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Bhopal 26 years on, India not to pursue compensation in US courts

By Paromita Pain - 02 Dec 2010 7:15:0 GMT
Bhopal 26 years on, India not to pursue compensation in US courts

The Indian government has decided not to pursue the compensation case for Bhopal in US courts. Stating that India's courts were fully equipped to deal with and resolve the matter, the law minister M. Veerappa Moily, asserted that this was, "not in the interest of victims and not in the interest of India".

This was in keeping with the Attorney General of India, G E Vahanvati's advice that India should not become a party in compensation-related cases in the United States.

Compensation amounting to $470 million had been extracted from Union Carbide in 1989. A new group of ministers, headed by Home Minister P Chidambaram, recently set up to re-examine the various aspects of the Bhopal gas tragedy had sought legal opinion on the possibility of filing cases in the US courts to enhance the compensation amount got.

Years later

December 3, 2010 will mark the 26th year of the infamous Bhopal gas leak of 1984. Approximately 40 metric tons of deadly methyl isocyanate gas was released in the Indian city of Bhopal in the early hours of December 3 1984. Since most of the population was asleep, they were caught unawares and couldn't escape in time. While government estimates put the number of dead at 3500 activists say as many as 25,000 died. Children yet unborn live with the after effects of the gas. Born with congenital deformities they battle scars from poison their parents breathed. Over the years the Bhopal gas victims have done their best to ensure justice.

Earlier this year on June 7, the first criminal convictions which were widely criticised as a complete mockery of the criminal justice system in India saw of the eight accused, one of whom is now deceased, sentenced to two years in prison for causing death due to negligence.

The new group of minsters have also recommended that the central government give additional compensation worth Rs 1,500 crore to victims and petition the Supreme Court for a review of its judgment diluting charges against the perpetrators, among other things.

A long journey

Fighting for justice over 26 years now, many of the victims, who are aged and enfeebled by the damage wrought by the gas, say that though they feel betrayed by the government in many respects, they still have faith that that the guilty will be punished. They let their small victories encourage them on.

In September this year, locals villagers from a hamlet near the city of Pune sucessfully opposed the Rs 400-crore (about $9 million USD) proposed Dow Research & Development Center project.  The Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has also blacklisted Dow Chemical's subsidiary, Dow AgroSciences, from doing business in India for the next 5 years. They were banned for trying to bribe Indian government officials to advance the registration of several pesticides.

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Topics: Pollution