Bhopal disaster: NGOs for steps by Indian government to hold Dow Chemical criminally liable

Newsroom24x7 Network

Bhopal: Representatives of organisations working among the survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal today expressed distress and accusing the state and central governments of apathy hinted at the strong possibility of the US Corporation Dow Chemical escaping criminal liability for the disaster.

At a press conference, the representatives of various organisations said that Dow Chemical, the owner of Union Carbide, after merging with another American multinational DuPont has announced plans to split up in to three entities by June 2019. According to them, Union Carbide that is absconding from grave criminal charges, including culpable homicide, for the last 26 years will, as percriminal law, cease to be criminally liable following the trifurcation.

The Bhopal organisations said that more than a month ago they had written to the Indian Prime Minister and the Ministries of Chemicals and Fertilisers, Law and Justice and External Affairs as well as the Central Bureau of Investigation and to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief & Rehabilitation department of the state government asking for specific steps to be taken to stop the American multinational’s imminent escape from criminal proceedings on the disaster. They said they have not received a single acknowledgement till date, let alone a considered reply.

“We are very worried that just as the Congress government let Anderson escape the arms of law, the inaction on this matter could well be part of a plan by the BJP governments at the state and the centre to allow the killer corporation to escape Indian courts. After all the BJP is the major beneficiary of corporate donations.” said Rashida Bee of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh.

Nawab Khan, President of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha said: “The Prime Minister has the CBI directly under him and we requested that he instruct CBI to obtain a prohibitive writ to prevent the breakdown of Union Carbide, USA. Without an acknowledgement, we are not sure that the CBI is even aware of Union Carbide’s imminent escape.”

“We have sought the Prime Minister’s intervention in enlisting the support of US agencies to ensure that Union Carbide and Dow Chemicalabide by the orders of Indian courts. He is fully empowered by the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the two countries to do thisbut so far he has chosen not to use these powers.” said Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action.

Sarita Malaviya of the Children Against Dow Carbide said, “The CBI should already have moved the courts for ex-parte proceedings against Union Carbide and Dow Chemical and for attachment of the assets of Dow Chemical in India. But it looks like they are still waiting for the Prime Minister to issue directions on this matter.”

CM’s announcement: Retirement age of Madhya Pradesh Government employees raised from 60 to 62 years

Lalit Shastri

Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan today announced the decision to raise the retirement age of State government officers and employees from 60 years to 62 years.

The announcement to raise the retirement age was made by the Chief Minister at a Meet the Press programme organised by the Central Press Club in the State capital. Chauhan was asked whether or not he was concerned about the plight of the State Government officers and employees who were are retiring without promotion due to a case pending in the Supreme Court of India. The case relates to the State Government’s policy to continue with reservation in promotion for SC/ST employees despite a Madhya Pradesh High Court order declaring this provision as unconstitutional. The case arises from an appeal by the State Government against the High Court order.

The Chief Minister said he hopes in next two years the Supreme Court verdict will be there and in this period those in service will be assured of promotion as the retirement age is being raised.

Today’s interaction between the Chief Minister and the media-persons has special significance as journalists were present in full strength to explore the focus and strategies of a leader, who doesn’t see any anti-incumbency sentiments among the people and is confident of their continuous support in the coming battle of the ballot. Wherever he goes in the State, the people rally around him and everyone calls him Mama (mother’s brother), he said adding he also doesn’t know who is going to challenge him (from the main opposition Congress side) in the coming election. Chouhan said, when he goes to the Gwalior region, they (the Congressmen) say Jyotiraditya Scindia will form the next government, In Jhabua- they talk of Bhuria (former Union Minister Kantilal Bhuria) while in Chhindwara, they were looking up at Kamal Nath.

Chouhan has won two successive elections as Chief Minister and was aiming for hat trick in the general election to the State Assembly later this year.

The journalists tried to grill the chief minister on the prevailing law and order situation in the State and wanted to know the Government’s stand on the proposal to introduce the Police Commissioner system. It is being examined, he stated and dispelled apprehensions that once this system gets introduced the Police will have over-riding powers, including powers to enter anybody’s for inspection. The Chief Minister said that the objective requirements relating to the State will be taken into consideration before implementing the police commissioner system.

The Chief Minister, responding to a pointed query, said that State Ministers would be given ticket for contesting the coming Assembly elections based on their popularity among the voters and performance.

Noting that the crisis of malnutrition in Madhya Pradesh can be traced back in history and admitting that the situation, particuilarly with regard to the Sahariya tribe, continues to pose a huge challenge, the chief minister said that a lot has been done under his regime and the situation is improving.

The Chief Minister told media-persons that currently, the irrigation area of the state is about 40 lakh hectare; the goal is to bring about 84 lakh hectare area under irrigation; and there is an investment proposal for Rs. 1.10 trillion till 2025.

The Chief Minister, spoke about his commitment to the cause of the farmers and said that the Bhavantar Yojana (scheme for payment of price difference for the farmer’s produce) which was started as a pilot project will now gain momentum with the Centre contributing its share to carry forward this scheme.

When the Chief Minister’s attention was drawn towards the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices and its composition, especially the fact that the two posts of non-official members in this important body, which gives recommendations to the Central government regarding the support price for farm produce, are lying vacant even after the Cabinet Secretary had interviewed farmers shortlisted for appointment as members in the year 2016, and he was asked whether he would intervene in this matter and ask the Central authorities to fill these posts with farmers’ representatives without wasting more time keeping in view the interest of the farmers, the chief minister said that he was not aware of this and gave the assurance that he would act after checking up the facts.

Chouhan rebutted queries pointing to dismal performance in terms of industrial growth and investment and said that there has been a 9 per cent growth in the industrial sector and investments also have been coming across a wide spectrum, including the automobile and textile sector.

The press meet began with everyone present standing in silence for two minutes to honour and remember the Bhind journalist Sandeep Sharma, who was run over by a dumper and killed last Monday after he had written to the police stating that there was threat to his life and had sought protection. He had been reporting about illegal sand-mining mafia. The Chief Minister later announced relief of Rs. 200,000 for his family. When intervened, he said that this amount would be raised.

Tension prevails in communal strife-torn Bihar

Newsroom24x7 Network

Patna: No fresh violence was reported today but tension prevailed in communal strife-torn Bihar where the situation is returning to normalcy.

There is heavy police deployment in all three Samastipur towns that were hit by communal violence. In Samastipur, the police arrested two BJP leaders today on the charge of inciting communal violence. The cops are scanning CCTV footage to identify the troublemakers.

According to reports reaching here, the situation had returned to normalcy in the district headquarters of Aurangabad in western Bihar but there was tension in Rosera and Munger in Samastipur district, where rampaging mobs were involved in communal clashes earlier this week. The Rapid Action force had conducted flag march and the shops and business establishments remained closed in Rosera and Munger on Wednesday.

Communal clashes were sparked in Rosera on Tuesday after a mob had gathered near a mosque at Gudri Bazar seeking punishment for an unidentified person who had allegedly hurled a flip-flop at a procession a day before. Many in the mob, even entered the mosque and indulged in arson. Later a man identified as Mohammad Sajjad was taken into detention by the Police.

In Munger, trouble broke out and there was a violent clash between two communities on Tuesday night over inflammatory slogans raised during a Chaiti Durga idol immersion procession.

Communal clashes were also sparked in Bhagalpur coinciding with Ramnavami festivities.

Universities should suo-motu put in public domain the guidelines for revaluation of the answer-sheets in larger public interest

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An open government, which is the cherished objective of the RTI Act, can be realised only if all public offices comply with proactive disclosure norms. Section 4(2) of the RTI Act mandates every public authority to provide as much information suo-motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including the Internet, so that the public need not resort to the use of RTI Act. – CIC for proactive disclosure norms

New Delhi: Central information Commission has responded to a series of Complaints and Appeals on revaluation of the answer-sheets and related matters, by advising the Secretary, Department of Higher Education (MHRD), to instruct all the Vice Chancellors and Registrars of the Universities falling within its purview to suo-motu putout the guidelines for revaluation of the answer-sheets detailing the procedure prescribed for this purpose for the benefit of the larger student community impacted by such decisions and in the larger public interest involved in the matter.

The above advise is part of the operative portion of an order passed by Central Information Commissioner Bimal Julka today in response to an appeal by Avneesh Kumar Pandey, a resident of Varanasi. Under the Right to Information, the appellant had sought information on four points relating to inspection of answer sheet and its revaluation, details of authority that can be approached by an applicant for seeking his answer sheet and its revaluation after its denial by the competent authority and related issues.

The CIC has instructed the respondent, the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of Banaras Hindu University, to collect and collate the guidelines for revaluation of the answersheets of the students and the detailed procedure should be put out on its website for information of all the stakeholders to obviate the necessity of the student seeking recourse to the RTI mechanism for redressal of grievance. This has to be implemented not later than 30 days time period from the date of receipt of this order.

The CPIO, Banaras Hindu University, through his letter of 24 September 2016, had transferred the RTI application to the Faculty in Charge, Faculty of Performing Arts, Banaras Hindu University. Dissatisfied by the response of the CPIO, the Appellant had approached the First Appellate Authority (FAA). Subsequently, the CPIO, Faculty of Performing Arts, Banaras Hindu University furnished a point wise response to the Appellant on 9 November 2016.

The CIC has brought on record the Appellant’s contention that a cryptic reply had been received by him. It was complained that clear cut guidelines regarding the mechanism for revaluation of the answer-sheet etc was not transparent or available on any public platform to enable the applicant to seek information in this regard. It was also argued that the First Appeal was also answered by the CPIO instead of the FAA and that there was total disrespect and disregard to the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 in the University. The Respondent replied that a suitable response had been provided by the CPIO.

The Commission has observed that the issues raised in the RTI application dealt with the larger public issue and large number of student community was impacted by similar such problems faced by them on a day to day basis.

The Commission observed that voluntary disclosure of all information in the public domain should be the rule and members of public who having to seek (requiring further) information should be an exception. An open government, which is the cherished objective of the RTI Act, can be realised only if all public offices comply with proactive disclosure norms. Section 4(2) of the RTI Act mandates every public authority to provide as much information suo-motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including the Internet, so that the public need not resort to the use of RTI Act.

The CIC has quoted from decisions of the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court of India while emphasising that the Commission has felt that issues of Larger Public Interest affecting selection of meritorious candidates through a fair and transparent selection process were raised by the Appellant during the course of hearing, hence disclosure of information was warranted.