It will be 33 years in this December since that deadly Bhopal Gas Leak from Union Carbide Corporation(UCC) officially claimed over 3000 lives and injured over five lakh, but the victims are still awaiting for the justice. After all these years of longing, the victim are standing out there looking for new hope and an alternate way to get back to their happy life before the Gas Leak.
Seventeen files of voluminous secret documents from Prime Minsiter’s office is exclusively accessed, revealed a story behind the delaying justice.
The pressure on PMO was intense and an year after, the gas leak case generated a wave of public anger against UCC, hired influential lobbyist Henry Kissinger to persuade the Rajiv Gandhi government to settle the things.
The documents claimed that, “Kissinger used an employee of his lobby firm, former state department official Eagle Burgher, to approach the Indian government.”
Burgher carrying the message from Kissinger met Jha on December 7, 1985. And, LK Jha’s note said, “After consulting the Prime Minister I informed Burgher that as I was going to Cambridge, I could be contacted by him at the residence of India’s High Commissioner in London.”
“Mr Warren Anderson is anxious for as generous a settlement as possible on an amicable basis. Such a settlement is desirable because the judge too favours it. If the government of India turns down the very idea of a negotiated settlement, Union Carbide could try to settle separately with some other claimants or argue with good hope of success that the case should be tried in India, which would deny relief to the really needy for a long time.” The papers says.
The enclosures are handwritten six-page notes, which said, “Kissinger is ready to work with Indian representative. Settlement would be administered by the Indian government. Amount reasonable in eyes of US attorneys and fair in eyes of US judge.” This note by Jha was copied to Additional secretary, PMO and recorded in dairy no.3799, dated on December 18, 1985.
All the details of various lobbies working for Union Carbide caontains a telex message S No. 26 INND CO UDNX 1QS dated May 14, 1986, to Prime Minister Gandhi from his Greenwich-based uncle Ajit Hutheesing.
“TDBN GREENWICH CT 1Q4/94 6 11 30
Sub: Project Alpha.
Disappointed at no follow up to our most fruitful meeting which you so promptly arranged STOP believe is should have early with Parasaran’s US agent which essential since developments here are disturbing STOP following my full understanding of present status I would send my recommendation on procedure and preliminary transaction structure STOP My personal interest is solely to serve you actively and hopefully successfully STOP time is of the essence STOP I await (Attorney General) Parasaran’s telephone call thanks for warm hospitality.
- AJIT HUTHEESING”
“It seems that Union Carbide has persistently resorted to money power and pressures to distort realities of the tragedy and to obstruct relief work to the detriment of ailing persons.” PMO Joint Secretary Rajeshwari Tandon said.
Adding to it, “It’s clear that Warrren Anderson, was allowed to leave India almost 100 hours after the toxic leaks. “ the note said.
““I know and have had several interactions with Mr Warren Anderson, Chairman of Union Carbide. I and my staff (sic) have visited dozens of Union Carbide facilities and met with their plant personnel and evaluated their operations from a safety perspective. Finally, I personally report our findings to Carbide’s board.
Through this interaction with both the senior management and the plant management of Union Carbide, I have formed the following personal opinion: Union Carbide is a decent and honourable company. From the top down it is a caring company, which places safety concerns on even footing with financial ones. The reputation and staff morale of Union Carbide continues to be hurt by the lingering Bhopal litigation and without exception Mr Anderson and his senior management team are interested in a rapid and fair settlement of Bhopal litigation,” the letter dated on January 22, 1986, in File no. 17/2049/A/86-PMS Vol I said.
US-based Arthur D Little Inc’s Senior Vice President Ashok S Kalelkar’s note to Rajiv clearly showed bias. Also, Kalelkar also reminded Rajiv that he was his Doon School batchmate and his father was advisor to Indira Gandhi.
On November 14, 1986, Paul Srivastava, Executive Director, Industrial Crisis Institute, New York wrote to Hansika Bharadwaj, Minister of Statew for law and Justice that, “You may recall our brief meeting in August 1986 with Ms Mabel Rebello of Bhopal. Subsequent to our meeting I discussed the problem of compensation to Bhopal tragedy victims with many political leaders and government officials in India. I have also discussed it with top management of Union Carbide Corporation and observers here. I will be in Delhi from December 8, 1986, for three weeks. I will contact you on arriving there. In the meantime, if you need to contact me please do not hesitate to call me at 673-95** or 598-22**. I look forward to meeting you soon.”
“Politically this is a sensitive issue. An effort will be made by anti-Congress elements to show that the state government has not done much for the gas victims and is, in fact, insensitive to their sufferings.“In the present atmosphere, everybody is prepared to cooperate with the Prime Minister. We do not see any reason why in Madhya Pradesh we cannot win over a substantial section of public opinion on our side,”
PMO file 17/2049 reveals the government was in favour of roping in NGOs to take aim at the UCC’s inhuman conduct and deflect public attention to the development work done by the Arjun Singh government in Madhya Pradesh.
When the Government tried to build consensus with Left-led organisation, “The political point is that since the World Peace Council is Left front, we should make a sincere effort to get non-Left voluntary organisations to also focus on the guilt of Union Carbide rather than train their guns on Madhya Pradesh government.” The PMO stated in a note.
This note which’s dated on July 17, 1985 said, “The state government’s observations regarding the relief and rehabilitation measures taken by them are not yet publicly believed to be adequate. They have now agreed to take measures for this and also to submit periodic progress report to Cabinet Secretary. Why should there be so much gap between what the government has done and the public perception; it is not quite clear.”
About the wrong treatment, done by the government, Digvijay’s letter said that, “It took two months to decide that STS (Sodium Thiosulphate) should be given and the earlier orders were withdrawn. But actual administering of STS started in early March. Double blind test conducted by ICMR proved that the STS did establish increased excretion of urinary thiocynatein subjective improvement and objective improvement in a good number.”
Dr Mishra had met the judge in the USA who then also visited laboratories in USA and the UK to discuss with scientists there on medical effects of MIC on human system.
“There was feeling that his views may not be same as those as presented in the Varadrajan report before the New York court. It was felt at this stage we should not encourage any other view, which might cause problems in the litigation with the Union Carbide. Once the case is over a more open scientific discussion could be permitted on the various aspects.” The committee questione the motive behind the invitation to Dr Mishra.
Adding to it, Digvijay justified that, “On his return, he again took the stand that STS was not necessary. Out of the 2,00,000 population affected, hardly 5 per cent population has taken STS.”
Damnaged Claims turned out!!
After Anderson’s escape, the PMO papers also revealed that there’s considerable confusion on the limit of compensation amount that it sought from UCC. “The complaint was filed in the US court as it was considered to be the most appropriate forum for just, speedy and equitable resolution of all claims.”
“If we inflate the claim too much it may become a precedent in future cases of sorts when Indian public sector companies may themselves be sued for fabulous amounts quoting this is as precedent, ” Attorney General K Parasaran had advised Rajiv when the initial demand was for $1.5 Billion.
“If by American standard it is not a big amount and Union Carbide deposits the amount in the court without contesting the suit in full settlement but only pleading that they do not accept any negligence on their part, we may be in some difficulty. This may either give an impression:
- a) That we sued for a small amount and therefore they deposited the amount and so we failed in our duty in suing for a higher amount or it may give a wrong impression that after they have had a talk with us privately to help them we had sued for a small amount.
- b) On the other hand if we inflate the claim too much, it may become a precedent in future cases of sorts when Indian public sector companies may themselves be sued for fabulous amounts quoting this as precedent.”
Months before filing the case, Parasaran handed over a note to Rajiv through VeerendraPatil, Minister of Chemical and Fertilisers.
While Parasaran arguing, he said, ““While we can pay reasonable compensation on a liberal scale to the victims, we need not pay inflated compensation.”
Hence, it is clear that the Governmnet of Rajiv Gandhi framed innocents in this case, but not the real ones. These evidences and files will reflects the etetnal truths of Bhopal incidemt and the compensation will be announced for those thousands of innocent lives soon.
Source : Indian Express