N-liability Bill in the bag, India free to close N-deals

New Delhi: The last brick finally got slotted home with the Lok Sabha clearing passage of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill 2010 without much ado. The proposed law is a critical component in nuclear deals that India hopes to strike up with various countries.

The Lok Sabha cleared the Bill after incorporating 18 amendments, some proposed by opposition members. Those proposed by Left members, in particular the CPM, were roundly rejected by the House. In a fit of petulance CPM chief whip Basudeb Bhattacharya even pressed for division on one of his amendments which was defeated by a massive margin.

The division was interesting for one reason – it revealed the strength of the members present in the House and voting (Total: 278 - 252 for, 25 against and 1 abstention).

Shepherding the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Bill 2010 through the Lok Sabha, minister of state for science and technology, Prithviraj Chavan, said the government had taken on board amendments proposed by opposition parties.

The Bill now triples the liability cap on an operator in case of an accident to Rs1,500 crore from the earlier proposed Rs500 crore. This also comes with a guarantee, atleast as stated in the House by Chavan, that government will feel free to raise the cap in case of any such eventuality to whatever extent that is required under the circumstances. It is not clear of this was mere bravado or is worked into the Bill.

The controversial insertion ''intent'', ofcourse, received short shrift and the accommodation showed by the government in adjusting to the demands made by the BJP reflected in the peaceful nature of the debate and the ritualised passage of the Bill.