Civil N-Bill sails through LS

UPA gets BJP on board as CPM amendment outvoted 252-25

Civil N-Bill sails through LS

The bill will now have to be taken up by the Rajya Sabha.
It was only after tabling 18 amendments to the bill, moved by Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chauhan, that the BJP, its allies and the Samajwadi Party extended support to the government to get it passed in the Lower House. The government agreed to drop some contentious words from the much-debated Clause 17 of the proposed legislation.

Even as it agreed to support the bill with revised wording, the BJP, during the debate in the Lok Sabha, accused the government of rushing the bill through Parliament before President Barack Obama’s visit to India in November. Senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh questioned the  government’s haste to have the bill passed in Parliament. There was also a division in the House when the amendment suggested by CPM parliamentary party leader Basudeb Acharia was negated with 252 voting against and 25 voting in favour of it. Subsequently, the government had a stand-off with the Left parties and rejected their demand to raise the cap on compensation to be paid by the operator in case of a nuclear mishap. Acharia’s amendment to increase the maximum liability of the operator to Rs 10,000 crore for a nuclear power plant having a generation capacity of 10 MW or above was put to vote.

Acharia also questioned the rationale of the government’s amendment to Clause 7, making provisions for the Centre to assume full liability for a nuclear installation not operated by it if  the government was of the opinion that it was necessary in public interest.

At this juncture, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made an intervention to seek unanimous support for the proposed legislation from all MPs, saying passage of the bill would mark the “completion of a journey to end the nuclear apartheid which the world had imposed on India”. He rejected allegations that the bill was brought to advance the interests of the United States and its corporations.

Moving the amendments in the House, Chavan said later that the government tried its best to take all parties on board. He said that the bill was now backed by an “unprecedented political consensus” as well as support from experts and civil society groups. He also made a strong case for enhancing nuclear power generation capacity to meet the country’s growing energy demand.

Chavan said the government put the cap on the operator’s liability at Rs 1,500 crore only to enable it to take insurance cover. But the cap did not limit the compensation that the victim would be entitled to in case of an accident, he added.
DH News Service

Changes, compensation
* Controversial clause 17(b) amended by dropping the word ‘intent’
* Compensation cap to be paid by the operator at Rs 1,500 crore provided in the bill is not the ‘limit’
* Compensation will be decided by the Claims Commissioner and the operator will have to pay
* Govt assumes full liability for even a plant not operated by it
* Bhopal disaster experience cited
* A total of 18 official amendments adopted
* The bill is necessary for full implementation of civil nuclear deal signed with the US in 2006

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