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Home > Environment, Health and Social Justice > “Merchants of Venice” and the Indian Government’s Wrong Approach

“Merchants of Venice” and the Indian Government’s Wrong Approach

by S. P. Udayakumar, 2 August 2012

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People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)

Idinthakarai & P. O. 627 104
Tirunelveli District, Tamil Nadu
Phone: 98656 83735; 98421 54073
koodankulam at yahoo.com
pushparayan at gmail.com

August 2, 2012

As if he has woken up from a deep slumber, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has questioned the atomic energy department’s decision not to exercise the right to recourse in the event of an accident at the Koodankulam plants. This simply means that the Russian government or their companies have no liability whatsoever for their technology and the equipment. The United States and France are also demanding such waivers. All these “Merchants of Venice” want to increase their profit at the cost of the Indian citizens’ life and wellbeing. But they would have no responsibility or accountability for their decrepit technology.

This kind of letting the polluter to go scot free runs quite contrary to the “polluter pays” principle enshrined in the Indian Constitution and all our environmental laws. Any blanket waiver to the suppliers will make the Indian liability act a cruel joke.

The Manmohan Singh government concluded a secretive Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with Russia in February 2008 and signed it in December that year. Article 13 states: “The Indian Side and its authorised organisation at any time and at all stages of the construction and operation of the NPP power units to be constructed under the present Agreement shall be the Operator of power units of the NPP at the Kudankulam Site and be fully responsible for any damage both within and outside the territory of the Republic of India caused to any person and property as a result of a nuclear incident occurring at the NPP.”

Just imagine you bought an A-1 Company’s washing machine from Acme Corporation. One day when your wife was operating it, her hand got stuck in it in an accident. According to the Indo-Russian IGA, neither the A-1 Company nor the Acme Corporation is responsible for the mishap. In the absence of any “supplier liability,” only your wife, the operator, is liable for the accident. She will take a good sum from the family funds and give you compensation. In case of an accident at the Koodankulam nuclear power plants, the Russian government or their companies will not be liable but the NPCIL, which is an Indian public enterprise, will give you compensation from the Indian tax-payers’ money. All the income is for Russians and all the losses are for Indians! Isn’t that a nice deal?

Russians claim that the Koodankulam reactors are the “best” and the “safest” in the world. If that is so, why should they shy away from offering any liability for their technology and components, but keep insisting that the Indian operator, NPCIL, is responsible for all damages?

Indians should remember that the Indian government headed by Rajiv Gandhi and the state government of Madhya Pradesh headed by the Congress Party’s Arjun Singh helped the Union Carbide Corporation chief Warren Anderson to escape from India right after the worst industrial disaster in Bhopal in December 1984. The deadly waste still lies uncleared; the gas leak victims still keep running from pillar to post for compensation and medical help. The Indian legal system caught hold of some eight unimportant people and sentenced them to two years of imprisonment after 26-long years; and let them go on bail the same evening. Today’s Congress government of Manmohan Singh works with the same kind of attitude and approach. God save India!