Top BJP leaders meet Pranab over nuclear liability bill


New Delhi : Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Wednesday met senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders Wednesday in a bid to break the deadlock over the civil nuclear liability bill, but a consensus remained elusive.

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BJP leaders, however, held out the possibility of a thaw saying it was willing to back the legislation if its suggestions were incorporated by the government.

Party leaders L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha met Mukherjee to discuss the differences between the government and the opposition on the bill that was introduced in the Lok Sabha in the budget session of parliament.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Prithviraj Chavan were also present at the meeting.

BJP sources said it was the first “political meeting” with the government on the bill, which is being examined by the Standing Committee on Science and Technology.

“There can be a meeting ground,” a senior BJP leader said, adding that they had told the government to remove the “unnecessary provisions” from the bill.

The BJP leader said the government agreed to extend the term of the standing committee looking into the bill by a week and is likely to have another meeting with the party leaders.

BJP sources said that the government told them that there was no proposal at present to allow private or foreign players to operate the reactors.

They said the party leaders suggested that there was need for the government to join the Convention of Supplementary Compensation (CSC) since foreign operators were not being allowed at present.

The party also suggested there should not be an upper limit in the no-fault liability regime.

The BJP leaders said that the bill should be India-specific and needs to be redrafted.

The BJP had said Monday that it will not hesitate to give a dissenting view on the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee looking at the civil nuclear liability bill if its concerns are not taken into account by the government.

The BJP has all along said that government should clarify whether it was thinking of allowing private operators to run nuclear plants now or in future.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010, seeks to create a mechanism for compensating victims of nuclear damage arising from a nuclear accident.

The bill fixes no-fault liability on operators and gives them a right to recourse. It caps the liability of operator at Rs.500 crore and makes the central government liable for damage exceeding this amount up to 300 million SDR.

With the Left firmly opposed to the bill, the government will need the support of the BJP for the smooth sailing of the bill in the Rajya Sabha.