MSN News | R Shankar | India Syndicate | 10/06/2010
The clamour is now for catching the former CEO and chairman of Union Carbide Corporation Warren Anderson for the Bhopal gas tragedy that killed over 15,000 people. Why run after a man pushing 90 summers who is well protected by the US government? Instead, catch the people who betrayed the people of Bhopal by allowing Anderson to flee and the officials who diluted the case.
Here are some of them who betrayed the Bhopal gas victims and the collective conscience of India:
Suspect Number 1, Arjun Singh: He was the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh when the Bhopal gas tragedy happened on the night of 2-3 December, 1984. Unless he had given specific instructions, how could Anderson have got a plane to flee to Delhi and then to the US? According to The Indian Express, on December 7, 1984, Anderson spent a few uncomfortable hours in the company’s Research and Development Centre on the picturesque Shymla Hills near Bhopal. He had been arrested from the airport and taken there, four days after the world’s worst industrial disaster. "He was taken aback when we told him that he was under arrest," said Moti Singh who was then Bhopal Collector. He recalled how the Anderson landed at the airport casually with a gas mask in hand. But a couple of hours later, the state and Central governments went the extra mile to make him feel comfortable and arranged a bail of Rs 25,000. Anderson had been charged with culpable homicide, a charge which was later diluted.
According to Rajkumar Keswani, one of the first journalists to break the gas leakage story, it was Singh who allowed use of the government plane after receiving a call from Delhi. Who called Arjun Singh from Delhi and gave instructions to go soft on Anderson? Moti Singh too says that there was a call from Delhi to free Anderson. Who was the mysterious caller? Rajiv Gandhi had become prime minister only weeks earlier
following Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Once the message reached Arjun Singh, he rushed in and made sure that the authorities treated Anderson well and was released without delay. A magistrate was taken to the Union Carbide guest house, he was granted bail just four hours after his arrest and then he was taken in a police car to the airport where a state plane was waiting to take Anderson to Delhi.
Considering the haste and urgency with which Arjun Singh acted, it is obvious that the call from Delhi was from the highest authority – the Prime Minister’s office. So, was it Rajiv Gandhi? The then CBI director K Vijay Rama Rao has thrown a hint when he admitted recently that the Americans were blocking the extradition. So was it Washington that put pressure on Rajiv Gandhi to let Anderson off the hook and allow him to leave the country? Brahma Swaroop, the then Madhya Pradesh Chief Secretary allegedly called up the Collector to inform him that a plane was waiting at the airport for Anderson to be taken to Delhi. Will Swaroop tell the nation under whose instructions did he call the collector. Moti Singh, the collector, said he never questioned his boss because "he was a man of few words and would not have liked it." "The chief secretary summoned me to his chamber in secretariat and said that Mr Anderson was to be released and sent to Delhi by a plane which was awaiting him at the airport," claims Moti Singh according to CNNIBN.
The Congress: Apart from explaining who called up Arjun Singh and instructed him to release Anderson and provide him a plane, the Congress party will also have to explain how a man accused of killing 15,000 people and injuring thousands in the world’s worst industrial disaster had tea with the then President Giani Zail Singh once he landed in Delhi. Here too, the Prime Minister’s office is suspect. Without PMO’s nod, Anderson could never have stepped into the Rashtrapathi Bhavan and had tea with the president. Consider this: Will the CEO of British Petroleum, the company behind the massive oil spill threatening the US court, ever have a coffee meet with President Barack Obama? That would be Obama’s last day in office.
The CBI: The role of the CBI has never been above the water marks of controversy in the Bhopal gas case. BR Lall, the CBI officer investigating the case in 1995 when Narasimha Rao was the prime minister, has openly come out and claimed that it was the Ministry of External Affairs that had written to the CBI asking them not to pursue Anderson’s extradition. "It (note not to pursue Anderson’s case) originated from External Affairs Ministry and then to it came to us. I don’t know at what level the decision was taken," Lall claims. Though the claim has been denied by Lall’s boss and the then CBI director K Vijay Rama Rao, the matter needs a second look as Lall claims that there was documentary evidence in this regard.
Justice A H Ahmadi: It was Justice A H Ahmadi who in 1996 reduced the criminal charges from Section 304, culpable homicide that would have attracted 10 years in jail to that of Section 304A – causing death due to negligence – that could attract just 2 years in jail for killing over 15,000 people. Citing laws and rules, would the Supreme Court in the US let the officials of BP off the hook? Now fresh evidence shows that Justice Ahmadi heads a trust that gets funds from Union Carbide. So, instead of chasing Anderson, let Arjun Singh, the Congress party, the district magistrate, the officers who investigated the Bhopal gas case and the CBI come out in the open. Like in the days of kings and queens, let the traitors be tried first, not Anderson. Traitors can let down the nation many times, criminals like Anderson only once.
Arjun singh, now 80 years old, and a man bitter with the Congress high command, has so far refused to come out and speak on the controversies. Captain Jaipal Singh, the then minister in charge of general administration and publicity, says he doesn’t remember what really happened in the world’s worst industrial tragedy. "I was deputy minister but I can’t recollect," Captain Jaipal Singh was quoted in the media. Officials who were in decision-making positions in 1984 are unwilling to throw more light on how Anderson was allowed to go. Many of them have died, and those who are alive, prefer not to speak out. It would be difficult to get Anderson extradited from the US. This is because the law in the US says that there should be evidence to show that Anderson was directly involved in the gas leakage. In short, India should prove that Anderson was on the shop floor of the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal and that he was operating the tank from which the leakage occurred!!