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India's Finest

In the backdrop of US arm-twisting India on the Dow issue, it becomes extremely important that the government remains much more careful while passing the Nuclear Liability bill. Alas, this is not the case. Manmohan Singh and Co. seem determined to sell Indian lives at throwaway prices for benefit of US companies.

India has an ambitious and indigenous nuclear power program to achieve the goal of 20,000 MW electricity produced by nuclear energy by 2020 which will be further increased to 60,000 MW by 2032. Thus India will produce 25 percent of its electricity from nuclear power plants by 2050. To meet these projections, India would need a major FDI in nuclear energy. This would be provided by US companies like General Electric and Westinghouse by way of supplying and building the nuclear power plants while the operator will be government controlled Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL).

All over the world, the Nuclear Liability bill (or its variation) caps the financial damages to be paid in a case of nuclear accident to victims without any legal tussles. In India, it was merely Rs. 500 crores. After much opposition by Left and other parties, it is now raised to Rs. 1500 crores (nearly 300 million dollars). This is still a pittance if we compare it to other major nations.

Country
Nuclear Liability
United States
10 billion dollars (plus up to 5% if required for legal costs.)
United Kingdom
1 billion dollars
Switzerland
1.3 billion dollars
Japan
1.2 billion dollars


It becomes more interesting if you look at the fine print. This liability is only limited to the operator, in this case the Indian government. Thus in spirit if there is any disaster due to defective equipment or faulty construction by the supplier. it would go scott-free while the Indian government would be left footing the bill.

The extent to which government has gone to shield the US companies is evident by their changing of clause 17 .
Clause 17 of the bill allowed the operator of the plant to seek damages from the supplier if:
A) There's a pre-existing contract on liability between them
B) Or if there's gross negligence or willful act by the supplier
But in the final draft, the word "and" was added between Part A and B. This, the BJP and Left say, makes supplier liable only if there's a pre-existing contract with the government.
It makes me wonder whose interest is this government serving - India's or US? If these are the India's finest leaders, even God will not be able to save India.

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