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Govt keeps nuke Bill just the way BJP wants it
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

Mishandling of report to be probed

Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari on Friday ordered an inquiry into the mishandling of the Parliamentary Standing Committee report on the Nuclear Liability Bill. Rajya Sabha Secretary-General Vivek Agnihotri will look into the matter, sources said.

New Delhi, August 20
The UPA government today gave in to the demands of the Opposition and amended the Nuclear Liability Bill suitably to ensure that the obligations of the suppliers of equipment are not diluted in case of an accident.

The controversial Bill, which was discussed threadbare by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, had hit a roadblock yesterday when the BJP backtracked on its earlier support for the proposed legislation on the grounds that the last-minute insertion of the word "and" clubbing clauses 17 (a) and 17 (b) had diluted the provisions seeking compensation from suppliers. The Left parties had also expressed similar concerns. They wanted the word "and" to be deleted, which was agreed to by the government.

The amended Bill was cleared by the Union Cabinet today after a series of consultations which went on till late into the night yesterday. In fact, the Cabinet accepted all key recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, which submitted its report two days ago. The Centre will now move a total of 18 official amendments to the original Bill when it comes up for discussion in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

The Bill, which provides for compensation to victims in case of a nuclear accident, is necessary to operationalise the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement and will enable India to undertake nuclear commerce with other countries like France and Russia for which agreements have already been signed.

Keen to pass the Bill before US President Barack Obama's November visit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wanted that the government reach out to the Opposition and forge the broadest possible consensus on this issue. Since the support of the Left parties was ruled out in view of their ideological opposition to the Bill, the government thought its wise to engage with the BJP, which was less rigid about supporting the Bill provided their concerns were addressed.

Explaining the broad contours of the Bill, Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj Chavan emphasised that the Bill had been designed to help victims who would get prompt compensation ,which would be decided by a commissioner who will be appointed for this particular job and who will be expected to give his decision within a given time-frame.





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