In view of the light sentence awarded to the accused in the Bhopal gas disaster case and the issue of compensation for the victims unsettled even 26 years after the disaster, the Centre's move to dilute the civil nuclear liability bill — by deleting the clause allowing American suppliers to be sued for damages in case of accident due to negligence on their part — is shocking. It reflects badly on the UPA government, which is buckling under American pressure. The opposition has a duty to expose the government's failure. If not now when is the question.
Diluting the civil nuclear liability bill in the backdrop of the Bhopal tragedy verdict, which anyway is a travesty of justice, adds insult to injury. The U.S. has shown double standards by heavily penalising BP for the oil spill disaster but, at the same time, not helping India get justice for the thousands of victims of the Bhopal gas disaster. The government would do well to learn a lesson or two about the U.S.
Prevention is better than cure — this is what we are expected to learn from the turn of events in the Bhopal disaster case. But the nuclear bill has put a big question mark on this belief. Is it not the government's duty to ensure the safety of its citizens?
The nuclear liability bill looks not only ridiculous but also insensitive, especially after the judgment in the Bhopal disaster case. The report that the government has sought to dilute the bill under American pressure establishes the extent to which our elected representatives can go to satisfy the so-called global headman.
The Bhopal verdict has restarted the debate on the importance of the nuclear liability bill. One lesson that the government must learn is that the liability of the operator in case of an accident at a nuclear reactor, especially due to negligence, cannot be pre-determined. An accident at a nuclear reactor may have such long-term ramifications that a pre-determined amount may not be sufficient to mitigate the damage.