Monday, November 29, 1999

Bhopal GoM to meet today: priority compensation

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New Delhi, June 17 -- The Group of Ministers (GoM) on Bhopal will hold daily meetings starting Friday and intends to submit its report ahead of the 10-day deadline set by the PM. The GoM, headed by Home Minister P Chidambaram, will go into compensation and legal issues relating to the gas disaster that killed 15,000. It is expected to recommend a rehab package and firm up plans to clean the mess left behind. This move to give priority to the people's "concerns" follows an outcry over the leniency shown to the convicts and the Opposition onslaught on the Congress, then PM Rajiv Gandhi and then Madhya Pradesh CM Arjun Singh for letting off Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson. These opposing voices are bound to get shriller with the then foreign secretary of the country, M K Rasgotra, revealing to a television channel on Thursday that the decision to release and give safe passage to Anderson was taken by the Rajiv Gandhi government. A Rs 982.75-crore 'Plan of Action' is already under government consideration. The GoM will examine this and other options the Supreme Court is considering too. Ahead of the GoM's first meeting, the Congress Core Group - comprising the PM and party president Sonia Gandhi - also met to take stock of the situation. The members discussed rehabilitation for the victims and possible legal action against Anderson. Officials, however, said it was unrealistic to expect a significant departure from the past as far as the criminal liability of Union Carbide officials is concerned. Seemingly supporting this view, the Chemicals and Fertilisers Ministry's note for Friday's GoM said it was for the Law Ministry to decide if it wanted to extradite Anderson.

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