When Parliament was busy dealing with disruptions through the last three days, perhaps very few noticed the Comptroller and Auditor General's (CAG) report on the country's nuclear watchdog being tabled in the House on Wednesday.
For the government that is already battling the fallout of CAG's report on coal allocation, this report on India's nuclear watchdog - the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board - comes with a new headache.
The report says:
- The nuclear regulator that supervises safety issues at India's 22 running nuclear plants has not come up with any radiation safety policy even three decades after it was set up.
- The maximum fine the AERB can impose is that of Rs 500 as a deterrent in cases of nuclear safety oversight.
- The AERB reports to the government - another concern the CAG report has flagged saying lack of an independent and autonomous regulator is a serious risk.
- The regulatory body has no powers to make rules, enforce compliance or impose penalty in cases of nuclear safety oversight.
Former bureaucrat and anti-nuke supporter, MG Devasahayam told NDTV, "When we said these things, we were called anti-national. But continuing with these projects is anti-national. First put in place the mechanism, whether its compensation policies, rehabilitation etc. What is the hurry in setting up these power plants? The government must put a stop to these projects till these safeguards are in place."
Aruna Roy, Activist and member of the national advisory council, who has also visited the Kudankulam nuclear power plant site, lashed at the government.
"Imposing nuclear energy is a travesty of law, travesty of the rule of law, travesty of citizenship and raises many questions," she said.
The government is already working on trying to close in the gap.
A legislation to increase compensation in case of an accident has been passed but the implementing rules are still pending with Parliament. Besides, the proposal to make the regulatory body an independent and autonomous institute is also pending with Parliament.
When it finally comes through, the Nuclear Liability Act, which was passed in May 2010 but is still awaiting a go-ahead on its implementing rules, will make the operator liable to pay "no-fault" compensation of up to Rs 1,500 crore.
Admiral L Ramdas, who has also protested the nuclear power plant in Jaitapur said, "It's like the police policing itself."
He also said that till the new laws are not implemented, the promise of greater compensation or greater regulation of safety, will remain just that- promises.
The report also says that the Department of Atomic Energy has acknowledged CAG's concerns. "The Department of Atomic Energy acknowledged the concerns highlighted by us. While there were no specific assurances giving timelines within which our recommendations would be acted upon, we were assured that these were being looked into."
But till then, the government's assurances will have little impact in convincing thousands who are already opposing India's grand nuclear ambitions.