BJP’s stand on nuclear liability bill remains unchanged

March 18th, 2010 - 9:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, March 18 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Thursday questioned the government’s intention over the key civil nuclear liability bill, saying the compensation mechanism in case of an atomic accident was being legislated under international pressure and “may benefit” private players at a later stage.
“What is your intention in bringing out this bill? The government must be upfront on this,” a senior BJP leader told IANS, ruling out the possibility of the party changing its stand on the matter.

The party’s reiteration to oppose the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010, comes a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s emissary, National Security Adviser (NSA) Shivshankar Menon, met the top BJP leaders in an effort to break the deadlock over the legislation.

This was the NSA’s second meeting with the BJP leaders since last week, but it has apparently failed to make a dent in the main opposition party’s opposition to the bill that seeks to set up a legal mechanism to ensure that victims of a nuclear accident are able to claim financial compensation from the operator. Such a mechanism does not exist in India as of now.

“That is true. We need such a mechanism, but in our (India’s) case who is the operator? The PSUs (public sector undertakings - the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd and the Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd). They are government-run companies, which means if you lift the veil the government will be paying to victims the money it collects from tax payers. The government is anyway liable. Why such a law then?” the BJP leader said.

He suspected that the “government was bringing the law in the PSU regime and may perhaps allow private companies to run nuclear power plants in the country who would be liable under the same rule of law”.

Told that the government has made it clear that it doesn’t want private owners to operate nuclear plants in India, the BJP leader voicing his skepticism, said: “Who knows what the government will do after the law is passed?”

He also questioned the multiple-factor liability system as proposed in the bill - “Manufacturers, operators (capped at Rs.500 crore).

SDRs (Special Drawing Rights) - up to a maximum of 300 million SDRs (Rs.2,200 crore) have to be provided for by the government if the damage is assessed to be more than Rs.500 crore. At peesent, one SDR is about $1.7.

“Why cannot we have a simple mechanism. Why be so ambiguous?” he said.

He said that the United Progressive Alliance government “has one basic credibility crisis. They take decisions on international pressure”.

The BJP leader said that during the party leaders’ meetings with the NSA, the government gave “implausible explanations” on the issues raised by the party about the bill.

“We need just one answer. Why the bill now? There is a suspicion,” he said, adding “if the government wants to have a pre-legislative consultation we are ready, and if they want to discuss it on the floor of the house we are also ready.”

“But they will have to explain. As of now the government seems determined to bring the bill and we are equally determined to oppose it in its present form.”

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