New Delhi, Aug.12 (ANI): Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Thursday candidly admitted that the victims of the December 3, 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy had been let down by the executive and Parliament, and it was wrong to put the onus on the judiciary to deal with its aftermath.
Addressing members of the Rajya Sabha this afternoon, Chidambaram said: " "What happened in Bhopal was a man made tragedy. This tragedy was in the making. There were enough indications to the authorities that the tragedy of this kind will happen. When it happened of course, virtually everyone was unprepared. We can see the after effects of this on women especially young girls who have since become women and are in child-bearing age, we can see the after effects on the second generation. And the manner in which the governments addressed this for the last 26 years has been, to be charitable, most unsatisfactory and what compounded the matter were judicial proceedings."
He was replying to a debate in the Rajya Sabha on the Bhopal gas tragedy that claimed the lives of at least 3,500 people and left tens of thousands maimed or exposed to the after effects of being exposed to the deadly methyl isocyanate gas that leaked from a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal on the night of Dec 2-3, 1984.
"We are now in the sixteenth Lok Sabha. While today, I share the grief, pain and sorrow, I feel a deep sense of guilt that now in all the 26 years the executive and parliament have not exercised the vigil that they should have done," he said.
"This is another example where the parliament and executive ought not to abdicate its responsibility in favour of the judiciary. Let this be a lesson to all of us," he added.
"What was important was to "look forward on what can be done," Chidambaram said, adding that while it was impossible to re-open each case and look at catergorisation, the government was willing to provide free medical aid to those affected.
"What we promise is free and comprehensive medical facilities for the rest of the lives of the victims and the second generation," said Chidambaram.
He said that the "judgement was wrong in my view," adding that the government intends to file a curative petition, which is more or less ready.
Chidambaram said "memories tend to play tricks" and told the Leader of the Opposition, Arun Jaitley, what happened in 1984 and how Warren Anderson got away would have been better answered in 2001, when he was in power.
Chidambaram also referred the Arjun Singh's statement in the house on Wednesday.
Arjun Singh had said that Rajiv Gandhi did not intervene to help Anderson in any way. Singh was Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh when the Bhopal gas tragedy took place. Anderson was arrested when he arrived in Bhopal but was released within hours and flown to Delhi on the Chief Minister's plane. The CEO of Union Carbide then flew to America and has never returned, defying multiple summons from Indian courts.
"I take full responsibility for Anderson's arrest," said Singh in Parliament on Wednesday, speaking publicly on the issue for the first time since a Bhopal court earlier this year pronounced a verdict that incensed the country because of the nano-punishment it delivered: seven Indian executives of Carbide were found guilty of criminal negligence, all of them were granted bail immediately.
Singh said that then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi "did not utter a single word in the next two days either in support of Mr Anderson or try to mitigate his problem. " Instead, he suggested that the Home Ministry in Delhi may have tried to rescue Anderson. "The Chief Secretary informed me that there have been persistent calls for granting bail to Mr Anderson from Home Ministry officials in Delhi," Singh said. At the time, Narasimha Rao was the country's Home Minister.
The Home Minister today said that there are no records in the Ministry of External Affairs and his ministry, on the level at which safe passage for Warren Anderson was decided.
To this the opposition reacted sharply. Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House, Arun Jaitley, asked the government," Did the instructions come from another planet?"
"Are we to believe that it was only between the Home Minister and a person who alive no more," Jaitley asked.
To this, Chidambaram replied in the negative. (ANI)