South Asia

Indian government re-examines 1984 Bhopal disaster

An elderly victim holds a poster outside the court in Bhopal. Photo: 7 June 2010
Image caption Thousands of people were affected by the gas leak in December 1984

A group of senior Indian government ministers who have been asked to re-examine the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster have held their first meeting.

There has been widespread anger in India following the conclusion of a court case last week.

More than 25 years after the Bhopal gas leak killed thousands of people, the court finally convicted seven former managers at the plant.

They received minor fines and brief prison sentences.

The disaster struck when a cloud of toxic gas leaked from a plant run by the American company Union Carbide.

'Inadequate justice'

But apart from the efforts of a determined group of campaigners, the incident had been all but forgotten in India.

That changed after last week's court verdict reminded people how long the victims have had to wait for what is widely seen as inadequate justice.

Now a group of senior ministers has been asked to look again at issues such as compensation for those affected, and continued pollution at the now abandoned site of the Union Carbide plant.

Home Minister P Chidambaram said recommendations should be finalised on Monday after a series of meetings over the weekend.

He said the ministers are looking into the number of people affected and the number of compensation claims which have been accepted so far.

The fact that the Bhopal tragedy is back in the news at the same time as the huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has added to the sense that the victims of 1984 have been terribly let down.

Commentators in India have pointed out that the US government appears far more concerned about a disaster in its own back yard than it ever was about one which took place in the developing world.

There has also been trenchant criticism of the Indian government response over the years, and of Union Carbide - now owned by Dow Chemicals - for its failure to do more to help.

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