Monday, June 14, 2010

This India is not incredible

Bhopal news leakage disaster

by Rajinder Puri

The Statesman

In Bhopal, leaking gas killed people. From Bhopal, leaking news is killing reputations. Arjun Singh ordered the release of Warren Anderson after earlier arresting him. Why did he do that? He is under a cloud. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked his ministers to consider the Dow Chemical proposal to waive its financial liability in lieu of helping obtain foreign investment in India. He is under a cloud. Chief Justice Ahmedi who reduced the criminal liability in the Bhopal case later headed the hospital trust set up by the accused. This was gross violation of judicial propriety. He is under a cloud. Chidambaram and Kamal Nath lobbied for Dow Chemical with the government to write off the compensation for Bhopal victims due from it in return for promised foreign investment. Both are under a cloud – but enough! There is little point in mentioning names. Why pick on a few individuals? The entire political class is under a cloud.

However Rajiv Gandhi is not under a cloud. No Congress leader dares to name him. Rajiv was Prime Minister when Anderson was released in Bhopal. He was Prime Minister when Anderson was allowed to fly from Delhi to the USA. He was in Bhopal with Arjun Singh on the very day and at the very time when the latter reversed his earlier decision of arresting Anderson to order his release and fly him to Delhi in a State aircraft.

Rajiv Gandhi alone could have been responsible for the release of Anderson. The PM’s principal secretary PC Alexander has confirmed that the Cabinet meeting convened soon after the Bhopal gas tragedy did not refer to Anderson’s release. Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said: “I categorically deny involvement of the then central government.” She is right. Anderson’s release was not ordered by the Central government. It was ordered personally by Rajiv Gandhi who sat next to chief minister Arjun Singh in Bhopal when the latter addressed the press confirming Anderson’s arrest.

Rajiv Gandhi must bear ultimate responsibility for allowing the government’s claim for settlement of US$ 3.3 billion from Union Carbide to be whittled down to a paltry US$ 470 million that was eventually paid. The Supreme Court directed the final settlement of all litigation in the amount of US$ 470 million to be paid by 31 March, 1989. Both the Indian government and Union Carbide accepted the court's direction for payment of US$ 470 million. In May, 1989 the SC offered its rationale for the settlement. It stated that the compensation was higher than ordinarily payable under Indian law.

Did the honourable Judges pay any attention to international law? In the same year 1989 Exxon Valdez spilled 10.8 million gallons of crude oil in the waters near Alaska. Exxon had to shell out US$ 5 billion for a disaster in which no human lives were lost! Given our recent history it is legitimate to ask: was any amount in the huge gap between 3.3 billion US$ claimed by the government, and 470 million US$ received by it, pocketed by any politician? And let us not be surprised by the SC settlement. After all, the Supreme Court just months earlier overcame its doubts to sentence innocent Kehar Singh to death in the Indira Gandhi assassination case.

Let us not miss the wood for the trees. This issue is not about Rajiv Gandhi or the Congress. All our past political icons deserve scrutiny by scanner. The issue is no longer about the Bhopal gas disaster. The victims are no longer the 500,000 disabled or the 20,000 dead of Bhopal. The issue is the independence of India. The victims are the one billion plus citizens of India. They do not need compensation. They need revolution. They need liberation from the corrupt, venal ruling class that enriched itself by bartering the nation’s independence and self respect during the past six decades.

Yes, six decades! The time has come to recall all the disgraceful betrayals of the national interest since 1947 by those who have ruled us. The time has come to revisit history. The exposures of the Bhopal gas disaster present a defining moment. If India seeks remedy for its decadence and decline the diagnosis must be based upon truth. There is a generation of Indians ignorant of our history. It will need to acquaint itself with the truth. It is available for all those who seek it. If India’s new generation wants a future it will have to fight for it. It will have to fight for the future of the nation. Who knows, it may surprise history by doing just that.

No comments: