GoM on Bhopal's Industrial Catastrophe Conflict of Interest Ridden
Evidence of PMO's Collusion with Dow Chemicals
New Delhi: The 55 page PMO documents (attached) gathered using Right To Information Act (RTI) shows manifest collusion between ministers, officials and Dow Chemicals to protect it from the liabilities of Industrial catastrophe of Bhopal. The documents reveal how some of the ministers who have been made part of Group of Ministers (GoM) by the Prime Minister have been acting to safeguard the interest of the US corporation in question, which is liable for Bhopal disaster.
The GoM that has been constituted does not inspire confidence. Notably, the GoM, headed by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, was constituted on May 26, 2010 by the PM's Office. It is expected that notification of the same from the Cabinet Secretariat will be issued shortly. The documents gathered using RTI reveal how Chidambaram and Kamal Nath have already expressed their support for Dow Chemical Company's proposal to save it from Union Carbide Corporation's liability by seeking a Cabinet Secretary headed committee on a matter which is sub judice. Dow inherited the liability in 2001 after its merger Union Carbide.
The real issue arising out of Bhopal verdict that has necessitated the setting up GoM is its fallout on the proposed Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill that is pending in the parliament. It has emerged any future liability regime must include criminal liability and must not cap the amount of civil liability because the damage from a nuclear or chemical disaster depends on the direction and nature of the wind at the time of the accident.
Bhopal verdict reveals that no lessons have been learnt from Chernobyl nuclear disaster and Three Mile Island Nuclear Accident. It is sad that even Parliament's standing committee on Environment, Forests, Science and Technology is frozen in its passivity be it with regard to Bhopal or nuclear liability. The Committee is under the chairmanship of T Subbiram Reddy who is on record in parliament to have opposed any liability arising out of asbestos exposures. Incidentally, the Dow Chemicals Company has set aside $2.2 billion to address future asbestos-related liabilities arising out of the Union Carbide acquisition. How is that Dow Chemicals can take the asbestos liability of Union Carbide and not the liability for the industrial catastrophe in Bhopal?.
The Supreme Court’s verdict in the WTO Case and the present apex court engineered order of the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate of Bhopal demonstrates beyond doubt how Indian parliament, the premier law making law making institution appears to have become almost defunct. It must re-invent its role and assert its authority.
It is noteworthy that the convicts have been held guilty under Sections 304-A (causing death by negligence) instead of 304-II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code as per the original charge besides Sections 336, 337 and 338 (gross negligence).
It has become clearer that the corporations are undemocratic institutions by legal design makes them ungovernable and is making the very existence of democratic legislatures effete. Legislatures must be make them subservient to legislative will.
The Bhopal case provides a historic opportunity to democratic governments of US, India and others to ensure genuine legal remedy to set an example in order to give befitting reply to those who question the efficacy of representative democracy.
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