Kudankulam row: Thousands of villagers protest near plant


 

Reported by Sneha Mary Koshy, Edited by Mala Das | Updated: October 08, 2012 13:57 IST

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Kudankulam: Thousands of fishermen from 40 villages around the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu have surrounded the area from about 500 metres in the sea and are shouting slogans to protest against the plant. This is a token seige of the plant, since they will not be allowed by policemen to get any closer. Activist SP Udhayakumar, who is spearheading the anti-plant protests, today said in their next action, protestors would lay siege to the Tamil Nadu Assemblyin Chennai on October 29.Mr Udhayakumar’s organisation, the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), has said apart from the fishermen in Tirunelveli and the adjoining Kanyakumari and Thoothukudi districts, volunteers from various political parties are expected to participate in separate protests planned across the state. “We are laying siege against fuel loading. It will be a peaceful, non-violent protest as we have been doing for some time now. We have asked authorities to treat our protesters with respect, to respect their democratic rights. We have appealed to the government against fuel loading at the plant. When the entire world is shunning nuclear power, why shouldn’t we?…we will not cross our boundaries…the protesters have been clearly told there will be no vandalism, they will not attack security officials,” Mr Udhayakumar said.

The protesters have floated fibre boats and bouys in the sea and intend to stay there for the whole day today. More than 5,000 security personnel have been deployed and the Coast Guard has positioned five vessels in the area to prevent any untoward incident. Meanwhile, there is heavy security on all roads leading to the plant, Personnel from the Additional Coast Guard, Rapid Action Force, Central Reserve Police Force and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) have been deployed at all key junctions, the plant site and in the neighbouring villages.

The protesters are demanding the closure of the plant, citing safety concerns. The locals say they are worried about ecological damage by radioactivity which could affect the livelihood of thousands of fishermen around the plant. Activists have also cited the Fukushima disaster in Japan, triggered by a tsunami last year, to draw parallels about the dangers of a nuclear plant.

The villagers are also demanding the release of those arrested in an earlier protest, and taking back what they term as false cases against activists. They also want the police to be withdrawn from their villages.

Last month, a protest that lasted several days ended in police action on villages around the nuclear plant, where several people were arrested. The cops were indicted by an independent commission of using excess force at that time. Police had used tear gas and lathicharge to control the protesters, who had threatened to storm the plant from the sea.

Though protests have been continuing against the nuclear plant, the Supreme Court has cleared its operationalization under the condition that all safety mechanisms are in place. The government has assured the court that the plant is safe and is “fully equipped to withstand” Fukushima-type incidents.

(With PTI inputs)

 

Sedition law threat to democracy: Binayak Sen


 

By IANS,

Kovalam: Rights activist Binayak Sen Saturday slammed the blanket use of the sedition law by the government on cartoonist Aseem Trivedi and the anti-Kudankulam protesters, warning this tendency was becoming a threat to free speech.

“The government is not applying its mind while applying the sedition law,” Sen, who himself is battling the same charge, told IANS on the sidelines of the 5th Kovalam Literary Fest, which started here Saturday.

“Dissent is necessary. Without dissent there can be no democracy,” he added.

In April 2011, the Supreme Court granted bail to civil rights activist Binayak Sen, who has been sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of sedition and for having links with Naxalites.

According to lawyer and rights activist Vrinda Grover, who was presiding as Sen delivered the 5th K.C. John Memorial Lecture at the event, cases of sedition have been filed against thousands of villagers at a single police station at Kudankulam. According to Grover, this was a record in independent India.

In his lecture, Sen warned on the danger of famine looming over most of India’s most vulnerable sections including Dalits, tribals and minorities. He urged a return to the practices of sustainable agriculture.

Trivedi, an activist of India Against Corruption (IAC) and a Kanpur-based cartoonist, was charged with sedition for drawing cartoons insulting Indian emblems, including the Constitution, during Anna Hazare‘ anti-corruption rally in Mumbai in December 2011. He was arrested Sep 8.

The Bombay High Court had rapped Mumbai police for arresting Trivedi on “frivolous” grounds and added that the action breached his freedom of speech and expression.

In September, Andhra Pradesh police cracked down and arrested hundreds of people protesting against the nuclear power plant being set up by atomic power plant operator NPCIL at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.

Villagers have opposed the project for the past one year, fearing for their safety, especially since the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in Japan March 2011.

 

This war against our own people-Report of All India Rally and Dharna


 

CDRO – Report of All India Rally and Dharna

October 7, 2012

COORDINATION OF DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS ORGANISATIONS (CDRO)

Out of 640 district of India, 101 are reeling under Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA). This war against our own people has thrown up social and ethnic divides whose tragic consequences can be seen in the current bloodletting in Assam and the exodus of people from North East out of Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad, etc.

We are also alarmed at the indifference shown towards uncovering of mass graves in Kashmir which may hold the key to solve the mystery of 8-10,000 victims of enforced disappearance. Accordingly, Coordination of Democratic Rights organisations (CDRO), as an association of civil rights and democratic rights organizations, gave a call for a Rally and Dharna on on 7th September, 2012 in Delhi.

The objective of this call was to protest against escalated forms of violence and repression that various sections of people within the country are being subjected to. Click this link for a report from the Dharna; an excerpt of this report is shown below.

The course of democracy in India is increasingly witnessing a violent assault not just on people’s rights but the very existence of people who dare to stand and act in negation of the status quo. The current year has been replete with mass violations of civil and democratic rights of people. The brutal and prejudiced side of the state is obvious in its “arrest or kill” policy towards those resisting corporate take-over of their land, forest and water in the name of counter Maoist offensives (such as killing of 17 adivasis in Bijapur district of Chattisgarh). Equally evident is the state-corporate partnership exploiting peoples’ resources in the name of industrial development. The conscious attempt of the state to target vulnerable sections of society, to ‘construct’ them as criminals is visible in numerous cases of Muslim youths being falsely implicated in terrorist cases by Anti-Terrorist Squads of different state governments. There have been increasing instances of sexual assault on women by paramilitary forces. Incidents of violence against and social boycott of Dalits as a repercussion of their assertion of legitimate rights are escalating. Physical attacks on social activists for raising genuine concerns against the fatal consequences of state policies that pass under the rhetoric of development, together with a massive and shameful deployment of draconian laws such as sedition and UAPA are being used against civil and democratic rights activists to silence their voices. Out of 640 district of India, 101 are reeling under Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) and in another 37 districts we find similar conditions. This war against our own people has thrown up social and ethnic divides whose tragic consequences can be seen in the current bloodletting in Assam and the exodus of people from North East out of Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad etc. We are also alarmed at the indifference shown towards uncovering of mass graves in Kashmir which may hold the key to solve the mystery of 8-10,000 victims of enforced disappearance.

Delhi Police, which directly operates under the Central Government, did not give the required permission for rally till the last day in the name of maintaining law and order. However, nearly 500 people from various states of India came for this programme to vent their anger against suppressing democratic dissent. Most of the people who had come from various states such as Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Assam, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, etc, for this programme were part of the democratic and civil liberty organisations. Many others were victims of the repressive laws such as UAPA, Sedition etc. They all had come armed with posters, banners and other campaign materials expressing the violation of democratic rights in their states. These posters and banners were put up at the dharna site and slogans were raised to highlight the repressive and undemocratic role of central and various state governments in response of the genuine and democratic demands of the toiling masses such as farmers, workers, Adivasis, minorities, etc.

 

Privatising the Commons #bookreview


EPW,Vol – XLVII No. 41, October 13, 2012 | Kannan Kasturi

  • Communities, Commons and Corporations by Perspectives (New Delhi: Perspectives), 2012; pp 164, Rs 100.

Kannan Kasturi (kasturi_kannan@yahoo.com) is an independent researcher and writes on public interest and policy.

Several hundred million people across rural India depend on the commons – natural resources such as forests, pastureland, “wasteland”, coasts, lakes and rivers that are shared by the community – for their livelihoods. These livelihoods are under threat with the state handing over these resources at an accelerating pace to corporations for industrial or commercial use. How has it come to be that communities have no legal rights over the natural resources they have used for generations? How does the state justify privatising these commons? How are communities reacting to this challenge to their lives and livelihoods? These and related questions drive the subject matter of the book under review.

Communities, Commons and Corporations is authored by Perspectives, a group of students and teachers from Delhi’s universities. The group declares in its programme that its task is to “document the lives and struggles of people on the margins of law and society”.1 Perspectives has produced a few other works of such documentation in the past. Its earliest work, Abandoned: Development and Displacement, dates to 2007 and has been reviewed in this weekly.2

The methodology used for the present work is a combination of field visits – “sites of change, conflict and crisis” to “understand issues and situations ‘first-hand, on the ground’”3 – and research based on secondary sources.

The book begins with a detailed first-person account of observations made during two field visits to communities who largely depend on natural resources over which they have no property rights – a forest community in Harda, Madhya Pradesh and a fishing community in coastal Kutch, Gujarat. This is followed by essays on the enclosure of the commons and the consequent displacement of communities in colonial and present-day India. The latter part of the book critically analyses the laws and policies that govern the appropriation of the commons today and interrogates the econo­mic development that is taking place.

What Are the ‘Commons’?

Bringing clarity to the notion of the “commons” is crucial for a work of this nature. Perspectives explains that the “commons”, in its view, are natural resources customarily used by communities over generations to support their livelihood. Forests populated by tribal communities, coasts, coastal waters and lakes used by fisherfolk, and pastureland and rivers sustaining villages are all part of the commons. The use rights of a community over some part of the commons may or may not be recognised by the state. Even where it recognises community use rights, the state considers itself to be the owner of the resource with the right to change the pattern of its use anytime. An example of the latter are the gauchar (grazing) lands in Kutch that Perspectives finds are vested with the panchayats, though legal ownership is with the state.

Any defence of communities living off the commons requires one to counter the view propagated by the administration, and often accepted uncritically, that these communities are “encroaching on public property”. There is a need to explain how these communities have come to be without rights over resources crucial to their survival in a world dominated by private property. Perspectives examines colonial history to provide an answer along these lines.

Who Is the ‘Encroacher’?

Commercial interest – the sole objective of maximising revenue – informed the colonial attitude to different commu­nities and natural resources. Settled ­agriculture was encouraged, for revenue could be collected from land under cultivation. The needs of efficient collection – making individuals responsible for revenue and forcing mortgage or sale of their land for recovery of dues, among others – led the colonial state to institutionalise private ownership of cultivated land and maintain the record of ownership.

On the other hand, nomadic and semi-nomadic livelihoods that depended largely on forests and pastures were discouraged, for they were difficult to tax and yielded little revenue. Ignoring the legal rights of forest, fishing and pastoral communities deriving from custom and tradition, the colonial state assumed ownership of all land and other natural resources except land under cultivation from which it derived revenue.

Forests were exploited for revenue through commercial forestry after restricting the use rights of forest communities. Village commons were made to yield revenue by bringing them under cultivation. The legal regime established by the colonial state divided natural r­esources neatly into “privately owned” and “state owned”. It had no place for community ownership or management of resources.

Moving to the present, Perspectives notes that the injustices meted out to communities dependent on forests and other commons in colonial times were never reversed. The continuation of institutions like the forest department, laws governing land acquisition, and forests and policies towards “wasteland” from colonial times reflects the continuity in the outlook of the contemporary Indian state towards people dependent on the commons.

This outlook comes to the fore wherever resistance is offered by a community to appropriation by the state. While reading this book, this reviewer came across a­nother instance of the forcible eviction of a community from the commons.4 The community in question was of traditional fisherfolk who had been living in floating huts on the large Loktak Lake in Manipur for generations. The state chief minister reportedly termed them “encroachers” and justified their eviction as necessary for the “development” of the lake.

The Geography of Privatisation

While there has been continuity in the way the state views communities using the commons from colonial times to the present, the pattern of appropriation has changed in keeping with the changes in the economy.

In the colonial period, the state assumed legal ownership of the commons. Communities were however allowed its use as long as this did not come in the way of the state deriving revenue, wherever such possibility existed. Republican India saw large-scale enclosure of the commons and displacement of people by large dams and other industrial projects promoted by the state. The last two decades have seen a major change in the pattern of appropriation, with the commons now being transferred to private corporations.

Corporations, Perspectives observes, pose a threat to communities dependent on the commons in two ways (p 86)

by directly appropriating the land, water and forests on which they are dependent or by polluting these resources in a manner that their capacity to generate livelihoods is diminished or exhausted.

Perspectives draws attention to certain geographical areas where the privatisation of the commons is taking place at a rapid rate.

In the Himalayan statesHimachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim – where the availability of agricultural land is low, making forests and pastures extremely important for livelihood, dozens of “run-of-the-river” hydro projects are coming up on the principal rivers.

The mineral-rich areas of central and eastern India – encompassing the states of Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, and parts of Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal – are densely forested and home to a large tribal population. Today, there is a major push to open new mines and coal blocks under the most pristine forests and parts of these woods have already been allocated to various corporations. Scores of thermal power plants are also under construction in these states, clustered near coal ­reserves and water sources.

A third geography that is being privatised rapidly is India’s 8,000-km long coastline, dotted with fishing villages and salt-farming communities. Numerous private ports and port-based special economic zones, refineries, thermal power plants and petrochemical industries are coming up along the coast. It is not just the competitive advantage of l­ocating industry dependent on physical imports near the coast that is attracting corporations. Perspectives points out that land is cheaper and easier to acquire on the coast as fishing communities do not possess ownership rights over the land they use.

These are, of course, not the only regions or causes figuring in the takeover of the commons. Most cases of land acquisition across the country involve some common land. Perspectives cites the example of the POSCO steel plant which requires 4,004 acres of land, of which only 438 acres are privately owned. The government land, most of it classified as “forest” land, has been used for betel vine cultivation by local villa­gers for generations.

The Impotency of Law

There are laws to protect the commons such as the Environment Protection Act (EPA). Then there are laws of fairly r­ecent origin aimed at recognising the rights of traditional users of the commons such as the Forest Rights Act (FRA). How do these laws measure up against their stated purpose?

Any impact on the environment is clearly of great concern to communities surviving on the commons, affecting as it often does, larger numbers than the enclosure of the commons itself. The EPA requires an environment impact assessment (EIA) as a precondition for most projects. The EIA process is considered the mainstay of the state’s effort to protect the environment. In a detailed assessment of the EIA process, Perspectives points to its many flaws including the most basic, the hollowness of the high-sounding “public consultation”. The pub­lic affected by a project can at best voice its opinion at a “public hearing” but has no powers to stop the project or even to set preconditions.

An excellent essay that forms the opening chapter of the book details the struggle for livelihood of Harda villagers and assesses the impact of measures such as the Joint Forest Management (JFM) initiative and the FRA. Perspectives finds that JFM – a two decade old policy initiative, intended to get the cooperation of forest dwellers in achieving forest department objectives while at the same time providing avenues for them to improve their income – has not brought any positive change to the forest communities. The distribution of land titles under the FRA has barely progres­sed, with a paltry 3,000 pattas issued to forest dwellers (tribal and non-tribal included) in Harda district, two years into the programme, when just the tribal population of the district numbers 1.2 lakh.

Why have the FRA and the JFM policy failed to bring any improvement to the ground situation of the forest dwellers? Perspectives rightly locates these failures in the highly asymmetric power structure that exists in the forest areas. The forest department has been responsible for guarding the forests from “encroachment” for a 150 years, and in the process, accumulated immense powers over the forest dwellers. It will obviously resist any dilution of its powers – as will happen if forest dwellers are granted rights over forestland. The blatant abuse of power by the forest department and the police in districts such as Harda has attracted the a­ttention of the Supreme Court which recently ordered5 the state to set up a district-level grievance redressal authority.

Perspectives concludes that legislations and policies will not prevent the appropriation of the commons and dispossession of the people under the current dispensation. “They will either be circumvented, or violated, or poorly implemented, or will actively facilitate this dispossession” (p 96).

The last portion of the book interrogates “growth” and critiques the current pattern of development. It argues that economic growth today is strongly linked to the handover of natural resources to corporations. The ability of this type of development to generate s­ecure jobs is questionable; however it is certainly leading to large-scale destruction of traditional occupations and existing livelihoods. It concludes that this growth is not just “non-inclusive”, but actually comes at the cost of the most disadvantaged sections, creating poverty and worsening inequality.

Right at the beginning, Perspectives states that it has written this book primarily for other students. The style adopted is in keeping with such an audience – direct, assertive and impassioned at times. Observations and experiences from field visits are woven in to add weight to arguments and some very incisive analysis. The book could have done with some tighter editing and a better presentation of data. However, these m­inor failings do not take away its intrinsic value. Communities, Commons and Corporations is an honest telling of a story that needs to be told.

Notes

1 From the programme of Perspectives, available at the end of the book under review.

2 Ramaa Vasudevan (2008), “Accumulation by Dispossession in India”, Economic & Political Weekly, 43(11), 15 March, pp 41-43.

3 See fn 1.

4 Iboyaima Laithangbam: “Evicted from Lake, Manipur Fishermen Left High and Dry”, The Hindu, 24 August 2012 (http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/article3814207.ece) last accessed on 3 September 2012.

5 Milind Ghatwai: “3 MP Districts to Have Authority to Tackle Abuse of Power Complaints”, The Indian Express, 2 September 2012 (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/3-mp-districts-to-have-authority-to-ta… 996925/) accessed on 3 September 2012.

Narendra Modi Fakes Narmada Canal High Income Story in Worst Drought Year #mustshare


There was story of ‘Gujaratis don’t have money to spend on education’ on Sep25 within a week Modi planted FAKE story of High Income of farmers in Narmada Canal command area.

This Education Year farmers in Gujarat ‘Invested in Raising New Crops’ but Monsoon was delayed by two months and there was 60% to 80% crop loss.

CAG had reported in normal rainfall year – Narmada Canal served just 6.56% of Narmada Command area or  utilization of 1.2 lakh hectares out of 18 lakh hectares 2009-10 but dubious Private Institute claimed farmers have more money to spend and claimed 6 lakh hectares utilization. 

Gujaratis don’t have money to spend on education: National Survey

TNN Sep 25, 2012

AHMEDABAD: How much can a parent spend for higher education for their children in the state? The National Sample Survey (NSS) report, “Key Indicators of Household Consumer Expenditure in India”, in 2011 had revealed that Gujarat’s average monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) – considered measure of the ability to spend – is just a paltry Rs 1,110 in rural areas, and unimpressive Rs 1,909 in urban areas.

Higher education fees run into lakhs of rupees, which makes it inaccessible to a large section of society. The 2011 NSS report suggests that Gujarat’s MPCE in rural areas is lower than seven other states, including Kerala, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh.

Things are not rosy in urban Gujarat, too. If Gujarat ranks eighth in rural MPCE, the state’s urban MPCE rank is tenth and states including Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana are way ahead. Worse, on both the counts, Gujarat has slipped since 2005, the NSS study suggests.

“Ironically, the state government had worked out an average per capita income of Rs 45,000 in 2009-10, but interestingly, the spending power is just a paltry Rs1,100 per capita per month. This only points to a large economic gap in the society,” says a senior state government official.

Gujaratis don’t have money to spend on education: National Survey

Narmada brings sharp rise in incomes

Farmers Spending More On Kids’ Education; Expenditure On Nutrition Has Increased: Study

Rajiv Shah TNN Oct 01, 2012
Gandhinagar: A high-level study carried out by Hyderabad-based Institute for Resource Analysis and Policy has said that thanks the availability of Narmada waters, incomes of the farmers have substantially gone up in about six lakh hectares (ha) where canal waters have reached since 2007. Just submitted to the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL), the study says that farmers who have shifted to cash crops have particularly gained. Their net incomes from cotton increased by Rs 70,977 per ha in Bharuch, Rs 69,399 per ha in Vadodara, and Rs 49,568 per ha in Panchmahal.
From castor, an exceptionally high increase in net income was in Bharuch (Rs 94,279 per ha). From fennel grown in Mehsana, it was Rs 55,363 per ha, from cumin in Surendranagar, which was introduced after the arrival of canal water, the farmers started earning Rs 49,350 per ha on an average. But for foodgrains, the incomes didn’t rise as much. “From wheat, farmers secured a higher net return ranging from Rs 4,505 per ha in Panchmahal to Rs 15,052 in Vadodara.”
However, the study admits, “The effect of inflation on net income is not factored in while estimating the income change”, even as claiming, “The effect of inflation on change in net income from crops is not expected to be high, as the time lag between pre-Narmada and post-Narmada situations ranges from a minimum of two years in most locations.”
The study covers locations where the canal networking has been completed and waters reach fields by gravity, and also those (like in Mehsana, Ahmedabad and Surendranagar) where farmers siphon off water straight from the Narmada canal by sinking up to three km long pipelines.
The study says that average per capita income of people in the Narmada command area, too, has gone up substantially. “The largest increase was seen in Surendranagar (from Rs 65,526 to Rs 2.01 lakh), followed by Bharuch (from Rs 1.76 lakh to Rs 3.37 lakh), Mehsana (Rs 1.02 lakh to Rs 2.29 lakh), and Ahmedabad (Rs 1.19 to Rs 1.90 lakh)”, it says.
The study argues, “With increase in annual income from farming, the families have started spending more money on children’s education. The expenditure on family nutrition has also increased substantially.” It says, “Literacy data from Census 2011 shows that districts which are already being served by Sardar Sarovar Narmada Project have recorded high decadal growth in literacy in comparison to the state figures.”
It adds, “Between 2001 and 2011, literacy rate increased from 51% to 66% in Banaskantha, 60% to 73% in Narmada, 60% to 71.5% in Kutch, 61% to 72% in Panchmahal, 62% to 73% in Surendranagar, and 72% to 84% in Kheda district.”

http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=73098

Annexure-II

 Average MPCEMMRP and food share: major States, 2009-10
State rural urban
average MPCE  (Rs.) per capita food exp. (Rs.) % share of food in cons. exp. average MPCE  (Rs.) per capita food exp. (Rs.) % share of food in cons. exp.
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
Bihar 780 505 64.7 1238 655 52.9
Chhattisgarh 784 456 58.2 1647 720 43.7
Orissa 818 507 61.9 1548 749 48.4
Jharkhand 825 503 60.9 1584 816 51.5
Uttar Pradesh 899 521 57.9 1574 728 46.3
Madhya Pradesh 903 504 55.8 1666 694 41.7
West Bengal 952 604 63.5 1965 907 46.2
Assam 1003 646 64.4 1755 929 52.9
Karnataka 1020 577 56.5 2053 869 42.3
All-India 1054 600 57.0 1984 881 44.4
Gujarat 1110 640 57.7 1909 882 46.2
Maharashtra 1153 623 54.0 2437 999 41.0
Tamil Nadu 1160 635 54.7 1948 876 45.0
Rajasthan 1179 647 54.8 1663 798 48.0
Andhra Pradesh 1234 717 58.1 2238 1002 44.8
Haryana 1510 815 54.0 2321 1001 43.1
Punjab 1649 795 48.2 2109 933 44.3
Kerala 1835 843 45.9 2413 970 40.2