'N-liability bill not related to India-US deal'
The government on Thursday refuted charges that the civil nuclear liability bill was being introduced in parliament under international pressure and said the legislation had been under consideration since 1998 and had nothing to do with the India-US nuclear deal signed in 2008.delhi Updated: Apr 22, 2010 15:09 IST
The government on Thursday refuted charges that the civil nuclear liability bill was being introduced in parliament under international pressure and said the legislation had been under consideration since 1998 and had nothing to do with the India-US nuclear deal signed in 2008.
The bill was in line with international best practices and would ensure "immediate compensation" to victims of nuclear accidents, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) Prithviraj Chavan said during question hour in the Rajya Sabha.
It would ensure that victims "do not have to run from pillar to post" as happened in the case of those hit by the Bhopal gas tragedy, he added.
"I totally refute the charges of international pressure... It is not true that the bill is being brought to appease any country," he said about the measure that seeks to set up a legal mechanism to ensure victims of a nuclear accident are able to claim financial compensation.
"The bill has nothing to do with the Indo-US nuclear deal," Chavan said, adding that the government was bringing the bill because it was serious about setting up nuclear plants for clear power and energy.
"Thirty countries produce nuclear power. Of these, 28 have acceded to the Paris or Vienna conventions (on liability in case of nuclear accidents. India and Pakistan are the two countries that are not members of either convention). We have very carefully considered the issue. We will have to either join an international regime or have our own national law," Chavan pointed out.
Responding to a supplementary from P.J. Kurien, Chavan admitted that there was currently no law to compensate victims of nuclear accidents.
"The Public Liability Insurance Act enacted in 1991 does not cover nuclear accidents. If something unforeseen happens, we will be back to Bhopal. Therefore, we felt the need for a law," Chavan explained.
"This (nuclear liability bill) is being brought in to give immediate and prompt compensation. This money will be given immediately," the minister said, adding that if victims of any nuclear accident feel that the damages should be higher, they could seek more compensation from courts or the relevant authority.
The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010 is yet to be tabled in parliament but has been in the public domain in the wake of severe opposition against it.
The bill was listed to be introduced in the Lok Sabha but the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left parties forced the government to decide against introducing it in the lower house March 15.
Since then, the government has been unsuccessfully trying to build political consensus over the bill, which opposition parties say limits compensation for victims of any nuclear accident.
Chavan also denied that the government had any intention to open the atomic sector for private players - both domestic as well as international - in India.
He said that only the government or its companies would be running nuclear plants in the country as per the atomic act.
"There is no question of any foreign company trying to set up a nuclear plant in India. The Atomic Energy Act does not permit this," Chavan pointed out.
It was for the first time that the Rajya Sabha discussed the controversial bill, being vehemently opposed by the BJP and the Left parties.