Opposition raises fresh objection to nuclear bill

Opposition raises fresh objection to nuclear bill

New Delhi: Opposition party has reneged on a promise to support a bill that seeks to open up the country’s nuclear power market, saying current provisions make it difficult to get compensation in case of accidents. The Bhartiya Janata party (BJP) had agreed to support the bill, crucial for the entry of companies like US-based General Electric and Westinghouse Electric, after the Congress party-led coalition government agreed to hike compensation caps and extend liability to suppliers.

The BJP is now objecting to a provision that makes suppliers liable for compensation only if wilful intent to cause damage is proved.

“They have inserted “intent". That is the problem," S.S. Ahluwalia, the BJP’s deputy leader in the upper house of parliament, told Reuters.

“It is difficult to establish “wilful", for compensation cases. This (provision) is not adequate," said Ahluwalia, who was also on the parliament committee which vetted the government’s version of the bill.

While the ruling coalition in theory has a majority, it needs the support of the BJP, which has the powers to stall the bill through the upper house of parliament.

The nuclear bill has the personal backing of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh whose 2008 deal with former US president George Bush ended India’s isolation in the global nuclear market.

The government is hoping to have the bill enacted into law in the current parliament session that ends 31 August.