Odisha CM assures steps to prevent closure of #Vedanta’s Lanjigarh refinery #goodnews


 

Shishir Sinha, The Hindu

New Delhi, Sept. 29:

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has promised to initiate efforts to avert the closure of the Lanjigarh plant of Vedanta Aluminium. The company has said it would shut down the plant from December 5 citing the lack of assured supplies of bauxite.

 

This promise was given to a 30-member delegation comprising representatives of the employees and the local community when they met Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in Bhubaneswar on Saturday. They appealed to him to save the Vedanta alumina refinery at Lanjigarh.

The delegation submitted a memorandum and appealed for regular supplies of bauxite from Odisha to the alumina refinery at Lanjigarh so that the company doesn’t close it down.

 

The Chief Minister told the delegation, “I will follow it up and take the matter forward in consultation with the Chief Secretary. All necessary steps will be taken.”

A day earlier, the delegation had submitted a memorandum to the Chief Secretary, the Minister of Mines, and the Minister of Labour and Employment. The Chief Secretary assured them that he would take steps to sort out the issue in the interest of the people.

 

The local community said the company had already sent a temporary closure notice to the Odisha Government due to a lack of raw material (bauxite) and at this juncture, if a regular supply of bauxite was not be maintained, thousands of people would be impacted. “In spite of having large quantities of bauxite in the State, if Vedanta Alumina Refinery closes down, Kalahandi will again become poverty-affected,” the memorandum said.

 

“I am from Lanjigarh of Kalahandi and I know that if the company closes down, it would affect the lives of more than 20,000 people. We want the Government to take immediate measures for the supply of bauxite to the company so that we and our region prospers,” Srikant Bohidar of Lanjigarh said.

 

Earlier this month, the company served a formal notice to the Odisha Government through the Labour Commissioner. The company had said, “The unit has already incurred financial losses to the tune of more than Rs 2,500 crore. Further operation of the refinery is not feasible unless supply of Odisha bauxite to the refinery is assured.”

 

The company’s refinery, located in the backward district of Kalahandi, has a capacity of 1 million tonnes. It has invested over Rs 8,000 crore, out of total investments of Rs 50,000 crore in Odisha. The refinery feeds alumina to its smelters located in Jharsuguda and Korba

 

Shishir.Sinha@thehindu.co.in

 

Just A Word Away, From Dr. Abdul Kalam to Women of Idinthakarai


By Anitha.S

30 September, 2012
Countercurrents.org

There was a recent reference to Dr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam’s statement “ The Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant is a project of God for fulifilling the electricity production and need of this country which will be 50,000 mw in 2030.It is a necessary project” ( Deccan Heralad, Sept 26,2012).

At the same time this came in the newspapers, the women of Idintakarai village, the closest to the KKNPP shared their views on the real project of God. This was not published anywhere but will perhaps go down in the annals of history as a perspective tempered by years of thought about peace and harmony. Chellamma who lost her dear brother Sahayam to a mishap caused by the aircraft which flew low on the people who had aggregated in the sea said in her quiet tone
“ Does this land and sea belong to us? Is it the Government who gave it to us? This sand is sacred .It is a gift of God. We have lived here for ages. We will not leave this land”

Chinna Thankam who taxed her aged body by being on fast for more than a week in March 2012 became eloquent one evening:
“ We are children of the Ocean. We have grown up playing in the ocean. The Ocean mother gives us many gifts by which we live. We do not know of any life away from the sea”

The 2 sentences from the women of Idinthakarai which is echoed by many seems a world away from Dr.Kalam’s statement which is connected to a few megawatts of electricity. It may seem incongruous and not so opportunate to write about 10 year old Shyamili (whose mother went missing since September 10th and who has been found in Trichy jail) who expressed her anguish about the radiated fish that would be exported to other places spreading the danger to children elsewhere”

Many women were more concerned about the future generations and the impact on the sea life and atmosphere. This is happening at a time when the KKNPP is getting the green signal with no comprehensive study yet being done on the ecology and environment of the area. The currents and tides which determine the migratory shoals of fishes on which the fisher folk depend is unknown. The temperature of the ocean which is crucial for the life forms to survive as there is a definite zonation based on the variations in heat and cold. The characteristic pattern of the food chain which determines the abundance of higher forms like fishes are unknown. The producers in the marine food chain like the plankton and algae which inhabit the surface waters in the sea where sunlight is available will be most affected when unfamiliar temperature rise happens. This is in addition to issues of concern like impingement and entrainment and destruction in large numbers of phyto and zoo plankton , fish eggs and larvae of many sea creatures that will hamper the food chain of the marine ecosystem. How can this biological chain reaction that will lead to a biodiversity collapse be enclosed in a single sentence “ this is a project of God” or a blanket statement “ It is safe”? The green clearance that was given in 2008 does not furnish the details of impact of 7 degree rise of temperature on the marine system but just states that for Koodankulam it is this and for Jaitapur it is 5 degree Celsius.

We need to do a complete review of the ecological impact of the Nuclear power plant on the marine and terrestrial ecosystem in the region along with the vulnerability of exposure for migratory fishes and birds along with pelagic birds that inhabit the surface waters. Yes. Koodankulam region is certainly God’s gift not the Koodankulam Nuclear power plant. Because the sea and the land has sustained human life and culture for many years. What we need now is a comprehensive recheck and review of the norms and mandates that have cleared the project. In the case of nuclear power plants where humans are playing God and manipulating the life of future generations, it is never too late to stop. Let Koodankulam be a pointer.

From Dr.Kalam to the women of the coastal villages, Koodankulam is just a word away. And if you change it from a God’s project to a God’s gift a whole world is gained instead of a few megawatts of power.

Anitha.S on 29.9.2012 ( anithasharma2007@gmail.com).

Post on Facebook threatens to blow up Jaipur airport


 

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

 

PTI | Sep 30, 2012, 08.42PM IST

 

 

Post on Facebook threatens to blow up Jaipur airport
Security has been tightened at Jaipur airport after reports of a Facebook post threatening to blow it up.
JAIPUR: Security in and around the Sanganer Airport here was stepped up on Sunday after security agencies received information about a post on social-networking website Facebookthreatening to blow up the airport on October 1.”We got information that somebody has uploaded content threatening bomb blast at the airport on a social networking website, following which we tightened security and briefed airlines about that,” airport’s officiating director P Srikrishna said, adding that the threat was non-specific.

Internal security at the airport is being handled by CISF and addition policemen have also been deployed outside the airport.

“We got inputs about the threat and the security has been tightened. The matter is being investigated and efforts are being made to locate the Facebook account user,” additional DCP Yogesh Dadhich said.

The content was reportedly uploaded by a woman on his Facebook wall in which she said that the airport will be blown up on October 1, police sources said.

The identity of the Facebook account user has not disclosed but police sources say its been operated somewhere in Churu district.

 

Haryana – Gangrapes: Hooda govt under SC panel’s scanner #VAW #justice



Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 29
Against the backdrop of the gangrape of a 16-year-old Dalit girl at Dabra in Hisar district allegedly by persons belonging to the upper caste, the functioning of the beleaguered Hooda government is set to come under the scanner of the National Commission for Scheduled Caste (NCSC).

Getting tough with state government’s alleged failure to check the increasing crime against Dalits, the NCSC has decided to conduct a ‘state review’ of the government’s role vis-à-vis the plight of the Dalits in the state.

“The ‘state review’ will cover atrocities against Dalits, including a heinous crime like rape of Dalit women, and the government’s failure to implement various social justice schemes,” NCSC vice-chairperson Raj Kumar Verka told The Tribune on phone today.

Verka, who toured Hisar and Jind districts for an on-the-spot assessment of the two cases of gangrape involving Dalit women recently, alleged that there seemed to be a “deliberate attempt” and “deep-rooted conspiracy” to terrorise the Dalit community in the state. “The commission has already written to the Haryana Chief Minister to put in place sufficient measures to ensure that such incidents are not repeated,” Verka asserted.

Verka regretted that the Hooda government was yet to take a call on the constitution of the Haryana state scheduled caste commission as recommended by the NCSC. It could go a long way in redressing the grievances and instilling a sense of confidence among the Dalit community, he said. When asked about the NCSC’s recommendation for a state-level Dalit body, Hooda, at a press conference here yesterday, had expressed ignorance over the issue.

Even as a series of gangrapes, including those involving Dalit women, has sparked public outrage all over the country, PL Punia, NCSC chairperson and Congress MP, had locked horns with the Congress government in Haryana. “Anti-Dalit atrocities have been taking place on a large scale in Haryana. Haryana tops the list of crimes per lakh of population,” Punia is reported to have said.

Is it a crime to question? #Koodankulam #protest


Sunday Magazine, The Hindu, Sep 30, 2012

When women choose to protest, they face forms of harassment to break their spirit.

Road Roko:They know what’s in store.Photo: A.ShaikMohideen

 Road Roko:They know what’s in store.Photo: A.ShaikMohideen

For more than a year now, these women have made the shamiana their home.

 

When you enter Idinthakarai village, the epicentre of the storm swirling around the controversial Kundankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district, everything appears calm but also quiet in an unreal way. Where are all the people? It is only when you go a little further that you see the shamiana erected in front of the Lourde Matha church and the hundreds of women and children sitting under it. For more than a year now, these women have made the shamiana their home. They sleep, eat, fast, sing songs, raise slogans and each day renew their commitment to the protest against the KNPP.

Until September 10, they did not think twice about the discomfort and hardship. Many of them are from villages some distance away. How do they bathe? Where is the toilet? Some of them say they eat and drink very little through the day so that they can avoid going to the toilet. But they have to feed their children.

To do this, some of them get up before dawn, prepare the food in their homes, and then come back by sunrise to sit in the tent the rest of the day and the night.

On September 20 and 21, when I met some of these women, their spirits were high but their bodies were wounded. Women were in the front row of the protest on September 9 and 10, on the beach of Idinthakarai, to “lay siege to the plant”. Needless to say, the siege was metaphorical, for no one can go anywhere near this highly guarded plant.

Did these women not expect the police to react and break up the protest, I asked Ritamma, a 43-year-old single woman. They genuinely did not, she says. On the 9{+t}{+h}, many of the protestors had felt sorry for the women police who were practically fainting in the heat. They had even offered water.

But on September 10, the story was different. Despite the presence of so many women and children, there was a lathi charge and tear gas shells were thrown into the crowd. Men and women ran into the sea to escape the police. But there was no escape.

As a result, scores of women and men, including old men, have been wounded by the lathi or have burns caused by the explosion of the tear gas shells. With these wounds has come the realisation that in a democracy, even a peaceful protest is not tolerated. The women are puzzled about this. What did we do wrong, they ask? Can we not ask questions? Why does no one listen to our questions and talk to us directly?

No simpletons these

Indeed, why does no one listen? You hear words like “misled”, or “instigated” by representatives of the police, the government and the nuclear power establishment. What they are suggesting is that these women lack intelligence, that they are simpletons who can be “misled”. It is assumed that if people are either poor, or unlettered, they have no ability to understand “complex” issues. But for the women in Idinthakarai there is nothing complex about the problem they are facing. Their future has been tied to a technology that has been proven to have devastating consequences in the event of an accident. And an accident can occur from a natural disaster – like a tsunami about which they are well aware, as they were affected in 2004 – or human error. No one can guarantee that there will never be a human error.

That is one side of the story. The other is the specific impact on women when they join a struggle and risk the wrath of the state law and order machinery. Men are beaten, or locked up. But for women there are specific forms of harassment to break their spirit.

Woman after woman spoke about the sexist and abusive language used by the policemen, virtually suggesting that as they were willing to have sex with the leaders of the movement, they should offer the same to them. Some mentioned actual physical molestation. Lavinia, a 29-year-old woman disabled by childhood polio, narrated that she tried to run to save her five-year-old daughter when the lathi charge began, when a policeman grabbed her arm and began dragging her away. When she resisted, he physically molested her. She fell at his feet and begged and was saved when another policeman intervened. “I feel so sad and angry when I think of it”, she says.

That is what all of us should feel – sad but also angry. Why, if women choose to resist, to protest, should they be sexually targeted? And that too by the very people who are supposed to be our “protectors”?

Despite the events of September 10, and the personal humiliation and taunts that these women heard, they remain resolute. You can “mislead” someone for a day. But will anyone volunteer to go through all this for over a year without understanding what she is resisting?

Email:sharma.kalpana@yahoo.com

 

 

Freedom to criticize religion is a touchstone of free expression’ #censorship #FOE


 

by Farooq Sulehria

Anyone incensed by symbolic violence, such as the video in the US or cartoons in France, should retaliate with symbolic violence in the same way or with peaceful protest. Not through physical violence

Muslims should ‘simply ignore the crazy provocations,’ Gilbert Achcar says. He thinks that those who engaged in violent protests against the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ video did exactly what the video’s production team were hoping for as a result of their provocation.

Gilbert Achcar grew up in Lebanon and teaches at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Among his books are The Clash of Barbarisms, which came out in a second expanded edition in 2006; a book of dialogues with Noam Chomsky on the Middle East, Perilous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy (2nd edition in 2008); and most recently The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives (2010). His next book analyzing the Arab upheaval will come out in the spring of 2013.

While Achcar strongly condemns Islamophobic hate material, he rejects any curtailment of free speech in the name of preventing blasphemy. ‘Freedom to criticize religion is a major touchstone of the right to free expression,’ he says in an interview with Farooq Sulehria for Pakistan’s Viewpoint Online.

Q: A decade after your book The Clash of Barbarisms, written in the aftermath of 9/11, it seems that the situation has only worsened. A caricature in an obscure newspaper, an immature video: anything can ignite a ‘clash of barbarisms’ disguised as a ‘clash of civilisations’. How would you analyse the ongoing wave of protests against the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ video in parts of the Muslim world?

Gilbert Achcar (GA): The clash of barbarisms that I analysed should not be seen through the lens of such incidents, but rather through much more serious issues such as Guantanamo, the invasion of Iraq, the torture at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, the increasing resort of the USA to extra-judicial killings, etc. Such events do indeed represent setbacks in the civilizing process.

The reactive barbarism found in the Muslim world is mostly incarnated by al-Qaida and other ultra-fundamentalist currents such as the Taliban (whatever goes under this umbrella) and exhibited in much more serious events than the recent demonstrations, such as the dreadful and endless sectarian killings in Iraq, for instance.

These antagonistic barbarisms feed off each other. Of course, the main culprits remain the most powerful: the world powers, the Western powers as well as Russia, which have created this dynamic of adverse barbarisms in the first place.

Q: In Pakistan, at least, the mainstream discourse is to point out Western, especially US, hypocrisy when it comes to freedom of expression. ‘Holocaust denial is a crime,’ is a common refrain. Your comment?

GA: First of all, let us set the record straight. Denying Holocaust is a punishable offence only in some Western countries, not in all of them. It is not liable for punishment in the USA itself. Holocaust deniers freely publish their insanities in the US. This fact is disregarded by all those who use the ban on Holocaust denial as an argument against the USA.

As a matter of fact, there are laws against hate speech in all Western countries, except the US where the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits any restriction to free speech. In upholding this principle, the US Supreme Court went so far, in 1977, as defending the right of the American Nazi Party to march through the village of Skokie a substantial proportion ofwhose inhabitants were Jewish concentration camp survivors. True, there have been violations of this right, particularly for Muslims in the US in the wake of 9/11 and the subsequent surge of Islamophobia. But it remains always possible to fight back legally, and civil rights movements are active on such issues.

In Europe, when you feel you have been a victim of hate speech, you can resort to legal action. The question of Western double standard is usually raised with regard to Jews there, as it is much more difficult in Europe to articulate an anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic speech than an Islamophobic one. But this state of affairs owes to two factors.

The first is Europe’s sense of guilt with regard to the Jewish genocide perpetrated by Nazi Germany during the Second World War with much European complicity.

The second is that there are powerful Jewish institutions that react vigilantly against any gesture they deem anti-Semitic, often abusively by equating the critique of Israel with anti-Semitism. They are powerful, but note how they react. Not by holding violent demonstrations that would actually increase anti-Semitism, but by engaging in legal proceedings, publishing articles, and so on. Sometimes they even resort to what may be called intellectual terrorism in trying to intimidate critics of the Israeli state or Zionism with accusations of anti-Semitism.

This said, those who say that freedom of expression in the West is biased against Islam because it is less tolerant of anti-Jewish expression forget that the religion of the overwhelming majority in the West is not Judaism, but Christianity. When it comes to Christianity, Westerners are free to mock the Pope, Jesus Christ, or even God without fear of reprisals. Some of the major artistic and literary works in the West are satirical of Christianity or religion in general in ways that you can’t imagine nowadays when it comes to Islam in the Muslim world.

True, there are some Christian fundamentalist groups that can resort to violence every now and then against anti-religious works. But they are completely marginal. Their violence is punished by law and it never reaches the level of what has been done these last days in the name of religion, which is matched only by the violence of Jewish fundamentalist colonial settlers in Palestine. Moreover, one should not forget that freedom of expression in Europe – in the UK in particular – has been of much greater benefit to Islamic fundamentalists of all brands who sought a refuge there fleeing oppression in Muslim countries than it has to people committing provocations such as those we are discussing.

Anyone incensed by symbolic violence, such as the video in the US or cartoons in France, should retaliate with symbolic violence in the same way or with peaceful protest. Not through physical violence. Resorting to physical violence against a symbolic act is a sign of intellectual weakness. You remember how the Taliban destroyed the gigantic Buddhas in Bamyan. These Buddhas were a World Heritage Site. Did Buddhists react violently? In Egypt and Nigeria, Christians and churches have been repeatedly and bloodily attacked in recent months. Did you see violent demonstrations of Christians worldwide retaliating against Muslim countries? People appreciate the difference between the lunatic fringe that carries out attacks on Christians and the general Muslim population. Muslims should also realise that the violent Islamophobic lunatic fringe in Western countries is marginal, actually much more marginal than the violent Islamic fundamentalist lunatic fringe in Muslim countries.

Crazy provocations like the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ film or the burning of Korans by the crackpot Terry Jones are best ignored. They are so stupid that they don’t deserve any reaction at all. The greatest service one can render to these provocateurs is to respond wildly to their provocations. Agitators are successful when they are able to arouse the feelings of the targeted group. This is why some people rightly argue that the ban on Holocaust denial in France, for instance, is counter-productive. Due to that ban, French Holocaust deniers have become very famous in France, whereas hardly anybody knows the name of US Holocaust deniers in the USA. Had nobody reacted to Terry Jones’s damn-fool provocations, they would have remained unknown, as have thousands of such anti-Islamic utterances. Had nobody paid attention to him, he would not have carried on his dreadful farce. These lunatics have an Islamophobic agenda. Muslim political forces that react in the violent way that we have seen actually reinforce the very Islamophobia against which they protest.

Salman Rushdie’s kind of work falls into a different category, of course. It cannot be dismissed as rubbish. He is a major contemporary writer. However, his Satanic Verses are very innocuous indeed compared to satires of Christianity, or even Judaism for that matter, which are freely available in the West.

Q: Since the Salman Rushdie affair there have been the Danish cartoons, Geert Wilders’ film, and now the film produced in the US. Every time we see wild massive reactions. How do you explain that?

GA: The fact is, very obviously, that certain political forces exploit such events to agitate for their cause, as Khomeini did in the case of the Rushdie affair. He never read Salman Rushdie’s book, in the same way as most demonstrators against the anti-Islam film have not seen it. It is always the same story: some political forces exploit such occasions by stirring up the raw feelings of politically illiterate people in order to push their own political agenda. Fundamentalist forces have always seized upon such provocations. This is how they build their influence.

Q: In Pakistan, a common idea peddled by the government, Islamists and mainstream media is to demand worldwide UN legislation banning blasphemy? What do you think of this demand?

GA: I am hundred percent against it. The notion of blasphemy is a medieval notion. Those who make such a demand want to bring us back to the Middle Ages. If you want to prohibit criticism of religion, you will have to prohibit it for all religions. To implement a ban on blasphemy one will have to proscribe a huge number of works of literature, art and philosophy accumulated over many centuries in all languages, including Arabic of course. Such works are presently banned in the Arab world, but this is a testimony to the lack of freedom of expression.

The freedom to criticize religion is a major touchstone of the right to free expression. As long as a society does not tolerate this freedom, it has not achieved freedom of expression. It is a duty of all people committed to democratic freedoms to raise their voices against barbaric reactions to lunatic provocations. Capitulation to religious demagogy will entail a huge cost at all levels. Once set in motion this process of curtailment of free speech will have no limit. Who will decide what is blasphemous and what is not?

Q: The demonstrators in Pakistan targeted symbols of wealth (banks, cars, ATM machines) or Western culture (cinemas, theatres). Some people view these violent actions in the Muslim world as part of a wider political conflict between the West and the Muslim world. What is your opinion?

GA: I disagree. Violence can be understandable under certain circumstances when people are demonstrating against social and economic assaults on their livelihood or in protest against actual slaughter, massacres, invasions, or occupations perpetrated by Western powers, or the Zionist occupation in Palestine. And yet, the fact is that many real massacres committed by Western powers or Zionists did not lead to any comparable reactions. The truth is that the violence on display is above all a political exploitation by fundamentalists of a provocation for utterly reactionary purposes.

Q: The left in most of the Muslim countries is a small force and is often caught in a strange situation during such crises. While the left, in Pakistan for instance, condemns racist provocations, it advocates curtailment of free speech with regard to religion. What do you think of this attitude?

GA: We are reaping today the result of the left’s failure over many decades to raise the basic secular demand of separation of religion from state. Secularism – including freedom of belief, religion, and irreligion – is an elementary condition of democracy. It should be, therefore, an elementary part of any democratic project, let alone a left project. But most of the left in my part of the world, the Arab region, has capitulated on this issue.

For instance, in Egypt, large sections of the left, including the radical left, have all but dropped the term secularism from their vocabulary. Ironically, when the ‘Islamist’ Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan visited Egypt, he stated publicly that he stood for secularism, to the chagrin of the Muslim Brotherhood.

If the left wants to challenge the hegemony of Islamic forces and develop a counter-hegemonic movement in the political, social and cultural spheres, it must fight resolutely for secularism as well as against gender oppression – another fight from which many on the left also shy away in fear of ‘hurting the feelings’ of the believers. This is a self-defeating strategy.

Farooq Sulehria is currently pursuing his media studies. Previously, he has worked with Stockholm-based Weekly Internationalen. In Pakistan, he has worked with The Nation, The Frontier Post, The News, and the Pakistan. He has MA in Mass Communication from the University of Punjab, Lahore. He also contributes for Znet and various left publications internationally.

 

Tribal woman in #Chhattisgarh gangraped #VAW


Raipur, Sept 28(PTI) A tribal woman in Narayanpur district has claimed that she was gangraped by four unidentified armed men wearing uniforms.

Narayanpur SP Mayank Srivastava said that a case has been registered in this regard.

According to the woman, she was raped in the forest between Turtha and Karepal by four armed men on 18th of this month.

The 45-year old victim initially did not file police complaint on the advice by her family members.

From Pepsico To Wal-mart: Selling A Fake Dream #sundayreading


 

By Devinder Sharma

29 September, 2012
Ground Reality

In the mid-1980s, Pepsico came up with a proposal to bring in a 2nd horticultural revolution in Punjab. It was hailed as a path-breaking initiative that would put an end to the continuing distress on the farm. It was expected to usher in the latest technology, improve farm research and extension, create supply-chain infrastructure, and provide marketing linkages from farm to the fork. I remember the kind of excitement that prevailed all around. Politicians, bureaucrats, economists, agricultural scientists and even the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) joined the chorus. All my efforts to reason out the hollowness of the claims, based on Pepsico’s own studies, were simply lost in the din and noise created by the drum-beaters.

Some 15 years after the project was approved, Pepsico’s horticultural revolution is all but forgotten. Agriculture has gone from bad to worse. The food bowl of the country has also become a major hot spot for farmer suicides. While the soft drink giant remains busy marketing its colas, Pepsico has not been held accountable for its failed promises. It will never be punished for selling a fake dream to the beleaguered farming community.

It is now the turn of Wal-Mart and other big retail giants. FDI in retail is once again being projected as a panacea for all the ills plaguing Indian agriculture. FDI in retail will lay out backend infrastructure, bring in a chain of cold storages and improved transportation thereby reducing crop losses; remove middlemen which rob the farmers of profits, and thereby provide him higher prices; bring in improved technology to help in crop diversification; and of course create millions of jobs. The cheerleaders are once again on the road. This time, it is the corporate controlled electronic media that is drumming up the hype.

Having spent Rs 52-crore in two years for lobbying alone, and after the recent New York Times exposure showing how Wal-Mart bribed its way to control 50 per cent of the retail market in Mexico, the Union Cabinet finally allowed big retail to set shop. If Wal-mart could bribe its way in Mexico, what makes us think they have not been able to do so in India?

We are being told that Wal-Mart, Tesco, Sainsbury, Carrefour and a host of other big retail players are expected to increase farm income. In the US, where Wal-Mart has completed 50 years, if farmers were getting a better income, there was no reason why the farming population should plummet to less than one per cent of the population. Farmers in US survive on the farm not because of Wal-Mart but the massive subsidy support, which includes direct farm income. Between 1997 and 2008, Rs 12.60 lakh crore was provided as income support to farmers. A UNCTAD-India study shows that if these subsidies, classified as Green Box in WTO parlance, are removed, the American agriculture collapses.

In Europe, despite the dominance of big retail, every minute one farmer quits agriculture. Europe provides the highest amount of subsidies, including direct income support. But because 74 per cent of these subsidies are cornered by Corporations and big farmers, small farmers are quitting farming. In France, farm income has come down by 39 per cent in 2009, down from 22 per cent in 2008. In OECD, the richest trading block comprising 30 countries, Rs 14 lakh crore was the farm subsidy support in 2009 alone. It is not big retail, but direct income support that keeps farmers in agriculture.

These subsidies also bring down the domestic and international prices as a result of which big retail sells cheap. Empirical studies show big retail charging 20-30 per cent higher than open market in Latin America and Southeast Asia. In India, organised domestic retail has not been able to sell cheaper. A NABARD study for Hyderabad shows Reliance Fresh and other charging 15-20 per cent higher prices. Even at the peak of inflation in India, these domestic organised retailers did not reduce prices. So where is the advantage to consumers?

Studies show in America, before 1950, when farmers would sell their produce for one dollar, 70 cents was his income. In 2005, it had fallen to 4 per cent. With the middlemen wiped out, I thought the farmer’s income should have gone up. No, it is the new battery of middlemen – quality controller, standardiser, certification agency, processor et c—who walk away with farmer’s profits. Number of middlemen, operating under the same hub, actually increases. Let us not forget, Wal-mart is a big middleman, it eats away the smaller middlemen.

There is no evidence that big retail creates backend infrastructure. In US and Europe, rural infrastructure has been created through government support which came in the form of agricultural subsidies. To say that 40 per cent agricultural food that goes waste in India will be drastically reduced is also an illusion. In US also, 40 per cent food is wasted and much of it is after processing where Wal-Mart’s should have played a much important role.

Regarding employment generation and poverty alleviation, lessons need to be drawn from a 2004 study of Pennsylvania State University by Stephen Goetz and Hema Swaminathan, which showed how higher poverty prevailed in areas where Wal-Mart stores had come up compared to those states where big retail was absent. In any case, for a $450 billion turnover, Wal-Mart employs only 2.1 million people. Whereas for an estimated $460 billion market, Indian retail employs 44 million people. Let us not forget, Pepsico had also promised to create 50,000 jobs. As per a question in Parliament, it became known that Pepsico had created less than 500 jobs, including 250 unskilled workers. Moreover, last month, massive demonstrations rocked US by Wal-Mart workers complaining of poor working conditions and exploitative salaries. Who creates employment, and also provides better working conditions, therefore is all evident.

Yes, there is a need to improve rural infrastructure, provide a sophisticated supply chain, and provide better income to farmers. The milkman of India, late Dr Verghese Kurien, had shown us the way. The cooperative dairy structure, which led to the evolution of the Amul brand, is the right approach. If he could do it for milk, which is a highly perishable commodity, there is no reason why it can’t be replicated in fruits, vegetables and other agricultural commodities. From a milk importer, India has now become world’s biggest producer of milk. It is therefore obvious that solutions to the plethora of problems on Indian farms does not lie in the west, but in our own backyard. We need to look inwards. Otherwise we will go on committing the same mistakes, and in the process turn farms into killing fields.

Devinder Sharma is a food and agriculture policy analyst. His writings focus on the links between biotechnology, intellectual property rights, food trade and poverty. His blog is Ground Realityhttp://devinder-sharma.blogspot.in

A Nuclear-Free Future is Our Common Dream: Letter from the Japanese Activists Deported from India #mustshare


To our friends who struggle for nuclear free future,

 

A Historic movement is underway in Tamil Nadu State against Koodankulam nuclear power station. People across the world are moved by the resistance and want to express solidarity

We tried to visit India to show our solidarity on September 25 but were denied access at Chennai airport. After an hour-long interrogation, we had our paper written as “Inadmissible person” ,which denied our entrance to India. It is unforgivable for the government, which invites countless nuclear merchants from Western countries, to deny such small citizens like us. We are writing this letter because we would like you to know what we experienced.

 

When we got off the plane and approached the immigration counter, one personnel came to us smiling.

We asked them where we can get arrival visa. They immediately checked our passport and brought us to the immigration office. There were more than 5 personnels asking questions to us respectively. I was brought to another room and three personnels asked me whether I am a member of No Nukes Asia Forum Japan. I was surprised because they mentioned the concrete name of the organization.

 

“You signed the international petition on Koodankulam, didn’t you? Your name was on the list. It means you are anti-nuclear” a personnel said. It so happens that all three of us our signatories of the international petition (May 2012). Another one asked me what we would do at Koodankulam. I was surprised again because no one had mentioned about Koodankulam. But the man showed me a printed itinerary of our domestic flight that I have never seen yet.

 

“We already know that you have booked the domestic flight. So you are going there. Who invited you all? Who is waiting for you at the arrival gate now? Who will pick you up at Tuticorin airport? Tell me their names. Tell me their telephone number. Will you join the agitation? ”  They asked many questions and surprisingly, they knew all our Indian friends’ names. We felt scared. We felt something wrong would happen to you. So we didn’t answer.

 

We know that many scientists supportive of nuclear power, and some that are paid by the nuclear industry have visited India and spoken on behalf of nuclear power. These were not merely allowed by the Indian Government, but even encouraged. With India’s avowed commitment to democracy, one would imagine that contrary points of view would be encouraged.

 

Then, they asked me another questions about us, referring to a bunch of papers. “What is Mr. Watarida’s occupation? He is involved in the anti-nuclear movement in Kaminoseki, right?” According to Mr. Watarida, there was a lot of information about our activities in Japan written on those papers. They already researched our activities in detail.

They tried to ask various questions. At first they talked in a friendly manner. They told us that we can enter India if we gave them the information about the movement in Koodankulam. But gradually they got irritated because they wanted to deport us as soon as possible. The Air Asia airplane that brought us to Chennai one hour earlier was about to leave again for Kuala Lumpur. We were at the office more than one hour. Finally, they said ” Answer within 5 minutes, otherwise you will be deported.” We answered a little but it seemed that they didn’t get satisfied with our answer. We were taken to the departure area. Mr. Nakai asked them to allow him to go to washroom, but they refused. Probably they didn’t want us to call some of our Indian friends, or they were waiting us to make domestic phone call. They wanted to know the exact names and telephone number of our friends, so I couldn’t use my cell phone.

 

At the last gate, Mr. Watarida asked a immigration staff why we got deported. He answered that the Indian government directed us to be sent out and that we would be in jail if we didn’t obey. We were taken to the Air Asia airplane and it took off immediately.

 

We were given a paper.  Mine was written as below;

 

WHEREAS Mrs. Yoko Unoda national who arrived at Chennai Airport from Kuala Lumpur on 25/9/2012 by flight No. AK1253 has been refused permission to land in India.

You are hereby directed under para 6 of THE FOREIGNERS ORDER 1948 TO REMOVE THE SAID FOREIGNER Mrs. Yoko Unoda out of India by the same flight or the first available flight failing which you shall be liable for action under the said PARA of Foreigners Order, 1948.

 

We had come to India in peace, to extend our peace and to extend our learnings about the dangers of nuclear power. As Japanese, we should know what the problems are with both the military use and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. We are aware that in India, your government has organised international meetings of the nuclear industry, where the people interested in selling nuclear equipment have been invited as state guests to come and flaunt their wares. We have nothing to sell, just our stories about the dangers and pains that nuclear energy will bring you. It is unfortunate that your Government denied us the hospitality that the people of India were extending to us. In a democracy, and particularly with controversial technologies like nuclear energy, it is important that free and fair debate is conducted in a fear-free atmosphere. It is clear that the nuclear establishment in India is not prepared for such a free and fair debate.

 

In Japan, a report of a high level committee set up by the Parliament after Fukushima found that the disaster was made in Japan and was a result of secrecy, the failure of people to question their Governments and the closeness between the regulators and the nuclear energy operators.

 

Your Government’s refusal of entry to us merely because we bear an opinion contrary to theirs on the matter of nuclear energy speaks poorly of your Government’s claims to democratic ideals and free speech. We are fearful of the consequences of deploying a hazardous technology like nuclear power in such a secretive and oppressive context.

 

We could not see people in Koodankulam and those sympathized with them. It is truly regrettable that we could not meet them. However, after being denied entrance, our concern has become more serious and our solidarity has been stronger. Those who push for nuclear energy are closely connected. Globally, there are no boarders when it comes to  nuclear devastation. Then let us overcome the difference of nationalities and languages and make thousands of, ten thousands of comrades to fight for our future without nukes together. We hope to see you in India on next opportunity.

 

Masahiro Watarida(Hiroshima Network against Kaminoseki NPP)

Shinsuke Nakai(Video Journalist)

Yoko Unoda(No Nukes Asia Forum Japan)

 

 

Rajesh Khanna’s last film to release on 70th birth anniversary eve


 
IANS | Sep 30, 2012, 12.00AM IST

 

Veteran actor Rajesh Khanna’s last film ” Riyasat”, which he shot for before he died July 18, will release in theatres Dec 28, a day before his 70th birth anniversary, director Ashok Tyagi says.

The late superstar has a prominent role in the movie. It is almost ready, but Tyagi wants to release the film on Rajesh Khanna’s birth anniversary.

“We can release the film at any time, but we want to release it on Dec 29. Since it is a Saturday, we will be releasing it on Dec 28, just a day before Kakaji’s (Rajesh Khanna) birth anniversary,” Tyagi told IANS.

The director says Rajesh Khanna has left a letter behind, and that shall be opened just before the release of the film.

“Kakaji has left a sealed letter behind him, which he wanted us to read before the release of the film. So we will be opening his last letter either on his birth anniversary, or just before the release,” he said.

“We have no clue what he has written in the letter. I am only thankful to god that we got an opportunity to work with him,” he added.

For his role in “Riyasat”, Rajesh Khanna is said to have sat and watched the DVD of the 2005 Amitabh Bachchan-starrer “Sarkar“.

“Before starting the film, he watched Amitabh Bachchan’s ‘Sarkar’ as he is also playing godfather in the film. It’s a very different subject and he had shot almost 95 per cent of the film.

“The entire nation will hear Kakaji’s voice in the film,” said Tyagi, who had started shooting the film in February 2011 and finished it in October.

Rajesh Khanna died in July after prolonged illness and a liver infection. But he had wrapped up most of the shooting for “Riyasat”.

“Kakaji shot most portions, the ones I wanted. But yes, we were tempted to shoot more. And if his health permitted, we would surely have shot all of it. Then all of a sudden his health started deteriorating and he left all of us suddenly,” he added.

“Riyasat” also features Gauri Kulkarni, Aryan Vaid, Aryeman Ramsay and Raza Murad.