Posts Tagged ‘Motilal Vora’
Former President A P J Abdul Kalam is a sensitive person, always commiserating with the poor and those in distress. His recent Rs 200-crore proposal for the socio-economic development of the areas around the Kudankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu shows his concern for the people who had to inevitably suffer in various ways because of the oncoming nuclear plant.
Kalam’s plan includes jobs through industries, roads and facilities for fishermen (who are in a majority in the area). “The people of Kudankulam and the surrounding villages should be provided urban amenities at a cost of Rs 200 crore”, he asserts.
Kalam has, however, resorted to activism in favour of the poor and the distressed only when he ceased to be The President. Had he shown a similar zeal while still in office, the lives of the Bhopal gas leak disaster survivors would probably have been less miserable today.
File picture taken on December 4, 1984, Victims in the corridor of Hamidia hospital Bhopal.( Photo:Prakash Hatvalne)
Kalam, then The President, visited Bhopal in September 2002. He was scheduled, besides his other official engagements, to formally inaugurate the Bhopal Memorial Hospital in spite of the protest of the gas victims’ organisations who were demanding dissolution of the Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust (BMHT) because of the mismanagement caused by former Chief Justice of India A M Ahmadi who was awarded with the chairmanship of the BMHT by the Union Carbide for diluting the penal sections against those responsible for the gas leak disaster.
Apparently appreciating the sentiments of the survivors, Kalam cut short the ceremonial function and spent some time with the patients admitted there, commiserating with their plight. It had given a new hope to the survivors who had been suffering for long because of the unconscionable apathy of the State and Central governments.
Enthused by Kalam’s interest, some organisations of the survivors led by Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan (BGPMUS) submitted a memorandum to The President listing their problems covering mainly the ill-treatment of the gas victims at the Bhopal Memorial Hospital (which was constructed under a Supreme Court directive specifically for the gas leak survivors), and their rehabilitation — medical, social, economic and environmental.
Then chief minister Digvijay Singh also submitted to The President a memorandum seeking redress of the grievances of the survivors. This was significant as well as astounding. Digvijay Singh is perhaps the most unstable character in the Madhya Pradesh politics. Before he became chief minister in December 2003, he was a part of the agitations launched by the gas victims, sitting on dharnas organised by them and submitting memoranda to the Governor. He, as the PCC president, had got included in the 1993 Assembly election manifesto of the Congress that the problems of the gas victims would be solved on the priority basis if the Congress came to power.
Once he formed the government, Digvijay Singh not only distanced himself from the gas victims but completed the winding up of the projects to help he gas victims, which were started during Motilal Vora’s tenure in the late 1980’s. The process of winding up of these projects was started by Digvijay Singh’s predecessor Sunderlal Patwa of the BJP. The phrase “gas leak survivors” was not even mentioned in the Congress party’s 1998 election manifesto.
Digvijay Singh’s renewed interest in the problems of the gas victims in 2002 had taken the survivors’ organisations by surprise but they were happy, nonetheless.
Had Kalam taken an interest in solving the problems of the gas victims, it would not have been difficult for him to persuade the NDA government at the Centre to agree to his proposals, in spite of the reservations of the BJP leaders on the Bhopal gas issue. And with Digvijay Singh’s renewed interest in the problems of the gas victims, the State government, too, would not have shirked from its responsibilities. But, unfortunately, Kalam commiserated with the survivors for their sufferings while in Bhopal and apparently forgot everything about it on reaching Delhi.
A new commission on the Bhopal gas leak disaster has started functioning more than a year after chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan had announced his intention to constitute it. In August last year, the chief minister had even announced the name of the judge, Justice S L Kochar, for heading the one-man commission. Justice Kochar was to retire from the Madhya Pradesh High Court two months later.
The terms of reference announced by the State government for the new commission had the hallmark of Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s politics of mischief. The commission was asked to inquire if the rules and regulations were complied with while setting up the Union Carbide plant, if adequate measures were taken by Union Carbide to prevent mishaps, and if adequate safety measures were installed by Union Carbide for the disposal of the hazardous waste after the 1984 disaster. More importantly, the commission would inquire into the role of the State government and others in the arrest, release and in providing safe passage to Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson, and any other matter arising out of or incidental to these issues. The matters obviously pertain to the Congress governments.
The terms did not mention the role of the politicians, bureaucrats and judicial officers in depriving the lakhs of the victims of medical, economic, social and environmental rehabilitation by pocketing the major share of the hundreds of crores of rupees spent in the name of the gas victims. The BJP governments of Sunderlal Patwa and of Shivraj Singh Chauhan himself will stand out as the biggest culprits if such an inquiry were held. Moreover, the Patwa government had played the most obnoxious role in closing down the projects started to provide succour to the gas victims during the Congress regime of Motitlal Vora.
The Union Carbide Poisonous Gas Leak Investigation Commission (the official nomenclature given to the commission) has urged citizens to submit documents or statements which may throw light on the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy and its perpetrators. A release issued by Commission Secretary Shashimohan Shrivastava on august 18 said: ”The general public, any institution or organisation — which is aware of the inquiry’s subject matter — may submit written statements, evidence, documents or affidavits.”
Fresh documents with solid evidence are difficult to come by after the lapse of such a long time and also because the Chauhan government-appointed commission inspires little confidence among those who have been affected by the 1984 disaster. However, there is a way out for the commission to bring out the facts which may throw light on what led to the disaster and who were directly responsible for that. It may, though, be a formidable task for the Kochar commission in view of the extraordinarily friendly attitude of the State government, the Central government and the judiciary, including the Supreme Court, towards the executives of the Union Carbide/ Dow Chemical.
Faced with the countrywide horror at the disaster that had struck the unsuspecting residents of Bhopal in the night of December 2-3, 1984, then chief minister Arjun Singh had instituted a judicial inquiry into all aspects of the disaster and its aftermath. Justice N K Singh of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, who headed the one-member inquiry commission, directed the State government on March 26, 1985 to file its statement which the government did eight months later, on November 28. Another fortnight was taken by the government to file the list of documents relied upon. The Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL), the subsidiary of the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), which was directly responsible for operating the pesticides plant in Bhopal, also filed its statement. Then the State government abruptly terminated the inquiry commission on December 17, 1985 – and thus scuttled the investigation of the magnitude and the ramifications of the Bhopal gas leak disaster.
Reports suggest that there were dozens of documents which the government had submitted to the commission, along with its version of what had gone wrong and how. The statement filed by the UCIL was also said to be running into hundreds of pages. There must be something threatening in these documents and the statement of the UCIL that made the State government hurriedly wind up the inquiry commission and seize all the documents.
These documents and statements must be with the State government, unless Arjun Singh and his unscrupulous IAS aides had sold these to the Union Carbide which they were quite capable of and had actually indulged in such abominable acts. If the N K Singh commission papers are still with the State government, the Kochar commission should not have much difficulty in getting them though the IAS fraternity will try hard to resist any such attempt. However, if the papers are with the Union Carbide, then it is near impossible to get the papers because of Manmohan Singh at the head of the Union government and the Justice S H Kapadia-headed Supreme Court which had shown its unabashed bias towards the Union Carbide in dismissing the curative petition (against the 1996 order) after admitting during the hearing that the 1996 order of the apex court was wrong. Still, the Kochar commission can seek the papers. At least it will help further expose the friends of Union Carbide in India.