Sanal Edamaruku faces death threats and jail for pointing weeping Jesus, as Bad Plumbing #Rationalism


Jesus wept … oh, it’s bad plumbing. Indian rationalist targets ‘miracles’

Guardian

Sanal Edamaruku faces jail for revealing ‘tears’ trickling down a Mumbai church statue came from clogged drainage pipes

CHRISTIANS PREPARE FOR POPE'S VISIT

A statue of Christ in Mumbai. Local people declared a miracle when ‘tears’ trickled down the statue at the Church of Our Lady of Velan Kanni. Photograph: Sherwin Crasto/Associated Press

When water started trickling down a statue of Jesus Christ at a Catholic church in Mumbai earlier this year, locals were quick to declare a miracle. Some began collecting the holy water and the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni began to promote it as a site of pilgrimage.

So when Sanal Edamaruku arrived and established that this was not holy water so much as holey plumbing, the backlash was severe. The renowned rationalist was accused of blasphemy, charged with offences that carry a three-year prison sentence and eventually, after receiving death threats, had to seek exile in Finland.

Now he is calling for European governments to press Delhi into dropping the case. And on the first leg of a tour around EU capitals on Friday, he warned that India was sacrificing freedom of expression for outdated, colonial-era rules about blasphemy.

“There is a huge contradiction in the content of the Indian constitution which guarantees freedom of speech and the blasphemy law from 1860 under then colonial rule,” Edamaruku told the Guardian in an interview in Dublin.

“This blasphemy law can affect anyone in India – even a girl recently who wrote on Facebook against closing down a city because of the death of a famous local politician. She was prosecuted under the blasphemy law and another girl who ‘liked’ her comment on Facebook was also arrested and then charged with blasphemy.”

Edamaruku, who has the support of rationalists and atheists such asRichard Dawkins, is well known in India for debunking religious myths, and was already unpopular among Indian Catholics for publicly criticising Mother Teresa‘s legacy in Kolkata.

When the state “miracle” was pronounced, he went to Mumbai and found that the dripping water was due to clogged drainage pipes behind the wall where it stood. His revelation provoked death threats from religious zealots and ultimately charges of blasphemy under the Indian penal code in the Mumbai high court.

“India cannot criticise Pakistan for arresting young girls for blaspheming against Islam while it arrests and locks up its own citizens for breaking our country’s blasphemy laws,” he said. “It is an absurd law but also extremely dangerous because it gives fanatics, whether they are Hindus, Catholics or Muslims, a licence to be offended. It also allows people who are in dispute with you to make up false accusations of blasphemy.”

Edamaruku said his exposure of the weeping statue was also a contribution to public health in Mumbai as some believers were drinking the water hoping it could cure ailments. “This was sewage water seeping through a wall due to faulty plumbing,” he said. “It posed a health risk to people who were fooled into believing it was a miracle.”

He has been living in Finland since the summer. He was in Europe on a lecture tour in July when his partner rang to say the police had arrived at his flat. “I felt really upset because under the blasphemy law you cannot get bail until the court case begins. I would be in jail now if I had been at my apartment in Delhi,” he said.

He has spurned an offer from a senior Indian Catholic bishop to apologise for the exposure of the “miracle”.

“The Catholic archbishop of Bombay, Oswald, Cardinal Gracias, has said that if I apologise for the ‘offence’ I have caused he will see to it that the charges are dropped. This shows that he has influence in the situation but he will not use it unless I apologise, which I will not do as I have done nothing wrong,” he said.

“In a way I am lucky because I have friends and supporters in Europe. I am well known in India and have the telephone numbers of at least five Indian cabinet ministers. And I have some means of fighting back. But what would happen to the common man or woman if they were accused of blasphemy? They would be sent straight to jail without any chance of bail,” he said.

Edamaruku asked for “mounting international pressure”, particularly fromIreland and other EU nations, on the Indian government. Delhi had the power to halt the prosecution before a court case, citing a lack of evidence to pursue it, he said.

Mick Nugent, from Atheist Ireland, the organisation hosting the Indian’s visit to the republic and Northern Ireland next week, said Edamaruku’s plight also underlined the need for Dublin’s Fine Gael-Labour government to repeal Ireland’s blasphemy law.

“Blasphemy laws are very strange because they can be both very silly and also very sinister. They are very silly because you are talking about crying statues and moving statues or Virgin Marys appearing in tree stumps in Co Limerick. But on the other hand these type of laws are used in Islamic countries to jail people or sentence them to death. Or in Sanal’s case facing a jail sentence for his work exposing bogus miracles.

“The Irish government should pay attention to Sanal’s case and realise they must get rid of this absurd and dangerous law. Because we shouldn’t be so smug in Ireland. After all, we have had the hysteria about moving statues and a man bringing people to a shrine in Co Mayo so they can look at the sun and see the Virgin Mary.”

Japan- local governments addicted to nuclear subsidies


Monday, Nov. 26, 2012

 

SENTAKU MAGAZINE

Nov 26,2012

Municipalities hosting nuclear power plants throughout Japan have received large amounts of central government subsidies, donations from utilities and lucrative business contracts.

 

Now, 1½ years after the Fukushima nuclear disasters, those municipalities realize how much their finances depend on the nuclear power-induced money.

“They’re like drug addicts cut off from supplies,” said a member of the assembly of Niigata Prefecture, which hosts Tokyo Electric Power Co.‘s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant on the Sea of Japan coast. All the reactors at the plant remain shut down after its No. 5 and 6 reactors went offline earlier this year.

After the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdowns in March 2011, the government refused to give the go-ahead for restarting reactors at other plants throughout Japan that had gone offline for regular inspections, until it approved reactivating two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture in July.

“I was scared to death when the Fukushima accident happened, but now I am thankful that the plant resumed operations,” said a resident of the town of Oi who works for a subcontractor to the power station. “I think that most of the local people here feel the same way.”

Many newspaper reporters and TV crew rushed to Oi — along with anti-nuclear power activists — when the town was at the center of nationwide attention over the government’s decision to reactivate the reactors. The man says he did not feel like talking to media crews, who he thought were trying to paint a stereotype picture of the local residents worried about the dangers of reactivating the plant.

There are indeed gaps among local residents and businesses on how they benefit financially from hosting the nuclear plants.

Host prefectures and municipalities receive central government grants based on laws designed to promote development of power generation facilities.

These subsidies are heavily distributed while siting research and construction are going on, but are gradually reduced once the plants starts operation. After that, only the local residents who work at the plant and related businesses continue to get the rewards.

“People who do not benefit from the plant are a minority here. Still, it’s true that some residents who don’t directly get the money were unhappy about the restart,” said an Oi town assemblyman.

Media reports played up the voices of residents who spoke up in opposition to the restart. But it was “never a consensus of the local residents” to oppose the plant restart, the assemblyman said.

People in other host municipalities have mixed feelings toward the restart of the Oi plant.

“A growing number of residents ask me when the plant here will be restarted,” says a politician from Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, where Japan Atomic Power Co. has a power station and Japan Atomic Energy Agency operates the Monju fast-breeder reactor, which constitutes the core of the nation’s nuclear fuel cycle policy.

A reporter with a local newspaper says “special financial consideration” has been given to the Tsugaru area as part of the effort to achieve the nuclear fuel cycle, which he called “a pie in the sky” to begin with. Money kept flowing in generously from the nuclear community even after Monju was kept mostly offline following a serious sodium coolant leak in 1995.

The city of Tsuruga has so far received a total of over ¥100 billion in “official” grants. In addition, another ¥10 billion has been provided to the city coffers in the name of “anonymous donations.”

Such funds are then used to benefit local businesses in the form of public works projects contracts. One construction industry insider in Fukui Prefecture explains that bid-rigging is still rampant in such projects in municipalities hosting nuclear plants, resulting in higher costs.

For example, the municipal government paid well in excess of ¥100 million for a road improvement project, but the sum would have been more than 20 percent less if the same work had been undertaken in other cities, he said.

There will be additional construction orders from a utility after a nuclear plant starts operations — at costs mostly above the industry average, according to a source familiar with the construction industry in the Kansai region. Some of the money will likely go from construction firms to local politicians, the source said.

Kansai Electric Power Co., which operates three nuclear power plants in Fukui Prefecture, is a private company and may not see a problem in paying whatever price is bid for its construction work. But under relevant laws, utilities are allowed to pass all of such costs on to electricity bills charged on consumers.

Even among host municipalities, there are differences in attitudes depending on the extent to which they rely on financial assistance and benefits linked to nuclear energy. In February, Kashiwazaki Mayor Hiroshi Aida expressed his support for a policy to reduce and eventually eliminate the nation’s dependence on nuclear energy, but his counterpart at Kariwa said his village cannot survive without the nuclear power station.

While they both host Tepco’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, nuclear plant-related subsidies or donations from the utility account for 14 percent of Kashiwazaki’s annual budget and as high as 30 percent of Kariwa’s.

An insider in the construction industry in Kashiwazaki says that local politicians and contractors continue to hunt for new sources of nuclear power-related income even after the Fukushima plant disasters. Even though it is now next to impossible to hope for construction of new nuclear plants, they are looking into the possibility of building facilities for temporary storage of spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants around the country, or a storage site for contaminated materials from Fukushima, he points out.

Another example of a local community dependent on money related to nuclear facilities is in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, formerly a poverty-stricken village where most of its 11,000 residents relied on agriculture and fisheries for their livelihood. The village is now called one of Japan’s wealthiest municipalities.

Nippon Nuclear Fuel Ltd., which plays the central role in the nation’s nuclear fuel cycle project, has its headquarters in Rokkasho and accounts for ¥6 billion of the estimated ¥6.8 billion in local tax revenue for fiscal 2012. Rokkasho’s general account budget for the year is ¥13 billion — double the amount of a village in Kumamoto Prefecture with roughly the same population.

If the government’s plan to phase out nuclear power in Japan is to be implemented, the whole concept of a nuclear fuel cycle in this country would collapse, which in turn would deal a serious blow to Rokkasho’s fiscal foundation.

Alarmed by such a prospect, the village assembly in September unanimously adopted a resolution demanding that if the nuclear fuel cycle program were to be stopped, all spent fuels that had been shipped to the reprocessing facility in Rokkasho be moved out of the village immediately. It was an outright threat to both the central government and the power companies.

Spent fuel storage pools at nuclear plants throughout the country are filled almost to capacity, and would overflow if the fuel rods at Rokkasho were returned to the power plants where they originated. This would make it impossible to restart any of the nuclear plants in Japan.

A journalist who covers nuclear power issues for a major newspaper notes that Rokkasho’s special status among host municipalities gives it enormous leverage.

“It’s like a drug addict engaging in robbery to get the money to buy more narcotics,” the journalist said.

The episode shows that the system in which money flows from the nuclear community into host municipalities remains intact, and unless the link is cut off, those municipalities will continue to rely on the nuclear industry.

This is an abridged translation of an article from the November issue of Sentaku, a monthly magazine covering Japanese political, social and economic scenes.

 

#India-Garment workers exploited, denied basic human and labour rights: tribunal


STAFF REPORTER, The Hindu, Bangalore

The report of the ‘National people’s tribunal on living wage for garment workers’ has recommended strengthening of the Labour Department so that it can enforce labour laws, and monitor and tackle industrial disputes.
The report of the ‘National people’s tribunal on living wage for garment workers’ has recommended strengthening of the Labour Department so that it can enforce labour laws, and monitor and tackle industrial disputes

The verdict was based on testimonies of 250 people heard over four days

Workers in the garment industry here are exploited and denied basic human and labour rights, the ‘National people’s tribunal on living wage for garment workers’ observed in its verdict on Sunday.

Over four days, testimonies of 250 garment workers were recorded. A common thread that ran through these stories were tales of labour and human rights violations ranging from unfair wages and work hours to sexual abuse and inhuman work conditions. These put together, the jury observed in a 37-page report released here, created conditions which amounted to “bonded and forced labour practices”. The report added that there has been an “effective undermining” of the freedom of association of workers.

The jury was headed by Gianni Tognioni, secretary-general of the Permanent People’s Tribunal, Italy.

The verdict dealt with ‘living wage’, which the jury said, should be implemented as a human right. “The components which are essential for the calculation of a living wage must not only include adequate food to the worker and her/his family, but all elements to live a life of dignity, which includes housing, medical care and education for children, rest and leisure, social and cultural opportunities,” the jury observed. Noting that resources allocated to labour ministries were “largely insufficient”, the tribunal said that the Labour Department must be strengthened to enable it to enforce labour laws, and monitor and tackle industrial disputes.

Understaffed

Deputy Labour Commissioner Sripad Rao accepted these recommendations. He also said that the Labour Department is “severely understaffed”. Mr. Rao asked workers to collectively articulate their woes and submit their grievances in writing, while imploring them to form stronger trade unions and get them registered.

 

French minister wants Mittal out of France


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 at 01:06

FRANCE-ARCELOR-LAKSHMI-MITTAL:French minister wants Mittal out of France

By Nicholas Vinocur and Yann Le Guernigou, moneycontrol.com
PARIS (Reuters) – Steelmaker Mittal, which acquired France’s Arcelor in 2006, is no longer wanted in France due to years of broken promises, Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg said on Monday, intensifying a row over plans to close two furnaces in northeastern France.

Montebourg’s attack on ArcelorMittal, which he later qualified, risks exacerbating tensions in a dispute that is central to Socialist President Francois Hollande‘s efforts to save jobs and reverse years of industrial decline.

It came after Montebourg, one of the most left-wing ministers in the government, said last week France could nationalise the company’s Florange site on a temporary basis while the government tries to find a buyer.

ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaker, has said it will shut down two blast furnaces at Florange from December 1 unless the government can find a buyer to operate them.

“We no longer want Mittal in France because they haven’t respected France,” Montebourg said in an interview with Les Echos business daily published on Monday.

He said Chief Executive Lakshmi Mittal had told “shameful lies” since 2006 about the group’s plans and had not kept his promises to the French government.

“The problem with the blast furnaces at Florange is not the blast furnaces at Florange, it’s Mittal,” he said.

A source close to Indian-born Lakshmi Mittal, who according to French media is due to meet with Hollande on Tuesday, told Reuters that management were “very shocked” at Montebourg’s words.

“These are quite violent declarations against a company which employs 20,000 people in France,” the source said.

BACK-PEDALLING

Qualifying his statement later on Twitter, Montebourg said in a message that while ArcelorMittal’s methods were questionable, the group would continue to operate in France, where it has more than 100 industrial sites.

Montebourg’s back-pedalling was part of a pattern for the outspoken minister, who previously embarrassed the government by saying it would not allow Peugeot PSA <peup.pa>to close a plant near Paris, only to retract the pledge.

Libya‘s sovereign investment fund, which Montebourg said in November was interested in acquiring a Petroplus refinery in northern France, denied on Monday having expressed interest in the refinery, according to Libya’s Lana news agency.

The fate of Florange, situated in the former heart of French steel making country, became a symbol of France’s flagging industry during campaigning for the May election and is now a test of Hollande’s promise to reverse the decline.

Failure to save jobs at Florange would add to a list of industrial shutdowns, including Peugeot PSA’s production site, and risks deepening fears in the public that the government is powerless to save jobs.

Unemployment is at a 13-year high of over 10 percent and October jobless claims due on Tuesday are expected to show another increase.

A spokeswoman for Montebourg was not immediately available to comment. ArcelorMittal, which employs some 20,000 people across France, declined to comment.

Last week, Montebourg said the government had received two offers from buyers interested in acquiring more than just the two blast furnaces, but gave no further details.

ArcelorMittal has denied having received any such offers.

A source close to the company said plans to shut down blast furnaces including those at Florange pre-dated the merger between Arcelor and Mittal, which had never promised to keep the site operating when it signed the deal in 2006.

 

(Editing by Catherine Bremer and Sophie Hares)