With questions continuing to be raised over the exit of former Union Carbid Chief Warren Anderson in the wake of Bhopal gas leak tragedy, Congress on Wednesday blamed it on "systemic" failure and rejected any involvement of the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
In a damage-control mode on the issue, the Congress party came out with a new defence on a day when television channels played out the bytes of the then Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Arjun Singh in the aftermath of the gas leak tragedy in December, 1984that Anderson was given bail since he agreed to be present in court when charges are made.
Channels also showed the bytes of Anderson in Delhi 26 years ago before leaving for the US that "house arrest or no arrest or bail or no bail, I am free to go home."
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee also ruled out any plans to meet officials of Dow Chemicals, which had bought the Union Carbide, during his visit to the US next week.
At the daily briefing in the AICC, Congress spokesman Manish Tewari was asked about these statements and whether there was no no role for the Central and state governments in Anderson's easy flight back home.
"At the end of it there was a systemic failure and there is a need to address it...If we go into the game of finger-pointing, there can be no end. I can ask the BJP about Rs one lakh it received as donation from Dow as was reflected in the affidavit it filed before the Election Commission.
"There was never ever any intention of Central government to allow any culprit to go scot-free," he said.
The spokesman said a Group of Ministers has been constituted and it would be looking into all aspects of the issue.
Tewari vehemently denied that then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had any knowledge about Anderson being allowed to leave, saying that imputing such motives was "despicable" as Gandhi had lost his mother a month ago and lost his life a few years down the line.
"We are all anguished by the verdict," he said.
Attacking the BJP for finger-pointing on the Anderson issue, Tewari asked why the then Attorney General had changed his opinion.
Standing just outside the Union Carbide plant, Singh had said, "There was no intention to prosecute anyone or try to, sort of, harass anyone.
"Therefore, he (Anderson) was granted bail and he agreed to be present in court when the charges are made," the former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister had said.
Asked about the statements and whether the Central government was aware of these, Tewari said, "I reject the conclusions with the contempt they deserve.
Tewari said in the last 26 years after the Bhopal gas tragedy, eight governments came at the Centre and pursued the case along with many national and international NGOs.
"After this, if the country feels and rightly feels so that justice was not done, it clearly points out it was a systemic failure and it needs to be addressed," he said.
Meanwhile, in Ahmedabad Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said he had no no plans of meeting officials of Dow Chemicals, the new owners of Union Carbide Corp, ing his visit to the US next week.
"If I go there at all, I would be addressing the (US- India) CEOs meeting and also have some bilateral meetings with Treasury officials. I do not know of any other meeting. I do not know from where these things come," he told reporters when asked about reports about his plans to meet with Dow Chemicals CEO Andrew Liveris in US.
The Finance Minister is scheduled to leave for the United States by week end and is slated to attend the US-India CEO Forum meeting on June 22.
In 2001, Dow Chemicals took Union Carbide Corporation, whose Indian arm was behind one of the world's worst industrial disasters that claimed over 15,000 lives in Bhopal in 1984.
Media reports suggested that Mukherjee would meet Liveris and raise the gas leak matter with him.
Earlier in the day in New Delhi, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, replying to questions about any meeting with Dow officials, said: "No, absolutely not. I mean let's be clear about it. We are the government delegation led by the Finance Minister (and) will have a meeting with the US government people on a wide range of issues."
The Minister refused to answer other questions on Bhopal gas tragedy here, saying that a Group of Ministers is looking into it.
"I am not going to respond to any of these questions (related to Bhopal gas tragedy). There is an appropriate GoM on this issues and they are looking into all aspects," Mukherjee said when asked about safe passage given to the then Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson. PTI