NEW DELHI: More than 20 years after the Supreme Court-supervised Bhopal gas victims compensation package of $470 million was worked out, the Centre has decided to seek more than Rs 1,500 crore extra from Dow Chemicals and its subsidiary Union Carbide. This meant to be additional relief for the victims.
The ministry of chemicals and fertilisers is putting the finishing touches to the curative petition that wants the 1989 compensation package worked out between Union Carbide Corporation and the Union government to be reworked. A petition seeking a review of the February 1989 judgment was dismissed on October 3, 1991.
Given the decision of the Group of Ministers (GoM) to uniformly give Rs 10 lakh as compensation to the kin of those who died in the worst ever industrial disaster on December 2-3, 1984, when deadly methyl isocyanate gas leaked from the UCC plant in Bhopal, the ministry feels that the gradation made by the Supreme Court for compensation was not correct.
Moreover, the apex court helped UCC and the government reach a figure of $470 million on the basis of the assumption that there were 3,000 deaths and the number of injured was around 20,000.
But, when the compensation was paid to the victims, the death figure had touched almost 6,000 and the number of injured totalled nearly 6 lakh. So the money paid by UCC to be distributed among the kin of 3,000 and 20,000 injured got spread between the kin of 6,000 dead and among 6 lakh injured reducing their share by more than half.
"These are very conservative figures given the magnitude of the tragedy and hence the compensation amount UCC was asked to pay was only a fraction of its liability," sources in the ministry said, adding that the government would make all out effort to seek an extra Rs 1,500-2,000 crores.
They said although no amount of compensation or rehabilitation could substitute the loss of innocent lives, the state was nevertheless duty bound to ensure that the persons responsible for this calamity paid a reasonable compensation to the affected people.
Dow Chemicals Company may have denied any responsibility for damages caused by Union Carbide in Bhopal, but the govt is positive about fixing liability on it as had been done against UCC in 75,000 asbestos-related lawsuits in US. Carbide became a subsidiary of Dow through a merger in 2001.