Government develops cold feet over Bills

Government develops cold feet over Bills

Centre to convene all-party meet decide on Womens Bill

Government develops cold feet over Bills

Even as the debate is on within the government on the two Bills, it has decided to buy time. While the Manmohan Singh administration will convene another round of all-party meeting on the Women’s Bill, it has veered around to put the Nuclear Liability Bill on the back burner for now.

A senior minister in the government told Deccan Herald here on Wednesday that Finance Minister and Lok Sabha leader Pranab Mukherjee will convene the meeting of all-party leaders although a date has not been fixed.

 “We hope to thrash out differences at this meeting,” said the minister but the leaders of other parties, speaking off the record, said the outcome could be bleak.This will be the second meeting that would be held on the controversial Bill that seeks to reserve 33 per cent of seats in the Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblies for women.
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar had convened an all-party meeting on April 5 which ended without any decision.

The meeting, however, gave ample evidence of how much the parties are divided over the Bill, which was passed by the Rajya Sabha in a high-octane drama on March 9.The anti-Bill leaders have been demanding a quota within quota for the other backward classes and Muslims.

While the Congress, the BJP and the Left parties have expressed their support for the Bill, there are fissures within the BJP and the JD(U) whose OBC leaders are seeking a internal quota within the Bill.

The UPA is not sure which way its ally and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee would throw in their lot with. She has more than once backed the demand of the anti-Bill leaders and she did at the April 5 meeting. As regards the N-Bill, the senior minister said the government wanted to bring about consensus among all parties before introducing the Bill in Parliament.

The Centre had faced severe embarrassment in the Lok Sabha last month as it had to withdraw the Bill minutes before its introduction as it did not have enough numbers in the House following the absence of the ruling coalition members and in the face of the opposition wanting to defeat the Bill at the introduction stage.

 The Left parties, experts and jurists have questioned the provisions of the Bill.
Their main grouse is the Rs 500-crore cap on the operator’s liability (the government says Parliament has the power to either increase or decrease the amount of liability of any operator), that it ignored the judgments of the Supreme Court on the “polluter pays” principle, etc.

The Left has alleged that the Bill would protect the US suppliers of nuclear reactors from claims of liability and compensation.