N-liability bill to safeguard US interests: Karat

Maintaining that the Bhopal verdict was of "direct relevance" to the Nuclear Liability Bill, the CPI(M) today said the legislation bore the "handiwork" of US nuclear industrial lobby.

Last Updated: Jun 16, 2010, 18:45 PM IST

New Delhi: Maintaining that the Bhopal
verdict was of "direct relevance" to the Nuclear Liability
Bill, the CPI(M) today said the legislation bore the
"handiwork" of US nuclear industrial lobby as it would exempt
them from any liability in case of an accident.

The bill is "meant to safeguard the interests of the US
companies who will supply reactors to India. In the event of a
nuclear accident, they are to be exempted from any liability
to pay compensation for the damages caused," party General
Secretary Prakash Karat said.

Maintaining that the Bhopal verdict has "a direct
relevance" to the nuclear liability bill, he said the bill
"bears the handiwork of the US nuclear industry lobby. The
manner in which liability is fixed shows a familiar pattern."

In an article in the forthcoming issue of party organ
`People`s Democracy`, he said the Congress-led government "has
obliged the US by bringing this shocking piece of legislation
which makes it near impossible to hold foreign suppliers of
nuclear reactors to account in the case of an accident."

"What (US MNCs) Westinghouse and General Electric want is
that even the limited liability which accrued to the Union
Carbide in case of Bhopal (USD 470 million as per the
settlement approved by the Supreme Court) should not fall on
them," the CPI(M) leader said.

In the United States, the "powerful" oil lobby had got the
US Congress to put a cap on the liability of oil firms for
damage done by oil spills at USD 75 million.

Now with the havoc caused by the Gulf Coast spill from the
BP`s drilling platform, "efforts are on to raise the cap to
USD 10 billion or to leave the scope for unlimited liability",
Karat said.

Reiterating the Left demand for scrapping of the liability
bill, he said, "The people will have to pay with their lives
or health in the case of a nuclear accident, but the profits
of US companies and the corporate sector in India should be
protected by limiting their liability."

Observing that the compensation on Bhopal gas tragedy paid
by the Union Carbide was Rs 713 crore or USD 470 million, he
said a nuclear accident may involve casualties on a much
larger scale than Bhopal.

Under the Nuclear Liability Bill, the maximum compensation
to be paid will be Rs 2,140 crore, the bulk of which would be
paid by the government, Karat said.

The truth, he said, was that the 20,000 people who died
and thousands of others affected by the 1984 gas disaster
"were poor people belonging to the bastis (slums) of Bhopal
who were, as far as the ruling classes and their political
representatives were concerned, expendable. The judiciary also
reflected this class bias".

How "eager the Manmohan Singh government is to fulfil its
commitment to the US could be seen in the manoeuvres it
resorted to, to bring the liability bill in Parliament," Karat
said.

After being thwarted in the first half of budget session
from introducing the Bill in Lok Sabha, the government "had to
strike deals" with parties like SP and RJD to get it
introduced in the fag end of the budget session, he said.

Maintaining that normally such a Bill should have gone to
the Standing Committee on Energy, he said the government
decided to route it through the Standing Committee on Science
and Technology where a Congress MP is the chairman.

The CPI(M) leader alleged that there was an effort by the
government before the Standing Committee to delete the clause
which gives the operator the limited right to recourse against
the supplier in the case of a wilful action or gross
negligence.

"The nuclear industrial lobby of the United States has
expressed its unhappiness at even this weak clause and wants
it deleted," he claimed.

Asserting that more Bhopals and Warren Andersons should
not recur, he said for this, Dow Chemical which took over
Union Carbide should be made to pay all the costs for cleaning
up the Bhopal factory site and the environment.

"Ironically, the Group of Ministers set up by the
government includes ministers who wanted to absolve Dow of all
such responsibility. This will be an acid test of the
government’s intentions," Karat said.

PTI