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Centre to set up panel to help Bhopal gas leak victims
May, 31st 2008

The Government has agreed to set up a panel to help victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas leak, which has till now killed more than 15,000 people.

On Thursday morning, Minister of State in the PMO Prithviraj Chavan visited Jantar Mantar where the Bhopal survivors have been protesting for the last two months and read out a two-page statement authorised by the Prime Minister. The statement said India would press the US company which now owns Union Carbide to clean up the site.

Though their top demand of setting up a commission to carry out medical, economic, social and environmental rehabilitation of the Bhopal gas victims was addressed in the statement, the group of activists camping in the Capital were not completely satisfied. While the Central Government will work on setting up the commission, the Government of Madhya Pradesh is also being asked to prepare a detailed action plan pertaining to the rehabilitation schemes of Bhopal gas victims.

The group will send a letter to the Prime Minister with the final draft of the Commission on Bhopal Bill, to be passed in Parliament. The proposed Commission will have survivors representatives and will function for the next 30 years at least. The protestors said they would discuss the PMs response and decide whether they will continue their dharna here.

The PMO statement added that on the demand of provision of clean drinking water in 14 localities near the former Union Carbide plant, a project under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission has been sanctioned at an estimated cost of Rs.141.8 million.

But Satinath Sarangi, an activist, complained: Legal action against Union Carbide and Dow Chemical, the main culprits of the gas tragedy, has not yet been decided. The PMOs statement only said the matter of legal action against Dow Chemical on environment and health of the surviving victims is still pending before the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

Union Carbide and its former chairperson Warren Anderson, both of whom face charges of culpable homicide and grievous assault, are absconding from Indian courts since 1992. No fresh attempts have been made by the Government to enforce their appearance in court.

The PMO statement said the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals has already filed an application requesting the court to direct Dow Chemical and associated companies to deposit Rs 100 crore as an advance for environmental remediation. It said the Union Ministry of Family and Health Welfare will be asked to continue research work on the adverse effects of the gas leakage on the health of the surviving victims through the Indian Council of Medical Research.

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