India US Civil Nuclear Deal

Nuclear! Stay Clear!

There is one definite outcome when head of states of two capitalist nations meet. It’s going to be disastrous for the working class! Obama’s visit to India on the eve of republic day of India has to come to mean the same. For all the talks about “Swacch Bharat” and the need for renewable energy by all the parties be it regional and national, when it comes to nuclear power there is an unanimous support from all sides.

The Indian Civil Liability Nuclear Damage Act 2010 (CLND) has been a thorn in the flesh for the nuclear equipment suppliers. Though the CLND states that the operator will have to bear the liability in case of an accident, the “right to recourse” clause which comes under section 17 of the same act permits the liability to be imposed upon the supplier in case the accident happens because of faulty equipment.

The UPA tried to work out a plan for the Russian based company Rosatom which had supplied the equipment for the Kudankulam nuclear power plants. General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC), an Indian Public sector firm will evaluate each component and come up with a premium amount for each of the vendor and the plant will be insured with GIC. The supplier will be paying the premium for the insurance which is likely to cause an increase in the cost of the equipment. Further if there is no accident in the insurance period then supplier will be given the entire amount paid so far. And in case of an accident the Indian insurance company or in other words public money will be used for paying the liability. In either case it’s the Indian people who are going to pay the price. But in response to an RTI filed by the Greenpeace, the GIC has denied any talks regarding insurance done for Units 3 and 4 of Kudankulam. The plan was eventually dropped due to limitations from Indian insurance regulatory guidelines.

The BJP government has come out with a similar plan which makes the Indian public money to be used to pay for any accidents. The BJP government has proposed to create an insurance pool of Rs. 1500 Crore rupees, Rs. 750 Crores will be contributed by five government-owned insurance companies (General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC), New India Assurance, Oriental India Insurance, National Insurance and United India Insurance). The rest will be contributed by the Government of India. The premium will paid by the suppliers and the assurance will be provided by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) for which NPCIL will in turn take a insurance and pay the premium for the same. The suppliers will be raising the cost of the equipment to compensate for the premium they will be paying.

Often the civil society movements which sometimes succeed in mobilizing the masses and give a ray of hope, but without any radical alternatives that would endanger capitalism, end up demanding for more  stronger legislations which are neither here nor there. The best example for the same is the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement. The nuclear issue shows us how the laws mean nothing in front of the capitalist quest for profit. CLND is not being amended and the profits are safe. A happy ending for the capitalist story!

On one hand the State is assuring the people that the nuclear power plants are completely safe and handling the protestors with iron gloves and on the other hands it’s handling the multi national companies with kids gloves and wooing them and assuring them of definite profit. The entire discourse on threat posed in aftermath a nuclear accident cannot be reduced to dollars or rupees. It cannot be equated to a road accident where the injuries or loss of a person can be covered by insurance. A Nuclear disaster risks the lives of generations to come and renders the reversal of environmental destruction almost irreversible. The promises of compensation, rehabilitation, welfare means nothing to those who will be affected by the accident. The state of victims of the Bhopal disaster after 30 years needs no further elucidation.

Protests have started in Modi’s home state of Gujarat against the proposed 6000 MW nuclear project. The agitation against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant has crossed 1000 days. The Indian government is taking us to an era of nuclear disaster. It’s high time for all of us to join hands and shout “Nuclear! Stay clear!”.

Arun Kaliraja