The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has opposed the government’s move to enact a nuclear liability law that seeks to “protect” American suppliers of nuclear equipment from paying adequate compensation in case of an accident.

Pointing out that neither the French nor Russian companies had sought to limit the compensation, an editorial in the party organ People’s Democracy said the low limit on compensation “shows the scant regard the UPA government holds for the Indian people.”

The editorial also rebutted the government’s claim of the proposed law being in consonance with the Vienna Convention.

“It is an entirely the U.S. concern and being driven by the interests of U.S. suppliers and investors. If this is accepted, this will prove another case of India capitulating to the U.S. and putting the interests of the U.S. capital before the interests of its people.”

The editorial contended that the total liability was pegged at Rs. 2,250 crore ($450 million). Of this, the operator’s liability was capped at Rs. 300 crore.

The difference would be borne by the government. It apprehended that this miniscule liability for the actual operator would encourage them to play with plant safety.

“The proposed nuclear liability bill falls far short of the Indian legal regime, which does not accept any limits to liability — the party concerned must not only pay full compensation but also the cost of any environmental damage that any accident may cause. The Oleum leak from Sriram Food and Fertility settled the liability regime in India, and any legislation seeking to cap the liability will be completely retrogressive.”

Bhopal gas leak

In the case of the Bhopal gas leak, the settlement of $470 million was a gross underestimation. “It is completely unconscionable of the UPA government to suggest that all nuclear accidents be capped at a figure that has already been shown to be a gross underestimate,” observed the editorial.

“It is evident that contracts for buying U.S. nuclear reactors will explicitly exclude any liability on the part of the supplier and, therefore, by the law to be adopted they will go scot free even if an accident occurs due to a defect in the equipment supplied by a U.S. company,” it said.

“The government cannot be allowed to disregard the lives and safety of the people of India. It is imperative that Parliament reject this legislation when it is presented.”

More In: National | News