NATIONAL POLITICS: Civil nuclear bill headed for delay, no consensus yet

NATIONAL POLITICS: Civil nuclear bill headed for delay, no consensus yet – still learnt nothing from the Bhopal Gas Disaster yet ?!!

Images from the past - someday to haunt the Indian future again, no lessons learnt yet ?!!


Aug, 11 2010, 22:20:00 IANS: The tabling of the contentious nuclear liability bill in parliament appears set for further delay as the term of a parliamentary panel formed to look into it was extended by a week and the BJP insisted its suggestions be included in the final draft.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, which was tasked with examining the bill after the deadlock in the budget session of parliament, was to submit its report on the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Bill, 2010, to parliament Thursday. But with no consensus emerging, it has decided to defer it by a week.

T. Subbirami Reddy, chairman of the committee, said he had sought a week’s extension for the committee to submit its report on the bill. He also met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and briefed him on the progress on the Bill, said sources.

The committee is now expected to meet Aug 16 to finalize its report and submit it to parliament a day or two later.

In a bid to break the deadlock over the controversial legislation, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Wednesday met top Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, including L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Prithviraj Chavan were also present at the first ‘political meeting’ to break the impasse over the legislation.

‘The committee cannot hustle through the proceedings,’ Jaswant Singh, a former foreign minister, told reporters after the meeting.

BJP leaders, however, held out the possibility of a thaw, saying it was willing to back the legislation by only the condition its suggestions were incorporated by the government.

‘There can be a meeting ground,’ a senior BJP leader said, adding that they had told the government to remove the ‘unnecessary provisions’ from the bill.

According to sources, some of these suggestions may not be acceptable to the government which may have to find a middle ground to address concerns over the legislation whose passage is crucial to implementing the landmark India-US civil nuclear deal.

The BJP leaders suggested there should not be an upper limit in the no-fault liability regime which effectively means unlimited liability, a proposal the government will find hard to accept.

The BJP leaders stressed that there was need for the government to join the Convention of Supplementary Compensation (CSC) since foreign operators were not being allowed at present. They said that the bill should be India-specific and needs to be redrafted.

The party had also demanded a ‘no fault compensation regime’ with payouts to be decided by the Claims Commissioner and a bar on private sector operators for nuclear power plants. BJP sources said that the government told them that there was no proposal at present to allow private or foreign players to operate the reactors.

The BJP had said Monday that it will not hesitate to give a dissent note on the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee looking at the civil nuclear liability bill if its concerns are not taken into account by the government.

The BJP has all along said that government should clarify whether it was thinking of allowing private operators to run nuclear plants now or in future.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010, seeks to create a mechanism for compensating victims of nuclear damage arising from a nuclear accident.

The bill fixes no-fault liability on operators and gives them a right to recourse. It caps the liability of operator at Rs.500 crore and makes the central government liable for damage exceeding this amount up to 300 million SDR.

With the Left firmly opposed to the bill, the government will need the support of the BJP for the smooth sailing of the bill in the Rajya Sabha.

BJP forces Centre to defer Civil Nuclear Liability Bill – no-cap  liability, not an option ?!!

From DNA
By Anil Anand

New Delhi, Thursday, Aug 12, 2010, 3:22 IST (DNA): Bowing to opposition pressure, the government has decided against rushing through the controversial Civil Nuclear Liability Bill. It will, instead, hold further discussions with BJP and others.

The draft bill was to be introduced in both Houses of parliament this week, but the plan has been now deferred.

The decision was taken at a meeting between finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and a high-level BJP delegation led by LK Advani on Wednesday.

“We had made this suggestion [to not rush through the bill] and the government has accepted it,” leader of opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, who was part of the delegation, said.

Accordingly, the government asked the parliamentary standing committee studying the draft bill to seek an extension so that it gets time for more discussions and it is learnt that the committee has already sought another week.

The BJP delegation, which also included opposition leader in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, Yashwant Sinha, Murli Manohar Joshi and Jaswant Singh, not only prevailed upon the government to postpone finalisation of the draft bill, but also reportedly convinced the UPA dispensation to accept some of its suggestions, party sources said.

BJP has reportedly suggested redrafting the bill to include its two main suggestions — 1) that the Centre set up a claims commission with no cap on liability, as in this case the operator would either be the government or its public sector undertakings (PSUs) and 2) it oppose a mechanism to follow the convention on supplement compensation that would make it mandatory for India to contribute heavily to international organisations related to nuclear liabilities.

That would be telling – the truth a bitter pill ?!!

From The Hindustan Times

August 13, 2010, 00:09 IST: Let’s admit it. We Indians are not exactly top of the pops when it comes to public revelations. The latest to break his silence on a controversial issue — the Bhopal gas tragedy — is former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Arjun Singh. Fortunately, we have got so inured to not expecting any information that we are not disappointed that he has told us nothing new. In the past too, many netas have darkly said that they will speak up at the appropriate moment. And when we hacks, slavering in anticipation have turned up at press conferences, the beans which were spilled were, well, nothing to write home about. Perhaps former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh caused a bit of a kerfuffle with his belated insights into the Kandahar hijacking but then again nothing to set the Yamuna on fire.

The Americans, as always, lead the pack when it comes to letting it all hang out in public. While we still hold back on things considered in the interest of national security, its open season on everything and everyone there. From John F. Kennedy’s dangerous liaisons, the Bay of Pigs fiasco to unsavoury remarks made by politicians about rivals, be sure that it will all be out on prime time television. But there is a flipside to so much information too. The public gets bored with insta-revelations, not knowing which to take seriously.

We are certainly smarter at the game. By promising to lay it all bare at the appropriate moment, we ensure that the fickle public loses interest much before we actually come out with something. And then, there is the masterly art of saying you have been misquoted. In the confusion, the hapless public decides that it is best to go about its business. We have often thought of giving our readers a peek into the exciting world of edit writing. But maybe it would be too much for them at the moment. We’ll wait for the appropriate moment.


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