Bhopal GoM backs hike in compensation for victims

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Jun 19 2010, 06:46am hrs
Members of the reconstituted group of ministers on the Bhopal gas leak disaster on Friday favoured enhanced compensation as one of the key ingredients of a healing touch package but agreed to take it up along with all other issues in back-to-back meetings over the weekend before finalising its report on Monday.

Making it clear that no aspects would be sidestepped or left pendingan assertion that former Union Carbide chief Warren Andersons extradition too was a live issueUnion home minister P Chidambaram, who now heads the GoM, told reporters that the GoM was proceeding in the right direction.

We are looking at them separately and then we will take a comprehensive view, Chidambaram said, adding that the GoM was determined to address all issues, including relief, rehabilitation and remediation.

He said the ministerial panel will meet in two sessions on Saturday and on Sunday. On Monday, we should be able to finalise the recommendations. We will give our best and most sympathetic consideration to all these people who have suffered as a result of this tragedy, he said.

Fridays deliberations began with chemicals and fertilisers secretary Vijay Chakravarty making a detailed presentation on the status of the Bhopal gas leak disaster. MK Alagiri, minister of chemicals and fertilisers, did not speak but laid down a two-page statement on the subject.

According to sources, Chidambaram told the members that they could divide all issues into three distinct categories, and these would be dealt accordingly in the meetings over the next two days. Sources said the first was the compensation part, which also included medical related issues. The second would be issues related to legal aspects including the issue of Dow liability, while the third was the issue of environmental remediation.

On Saturday, we will look at legal and health issues, remediation issues and all other issues that arise out of the judgment of the trial court, Chidambaram said.

Union ministers M Veerappa Moily (law), Ghulam Nabi Azad (health), Kamal Nath (surface transport), M K Alagiri (chemicals), Kumari Selja (tourism), S Jaipal Reddy (urban development), Prithviraj Chavan (science and technology) and Jairam Ramesh (environment) were present. Madhya Pradesh minister Babulal Gaur also attended the meeting as special invitee. Cabinet secretary KM Chandrasekhar, home secretary GK Pillai, foreign secretary Nirupama Rao were among the officials who attended the meeting.

Chidambaram said he would not be in a position to share any details about the conclusion till the report is submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.