(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
September 05, 2010
Bartering Away National Interests
session of the parliament was marked by the singular obsession of the
government to have the civil nuclear liability bill passed in both the
houses. Clearly, this was necessary in order to present to the US president Barak
Obama a domestic Indian legislation that favours nuclear commerce
huge profits to US corporations that are now supply nuclear power
reactors to India.
The real intent of the Indo-US nuclear deal, apart from
This obsession was reflected in the fact that the only issue on which the prime minister intervened was in the discussion on this bill where he appealed for unanimity in approving it. In recent times, the prime minister had scheduled foreign visits during the parliamentary sessions. The country was relieved when he did not have any in this monsoon session. It was hoped that his continuous presence in the parliament would contribute to providing the much-needed relief for the people. Yet, he chose not to speak on the more pressing issues before the country and the people. Such was the preoccupation with this obsession that it resulted in an unprecedented loss of face for the government when it had to defer at least five legislations that were passed by the Lok Sabha but could not be seen through in the Rajya Sabha.
Despite the unprecedented
of unanimously adopting a resolution moved by the Chair in both houses,
upon the government to take all measures to protect the aam
admi from the adverse impact of price rise, the PM did not
intervene. Likewise, he remained silent in the debates on the alarming
situation in Kashmir and on the plight of the
That such a legislation
inevitable became clear at the time of sealing of the Indo-US nuclear
Reacting to such
references and charges
that the nuclear liability bill was aimed at promoting US interests,
the prime minister
said in the Lok Sabha that “this is not the first time that such a
been made against me.” Reference was to
his 1992 FM budget ushering in neo-liberal reforms which he claims has,
created “a resurgent and assertive
That the reforms would widen the rich-poor divide was always known. The then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao in March 1995 admitted: “In the context of the reforms that we have embarked upon presently in our country” required the need to “commit the resources required to realise the rights for the poor”. Further, “The core issues of poverty eradication and social integration cannot be addressed credibly without adequate resources”, and “the paradigm of our development must necessarily contain an effective component of social justice and harmony”. Thus, within three years, it became clear that the omnipotent `market’ and `reforms’ by themselves will not eliminate poverty. On the contrary, as we see today, the economic disparities have only widened sharply. This is the reality of the 1992 reforms, two decades later.
More recently, last
Manmohan Singh himself spoke defensively at the conference of the
Economic Association on poverty reduction. In an admission of guilt of
he said that poverty “has continued to decline after the economic
reforms at least at the same rate as it did
before”. Does this create a “resurgent
and an assertive
Clearly, the neo-liberal
trajectory was and is designed to widen the hiatus between the two
However much we may wish
nuclear accident never happens, when it does, it causes catastrophic
human life and property. The question of liability of both the supplier
operator of nuclear power plants in providing compensation, hence,
important. In the context of the plight
of the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy, due to the absence of
liability laws, the union home minister spoke in the Rajya Sabha
recently of “a
deep sense of guilt that in all these 26 years neither the executive
parliament appeared to have exercised the vigil and supervision that
situation warranted. And, in a sense, the elected political class of
country let down the victims of
The CPI(M) had to counter such guilt free abdication of responsibility by the successive Congress and BJP governments by setting the record straight in the Rajya Sabha. The Left had been raising this issue all along since 1984. Unfortunately, for the aam admi, this fell on deaf ears. Similarly, our pleas now to hold the US corporate giant, Dow Chemicals, that acquired Union Carbide liable for damages and for cleaning up the toxic waste that continues to collude the environment are falling on deaf ears. The least that the government could have done is to follow president Obama’s example of making the British Petroleum spend billions of US dollars in cleaning up the recent oil spill that it had caused in the Gulf of Mexico.
Today, the CPI(M) is forewarning the government and the country that the legal structure for adequate liability in the event of a nuclear accident must be ensured, else, a tragedy exponentially worse than Bhopal is waiting to happen. And, a future home minister, two decades down the line, hopefully does not have to bemoan of inability and abdication as the incumbent HM has done vis-à-vis the Bhopal tragedy.
Many countries in the world have fixed a floor for the amount of liability payable in the case of a nuclear accident. Instead of this, the current Indian law fixes a ceiling. In the case of a nuclear accident, a ceiling makes no sense as the amounts of compensation would depend upon the gravity of the accident. By not heeding to this suggestion and refusing to raise the limits of compensation, the Indian ruling classes are, once again, bartering away people’s interests for corporate profits. An alternative political trajectory for realising India’s real potential is necessary as the Congress and BJP unequivocally converge on issues of neo-liberal economic reforms and subservience to US imperialism.
Heed this forewarning, if for nothing else, that, a nuclear accident does not discriminate between the miniscule `resurgent’ India and the overwhelmingly impoverished real India.
(September 01, 2010)