As the Bhopal residents still recall with horror the fatal night of December 2-3 when they had been awakened from their slumber by coughing and a burning sensation in eyes. Not able to understand what had actually happened, they ran out on the streets only to see people trying to escape the pall of gas hanging over the city. Every street was filled with dead bodies and people trying to escape from the jaws of death.
They learnt later that the dance of death that had played out on the streets that night was orchestrated by an overly greedy multinational corporate, which played little heed to industrial safety. The leakage of 40 tons of Methyl Isocyanate, the deadly chemical, which had traces of cyanide, left the entire city around the Union Carbide plant dead or at least paralyzed. The toll: more than 10000 deaths, including immediate and within a couple of months and more than 5 lakh lives worse than death. The world’s worst industrial disaster left wounds which have not healed to date as people have still not been able to come to terms with its after-effects.
On its 30th anniversary, the residents well up with anger against Warren Anderson, the man who was the chief villain of the piece. The fact that he was given a VIP treatment and was allowed to fly back to America, never to return, is still fresh in their memory. His recent death has rekindled the old memories, which refuse to go anyway. "Flight authorized by CM" — says the entry in the journey log book of the aircraft that ferried Warren Anderson out of Bhopal on December 7, 1984. The pilot Sayed Hafiz Ali revealed this before Justice Kochhar commission probing Anderson's escape. Ali piloted the aircraft (VT-EID King Air-200C) which flew Anderson to Delhi on December 7. "Orders for flying out the VIP passenger came from the then director of state aviation Cpt R C Sodhi," captain Ali said, putting an end to the 30-year-old controversy over Anderson's safe passage from Bhopal. He was released on bail within hours of his arrest and he never turned up for trial despite being declared an absconder.
Justice Kochhar had recently sought information from PMO and Union home ministry about the arrest and subsequent release of Anderson and how he was provided with a state aircraft to leave Bhopal for Delhi after his release. N R Krishnan, secretary to former chief minister Arjun Singh, was also summoned before the commission for his statement over the authorization of the aircraft that flew Anderson. Last month, the Jabalpur bench of high court admitted a PIL asking the state government to disclose all details about Anderson's exit. The court clubbed the PIL with another petition related to the tragedy and the case will be heard next month. Several RTIs requesting details on the state plane to ferry Anderson were rejected by the state aviation department in recent years on ground that the matter is old. The applicant sought to know about the file that sanctioned the flight, the person who sanctioned it, and passengers who took the flight.