CPI(M) demands independent probe into Bhopal gas tragedy controversy

     Communist Party of India General Secretary Prakash Karat on Saturday demanded an independent and comprehensive enquiry in the Bhopal gas tragedy case. Karat said that the probe couldn't be carried out by a mere group of ministers of the Central government, as there are some sensitive questions that need to be answered. "It is time that there is a comprehensive enquiry into how this happened. This cannot be done by a group of ministers. It has to be done independently, to ascertain how a person who's charged in a case, wanted in a case is allowed to leave the country and how Union Carbide as a whole was let off the hook," said Karat on the sidelines of a National Convention on Tribal Rights in national capital New Delhi. Karat accused the then Central and State governments of connivance in exonerating the American company Union Carbide and its chief Warren Anderson after the tragedy. He further said that the controversial Nuclear Liability Bill should be scrapped. As per the present draft of the Nuclear Liability Bill, it would limit the liabilities of foreign firms entering India's lucrative civilian nuclear market in case of any mishap. Karat said that unless the Bill was amended, other US companies would escape liability in case of a nuclear accident. "That Bill must be forfeited, scrapped. Because what this Bill will do is to legalize exemption of all liability for foreign suppliers. If it was Union Carbide, which got away after the 1984 accident, in a future situation Westinghouse and other American companies, which supply nuclear reactors to India, will by law be having no liability at all," Karat added. It may be recalled that a court on Monday (June 07) sentenced seven top executives of Union Carbide during 1984 to two years in prison for negligence in failing to prevent one of the world's worst industrial accidents that killed thousands of people. It also fined the former Indian unit of US chemicals firm Union Carbide 500,000 rupees. However, soon after the court awarded the jail term it granted bail to all the seven convicts. The accused were instantly released on submission of a surety of rupees 25000 by the trial court. But the judgement passed by the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Bhopal invited wrath of leaders of almost all parties. A Union Carbide plant in Bhopal accidentally released toxic gases into the air in 1984. The government says around 3,500 died as a result of the disaster. Activists however say that 25,000 people died in the immediate aftermath and the years that followed. The verdict that came after more than 25 years after the accident has failed the expectations of the victims.

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