A Rs 1,500 crore package for enhancing compensation for the kin of those who died and those debilitated in the Bhopal gas disaster was today finalised by a Group of Ministers (GoM).
The GoM, headed by Home Minister P Chidambaram, that went into a whole range of issues, including relief and rehabilitation of the victims, is believed to have recommended payment of Rs 10 lakh to the next of kin of the dead in the world's worst industrial disaster nearly 26 years ago.
Those permanently disabled or suffering from critical ailments arising out of the deadly methyl isocyanate gas leak are likely to get Rs five lakh while those partially debilitated will get Rs three lakh.
These are among the recommendations of the GoM made to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a report that will be considered by the Union Cabinet at a special meeting on Friday.
Chidambaram told reporters after the final meeting of the GoM that the Ministers have made "significant recommendations" and their immediate focus was "to bring relief to those people who had suffered as a result of the ghastly tragedy".
Sources said among the major recommendations of the group are a fresh attempt to be made for extradition of former CEO of Union Carbide Warren Anderson and filing of a curative petition in the Supreme Court against dilution of charges against the accused in the case.
The group is also believed to have cleared a proposal for clean up of the toxic site at the plant in Bhopal for burying the poisonous materials there itself. The job will be done by the Madhya Pradesh government in which the Central government will provide financial and technical assistance. A sum of Rs 300 crore will be set apart for the clean up job, the sources said.
The GoM is also believed to have favoured the take over of Bhopal Memorial Trust hospital, set up in the aftermath of the tragedy, for whose upgradation Rs 230 crore will be spent. Altogether 5,295 people lost their lives immediately after the gas disaster while 10,047 others succumbed to various diseases in the following months.
Out of the 5,60,000 affected people, nearly 37,000 were permanently disabled while the rest received minor injuries. The fresh amount decided in the new package will be given after deducting the compensation moneys given to the victims in the past, the sources said. The GoM, which was reconstituted in the wake of nationwide outrage over the light punishment given to the accused, concluded its four-day deliberations today.
It is believed to have recommended that the government make fresh efforts for the extradition of 89-year-old Anderson, who now lives outside New York.
The government would also file a curative petition before the Supreme Court challenging the dilution of the charges against the accused in the Bhopal gas leak case. In 1996 the apex court had reduced the charge from Section 304-Part II (culpable homicide not not amounting to murder) to Section 304 A (criminal negligence) of IPC. While Section 304 II provides a maximum imprisonment of 10 years, Section 304 A provides a maximum jail term of two years.
The GoM is also believed to have recommended to the government that it pursue the civil liability of Dow Chemicals, the successor of UCC world wide, by following up on a case in the Bhopal High Court in its Jabalpur bench.
The GoM discussed various issues relating to criminal and civil liability, relief and rehabilitation and remediation in the wake of the Bhopal court verdict in the case two weeks ago.
"We have dealt with all issues -- compensation, legal and pursuing the extradition of Warren Anderson, the legal options available to the government of India and most importantly the remediation issues and health-related matters," Chidambaram said. The Home Minister said thousands of people continue to suffer due to the tragedy and the Central government was "extremely sympathetic" to their plight.
"We think we have made significant recommendations. GoM is not over. It will continue to address any issue that will come up before it," he said. Chidambaram said the GoM has also identified several residuary issues which will be dealt with in the future meetings of the GoM. PTI