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Bhopal relief row

New Delhi, April 7: Nearly two decades after the Bhopal gas disaster, the Centre is yet to disburse Rs 1,360 crore of the compensation money forked out by Union Carbide.

The Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to the Centre enquiring what it had done with the “remaining amount” of the $470 million compensation/ rehabilitation fund the company coughed up after gas leaked from its Bhopal plant in 1984, killing and maiming thousands.

A division bench of Justices Shivraj Patil and Arijit Passayat issued the notice on a public interest litigation by Abdul Sakad Khan and 35 other people of Bhopal. The Centre has been asked to reply in three weeks.

The petition also raised the issue of non-payment of interest on the compensation amount awarded to the victims by the tribunal constituted under the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act.

The petitioners contended that retaining the remaining portion of the money and refusing to pay interest on the compensation amount was “arbitrary, discriminatory, illegal and unconstitutional”.

In the worst industrial disaster in India, about 40 tonnes of methyl isocyanide had leaked from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal on December 2, 1984.

Nearly 4,000 people died in the leak, the figure swelling to about 16,000 down the years. The gas also affected unborn babies, with several being born with mental and physical deformities as after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing in Japan.

According to records maintained by the offices of the welfare commission, a total of 10,29,431 claims were received up to March 31, 2002. The total amount disbursed among the victims is Rs 1,151.51 crore.

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