations that he was allowed to escape by Madhya Pradesh CM Arjun Singh.

The then-district collector of Bhopal Moti Singh revealed he was asked by the state’s chief secretary to take Anderson to the airport. Anderson took the plane to Delhi airport and flew straight to the US from there. He never returned to face charges.

The then chief secretary cannot rebut the charge — because he is dead.

Under fire for its failure in securing Anderson’s extradition, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) went on the offensive on Wednesday, saying it made several attempts between 2003 and 2008 to get him.

“The latest effort was made as late as in September 2008, but it was turned down by the United States authorities for want of sufficient evidence in keeping with the extradition treaty,” a highly placed ministry source said. The ministry said it had informed the CBI about the development and had asked it for “more concrete evidence.”

The day saw former CBI officials contradicting each other on whether the agency was asked by the MEA not to seek Anderson’s extradition.

Former CBI director, K Vijayarama Rao, rejected the claim of former joint director, BR Lall that the investigating agency was forced by the MEA not to pursue the extradition case.

"The government and the CBI did everything they could to extradite Anderson from the US. But they refused to allow it,” Rao said Lall, who was the in-charge of the probe in 1994-95, had alleged he was forced By MEA officials not to pursue the case.

Nearly 26 years after the world's worst industrial disaster left more than 15,000 dead in the Bhopal gas tragedy, former Union Carbide India Chairman Keshub Mahindra and six others were convicted on Monday and sentenced to two years imprisonment in a judgement that came under attack from civil rights activists and parties.

The government now has changed the Group of Ministers (GoM) on Bhopal with Home Minister P Chidambaram heading the reconstituted panel while the other members of the panel GoM are Ghulam Nabi Azad, M Veerappa Moily, S Jaipal Reddy, Kamal Nath, Selja, M K Alagiri, Prithviraj Chavan and Jairam Ramesh, sources said.

First Published: Jun 10, 2010 10:56 IST