It's an attempt by the government to safeguard U.S. interests, they say

Left parties on Saturday charged the Manmohan Singh government with seeking to fulfil a hidden commitment to safeguard the interests of the United States and stoutly opposed the move to introduce the Nuclear Liability Bill in Parliament, which they said was detrimental to India's interests.

The parties demanded the scrapping of the Bill and appealed to all parties to reject it.

“This is a harmful piece of legislation meant to serve the interests of the United States and its nuclear industry. This is also an outcome of the India-U.S. nuclear deal. The government is seeking to fulfil a hidden commitment to deliver legislation that safeguards the interests of the United States at the expense of the safety of Indian people,” the Left parties said in a joint statement.

They termed the Bill illegal and unconstitutional as it ignored the judgments of the Supreme Court on the “polluter pays principle.” It also compromised on the right of a citizen to go to court for adequate compensation.

The Left parties said the Bill was a blatant attempt to protect the U.S. suppliers of nuclear reactors from claims of liability and compensation. Even if there was a manufacturing defect that would cause a nuclear accident affecting the lives of lakhs of people, there was no liability for the supplier. “The clauses of the Bill are so devised as to practically make it impossible to assign the liability to the supplier,” the statement said.

All the liability fell upon the operator in India — the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL). The operator's liability has been fixed at Rs. 500 crore, while the overall liability is capped at Rs.2,200 crore. “This means the government will have to foot the bill for the rest of the amount. Since the NPCIL is a public sector enterprise, the whole bill is to be footed by the Indian taxpayer, while the U.S. supplier goes scot-free.”

Terming the limiting of liability at Rs.2,200 crore as “totally uncalled-for,” the parties noted that in the Bhopal gas accident, the total compensation paid out by Union Carbide was just $470 million (Rs.2,152 crore). The parties also saw the Bill as a serious attack on the rights of Indian citizens, since a nuclear accident would involve loss of many lives, and grievous long-term health consequences for many more.

The statement was issued by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India, the Revolutionary Socialist Party and the All India Forward Bloc.

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