The BJP and Left on Saturday asked the UPA government to come clear on the need for the nuclear liabilities bill if the private sector was barred from nuclear power generation.
This came after Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari said that Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj Chavan categorically stated that there was no plan to open the nuclear sector for private players.
“What is the need for the bill if the government has to run all nuclear power plants?” asked BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi at a seminar on the nuclear liability bill on Saturday. “We asked the same question to the national security adviser (Shiv Shankar Menon) but he gave no answer.”
CPI’s D. Raja also said there was no need for a three-tier liability regime as proposed in the bill if private sector is not allowed in the nuclear sector.
“We feel that the government is not being truthful to its people in the bill. It (the bill) is the first step to allow private sector,” Raja said.
Joshi expressed similar apprehensions, quoting US government officials to point out that companies in America were getting ready to invest in civil nuclear energy in India once the bill was passed by Parliament.
The government had listed the introduction of the nuclear liabilities bill in the first part of budget session, but backtracked when the Opposition made it clear that they would seek voting at the time of introduction. After that, the government had discussed the bill with some Opposition parties.
On the Centre’s argument that the bill could be discussed by a parliamentary committee, the leaders of the major Opposition parties said the standing committee recommendations were not mandatory for the government to accept.
“We are not against nuclear energy,” Raja said. “But our opposition to the bill will continue till the government states the scientific reason for the liability cap and the need for bringing the bill now.”
Tiwari said the liability in the bill was better than that in Canada and China, and on a par with that of France, where nuclear energy is 85 per cent of its total energy generation. “The Opposition is looking at the wrong end of the stick,” he said.