Now, Opposition plans to corner govt on Bhopal tragedy

Written by Nistula Hebbar | Nistula Hebbar | New Delhi | Updated: Jul 31 2010, 05:29am hrs
As the Opposition prepares to move on from the issue of price rise to the more contentious one over the Bhopal Gas tragedy, the government is finding it a little difficult to be as sanguine about the matter.

Spoiling the party for the government are some major technical hitches with the decisions taken by the group of ministers (GoM) on Bhopal and the inability of the minister of chemicals and fertilisers MK Alagiri to speak either English or Hindi, in order to reply to parliamentary debate on the matter.

Top government sources said that the package of measures announced by the GoM on Bhopal, including filing a curative petition in the Supreme Court holding Warren Anderson liable for criminal proceedings have run into a technical hitch. Sources said that a letter written by a senior functionary of the CBI to the department of personnel and training arguing that the petition would lead to the setting aside of the earlier court decision sentencing Keshub Mahindra and others to two years imprisonment would have to be set aside.

Apart from that, the government of Madhya Pradesh has also expressed its inability to help in the clean up of the residue at the Union Carbide factory site, said a top source in the government. In fact most of the chemical waste in the area actually pre-dates 1984 and in fact is the waste from the factory from 1969 to 1981, said the source. The state government has said that the Centre would have to do more for the clean up, added the source.

Perhaps the most piquant dilema before the government is the fact that the minister who should reply to any debate on the matter is chemicals and fertilisers minister M K Alagiri. It is going to a long winded, complicated debate and the reply has to be a nuanced one, with Alagiris linguistic inability the government has more or less decided that home minister P Chidambaram, as the head of the GoM on Bhopal would instead be asked to reply to the debate, said the source.

CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat on Wednesday called up Basudeb Acharia, the leader of the CPI(M)s parliamentary party and asked him to corner the government on Bhopal, after Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar denied the moving of an adjournment motion on price rise. The issue is likely to be taken up next week for discussion.