Indian PM Singh: “Bhopals Will Happen, but the Country has to Progress”

Manmoham Singh and Barack Obama

By Devinder Sharma

13 June, 2010. Ground Reality

There can be nothing more disgusting and deplorable. Only an Indian Prime Minister can make such a statement and get away. Imagine if the US President Obama had ever said this, even in the context of the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the people of the US would have castigated him by now.

And this reminds me of what Mr P Chidambaram (in his earlier avtar) had said long ago during one his travels to the United States. Talking to some business heads and tycoons, Mr Chidambaram had reportedly said something like this: “The last time you came, you came for 200 years. This time, please plan to come for a longer duration.” This statement of his was quoted widely, and yet Parliament refused to be provoked enough to demand his resignation, and shun him for ever from public life.

P Chidambaram’s remarks assume importance in the light of the mandate he is being entrusted as the head of the Group of Ministers (GoM), which includes remediation measures at the site of the 1984 disaster. According to The Hindu (June 11, 2010): “Mr Chidambaram and Mr Kamal Nath, who were the Ministers of Finance and Commerce, respectively in 2006, endorsed the proposal that would get Dow — which now owns Union Carbide — off the hook with regard to remediation, or clean up of the contaminated site. Ironically, both Ministers are part of the GoM, leading some NGOs to allege that their inclusion represents a ‘conflict of interest’.”

If this is true, and I have no reason to disbelieve this, how can we hope to get justice for the Bhopal victims. Why shouldn’t we therefore demand that the government set up an independent group comprising respected public figures to look into this, rather than depend upon the Ministers to suggest a way out. If these Ministers were capable of doing it, the clean-up would have been done long ago. We all know this is merely an exercise to divert nation’s attention from an equally more important decision that was taken by the then Congress government.

Let us not succumb to the political blackmailing being done by the spokespersons of the ruling UPA-II to see that the name of the person who ordered that mysterious phone call to the then Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh be drowned in the din. Every day I see them on several TV channels, making not only a fool of themselves but also the nation.

The truth must come out.

It didn’t come out all these years because we as a nation refused to do our bit. We did not express our anger and anguish. We refused to ask our politicians to explain why they kept quiet. We refused to flood the media (inlcuding newspapers) with letters demonstrating our anger. Even now I find, after the disgraceful Bhopal gas verdict, while there is outrage all around, people are simply refusing to stand up and be counted. They even feel shy to point finger where it should be pointed at. Most of the people who matter are afraid not to upset the powers that be. They know if they stand up they might be deprived from being a member of a task force or the other.

Merely saying that we as a nation are ashamed means nothing. If you are truly ashamed, you need to come out and do your bit. You could start by demanding former Chief Minister Arjun Singh to be forced to spell out the name of the person who called him on that day to release Warren Anderson. You could start by asking the Law Minister to make necessary provisions in the law that can make the judges accountable to the nation. Why should the law of the land not apply to Supreme Court judges?

It is in this context that I would like to thank the Outlook editor Vinod Mehta for publishing a report “Signals from Above” by young journalist Debarshi Dasgupta (June 21, 2010), which starts with the quote: “Bhopals will happen, but the country has to progress.” Hard to believe, and enraging too. According to Sathyu Saramgi, a member of the Bhopal Group of Information and Action, a voluntary body, this is what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told him and six of his colleagues when they met him on April 17, 2006 to press for action against Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), a wholly owned subsidiary of the American firm Dow Chemical Company since 2001. “Yes, I remember that clearly. This is what the Prime Minister said,” Sarangi tells Outlook.

The article is quite revealing. It provides you just a peep into the sordid nexus between politicians and the industry. The bigger battle is being fought in the jungles of the tribal belt of India.

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