Short-changed?

A petition filed by the Bhopal gas tragedy victims has prompted the Supreme Court to ask the Union government for an explanation. The discrepancy in the compensation amount due to the victims appears too huge to go unnoticed...

 
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

A victim of compensation polit (Credit: Surya Sen / CSE)A petition filed by the Bhopal gas tragedy victims has prompted the Supreme Court (sc) to ask the Union government for an explanation. The discrepancy in the compensation amount due to the victims appears too huge to go unnoticed.

The plaintiffs' counsel, S Muralidhar, said the government had to give the victims Rs 1,360 crore from the total compensation of us $470 million (Rs 2,100 crore) that the Union Carbide company gave them for the gas leak from its plant in Bhopal. A chemical and polymers firm in the us, Union Carbide had deposited the compensation amount with the Reserve Bank of India (rbi) in March 1989. Today, the rbi claims that only Rs 470 crore is due while the office of the Bhopal Welfare Commissioner -- set up to address citizen's welfare issues -- says the corpus amounted to Rs 1,360 crore. The centre in an affidavit said the amount was Rs 470 crore and the shortfall was Rs 880 crore.

Clearly, the victims are having to cope with not just ill-health but ill-governance too. It is felt that the government is deliberately creating ambiguity to cheat the people. Muralidhar argued that the inconsistencies raised doubts about the authenticity of the figures. He said that the rbi should inform the court as to how much money was deposited by the company, how much of it was in dollars and how much in rupees, and what amounts had been transferred to the office of the welfare commissioner.

The sc bench, comprising Justice Shivraj V Patil and Justice D M Dharmadhikari, directed that the Madhya Pradesh government set up an advisory committee to monitor the problems of the gas victims on a day-to-day basis as well as ensure quality treatment for the victims at the state hospitals.

The petitioners said 10,29,431 claims were received up to March 31, 2002, of which 10,29,254 were adjudicated and 566,786 awarded compensation amounting to Rs 1151 crore. This left Rs 1360 crore to be disbursed, they contended.

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