Saturday, June 12, 2010

Rajiv govt bailed out Anderson, hints CIA note

The suspicion that orders from the Rajiv Gandhi government at the Centre led to Union Carbide boss Warren Anderson being released from custody of the MP police have been further strengthened by a declassified CIA report. The central government was quick to release the Union Carbide chairman from house arrest yesterday said the report going back to Dec 8 1984. Giving an explanation for Centres intervention, it says: New Delhi believes state officials were overly eager to score political points against the company. Interestingly, it refers to media reports to conclude that both Centre and state governments were looking to deflect the blame on the subsidiary, the observation suggesting that the American intelligence agency did not hold the MNC primarily responsible for the worst-ever industrial disaster. Though the report, not surprisingly, skips any reference to diplomatic intervention as has been alleged in some quarters, it makes a strong suggestion that suggests that in releasing Anderson, Arjun Singh, the then CM of MP,acted on the Centres orders.

The report notes that criticism over the Bhopal disaster was directed at the Indian subsidiary of Union Carbide and the central government for inadequate safety measures and poor relief, and that a case of negligence was filed. Since the note is written some 26 years ago and declassified only in January 2002, it reflects what must be assessment of CIA station in New Delhi. The CIA note points to what it sees as attempts by Indian government to wring compensation from the subsidiarys US-based parent company, it makes the point that fast approaching national elections had also influenced ruling Congress. But the reports author also says that the incident would not unduly influence the elections. The assessment of the electoral fallout is contained in a separate note.

The Bhopal debate has unexpectedly set off the churn within the Congress with leaders from MP seeming to engage in a score-settling exercise.Senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh issued a lengthy clarification on Friday, but the damage had been done as more statements followed. There was P C Alexander, former Maharashtra governor and former principal secretary to Rajiv Gandhi, who said that while PMO officials were in the dark about Anderson, the late leader was possibly in direct touch with Arjun Singh on the matter.
Congress puts Arjun in the dock - Rajiv Govt Had No Role In Release Of Former Union Carbide Chief

The controversy over the culpability for the surprise release of Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson after the Bhopal gas tragedy took a serious turn on Friday, with the Congress leadership moving in vigorously to absolve the Rajiv Gandhi government of any responsibility in the shameful episode. "I categorically deny involvement of the then central government", Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan asserted on Friday, in a statement that puts the focus squarely on the role of the Arjun Singh-led Madhya Pradesh government in the Anderson episode and is a directive to leaders like Digvijay Singh to walk straight and narrow on the sensitive issue. Digvijay, who has attracted the displeasure of the central leadership with remarks that were interpreted to suggest that Anderson was released at the instance of the Centre and the US,has already got the hint.In statements to agencies and channels, he forcefully claimed that Rajiv Gandhi had no role to play in Anderson being set free within hours of his arrest. An agency report quoted him as saying, The people who can answer this are Arjun Singh, then chief secretary Brahm Swaroop ,Bhopal collector Moti Singh and SP of Bhopal Swaraj Puri. Digvijay made it a point to mention that Rajiv Gandhi, who was campaigning,had immediately left electioneering to visit Bhopal. Whether the effort was adequate to placate a party not known to be forgiving towards discretions about the leadership was not clear. But there was no mistaking the anger over the name of Rajiv Gandhi being dragged into the controversy.

What has aggravated ire is that in the press confernces he addressed in New Delhi and Bhopal after Andersons release, Arjun Singh not just took full responsibility for Andersons release but also defended the action of the state government.On December 8,1984, Arjun Singh told media in Delhi that Anderson was released as the police felt that his presence was not required in the investigations in progress. He also quoted from the provisions of Andersons bail bond to say that the former CEO of Union Carbide was obliged to come to India whenever it was necessary. Talking to the media in Bhopal the next day, he denied the Rajiv Gandhi government had a role in Andersons release,stressing that he merely briefed the Centre. The former chief minister also said that the release was well within the four conrners of law.
Where is the room for people to speculate in the light of all this, asked an irate Congressman. In upping the ante, Congress leadership also does not seem to be bothered about what some partymen call the threat perception of Arjun Singh.Smarting over being sidelined despite the ultra-loyalist tag, Arjun Singh can put a spoke in the leaderships works. The dominant estimate,however,is that the shrewd Thakur will privilege caution over adventurism and will let the suspense persist.
CCPA meet skirted Andersons release - PC Alexander Says Then PM Didnt Even Pull Up MP Govt For Allowing Him To Leave India

Adding another controversial twist to the Bhopal gas disaster case, PC Alexander, former principal secretary to late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, on Friday said the release of Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson from custody within six hours of his arrest on December 7,1984 was not discussed by the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) convened in the wake of the tragedy. Neither did the Prime Ministers Office (PMO) pull up the state government for allowing Anderson to leave the country,Alexander told. The CCPA, which met at 3am on December 10,1984 (3 days after Andersons release) at Prime Ministers house, did not discuss Andersons release at all. No question was raised by anybody about Anderson, he said. The meeting was attended by the five seniormost ministers in the cabinet including the Prime Minister, finance minister, home minister and external affairs minister, he said. Then MP chief minister Arjun Singh was a special invitee to the CCPA meeting, Alexander recalled, adding he was not aware if Rajiv Gandhi and Singh had separate discussions on Andersons release either before or after the CCPA meeting. Alexander, leading a quiet, retired life in Chennai, has found himself in the spotlight due to media reports recalling the circumstances under which Anderson was released on bail and allowed to fly out of the country. The role of Arjun Singh, in particular, in the Anderson affair needed more clarity, he said.

Doubts about Rajivs role also persist owing to the fact that the PMO did not even pull up the state government for aiding Andersons hasty release.I was in the Prime Ministers office till January 18,1985 (45 days after the tragedy). Till I left, the PMO did not raise the issue of Andersons release with the state government. I do not know whether the PMO raised the issue with the state government after I left Prime Ministers office, he said. Recalling the CCPA meeting, Alexander said, Rajiv had just returned from an election tour.When I reached Prime Ministers house,Arjun Singh was already there. I spent 18 minutes with the Prime Minister after the CCPA meeting to discuss other important issues. When I left PMs house, Singh was still there. I do not know what they discussed between them, he said adding that it is strange to believe that the Prime Minister took a personal decision, owing to pressure, to release Anderson. I did not have an idea that Rajiv was under pressure. But it is also difficult for civil servants like me to assess as to why a political leader behaves in a particular manner.

Alexander went on a four-month leave in January 1985 and was subsequently appointed Indian High Commissioner in London. Alexander said in such cases, it is the state governments responsibility to decide on the release of an arrested person. The fact that he was arrested and released in haste, points to the fact that there are some missing links in the case. Arjun Singh should reveal as to how Anderson was allowed to escape, he noted. The Times of India on Friday reported that Arjun Singh, in 1984, had owned responsibility for Andersons release. However, Singh is silent now.
Angry citizens unite on social network sites

The worlds worst industrial disaster at Bhopal is uniting angry citizens on social networking sites to demand justice for the victims .On the forefront is the international campaign by Bhopal. Net which is urging people to write, fax or simply call the prime minister and demand for the extradition of Warren Anderson. The site says Union Carbide chief Anderson knew about the cost-cutting measures undertaken at the Bhopal plant that jeopardised safety despite a fatal accident inside the plant in December 1981, one worker, Ashraf Khan, died due to gas exposure. The activists also have copies of telex messages shared between Union Carbide officials that throw light on how safety of the Bhopal gas plant was compromised by even switching off the refrigeration to save around US $ 37 dollars.
Rajiv was never under US pressure

Adding yet another dimension to raging debate over release of Union Carbide boss Warren Anderson,  a close aide of Rajiv Gandhi on Friday said there was no way the late PM could have acted under US pressure to release him after the Bhopal gas tragedy. If Indira Gandhi had defied Nixon, would Rajiv come under US pressure to set Anderson free, R K Dhawan, who had served Rajiv Gandhi as his special assistant, told. He was responding to a question about the possibility of the Centre succumbing to pressure from Washington. Talking to TOI, Dhawan claimed that no call had gone from the PM to Arjun Singh to set the American free within hours of his arrest in Bhopal on December 7,1984. All incoming and outgoing calls from the PM had to be routed through me since there were no mobile phones those days, Dhawan said.

Revisiting the aftermath of the industrial disaster, he said that Rajiv, who had been out on the campaign trail when the tragedy struck, rushed to Bhopal to oversee relief operations.With all the conviction at my command, I can say that after his return from Bhopal, Rajiv Gandhi made no calls to Arjun Singh, nor did he receive any from the chief minister, Dhawan said. He recalled that the Union government had not been intimated by the MP government about its move to set Anderson free. Dhawan, a longtime aide of Indira Gandhi, later served Rajiv twice immediately after he became PM following his mothers assassination and subsequently, towards the end of his term. Explaining Andersons exit from India, Dhawan said that since there had been no red alert against Anderson, Centre did not have responsibility to track his movement. It was not for the Prime Minister to keep a track of his whereabouts, Dhawan added. Targeting Arjun Singh, Dhawan questioned the decision to provide a state government plane for Andersons passage from Bhopal to Delhi. No state plane can be used without the knowledge and approval of the chief minister, he said.

No comments:

Post a Comment