New government committees to address the fallout from the Bhopal disaster have been dismissed as “eye wash” by local Church leaders.
“This is a mere political gimmick, applying balm to the wounds of the victims rather than treating the disease,” said Father Anand Muttungal, spokesperson for the Catholic church in Madhya Pradesh.
The federal government announced on June 9 that a new ministerial group, headed by Home Minister P Chidambaram, will examine the relief and rehabilitation measures for those affected by the world’s worst industrial disaster.
At state level, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan announced a new five-member legal committee to study ways to take the case to a higher court.
These moves come in response to widespread condemnation of the lenient sentences that were handed to the eight men found guilty. Each was given two years imprisonment and fined 100,000 rupees (US$2,200).
Father Muttungal said the Church wants both the state and federal governments to address the real problems and provide victims with treatment, compensation and the infrastructure for a decent living. Governments have been shirking their responsibilities ever since the tragedy stuck in 1984, he says.
However, Carmelite Father Denny George, a High Court lawyer, pointed out that “legally, there is very little the governments can do in this case.” He added that the accused can only be tried according to the laws that existed when the incident took place.