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Union Carbide Corporation proposals were cleared by Congress, Jan Sangh

Congress government issued pesticides licence, Jan Sangh government allowed plant.

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The Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) was given an industrial licence to manufacture 5,000 tonnes of methyl isocyanate-based pesticides in 1975 by the then Congress government at the Centre. The licence was a pre-condition to setting up the pesticides plant.

The Central Bureau of Investigation’s affidavit in the court of Bhopal’s chief judicial magistrate reveals that though UCC had applied for the industrial licence on January 1, 1970, the ministry of commerce and industry (formerly ministry of industrial development) didn’t take a decision on the application until 1975, when Indira Gandhi was the prime minister and the country was under Emergency. The company had applied for the licence under the Registration and Licencing of Industrial Undertakings Rules, 1952. Consequently, the Congress government granted UCC the licence on October 31, 1975.

The permission for setting up the Bhopal plant was given by Bharatiya Jan Sangh’s Saklecha government in Madhya Pradesh in 1977.

In December 1984, the plant spewed the deadly gas methyl-isocyanate gas in Bhopal, killing at least 15,000 people, causing incurable ailments to lakhs and polluting its air and water.According to environment protection group Toxics Watch Alliance, the CBI affidavit implies that “had the Emergency not been imposed, the Bhopal catastrophe, caused by UCC’s acts of omission and commission, would not have happened.”

TWA’s Gopal Krishna says, “There is compelling logic for an independent probe in the entire issue — ranging from granting industrial licence, Warren Anderson’s escape, role of Indo-US CEO Forum and lobbying by industrialists and ministers to absolve Dow Chemicals of liability.” Then deputy director of the ministry of industrial development, RK Sahi, also said that the entire department was against the granting of the licence.

Bhopal court judge Mohan Tiwari, who gave the June 7 verdict convicting seven accused had also said, “It is worthwhile to mention here that the government of India and the team of scientists was never permitted to visit the UCC plant in Virginia, USA’’.

Lawyer S Murlidhar, who had been appearing for Bhopal gas victims till he was appointed a judge at the Delhi high court four years ago, wrote in his paper titled Unsettling Truths, Untold Tales: The Bhopal Gas Disaster Victim’s ‘Twenty Years’ of Courtroom Struggles for Justice’ that cases on the disaster should not conclude till justice has been done to each victim.

“Each strand of litigation is pending at various stages and the questions that have arisen remain unsatisfactorily answered,” he said in 2004. He also questioned SC’s judgment approving the $470 million settlement from the UCC. “The settlement stands severely flawed. There now appears no justification for the order. Every assumption on which the orders were based was wrong ,” he said.

“Notwithstanding the defiant posture of the SC in its review petition that its powers under Article 142 justified its approval of the settlement (which foreclosed future civil and criminal claims), the court had to reject the judgment in the review as an applicable precedent for future cases. Thus, a wrong decision was never righted,” Murlidhar said.

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