#India – Whistle Blowers and the Public Interest


June 25, 2013

whistle

by M. V. Ramana

The bulk of development policies, justified in the ‘national interest’, actually diminish poor people’s ability to control and gainfully use natural resources. Every ‘national’ project is presented as beneficial for the masses even though it requires some poor people to surrender their land or their livelihood. While the ‘greater good of the nation’appears to be a laudable cause, it must appear suspicious to the rural poor who are consistently chosen, time and time again, to make all the sacrifices, while those more powerful reap the benefits. – Amita Baviskar, In the Belly of the River

There is a common message emanating from the centers of power in Washington, D.C. and New Delhi: Whistle blowing, or truth telling as the act may be more accurately described, is not a welcome activity. As I write this, officials in the United States are searching all over Hong Kong for Edward Snowden, the high school dropout, who revealed the U.S. National Security Agency’s surveillance programme. Proving its status as a loyal ally of the United States, the United Kingdom warned airlines not to fly Snowden to Britain. In the meanwhile, the trial of Bradley Manning, the most famous truth teller in the United States, started in Maryland, USA.

A much less celebrated truth teller was also in the Courts recently in New Delhi. Once upon a time, Manoj Mishrawas employed by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) at its Kakrapar Atomic Power Station (KAPS) in Gujarat and was the president of Kakrapar Unit Kendriya Sachivalaya Hindi Parishad. Before describing why this person was at the Supreme Court, a little bit of geography and history might be in order.

Kakrapar was originally considered as a potential site for a nuclear power plant in the 1960s but then rejected. The reason given then was that there was a large population within the exclusion area and the site was close to a major source of water used for drinking and cultivation (For more on the criteria used for reactor siting, see pp. 44-46 of The Power of Promise). In addition to the population, another problem with the Kakrapar site was that it was in a low-lying area, prone to flooding. This was of particular concern because the site was close to the Ukai Dam and it was conceivable that the whole reactor might get flooded.

In 1980, however, the Atomic Energy Commission announced that Kakrapar was to become the fifth nuclear power station and the two reactors there started commercial operations in 1993 and 1995. Of course, neither of the problems originally cited had changed. If anything, the population in the area had only increased, both naturally and because of various construction activities.Though some amount ofearth-fillingwas done to avoid flooding, things didn’t turn out so well.

The outlet from the turbine building of KAPS leads to an artificial lake called Moticher, which has gates to control the flow of water. On 15 and 16 June 1994, there were heavy rains in South Gujarat andthe water level of the lake began to rise. The ducts thatwere meant to let out water ended up becoming conduits for water to come in. And since there were no arrangements either for sealing cable trenches and valve pits, they too allowed water to enter. Water began entering the complex on the night of 15 June and by the next morning, there was water in the turbine building as well as other parts of the reactor complex. The workers inthe morning shift had to swim in chest-high water, and the control room was reportedly inaccessible for some time. Finally, a site emergency was declared and workers were evacuated.

By this time, another problem had become apparent. The gates that could control the flow of water into Moticher had not been well maintained, and so, mud had collected around them and they could not be opened. The KAPS management requested help from the district and state authorities, but that evidently didn’t help either. Fortunately, villagers from the area, who were worried about the security of their own homes, made a breach in the embankment of the lake that allowed the water to drain out. Finally, on 18 June, a large pump was brought to Kakrapar from Tarapur, and the work of removing the water from the turbine building began.

In the meanwhile, much of the equipment in the turbine building was submerged, including the water pumps used to cool the reactor core. Electrical power from the grid failed, and diesel generators had to be used. Fortunately, the reactor had been shutdown following the major fire at the Narora for inspection of turbine blades. The floodwater carried away canisters of radioactive waste, and it is not clear if they were ever recovered or if any of them released its contents into the waters.

This is where Manoj Mishra comes in. NPCIL officials evidently did not bother to inform members of the public about what happened. The way the public got to know anything about the damage at KAPS was because Mishra wrote a letter to Gujarat Samachar about what happened. For this revelation, Mishra was suspended and, after an internal inquiry, removed from service in March 1996. Since then, Mishra has been fighting the nuclear establishment in courts—and losing. This process of fighting in the courts took him to the Gujarat High Court, which, in 2007, dismissed his case. Mishra then appealed to the Supreme Court, and in April of this year, the SC dismissed his appeal. Itsobservations are worth quoting at some length:

“it will be apposite to notice the growing acceptance of the phenomenon of whistleblower.A whistleblower is a person who raises a concern about the wrongdoing occurring in an organisation or body of people. Usually this person would be from that same organisation. The revealed misconduct may beclassified in many ways; for example, a violation of a law, rule, regulation and/or a direct threat to public interest, such as fraud, health/safety violations and corruption. Whistleblowers may make their allegations internally (for example, to other people within the accused organisation) or externally (to regulators, law enforcement agencies, to the media or to groups concerned with the issues)…

“In our view, a person like the respondent can appropriately be described as a whistleblower for the system who has tried to highlight the malfunctioning of an important institution established for dealing with cases involving revenue of the State and there is no reason to silence such a person by invoking Articles 129 or 215 of the Constitution or the provisions of the Act…

“In our opinion, the aforesaid observations are of no avail to the appellant…the appellant is educated only upto 12th standard. He is neither an engineer, nor an expert on the functioning of the Atomic Energy Plants. Apart from being an insider, the appellant did not fulfill the criteria for being granted the status of a whistle blower. One of the basic requirements of a person being accepted as awhistle blower is that his primary motive for the activity should be in furtherance of public good. In other words, the activity has to be undertaken in public interest, exposing illegal activities of a public organization or authority. The conduct of the appellant, in our opinion, does not fall within the high moral and ethical standard that would be required of a bona fide whistle blower.”

There are many questions that we should ask. First, in what way is the education level of Manoj Mishra relevant to deciding if he was a whistle blower, and why should any whistle blower be an expert on whatever it is that he or she is revealing the truth about? If someone reveals that a pharmaceutical company is producing contaminated drugs meant to treat cardiac problems (Such things do happen, see for example), does that person have to be an expert on how pharmaceutical plants operate? Or should he or she be a doctor with many years of experience in treating heart disease? Second, what might have happened if Mishra had actually been an expert in the operation of atomic power plants? Well, we can only speculate. But remember that for Mishra to become an expert, he would necessarily have to have spent several years at the DAE’s training school, during the course of which he would likely not just have learnt about nuclear reactor physics and engineering, but also become indoctrinated to trust authority and support the NPCIL and DAE policies of secrecy unquestioningly. This is a potential reason for the paucity of truth tellers from the upper echelons of the DAE or NPCIL. Or most other hierarchical organizations, for that matter. Third, what exactly is the public interest in this case? It is clear what the interest of NPCIL and DAE would have been—to hide the news that its design and its maintenance were inadequate to protect against even moderately severe floods. But, for the public, it would be just the opposite: to hear about what happened within KAPS during the floods, so they know what risks they faced.

Why then did the Court argue otherwise? Of course, we cannot know for sure. But some clues can be had from the other recent Supreme Court judgment. This decision dismissed a plea seeking to halt the commissioning of the Koodankulam nuclear reactors, under construction in Tamil Nadu, till the implementation of key additional safety measures recommended after the Fukushima accidents of 2011.

As is well known, the massive release of radioactive materials from the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, which has resulted in the contamination of a large swath of area and is now estimated to lead in the long run to something on the order of a thousand cancers, also added to the already strong opposition among people living around Koodankulam. What the Supreme Court decided, in essence, was that these people will now have to put up with such “minor inconveniences”, “minor radiological detriments” and “minor environmental detriments”.

The Court’s opinion is replete with references to the public interest. “While setting up a project of this nature, we have to have an overall view of larger public interest rather than smaller violation of right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution”. Elsewhere, “Larger public interest of the community should give way to individual apprehension of violation of human rights and right to life guaranteed under Article 21”. It went on further to say, “Nuclear power plant is being established not to negate right to life but to protect the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution…it will only protect the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution for achieving a larger public interest and will also achieve the object and purpose of Atomic Energy Act”. And so on, and so forth.

What’s important about this decision is that the Judges’ idea of public interest seems to be based largely, if not completely, on testimony offered by various arms of the nuclear establishment. The decision,in essence, neglects the numerous pieces of expert testimony submitted by the petitioners questioning various aspects of the government’s wisdom in building nuclear reactors in general, including at Koodankulam. For this reason, if the Supreme Court decision was meant to help settle the contentious debate over Koodankulam, it has not, and cannot, succeed in this aim. The reliance on expert testimony from within the nuclear establishment demonstrates myopia on a very basic issue – the lack of public trust regarding thenuclear establishment.

But back to the basic point: arguments made by powerful institutions about the public interest often hide a more divisive reality: it is hard, if not impossible, to come up with a clearly defined and widely accepted notion of public interest that can apply to a large range of areas. [See Robert Jensen’s arguments on a related theme, the national interest, albeit in a different context]. More important, even if there might besome common public interest (“clean air”, for example), trying to actually reach that common interest usually involves having those goals be negotiated through power struggles, and the imposition of hardship to one disadvantaged group or the other.

The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek once wrote: “It is indeed true that we live in a society of risky choices, but it is one in which only some do the choosing, while others do the risking.” To this one may add, those who have the power to choose often make choices that are beneficial to them but have become adept at passing off those choices as being in the public interest. Whistle blowers seem to care more for those suffering the consequences, real or potential, than the interests of the powerful elite. We, at least those of us who do not belong to these exclusive elite enclaves of power, owe these whistle blowers a huge debt of gratitude.

[M. V. Ramana is with the Program on Science and Global Security at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University and the author of The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India (Penguin 2012)]

Nelson Mandela would have made a fine peace journalist #Sundayreading


By Steven Youngblood
Director, Center for Global Peace Journalism, Park University

At a fundamental level, Mandela and peace journalists share an understanding of the importance of language. One key tenant of peace journalism is that the words we as journalists use matter—that they can either soothe or inflame passions. Mandela might have gone one step further, noting not only journalists’ responsibility to choose their words carefully, but also their duty to use language in a way that bridges divides and brings people together.  Mandela said, “Without language, we cannot talk to people and understand them. One cannot share their hopes and aspirations, learn their history, appreciate their poetry and savor their songs. I again realize that we are not different people with separate language; we are one people with different tongues.” (http://africa.waccglobal.org/what%20is%20peace%20journalism_.pdf )

Another value peace journalists share with Mandela is a commitment to ongoing dialogue, like the kind begun under Mandela’s post-apartheid Peace and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory is continuing that work today, offering “a non-partisan platform for public discourse on important social issues…that contribute to policy decision-making.” (nelsonmandela.org)  Peace journalists, of course, can provide this platform, but not just to those in power. We seek to give a voice to all parties, with a special emphasis on giving voice to the voiceless.

I hope Mr. Mandela would be proud of the work that one group of peace reporters just concluded in Lebanon.  These reporters told the stories of Syrian refugees living in Beirut in a way that demystified the stereotypes about these individuals while fostering a dialogue within Lebanese society about how to accommodate and protect 440,000 refugees.

Many of Mandela’s principles not only align with peace journalism, but also lay out a blueprint for successful peace journalists.

This blueprint for peace journalists can be found, succinctly, in the UN’s written declaration of July 18th as Nelson Mandela International Day.  The UN declaration “recognizes Nelson Mandela’s values and his dedication to the service of humanity, in the fields of conflict resolution, race relations, the promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups, as well as the uplifting of poor and underdeveloped communities. It acknowledges his contribution to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world.” (masterpeace.org).

This statement is not only Mandela’s legacy, it is his charge to all of us, but especially to those of us who subscribe to the notion that we as journalists have a higher responsibility. This means that we must study and understand conflict resolution, and apply that knowledge to balanced reporting that gives proportionate voice to those who seek peace rather than exclusively to those who rattle the sabers of violence.  Mandela’s legacy charges peace journalists with facilitating meaningful dialogues on race, and empowering those in our society who are marginalized (women, children, and the poor).  This means that along with peace journalism, we should practice development journalism, using our platforms to focus attention on societal problems and solutions.

Most of all, this legacy charges journalists with putting the spotlight on the Nelson Mandelas in each society—those who seek  peace and reconciliation. Mandela’s statement during his 1964 trial is a testimony to the positive power of language, and to journalism’s responsibility to give voice to those who seek a peaceful path.  Mandela told the court, “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” (transcend.org)

 

#Monsanto digs its heels in Pakistan


Monsanto's Involvement With Agent Orange - 40 Years After the Vietnam Conflict

Coming from a politician or bureaucrat, it wouldn’t have been surprising.
But it was unexpected from the Vice Chancellor of Faisalabad University of
Agriculture when he claimed that GMOs would “bring about a new green
revolution based on biotechnology, precision agriculture and climate
change.” As if the first Green Revolution wasn’t bad enough! If it was for
citizens’ benefit, why wasn’t Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan addressing sustainable
farmers and concerned citizens, instead of briefing diplomats from 24
countries? That fit more into loaded trade and investment talks, not a
country’s delicate agricultural security.

Dr Khan offers no evidence based on local research whatsoever to prove that
GMOs are “a great and safe invention that would enhance crop productivity”.
He seems oblivious of the fact that even GM seed-producing corporations
don’t make that claim.

“Where is the independent data which shows that GM Corn would increase
average yield?” demands Ijaz Ahmed Rao, professional farmer, graduated from
Australia, “Data from USDA clearly shows that despite GM technologies
(Insect-resistant (Bt), Herbicide-tolerant, Stacked gene varieties), yields
in USA have not increased since 1987!”

Rao sounds an alarm the government must note – that Pakistan’s corn exports
to Europe and elsewhere would be seriously affected as they import non-GM
corn and corn products from Pakistan at premium rates and on bases of
certification. Far from boosting Pakistan’s output and earnings, Bt corn
would be the ideal weapon to destroy our exports to Europe which recently
banned Monsanto and other GMOs, with ongoing plans to wipe them out
completely.

Similarly, sans evidence, Dr Khan claims that Bt (GM) cotton increased
productivity while pesticide-application was reduced in Pakistan. Strange
indeed, when in the rest of the world – including USA, the heaviest GM user
– it rapidly lost resistance to pests and required increasing amounts of
pesticides, now multiplied several-fold.

He disregards India’s terrible 15-year experience with Monsanto’s Bt cotton
that, with Monsanto’s overpriced products and unfair practices, led to over
300,000 suicides since 1995, making India the world’s farmers’ suicide
centre. Should we be joining their ranks?

Indeed, Dr Khan ignores Monsanto’s long and ignominious history around the
world – originally a chemical corporation that co-supplied 19 million
gallons of herbicide to defoliate Vietnam’s forests and crops on 4.5
million acres over 11 years, killing or maiming 400,000, causing half a
million deformed children born, helpless and dependant for life, and two
million cancer cases. After diverse other ventures, Monsanto got into GM
seeds which are ‘successful’ only if Monsanto’s accompanying poisonous
chemicals are heavily sprayed.

While appearing to promote Monsanto’s planned launch of ‘Herbicide
Resistance Corn’, Dr Khan was blind to the dangerous ground he was treading
on. Chemically-grown food crops have already lost nutritive value and led
to malnutrition, in both South countries and USA.

Because it wasn’t reported here, the VC probably doesn’t know that on May
25, over two million participants in 436 cities across 52 countries,
protested against Monsanto, demanding it gets out from everywhere. This,
apart from the long-standing, ongoing “Millions against Monsanto” campaign
that informs and brings together concerned citizens and activists globally.

Or that the Carnival of Corn in Mexico City coincided with and joined the
global protest. Mexico was the cradle of corn boasting thousands of corn
varieties; it needed no more, let alone GM corn, from outside. But their
own president sold his country out to Monsanto and other GM corporations,
just as Bush and Obama did the same to their people. In country after
country, it was not the merit of the product but officials that succumbed
to tempting lures.

And last week Japan and South Korea cancelled huge contracts for US wheat
when it was revealed Monsanto’s unapproved GM seeds had contaminated vast
farmlands in USA.

Monsanto dug in its heels in Pakistan over a decade ago since Musharraf’s
time. The General probably didn’t understand agriculture which may have
made it easy to sway him. His regime unilaterally sanctioned corporate
farming, which is increasingly pursued with GM seeds. The timing was
significant.

When Musharraf’s rule ended, the PPP government dealt an unexpected shock
when Mr. Gilani’s very first speech as prime minister ended with the
incongruous announcement – having nothing to do with his political
statements – that they had decided to let Monsanto in. Clearly, political
changes did not undo special interests. Since then, ceaseless crises in
Pakistan have kept attention diverted from Monsanto activities in Pakistan.

Dr Khan should remember the ‘Precautionary Principle’ – unless he’s
excluded ecology from agriculture – and investigate the extent of unchecked
contamination in Pakistan. GM monoculture threatens to wipe out what’s left
of our biodiversity without which even GM can’t continue, will further
chemical-drench and kill our deteriorating farmlands, while he risks being
remembered among the short-sighted responsible for near-extinction of
species.

*
http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2013/06/12/comment/columns/genetically-modified-threats/

What Is Striking In India Is The Indifference Of The Privileged- #Noamchomsky


At 84, Noam Chomsky remains the sharpest, most acute, most unrelenting critic of power, particularly American power. He speaks to Priyanka Borpujari about the evolution of protest; the disconnect between the misery he sees on the streets of Delhi and our elites’ chest-thumping pride; the narrow concerns of mainstream media; and his starring role in a Gangnam Style parody.

2013-07-06 , Issue 27 Volume 10

Noam Chomsky, 84, Linguist & Activist, Photo: AP

, 84, Linguist & Activist, Photo: AP

You have been protesting wars, from Vietnam to Iraq. And then, there has been the Occupy Wall Street movement. What have been the similarities and differences in protest movements over the years?

People do not know this, but it was very tough to oppose the Vietnam war. In the early ’60s, if I was giving a talk, it would be in somebody’s living room or a church with very few people. Right here in Boston, a liberal city, we could not have an outdoor demonstration in the Boston Common until about 1967. Any demonstration would be broken up by force. In March 1966, when we tried to have an indoor demonstration at a church downtown — since we could not have a public one — the church was attacked.The Boston Globe, which was supposed to be a liberal newspaper, denounced the demonstrators. The Harvard University faculty would not even hear about it; nobody would sign a petition. It was a few years of hard slogging. Finally by 1967-68, there were two or three years of intense activism, before it declined. The ’60s were very significant but it was very condensed. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was a very conservative campus until about 1968 and then it became very radical, perhaps the most radical in the country.

Since the late ’60s, activism has expanded but with less visibility, and it is a part of a general consciousness about all kinds of things. In the 1980s, there was a huge anti-nuclear movement. But the most significant phenomenon in the ’80s — although it did not leave much of an impact in history because it did not involve the elites very much — were the solidarity movements with central America. This solidarity was coming mostly from rural United States, like rural Kansas, and the Evangelicals, with tens of thousands of people going down to central America just to be with the victims, to help and defend them. This had never happened before, that people from the imperial state went there not just to protest, but to live with the people and participate with them. And a lot of these people stayed on. So it had a great effect over rural United States.

Towards the end of the last millennium, solidarity was visible on a new kind of global justice movement, on particular issues, like Israel-Palestine. There has been a massive shift in that. I used to have police protection on this (MIT) campus, right until the 1990s, when I talked about it. But now it is the most lively issue on the campus. I am asked to give talks about it all the time. So it’s not militant activism, but there’s a culture of independence and opposition, which I think is pretty bright.

So, who is listening to dissidents like you?

Well, anybody who is willing to talk has people listening. There aren’t too many people who are willing to go around and give talks all the time. The few of us who are willing, are deluged. Every night, I turn down a dozen invitations. When I do give talks, there is a real hunger for something different, but there is very little supply. You can almost count on the fingers of your hands the number of people who are willing to spend their lives going around and giving talks.

But on the other hand, you are in Cambridge, so you get to hear a little about . In the United States almost nobody knows anything about the outside world — people don’t know where France is.  would be some word that they might have heard in school in passing. It is a very insular society.

What about India baffles you the most?

I have followed India carefully, and have been there a number of times. It is an exciting country in many ways with its rich culture. But what is really striking to me about India, much more than most other countries I have been to, is the indifference of privileged sectors to the misery of others. You walk through Delhi and cannot miss it, but people just don’t seem to see it. Everyone is talking about ‘Shining India’ and yet people are starving. I had an interesting experience with this once. I was in a car in Delhi and with me was (activist) Aruna Roy, and we were driving towards a demonstration. And I noticed that she wasn’t looking outside the window of the car. I asked her why. She said, “If you live in India, you just can’t look outside the window. Because if you do, you’d rather commit suicide. It’s too horrible. So you just don’t look.” So people don’t look, they put themselves in a bubble and then don’t see it. And those words are from somebody who has devoted her life to the lives of the poor, and you can see why she said that — the misery and the oppression are so striking, much worse than in any country I have ever seen. And it is so dramatic. There is a lot of talk about how India is slated to be a major power, and I can’t believe it, with all its internal problems; China too for that matter, but less so.

When my wife and I went to India a couple of years ago, my friend Iqbal Ahmed had told me that I would discover that the press in Pakistan is much more open and free than the press in India. I did not believe him first but when I looked into it, he explained, “The English language press in Pakistan is for you and your friends, and the government just lets them say whatever they want, because there are so few of them to cater to, just a couple of hundred thousand people.”

You have hailed the Mexican newspaper La Jornada as “maybe the only real independent newspaper in the hemisphere”. Do you think something similar can be founded in India?

It could. The interesting thing about La Jornada is that the business world hates it. They don’t give it any ads. It is the second largest newspaper in the country with a very high level of journalistic acumen and very smart people, and they are all over the country. You see people reading this newspaper on the streets. Actually, I noticed that in Kerala, the only part of India where you can see people reading on the streets.

In the recent past, India witnessed a scam that exposed the deep nexus between journalists and businessmen, but nothing happened…

That is a bit different here (in the United States). One good thing about this country is that there is very little state repression, no censorship, so they can speak out what they can. On the other hand, the internalisation of doctrine here is just overwhelming, that is, with the intellectual community in the universities. And it is partly a reflection of the freedom, I think. You get an impression that everything is free and open because there are debates that are visible: the Democrats are debating the Republicans, and the press does its share of condemning. But what people don’t see — and the seeming openness of the debate conceals it — is that it is all within a very narrow framework. And you can’t go even a millimetre outside that framework. In fact, it is even taught in journalism schools here as the concept of ‘objectivity’ — that means describing honestly what’s going on inside that framework and if there is something outside, then no, that is subjective. You see that all the time and that is a big domestic problem.

Life outside the bubble The misery and oppression in India are striking, says Chomsky, Photo: Ishan Tankha

Life outside the bubble The misery and oppression in India are striking, says Chomsky, Photo: Ishan Tankha

For example, domestically, for the population, the big problem is jobs. They don’t care about the deficit. For the banks, the problem is deficits. So the only thing discussed (in the ) is deficits. You do have an occasional different viewpoint, but it doesn’t show up at all in the  coverage of the deficit. During the 2012 presidential elections, the two countries that were mentioned way more than anyone else in all debates were Israel and Iran. And Iran was described as the greatest threat to world peace. And that’s what’s repeated in the  all the time. There is an obvious question that no journalist would ask: who thinks so? They don’t think so in India; they don’t think so in the Arab world, they don’t think so in South America. The only countries to think so are the United States and England. But that you can’t report.

And then comes the question: is there anything you can do about it? This is quite spectacular when you talk about the media because it does not say this. There is something very obvious one could do about it — move to establishing nuclear-free zones. There is an overwhelming support for that all over the world. In fact, in December 2012, there was supposed to be an international conference in Finland to carry it forward under UN auspices. But in early November 2012, Iran announced that they would participate. Within days, Obama called off the conference. Not one word about that in the newspapers. Literally, not one word. The same in England. I don’t know about India; probably not there too.

On a less serious note, how did you come to feature in mit’s Gangnam Stylevideo?

I didn’t know what they were talking about. They were just a bunch of kids who seemed to be having some fun.

Did you have fun?

I was just saying what they wanted me to say.

letters@tehelka.com

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 27, Dated 6 July 2013)

#India must address worrying stock out of tuberculosis drugs #healthcare


 

 

Indian government drug tender process leads to deadly delay in drug supply

 

New Delhi, 17 June 2013 – The Indian government must urgently address the persistent issues and almost routine delays of procuring drugs to treat tuberculosis, international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today. The issues are behind a worrying stock out of TB drugs which the country is currently experiencing.

 

“As a country with such a high burden of tuberculosis, MSF is deeply disturbed that India is experiencing stock outs of critically needed drugs to treat children and those with drug-resistant TB”, said Leena Menghaney, India Manager of MSF’s Access Campaign. “In this instance, it’s a stock out that can cost people’s lives and the government must act urgently to fix the problems.”

 

India is currently experiencing stock outs across the country of both paediatric TB drugs and those used to treat drug-resistant TB (DR-TB). Under India’s public TB treatment program, the government is responsible for buying drugs and distributing them to the states which then provide treatment.

 

The stock out is related to the never-ending issues with drug procurement that India faces in many of its public health programmes – the routine but deadly delay in tendering for these drugs – and the resulting drug stock outs are one of the reasons why India has one of the world’s highest burdens of DR-TB.

 

“As a TB treatment provider, MSF is witnessing the impact this is having on our own patients”, said Dr. Homa Mansoor, the TB Medical Referent for MSF India. “In our Mon, Nagaland project, I’ve seen a 12 year-old girl on treatment arrive with her father after a long journey to get her medicine. The medicines were out of stock, but luckily we had six days’ worth of drugs available from a patient who had died. Otherwise, we’re having to resort to breaking adult pills to give to children, which is really dangerous as it could over- or under-dose them.”

 

Other patients have been forced to purchase medicines from private pharmacies, but have received lower-dosage drugs, which – if it causes a patient to under-dose on that drug – could lead to resistance.

 

“A continuous, sustainable supply of quality-assured medicines is vital for TB patients to have even half a chance of being cured”, Dr Mansoor said. “As a doctor, I know the disease, I know how to manage it, but I feel powerless because we don’t have the medicines to treat.”

 

“It’s just not good enough that India talks of scaling up DR-TB treatment, but finds the medicine cabinet empty at a time when the most vulnerable patients – those diagnosed with DR-TB – are most desperate to get the medicines that can treat them”, Dr Mansoor added.  “The Indian Government must act now to address this dire situation.”

 

The stock outs in India are occurring as the World Health Organization late last week issued interim guidelines on bedaquiline, the first new drug to treat TB in 50 years, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration at the end of 2012. MSF has welcomed the release of the guidelines, but has said use of the new drug needs to be regulated and controlled, and studies must be undertaken to find combinations with the new drugs in shorter, more effective and less toxic treatment regimens.

 

 SOURCE- http://www.msfaccess.org/

 

The US Wants Syrian Oil, Not Democracy


Coat of arms of Syria -- the "Hawk of Qur...

Coat of arms of Syria — the “Hawk of Qureish” with shield of vertical tricolor of the national flag, holding a scroll with the words الجمهورية العربية السورية (Al-Jumhuriyah al-`Arabiyah as-Suriyah “The Syrian Arab Republic”). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

 

18 June 13

 

 

 

“… the Persian Gulf, the critical oil and natural gas-producing region that we fought so many wars to try and protect our economy from the adverse impact of losing that supply or having it available only at very high prices.” -John Bolton, George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations

 

 

 

ll the hubbub over Syria is all about oil. And if you don’t believe me, believe John Bolton.

 

When there’s something being talked about in the news on a regular basis, and if one angle of the story is being consistently reported by various reputable news organizations, you can be sure there’s something else to the story that isn’t being told. Matt Taibbi called this “chumpbait” when referring to the media’s unified dismissal concerning Bradley Manning’s court-martial. The same applies to the latest corporate media stories speculating on US military involvement in Syria.

 

If the US were really concerned about spreading Democracy in the Middle East, we’d be helping the Occupy Gezi movement oust Turkish Prime Minister Ergodan and condemning his violent suppression of human rights, rather than assisting the Free Syrian Army. And the only reason the powers controlling the US would be interested in intervening in Turkey would be if Turkish protesters or government forces shut down the highly-productiveKirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which goes from Iraq through Southern Turkey.

 

All of the media has been atwitter about whether or not the US should get involved in the civil war unfolding in Syria by supporting anti-government forces. The atrocities recently committed by the Free Syrian Army are reminiscent of the kind committed against the Soviets in the 1980s by theAfghan mujahideen, whom we actively funded and supplied with arms. (Remember the movie Charlie Wilson’s War?) It should be worth noting that the same mujahideen fighters we funded to fight our enemies for us in the 1980s became our enemies even before the 9/11 attacks.

 

In a roundabout way, the US media is making the argument that because the Assad regime is using chemical weapons on the Syrian people, the US military should intervene by arming and training the Free Syrian Army in the hopes of overthrowing President Assad. On the surface, most Americans would agree that Assad is a brutal dictator and should be removed from office. But if you asked most Americans whether or not the US military should intervene in Syria to make sure the profit margins of oil companies remain strong, it’s likely most rational folks would say no. Digging just beneath the surface, it’s easy to see that US interest in Syria isn’t to provide Democracy to Syria, but to ensure the Kirkuk-Banias oil pipeline will be restored to profitable status. Even President Obama’s press secretary said that foreign policy isn’t driven by what the people want, but by what is best for “American interests.”

 

The Kirkuk-Banias pipeline runs from Kirkuk in Northern Iraq, to the Syrian town of Banias, on the Mediterranean Sea between Turkey and Lebanon. Ever since US forces inadvertently destroyed it in 2003, most of the pipeline has been shut down. While there have been plans in the works to make the Iraqi portion of the pipeline functional again, those plans have yet to come to fruition. And Syria has at least 2.5 billion barrels of oil in its fields, making it the next largest Middle Eastern oil producer after Iraq. After ten unproductive years, the oil companies dependent on the Kirkuk-Banias pipeline’s output are eager to get the pipeline operational again. The tension over the Syrian oil situation is certainly being felt by wealthy investors in the markets, who are thus dictating US foreign policy.

 

It’s easy to see why the oil-dominated US government wants to be involved in Syria’s outcome. The Free Syrian Army has since taken control of oil fields near Deir Ezzor, and Kurdish groups have taken control of other oil fields in the Rumeilan region. Many of the numerous atrocities that Assad’s government committed against unarmed women and children were in Homs, which is near one of the country’s only two oil refineries. Israel, the US’s only ally in the Middle East, is illegally occupying the Golan Heights on the Syrian border and extracting their resources. The US wants to get involved in Syria to monopolize its oil assets, while simultaneously beating our competition – Iran, Russia and China – in the race for Syrian black gold.

 

Big oil’s ideal outcome would be for US troops to back the FSA’s overthrow of the Assad regime, meaning that sharing in Syrian oil profits would be part of the quid-pro-quo the US demands in exchange for helping the Syrian rebels win. It would be very similar to when the US, under Teddy Roosevelt, backed Panama’s fight for independence in exchange for US ownership of the Panama Canal. But even after numerous interventions, including thekidnapping of Panama’s head of state, the Torrijos-Carter accords gave control of the Panama Canal back to Panama in 1999. The imperialistic approach to Panama turned out to be more costly than it would have been if we had just left Panama alone in the first place.

 

George Santayana said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. If we don’t learn from our past mistakes, like basing foreign policy goals on greed-inspired imperialism, Syria will blow up in our faces.

 

 

 


 

Carl Gibson, 26, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary “We’re Not Broke,” which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. You can contact him at carl@rsnorg.org, and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG.

 

#India- Supreme Court agrees to hear PIL on US surveillance of Internet data


PTI : New DelhiWed Jun 19 2013,
Court
Supreme Court. (IE Photo)
The Supreme Court today agreed to give an urgent hearing to a PIL on the issue of US National Security Agency snooping on Internet data from India and seeking to initiate action against Internet companies for allowing the agency to access the information.

Agreeing to hear the PIL filed by a former Dean of Law Faculty of Delhi University Professor S N Singh, a bench of justices A K Patnaik and Ranjan Gogoi posted the case for hearing next week.

In his plea, Singh has alleged that such large scale spying by the US authorities is detrimental to national security and urged the apex court to intervene in the matter. He has claimed that the Internet companies are sharing information with the foreign authority in “breach” of contract and violation of right to privacy.

“As per reports, nine US-based Internet companies, operating in India through agreements signed with Indian users, shared 6.3 billion information/data with National Security Agency of US without express consent of Indian users.Such larges cale spying by the USA authorities besides being against the privacy norms is also detrimental to national security,” the petition, filed through advocate Virag Gupta, has said.

Singh has submitted that it is a breach of national security as government’s official communications have come under US surveillance as services of private Internet firmsare being used by them. He has sought directions to the Centre to “take urgent steps to safeguard the government’s sensitive Internet communications” which are being kept outside India in US servers and are “unlawfully intruded upon by US Intelligence Agencies through US-based Internet companies under secret surveillance program called PRISM”.

In India – ‘Good girls don’t drink, flirt or party’ #Film #Vaw #moralpolicing


New Documentary Shows That Urban India Blames Women For Crimes Against Them

Mithila Phadke TNN

When filmmaker Padmalatha Ravi decided to make a documentary on society’s perceptions of women, she kept it straightforward. A motley crowd of people—from college students to domestic help—were asked what they thought a “good girl” and a “bad girl” were. “A good girl is supposed to be docile,” says a silverhaired lady. “She wears a dress which covers her wholly.” Two college-going boys giggle and say it’s the front-benchers who are tagged as good. On the other hand, “slut”, “goes to discos” and “flirts with boys” are the primary identifiers for a bad girl.
The 14-minute crowd-sourced venture, titled ‘Good Girls Don’t Dance’, is Bangalore-based Padmalatha’s response to the theme of most drawing-room discussions that follow reports of sexual abuse. Invariably, the argument returns to the same question: what was the girl doing outside at a late hour anyway? “After the Delhi incident, the issue of rape was being spoken about like never before,” she says. “I wanted to look at why women are blamed.” The film was completed earlier this year and has been uploaded online for free viewing.
Through the opinions of students, couples, seniors, and families, a troubling picture emerges. The ideal woman keeps herself covered up lest she “provokes” men, abstains from smoking, drinking and flirting. Not having an opinion of her own is also an asset, says a respondent.
The answers were a revelation, says Padmalatha, especially when people were asked who they would hold responsible in case of a rape. Only a handful said “rapist”. A majority blamed society and women. Aside from illustrating how deep stereotypes run, the documentary also disproves that progressive mindset is synonymous with education and financial wellbeing. “We asked a domestic worker if clothes play a role (in instigating rape), she was clear that a person is free to wear what he or she wants,” says Padmalatha. This was in stark contrast to numerous middle-class respondents who held a woman’s attire culpable, at least in part.
Mumbai-based filmmaker Paromita Vohra came across a similar mindset among the middleclass while filming the 2002-documentary ‘Unlimited Girls’. “Sometimes, women who had the chance to experience freedom were the ones least able to recognise that it came from a long legacy of people working for them,” says Vohra. The idea of freedom, as something to be protected, nurtured and recreated for the next generation was shrugged off, or made respondents uncomfortable. Both ‘Unlimited Girls’ and Padmalatha’s film look at how women navigate the urban jungle.
Another film that explores the same idea is ‘Mera Apna Sheher’, by Sameera Jain. Set in New Delhi, the documentary looks at how women are expected to negotiate public spaces. It had college lecturer Komita Dhanda being filmed by a hidden camera as she spends time at a park, a street corner and a paan shop. The camera records the reactions of men to her presence, ranging from confusion to lechery. “It’s something that happens around us every day,” says Jain. Only by choosing to record it does the indignity women face become a subject of debate.
However, the filmmakers have no illusion about their works offering quick solutions. “We are trying to start a conversation on a subject that people are hesitant to talk about,” says Padmalatha. After her film’s first screening in Bangalore, an elderly viewer argued for stringent punishment to keep men in line. A 16-year-old girl stepped in and asked him why there shouldn’t be a balanced approach to solve the problem. That a documentary can spark such debates is what the makers hope for, says Padmalatha.

SEX AND THE CITY: While a domestic worker (left) said people have the right to wear what they want to, students and couples who were interviewed felt that women needed to be covered up; Contemporary dancer Shabari (right) in a shot from the film

 

Why the US locks up prisoners for life


By Kate DaileyBBC News Magazine

Man behind bars

Last week, an English court handed a whole-life sentence to Dale Cregan for murdering four people, including two policewomen.

That penalty means he will never be eligible for release, and it puts him in rare company, making him one of about 50 people in the UK serving such a sentence.

Had he been in the US, he would have been less of an anomaly.

In the US, at least 40,000 people are imprisoned without hope for parole, including 2,500 under the age of 18.

That is just a fraction of those who have been given a life sentence but yet may one day win release. The Sentencing Project, a non-profit organisation that studies sentencing and criminal justice in America, estimated in 2009 that at least 140,000 prisoners in the US now serve a life sentence.

This does not include convicts given extremely long sentences with a fixed term, like the Alabama man sentenced to 200 years for kidnapping and armed robbery.

Most of them will have the opportunity for parole – though Sentencing Project Director Marc Mauer says few will receive it.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

Criminals are always less popular than victims”

Franklin ZimringUniversity of California, Berkeley

David Wilson, professor of criminology at Birmingham City University, says several factors underlie the high number of American convicts imprisoned for life.

“In large part it reflects the overly punitive nature of the American criminal justice system,” says Mauer.

“Not only do we use life sentences much more extensively than other industrial nations, but even in the lower level of event severity, the average burglar or car thief will do more time than they will in Canada or Wales.”

The harsh sentences reveal a type of “sentencing inflation” that began in the 1980s and 1990s.

“It was almost a competition among legislatures of both parties to show how tough they could be on crime,” says Mauer.

At the same time, the sentence is thought to send a message.

“In states like Michigan where they don’t have a death penalty, this is what they have as its moral equivalent,” says Franklin Zimring, professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley.

In states that do have the death penalty, long sentences underscore distaste for crimes that do not meet the threshold for capital punishment.

Inmates at Chino State Prison, which houses 5500 inmates, crowd around double and triple bunk beds in a gymnasium that was modified to house 213 prisonersCalifornia’s overcrowded prisons have prisoners sleeping in stacked bedding in the gymnasium

“This is a way of putting a denunciatory exclamation point in the punishment,” he says.

Politicians and other state officials are loathe to be seen as soft on crime, let alone to release an offender on parole only to have him commit another crime.

The 1993 death of Polly Klaas, a young girl killed by a recently paroled man with a long criminal history, led California to pass a “three strikes” rule mandating a sentence of 25 years to life for anyone found guilty of three felonies.

Continue reading the main story

Life in jail: Safer streets?

Does locking away criminals for life make society safer for everyone else?

“At some level the answer is obviously yes,” says Dan Bernhardt. “There’s no threat to safety if the prisoner is not at risk of re-offending, and a clear benefit if he is.”

But Bernhardt’s research shows that long prison sentences may impede rehabilitation.

“It can be grossly counterproductive,” he says. “It can discourage someone from trying to rehabilitate themselves.”

In the UK, “it is rare but not unheard of for someone on a life license to commit serious offenses,” says David Wilson, who says checks are in place to keep tabs on those who are released.

California lawmakers cite the three strikes policy as the reason for the state’s declining crime rate. But University of California, Riverside sociologist Robert Nash Parker says other factors are responsible, like the national decline in alcohol consumption.

“The drop in crime occurred all over the country, in every state. It dropped at the same time, magnitude, direction,” he says. “It can’t possibly be due to a policy in just one state.”

But now, in both the US and the UK the sentence of life without parole is coming into question.

In England, these sentences arecurrently being challenged in the European Court of Human Rights, after a lawsuit brought by three men serving whole life sentences – “a double murderer, a man who wiped out his entire family to inherit money, and a serial killer,” says Wilson.

These men, at least one of whom proclaims his innocence, argue that the denial of a parole option does not allow them to claim they have changed. They further argue that the assignment of these sentences is arbitrary – some convicted killers get them, others do not.

In the US, budget cuts have forced states to reconsider whether the practice of locking criminals up for long periods of time is cost-effective.

“Lawmakers in Illinois have made the decision to shut down a few prisons and let people out early in order to save money,” says Dan Bernhardt, professor of economics at the University of Illinois.

“There’s nothing like state budget problems to get people to see what the costs are.”

In 2012, the US Supreme Court also established that for minors, a sentence of life without parole violates the Constitution’s safeguardsagainst “cruel and unusual” punishment.

The court also ruled that prison overcrowding in California – due in part to severe sentencing and the three strikes programme – violates the same safeguards. It ordered the state to release tens of thousands of prisoners.

But action after these verdicts has been slow, as state officials continue to fight in court.

In the US, once someone has been sent to prison on a life sentence, it’s hard for him or her to get out.

 

An Open Letter to the Media houses in India!


English: Construction site of the Koodankulam ...

 

The Struggle Committee                                                                     June 16, 2013
Idinthakarai & P. O. 627 104
Tirunelveli District
Dear friends:
Greetings! Please allow us to bring the following to your kind attention in the larger interests of our country, people and most importantly, our democracy and freedom. As the Fourth Pillar of our democracy, the media in India plays an important role in the smooth running of our country and the perpetuation of our democratic heritage.
We are sure that you have noticed the postponement of the commissioning of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) to July 2013 without giving any reasons or explanations. It is really so disappointing and upsetting why no print or visual media in our country asks the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) or its Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) about this. There has not been one single editorial in any Indian newspaper or an informed debate on any TV debate on the repeated postponement of the KKNPP commission since 2005. Don’t the people of India need to know the reasons behind this constant postponement and continued ducking and dodging by the prime minister, central ministers, chief minister, and nuclear officials?
We have been crying from the roof top that there has been massive corruption in the KKNPP and shoddy, substandard components and spares have been used in the project, but no mediahouse in India has shown any interest to probe this issue further. Most of the northern Indian mediahouses have not even shown any interest in the Koodankulam issue as if we were not part of India.
Although we cannot complain about the media coverage of our various struggles and campaigns here in Tamil Nadu both in the Tamil and the English media, a few irresponsible mediahouses have been portraying a very negative picture of our movement because of their connection with the nuclear industry, or their “higher caste” bias, or for cheap monetary gains. They go for sensationalism, profiteering, and unprincipled and unprofessional reporting. We would also like to point out that there have been good reports and analysis about the KKNPP issue but there is hardly any incisive inquiry into the commissions and omissions of the Indian nuclear industry in the larger media. Also many mediahouses in India tend to fall silent when power centers frown at them, or twist their arms.
As a result of the gross failure of the Fourth Pillar in our democracy, criminals wander about as leaders; ‘Merchants of Venice’ dominate the economic affairs; and all-knowing-scientists and engineers adopt an anti-people attitude in their mega-development projects. Consequently, there is rampant corruption, inefficiency, wastefulness, depression, inflation, regress, and overall moral decay all over the country.
Hence it is high time we undertook a thorough and comprehensive soul-search about the duties and responsibilities of the media in India. The Koodankulam struggle can be a cornerstone for undertaking this analysis.
We would earnestly request you to do a review of your own mediahouse’s policies and practices and see if you feel and write for the “ordinary citizens” of India or for the vested interests of our country and the world. We enclose a write-up pointing out the salient features of the crippled KKNPP that deserves national attention and nation-wide debate. If the Indian mediahouses fail to do this, all the Neo-East India Companies from the United States, Russia, France and everywhere else will come to dominate our socioeconomic-political affairs and enslave us all over again.
Looking forward to your careful consideration of our letter and favorable actions, we send you our best personal regards and all peaceful wishes,
Cordially,
S. P. Udayakumar       M. Pushparayan          F. Jayakumar               M. P. Jesuraj
Coordinator
R. S. Muhilan              Peter Milton                V. Rajalingam             Ms. S. Lidwin
Please allow us to bring the following dangerous developments, difficulties and discrepancies in the Koodankulam nuclear power project (KKNPP) to your kind consideration and request your immediate intervention to expose the irregularities and improprieties in the nuclear energy sector in India and save the people from massive disasters:
[1] Shoddy and Substandard Equipment from ZiO-Podolsk, Informtech Etc.
First and the most important of all, the KKNPP has been constructed with substandard equipment and parts supplied by ZiO-Podolsk, an engineering subsidiary of the Russian company Rosatom. The company’s official website has declared unequivocally: “Over the past few years ZiO produced and implemented a set of equipment for foreign nuclear power plants with VVER-1000: Tianwan (China), Busher (Iran), Kudankulam (India)” (http://aozio.ru/production/ob-atom/). ZiO-Podolsk began shipping shoddy equipment in 2007 or perhaps even earlier. In February 2012, the procurement director, Mr. Sergei Shutov, was arrested for buying low quality and cheap raw material, passing it off as more expensive grade and pocketing the difference. The Federal Security Service, or FSB, the successor organization to the KGB, has been investigating the case that has serious implications for the safety of nuclear power plants built by Russia.
During July 15-18, 2012, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) delegation that included Special Secretary Mr. A. P. Joshi, Deputy Secretary Mr. Ninian Kumar and the Manager of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Mr. Dzhogesh Pady visited ZiO-Podolsk and discussed a range of issues related to the preparation for the launch of KKNPP-1, the progress of the KKNPP-2 etc. and signed a number of contracts relating to the implementation of the current phase of the KKNPP. (AtomEnergoMash, Posted 19.07.2012).
However, when we asked the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) under RTI on January 28, 2013 for “a list of those equipment and parts that have been supplied by Zio-Podolsk to the KKNPP units,” the NPCIL replied tersely on February 20, 2013 (No. NPCIL/VSB/CPIO/2460/HQ/2013/371): “No Information regarding any investigation against Zio-Podolsk is available to NPCIL.” It is a gross untruth and deception because the top DAE officials had just visited the ZiO-Podolsk and they must have followed up the developments. The NPCIL is hiding serious and important information from the Indian public and misleading the entire nation possibly to protect some Russian and Indian middlemen and profiteers.
When we asked the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) on January 28, 2013 for “a list of those equipment and parts that have been supplied by Zio-Podolsk to the KKNPP units” they responded on February 12, 2013 (No. AERB/RSD/RTI/Appl. No. 329/2013/2421) very evasively: “Selection of a company for supplying any equipment to NPCIL, is not under the purview of AERB. However, with respect to Quality Assurance (QA) during design, construction, commissioning and operation, a set of well established AERB documents on QA Codes and Guides are published and they were followed during the safety review of KKNPP.”
Later the NPCIL confirmed officially (in its letter No. NPCIL/VSB/CPIO/2574/KKNPP/2013/737 dated April 29, 2013) that the controversial and corruption-ridden M/S ZiO Podolsk has supplied the following equipment and parts to the KKNPP: “Steam Generators, Cation and anion filters, Mechanical Filter, Moisture Separator and Reheater, Boric solution storage tanks, Regenerative blow down heat exchanger, Pipelines and fittings of different systems, Insulation materials, PHRS Heat exchanger.” In other words, the Koodankulam project in its entirety is unsafe and dangerous.
Another Russian court has convicted one Mr. Alexander Murach, Director of another notorious Russian company, Informtech, for fraud and sentenced him to three years in prison for selling counterfeit measuring equipment for nuclear and hydro power plants’ turbines. The NPCIL has just confirmed in its letter dated May 24, 2013 (No. NPCIL/VSB/CPIO/2670/HQ/2013/884) that they have received “Communication equipment” from Informtech.
Some ten Czech and Slovak companies have also supplied valves, pumps and cables to the Koodankulam project. Leoš Tomíček, Executive Vice-president of Rusatom Overseas says: “We already work with Czechs today. For example, for two blocks of the Indian Koodankulam nuclear power plant, nine Czech companies supplied us with valves, pumps, cables and other equipment worth 58 million dollars.” There have been many cable-related accidents and deaths at the KKNPP. T. S. Subramanian says in a 2009 article: “Cabling is under way in the state-of-the-art control room for Unit-1, which is akin to an aircraft’s cockpit. M.I. Joy, Additional Chief Engineer (Site Planning), KKNPP, said, “Once the cabling is completed, the entire control of the plant, including the reactor and turbine, will be done from the control room.” The plant’s control room is humidity-controlled. “The atmosphere is so pure here that the cables will not be spoiled,” said Joy.
(http://www.frontline.in/navigation/?type=static&page=flonnet&rdurl=fl2616/stories/20090814261612). It is this “so pure” atmosphere that has killed six workers in the past three months in electrocution accidents. The quality of the Czech cables and the checkered electrical work, and the role of Mr. M. I. Joy in all these are important questions must be looked into.
Since shoddy and substandard equipment and parts in a massive nuclear power park pose enormous dangers of epic proportion to millions and millions of innocent people in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and elsewhere, this issue has to be thoroughly and comprehensively probed in collaboration with the officials of Rosatom, Atomstroyexport, Federal Security Service (FSB) and most importantly, with independent nuclear experts in India.
[2] The Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV) Lies!
Izhorskiye Zavody, which is part of United Machinery Plants (OMZ) holding, signed a contract with India for the construction of two nuclear reactor bodies for Kudankulam’s station in 2002. They shipped a new nuclear reactor body that would be the first power unit of India’s Kudankulam nuclear power plant to the city’s sea port. Yevgeny Sergeyev, general director of Izhorskiye Zavody, said at a ceremony sending off the reactor: “We were so sure of our partners that we started to produce the first reactor bodies four months before the official contract was signed.” Sergeyev said the reactor was completed six months before deadline (The St Petersburg Times, 19 November 2004,http://sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=2135).
The Koodankulam reactor pressure vessel (RPV) arrived at the Tuticorin Port in January 2004. The first unit of the power plant was expected to be synchronized in December 2007, and the second unit by December 2008. Mr. S. K. Aggarwal, the then project director said: “The project officials have targeted to complete the works for synchronisation of both the units in March and September 2007 respectively.”
The Russian Federal Service for Ecological, Technological and Nuclear Supervision, Rostekhnadzor, claimed in 2009: “The main causes of violations in the NPP construction works are insufficient qualifications, and the personnel’s meagre (sic) knowledge of federal norms and rules, design documentation, and of the technological processes of equipment manufacturing. In particular, the top management of Izhorskiye Zavody have been advised of the low quality of the enterprise’s products and have been warned that sanctions might be enforced, up to suspending the enterprise’s equipment production licence”
(http://www.gosnadzor.ru/osnovnaya_deyatelnost_slujby/otcheti-o-deyatelnosti-sluzhbi-godovie/). Unlike the original design of the Koodankulam RPVs, the erected ones have beltline welds, questionable quality and corruption charges.
[3] Fiddling with the Reactor Design and Doing an Unauthorized Refit
When the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)’s dialogue with the Central Government’s Expert Group got aborted due to the violent attack on us by some anti-social elements, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister appointed a team of four members to study the KKNPP issue. When that group included Dr. M. R. Srinivasan, the former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), we objected to his inclusion in the team. However, he continued to be part of the team and we did have a dialogue with the team on February 19, 2012 in Tirunelveli.
During our interaction that was held in the presence of the Tirunelveli District Collector and other officials, Dr. Srinivasan never mentioned once that the DAE had made changes in the core of the reactor. It is also not revealed to the public until now if he and the team included this unauthorized fiddling in the report they submitted to the CM. However, Dr. Srinivasan has publicly acknowledged now: “We sought an additional safety mechanism well before the Fukushima disaster. The safety mechanism consists of valves. The original reactor design had to be altered and I feel this is the basic cause for delay.” According to him, the valves were designed partially in India and Russia and compatibility with the reactor led to some hiccups (http://newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/article1517314.ece).
After fiddling with the original design of the KKNPP reactors, the Indian authorities went back and did an unauthorized “refit” without revealing the details to anyone. All these things point out the inherent deficiencies of the Russian reactors, their vulnerability due to all the fiddling, and their untrustworthiness after the refit. Since this matter has to do with the lives and sustenance of millions and millions of people, all the relevant details must be made public.
[4] Blaming the Protests for Atomic Inefficiency and Inept Engineering
The Russian and the Indian nuclear authorities are hiding their corruption, wastefulness and inefficiency by conveniently blaming the struggling people for all the delay and cost overrun. The Indian Express newspaper asserts that the “delay is on the supply side from Russia as a whole lot of components have been replaced, some of which had to be shipped in.” The KKNPP sources have also confessed that the “containment vessel of the nuclear core too has been changed since the old one had sprung a leak, which was detected three months ago during testing” (http://newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/article1517314.ece).
The KKNPP authorities claim that “most components meant for Unit-II that were already in the warehouse were used as replacements for Unit-I.” It is not clear why they were kept in the warehouse since Unit 2 was also being concurrently constructed along with Unit 1. The nuclear authorities are hiding the plain truth that Unit 1 is a complete failure and hence they are trying to revive it with the parts of Unit 2. Nobody knows the total loss that India has suffered because of all these shifting and shuffling.
The Srinivasan-confessed “refit” of KKNPP-1 is being blamed on its “idling for months together because of a major agitation plus litigation in the Supreme Court.” This is an outrageous falsehood! Even when our agitation was going on between September 2011 and March 2012, regular and full-swing maintenance work was going on at the Koodankulam plant on a daily basis. When the Tamil Nadu government changed its stand on our agitation on March 19, 2012 and pushed us to the village of Idinthakarai, the Site Director of KKNPP Reactors I and II, Mr. R.S. Sundar, said the “water chemistry” of the water being used in the coolant was encouraging as proper maintenance had been carried out with skeletal staff during the protests (P. Sudhakar, “Croatian experts to inspect the condition of equipment,” The Hindu, March 23, 2012).
Mr. S. T. Arasu, Senior Maintenance Engineer at KKNPP said: “We have operated all the pumps to measure the vibration level, which is less than the desirable baseline data and it shows the quality of our skilled workforce. Though this section could not be given complete attention during the past five-and-a-half months, the equipment are functioning in an amazing fashion” (P. Sudhakar, “Employees at Kudankulam project site a charged lot,” The Hindu, March 24, 2012).
Mr. Yevgeniy N. Dudkin, the head of the Russian Specialists Group, said that none of the Russian specialists of Atomstroyexport had left the project site during the protests. He pointed out that some additional works needed to be done and said, “It is not a huge work.” (P. Sudhakar and S. Sundar, “Primary coolant pumps to undergo another trial,” The Hindu, March 29, 2012.)
Similarly, when the Supreme Court began its hearing on a batch of petitions in September 2012, they refused to give a ‘stay’ to halt the ongoing work at KKNPP and allowed the authorities to continue with their work. Accordingly, the AERB allowed fuel loading in September 2012 dismissing the feelings and sentiments of millions of struggling people in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Now the Supreme Court has given a green signal to run the project subject to 15 stringent recommendations.
But the KKNPP, NPCIL, AERB, and the DAE officials are conveniently blaming their inordinate delay in commissioning the KKNPP-1 on the “corrosion and leakage since sea water was used as the coolant.” If the pipes leak and corrode within such a short time, the government should order a probe into the quality of these pipes, the quality of the various equipment and spares that were sent by the Russians. If these pipes and parts cannot withstand one year of sea water circulation, how are they going to function safely for 40-60 years?
[5] Mounting Costs and Massive Corruption
Every single deal that India has signed with Russia has proved to be a disaster and big loss for India. The INS Vikramaditya/Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier has been delayed by five years with the final cost hovering in the $2.9 billion range. The time overrun and cost escalation also plagues another mega Indo-Russian defense deal of upgrading MiG-29 fighter planes. The KKNPP is yet another disaster.
The approved cost of the KKNPP 1 & 2 project is Rs. 13,171 crores. But the DAE and the NPCIL claim that they have spent an additional amount of Rs. 4,000 crores on the non-performing project. Nobody knows the exact end cost of the KKNPP or the breakdown of the final amount. The former AERB Chief, Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan, has claimed that the decision to import 40,000 MW capacity Light Water Reactors (LWRs) in early 2006 was taken without any techno-economic evaluation by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) or any other agency. According to Dr. Gopalakrishnan, “The decisions, price negotiations and supply terms are being negotiated by the UPA- 2 government in haste, with the intention of fulfilling the PM’s commitments to these foreign governments and their companies before he demits office. .The decision was merely a quid-pro-quo to give business to the reactor manufacturers in those countries which helped India get a Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) waiver” (DNA, February 16, 2013).
The Russian nuclear company, Atomstroyexport, has just released its financial statement for the year 2011. The company claims that losses in 2011 were twice bigger than the losses of 2010, and that the company is on the brink of bankruptcy. This has seriously affected the Russian nuclear projects at Koodankulam in India and Busher in Iran <http://www.interfax.ru/business/txt.asp?id=283928>. We wonder if the Indian government is secretly helping the Russian company with its losses and bankruptcy.
The NPCIL authorities have claimed that the Rs.4,000 crores cost overrun at Koodankulam is due to the “increase in interest during construction (IDC), escalation on works, contractor’s overheads and establishment charges” (RTI reply dated February 20, 2013). It is pertinent to note that the Russian government is not making such financial compensation to India for all the delay and cost overrun in all of the above projects.
Instead of explaining these mounting costs and massive irregularities, the Russian Ambassador to India Mr. Alexander Kadakin simply misleads Indians by unnecessary and unacceptable comments on our internal affairs. We wonder if the Indian nuclear establishment is secretly helping the Russian company with its losses and bankruptcy.  We wonder if the Koodankulam financial irregularities involve both Indian and Russian nuclearocrats, diplomats and politicians.
[6] Commissioning the KKNPP Every 15 Days
Instead of reporting to the citizens of India inside India about the largest and imported nuclear power park at Koodankulam, the Prime Minister of India goes to South Africa and reassures the President of Russia of its commissioning process (no pun intended). When the Prime Minister had announced in Moscow that the KKNPP would be commissioned “in a couple of weeks” on December 15, 2011, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister expressed her dissent and displeasure immediately.
The calendar for commissioning of KKNPP-1 has been shifted some 20 times in the past one year by politicians, bureaucrats and the nuclear authorities. In fact, this “commission dating” process has been going on from 2005 onwards and the Union Minister of State, Mr. V. Narayanasamy has set a record of sorts for himself in this calculated and irresponsible misinformation campaign. All these people have been lyingto the nation repeatedly and recklessly and hence we cannot trust these authorities with our and our families’ safety and well-being. If there is any truth and decorum in public life in India, all these officials should resign from their respective posts.
[7] No Information, No Liability, No Pollution Safeguard
The Government of India and the DAE have not shared any basic information with us about the KKNPP. Even after the Central Information Commission (CIC) has instructed them, they have not shared the Site Evaluation Report (SER) and the Safety Analysis Report (SAR) with us. They have not heard our opinions or allayed our fears and concerns about the lack of fresh water resources, the changes in the design of the Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV), the management of liquid and solid waste and so on.
Neither have the Indian nuclear authorities got any liability from the Russian government and/or companies for KKNPP 1 and 2. The Government of India is not even willing to share the secretive Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) that they signed with the Russian government in 2008. Even as we are dealing with KKNPP 1 and 2, the Government of India is announcing the agreement on KKNPP 3 and 4 with utter disregard for the sentiments of the local people and the people of Tamil Nadu as a whole.
The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) has also given consent to discharge enormous amounts of sewage, trade effluent, desalination plant effluent, demineralization effluent, steam generator effluent, suspended solids, dissolved solids, and many other waste products into the sea. The TNPCB fixed the temperature of the effluents at the discharge point as 45 degrees and later summarily reduced it to 36 or 37 degrees. They have also allowed the KKNPP to release significant amounts of Sulphur Dioxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, particulate matters and many other harmful radioactive pollutants into the air. Nobody seems to bother about the impact of all these on the sea, sea food, crops, dairy, food security, nutrition, health and wellbeing of us, our children and grandchildren.
Furthermore, it is revealed now that the NPCIL does not hold valid and legitimate clearances for all the various buildings and installations in the KKNPP from the Tamil Nadu Coastal Zone Management Authority under the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification of 2011.
[8] The Tamils Get Elegy and the Others Get Energy!
Even though the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has written to the Prime Minister on March 31, April 25 and August 19, 2012, demanding all the power from the KKNPP to Tamil Nadu, the Prime Minister or his PMO never even acknowledged those letters. Earlier the CM had demanded more power from the Central Pool and financial help for various power generation schemes, but the UPA government always ignored her genuine requests and earnest efforts.
If this is the way the UPA government treats the Chief Minister of an important State and popular leader of millions of Tamil people, one can possibly imagine the feelings and attitude they may have towards the poorest of the poor who have been struggling on our own for almost two years now. The Congress Party and the UPA government seem to have scant regards for the Tamil fishermen, Tamil women, and the Tamil people as a whole.
It is also strange that our neighboring states would not share the Nature-given river waters with us but we, the Tamil people, have to suffer nuclear waste, thermal pollution, saline refuse, and most importantly, nuclear radiation and give them all risk-free electricity. It is quite preposterous that the Congress government in Kerala stakes a claim for 500 MW from the KKNPP; in fact, the Congress governments in Delhi and Thiruvananthapuram can together decide to set up a few nuclear power plants somewhere in Kerala. The intelligent and Nature-loving people of Kerala would never allow that and the political parties there, whether Congress or Communists or BJP or others, would never let that happen also.
Given the above situation, may we request you to demand an inquiry into the construction, equipment, overall quality, performance and the viability of the entire Koodankulam nuclear power project; removal of the fuel rods from the core of the Unit 1 reactor; conversion of the KKNPP into a pro-people and Nature-friendly Model New Energy Park; bringing about renewable energy projects all over our country; rectifying the transmission and distribution issues, and protecting the interests and well-being of the Tamil people and our progeny please.
If we let this shoddy, substandard, unsafe, and corruption-ridden nuclear power project to go critical and fail in our collective historic duty to protect our people, preserve our Natural resources and prop up the interests of newborn and unborn generations of India, we all will be held responsible and answerable for all the upcoming calamities and uncalculable harms to our people.