Bhopal survivors Support Koodankulam struggle


Observing Shahid Bhagat Singh Divas on 23 March, more than 250 survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster sat on a day-long fast in support of the Koodankulam struggle against the nuclear power plant. Condemning Tamilnadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa‘s act of charging Koodankulam protestors with “Sedition,” Bhopal survivors said that Bhagat Singh’s fate would have been no different in independent India than at the hands of the white colonial masters.

In December 2011, after waiting for 26 years, Bhopal victims staged a rail roko to press the Central and State Governments to submit accurate figures of dead and injured in a revised compensation claims case filed in the Supreme Court. Cases, including on serious charges of attempt to murder were registered against 2000 people, including elderly women and children. From Chattisgarh to Madhya Pradesh to Delhi to Tamilnadu, people in the Government are the same. “They see poor as objects of charity, pity, ridicule or as seditious upstarts that need to be taught a lesson for their audacity to speak out,” the survivors said.

While the Governments had filed a review petition reopening the 1989 settlement on grounds that casualty and injury figures were under-estimated in 1989, their current submissions too fall far short of the real figures. Survivors have said that Dow Chemical should pay at least $8 billion to address the compensation needs of all survivors and those bereaved. The Central Government is asking only for $1.2 billion.

“We’re reminders to the world that the State and Central Governments in India will only protect the rich. The residents of Koodankulam should be ready to accept that the Government will do nothing but hide any pollution from the plant, and will do nothing to rehabilitate or compensate those affected by the plant,” a group of five Bhopal organisations said.

The Nuclear Liability Act is the unfortunate result of the Bhopal struggle. Pained by the plight of Union Carbide and Dow Chemical that continued to remain in the eye of legal controversy despite the passage of more than two decades, Dr. Manmohan Singh tabled the Nuclear Liability Act to shield the perpetrators of any future nuclear Bhopals from liability.

The survivors have said that they will send a delegation of Bhopalis to Chennai in the coming month. The organisers of the Bhopal hunger strike included Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha, Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Manch, Bhopal Group for Information and Action and Childre Against Dow Carbide.

For more information, contact in Chennai: Nityanand Jayaraman, International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal:
In Bhopal: Rachna Dhingra.

Statement in Response to the ‘ Hindu ‘ News Item

Statement issued by human rights activists today about the arrests of Satish kumar and Vanni arasu

We, the undersigned would like to call attention to a news item that appeared in The Hindu, dated March 24, 2012. Titled, Youth Leader held on Sedition Charges, the report goes on to speak of Satish alias Satish Kumar (30), State Convenor of Tamilaga Ilaignar Ezuchi Pasarai being held on sedition charges. 

We are astonished and shocked at this piece of news. Satish Kumar was indeed arrested on March 23, 2012, but according to information received by his family, he has been charged with Sections 143, 188 and 34 of the IPC, none of which has anything to do with ‘sedition’. Section 143 (Unlawful Assembly), Section 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention), Section 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant).

Satish Kumar was one amongst many hundreds who participated in a rally that was held in Tirunelveli on March 23. Many of the rallyists including MDMK leader Vaiko and Periyar DK leader Kolathur Mani, were arrested. While the others were released, Satish was not. Contrary to all established procedure he was arrested, kept in an unknown place for several hours and produced before a magistrate around midnight. He was subsequently remanded and lodged in Palayamkottai jail.

The news report however does not state any of this, and instead notes that he was apprehended in the district when he arrived there on Friday. The news report further notes that Satish Kumar is believed to be associated with the agitation against the Kudangulam Nuclear Power Plant. The report also quotes Tirunelveli Deputy Inspector General of Police V Varadaraju as saying that the ‘accused’ was involved in a case pertaining to the training of suspected Maoist cadres in 2002. 

We are shocked that the actual details of the arrest are sought to be overwritten by statements that suggest Satish Kumar was engaged in seditious activity. We are particularly concerned that this is not the only instance where those who have protested against the Kudangulam plant are being subject to arbitrary arrests. Mukilan another anti-Kudankulam protester was arrested some days ago and Vanniarasu who was present at the March 23 rally was arrested subsequent to Satish Kumar’s arrest. 

Given the nature of these arrests, we are forced to conclude that the police are engaged in weaving a conspiracy around the three arrested men with the intention of implicating them in false sedition charges. We also strongly condemn these and other attempts to malign and criminalise those who are engaged in a peaceful and legitimate struggle against the Kudangulam Nuclear Plant.

We demand that all three men be immediately released


Koodankulam struggle: Western nations are learning from their mistakes, India is not

By Nityanand Jayaraman & Sundar Rajan,   Chennai

Since August 2011, Tamil Nadu has witnessed renewed protests against the commissioning of the first of two 1,000 MW power plants as part of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP).

While protests have been ongoing against the project since the proposal was mooted in 1988, the impending commissioning of the reactors in light of the devastating and uncontrollable nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, has rightly triggered a wave of concern among thinking people in India.

The Koodankulam Nuclear Plant has been hit by a tsunami of protests

The protest against nuclear power plants is not isolated to Koodankulam. Even as we speak, fisherfolk and farmers in Jaitapur, Maharashtra, and farmers and residents of Gorakhpur, Haryana, are saying a loud “No” to nuclear power plants in their area.

Haripur, West Bengal, which was to be a site for Russian reactors, will no longer be on the nuclear map, as the state government bowed to local sentiment and declared West Bengal a nuclear-free state.

Wise people do learn from others’ mistakes. Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium and Japan have all announced that they will move away from the nuclear option, and explore clean and sustainable forms of electricity generation.

But India’s chest-thumping “nucleocracy” wants to play the death game, with peasants and fisherfolk as pawns in the gamble.

The staunch and united protests by farmers, traders and fisherfolk in Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari and Thoothukudi have scared the nuclear establishment.

Faced with the real prospect of having to abandon the project, the Congress-led UPA government is doing what it does best — divide and rule; communalise the issue and allege that foreign hands are at play.

At different times, the nuclear establishment and Dr Manmohan Singh have said different things — that Tamil Nadu’s industrialisation will falter without the project; that India cannot do without nuclear energy; that our nuclear plants are 100% safe; that abandoning the project at this stage could prove dangerous.

When it comes to explaining the consequences of a major disaster, Indian scientists, including Dr Kalam, have behaved more like astrologers than rationalists. How can anyone predict that no major earthquake will hit this area or that this human-made technology cannot fail?

The fears of Fukushima and the fears about continued electricity shortages have raised a number of conflicting emotions and doubts in people’s minds. This article aims to dispel some of the misconceptions about the safety of nuclear energy, and answer some frequently arising questions.

1. India is a developing country. We need electricity to develop. If we rule out the nuclear option, won’t our development be hampered?

Nuclear power is not the only option for generating electricity. There are a number of conventional and non-conventional sources of energy that can be explored for generating electricity.

It is a fact that in more than 60 years of post-independence industrialisation and modernisation, the contribution of nuclear energy to the total electricity generation is less than 3%.

Renewable energy sources already contribute more than 10% of India’s electricity and large hydro projects deliver about 22%. Large dams, though, have exacted a devastating toll on the environment and lives of adivasi communities.

For India to emerge as a true leader, we have to be careful not to destroy our natural capital — our waters, lands, air and people. By saying “No” to dangerous, risky and expensive technologies like nuclear, we create opportunities to develop cleaner, saner and less dangerous forms of electricity generation.

Increasing the available electricity can also be achieved by conservation and demand-side management strategies. For every 100 MW of electricity generated in India, more than 40 MW is lost because of inefficient transmission and distribution (T&D).

Industrialised countries like Sweden have a T&D loss of less than 7%. In other words, of the total 180,000 megawatts of electricity generated in India, 72,000 megawatts (40%) is lost, wasted. That is equivalent to shutting off all power plants in the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

If efficiency were to be increased to, say 90%, the savings would be the equivalent of setting up a 60,000 MW power plant — or about 60 plants the size of the Koodankulam plant that is currently at the heart of a controversy — with a fraction of the investment, and none of the risks.

Increasing energy efficiency of electrical appliances is another way to save electricity. In Tamil Nadu alone, if incandescent lamps are converted to LED bulbs we could save about 2,000 MW.

Add to all this, the benefits of cutting on wasteful consumption. Shopping malls and IT companies burn electricity throughout the day. Night or day, lights and ACs are running even as households and small commercial establishments have to suffer power outages.

There must be a rationalisation of the use of electricity. The fact that villages surrounding Kalpakkam, where a nuclear plant is situated, are reeling under major power shortages is proof of the “inequitable distribution” of electricity.

2. Is renewable energy technologically viable? Will it be able to meet our energy needs?

Meeting India’s energy needs requires more than just renewable source, especially since electricity is merely one form of energy. In India, electricity meets only 12% of total energy needs.

People make do without electric lighting or cooling. But even the most indigent family needs fuel for cooking. Biomass (firewood or cowdung patties) is by far the most important source of energy for the nation.

Why is it that villages that are reeling under the effects of pollution from thermal plants in Singrauli, UP — once hailed as the energy capital of India — have neither electricity nor clean water? While challenging coal and nuclear, we also need to question a development model that incessantly calls for sacrifices by adivasis, dalits, farmers and fisherfolk so that others may prosper.

On the topic of renewable forms of energy for electricity generation, though, the fact remains that we have barely scratched the surface in terms of harnessing the potential.

According to the Government of India, India’s potential in renewables is as follows: wind energy — 48,500 MW (65,000 MW, according to the Indian Wind Energy Association;; small hydro power — 15,000 MW; biomass energy — 21,000 MW; and at least 400,000 MW from solar energy.

The monumental amounts of money being sunk into nuclear technology can be gainfully diverted to increase research in renewables, and electrical energy efficiency.
Already, advances in solar and wind technologies are reducing per MW costs. The capacity of existing windmills can be increased six to eight-fold by replacing older, lower-capacity turbines with newer, higher-capacity turbines, or by installing new and more efficient turbines amidst existing windmills.

In the last 15 years, India has added about 17,000 MW of power using renewable sources; China has added the same amount in just one year. So, where is the need to put all our eggs in the “nuclear basket”?

Secondly, many of the applications of electricity can be met by smart design. Tinted glass buildings in a city like Chennai require the burning of electricity for lighting throughout the day, even when the sun is shining brightly outside. Our city’s malls and IT companies in the Knowledge Corridor are examples of such “stupid” design.

In Germany’s Black Forest region, an ordinary woman named Ursula Sladek mobilised people to pay for the takeover of the electricity company after the Chernobyl disaster.

Today, the people-owned company supplies electricity generated from small, decentralised renewable sources to more than 100,000 customers. After the Fukushima disaster, an average of 400 new customers are subscribing to the company, requesting clean electricity. It is clear that electricity from renewable energy is not just environmentally sustainable but also commercially viable.

3. Can we, as Dr Abdul Kalam says, let one disaster (in Fukushima) derail our dreams of becoming an economically developed nation?

Besides the better-known disasters at Kyshtym, in the erstwhile USSR (1957), Three Mile Island (1979), and Chernobyl (1986), at least 76 nuclear accidents totalling $19.1 billion in damages have occurred between 1947 and 2008.

Most of these accidents — 56 to be precise — happened after the Chernobyl disaster. This translates to one serious nuclear incident every year, causing $332 million in damages annually.

Between 2005 and 2055, at least four serious nuclear accidents are likely to occur, according to calculations by an interdisciplinary study titled ‘The Future of Nuclear Power’ conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2003. The 2011 Fukushima disaster is the first of MIT’s prophetic estimates.

And it is not just disasters that we are concerned about. Even nuclear reactors that “operate perfectly” are associated with higher risks of cancer and unexplained deaths.

In the US, where 104 reactors are operating at 65 sites, elevated rates of leukaemia and brain cancers are reported from communities near nuclear power plants.
Studies conducted by Dr V. Pugazhenthi, a physician and researcher, who provides medical services in the nuclear town of Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu, have revealed elevated incidences of congenital deformities like polydactyly (webbed fingers), thyroid problems and various kinds of cancers among people living around the nuclear facility.

4. Dr Abdul Kalam says coal-fired power plants are dirty because they cause pollution and emit tonnes and tonnes of climate-changing carbon. He points to the devastating impacts of coal mining on the environment and the lives of communities in the vicinity.

Dr Kalam is right about coal-fired power plants. Coal plants are dirty and polluting. Coal mines are hells on earth. But we should not be forced to choose between two evils — nuclear or coal. Would you like to be raped or killed? My answer is “Neither”.

Dr Kalam does not talk of the effects of uranium mining on the environment and health of communities. In Jadugoda, Jharkhand, where India’s uranium is mined by the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd, the effects of radiation among the local adivasi population are horrendous.

Indian Doctors for Peace and Development, a national chapter of the Nobel-winning International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War, recently published a health study on Jadugoda. The study found that:

• Primary sterility is more common in people residing near uranium mining operations.

• More children with congenital deformities are being born to mothers living near uranium mining operations.

• Congenital defects as a cause of death of children are higher among mothers living near uranium mines.

• Cancer as a cause of death is more common in villages surrounding uranium operations.

• Life expectancy of people living near uranium mining operations is lower than Jharkhand’s state average and lower than in villages far removed from the mines.

• All these indicators of poor health and increased vulnerability are despite the fact that the affected villages have a better economic and literacy status than reference villages.

The path to a sustainable and socially just future lies in moving away from environmentally destructive technologies such as coal and nuclear. Nuclear energy will not help us combat climate change. Per unit of power, nuclear energy emits four to five times more carbon dioxide (CO2) than renewable energy. If the entire nuclear fuel cycle is considered, the emissions are even higher.

5. Why are people protesting only now? Couldn’t they have told the government that they don’t want the project when it was first proposed?

Read full article here

Global Health and Feminism

One of the symbols of German Women's movement ...

One of the symbols of German Women's movement (from the 1970s) Deutsch: Ein Logo der deutschen Frauenbewegung (aus den 70er Jahren) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Feminism might be a taboo word within academic medicine, but it clearly has made an important contribution to global health

By Richard Smith

The Lancet, the leading journal for global health, has mentioned feminism only twice in its 189 years. The BMJBritish Medical Journal– hasn’t mentioned it at all. Does it indicate that feminism has had no impact on global health? All three speakers at a meeting at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in January this year, strongly disagreed.

Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet and a man, told us that the Lancet had mentioned feminism only twice, and Tony Delamothe, deputy editor of the BMJ and another man, told me that the BMJ had no entries. I, a third man, didn’t check, but Jane Smith, another deputy editor of the BMJ and a woman, did. She found that theBMJ has had 102 mentions of “feminism” and 302 mentions of “feminist” and the Lancethas 23 mentions mentions of “feminism” but none of “feminist.” Thank God for women.

One reason that the journals might not have mentioned it is because “feminism” is a taboo word within academic medicine, said Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet. Lori Heise, one of the speakers and a senior lecturer at the London School, said how she had to think carefully before “coming out” as a feminist.

Feminism can mean many things, said Andrea Cornwall from Sussex University, but all definitions coalesce around inequalities and inequities. It is a political practice concerned with reducing those inequalities and inequities—and such a programme is central to global health.

Read more here

Leaked Document Shows NYPD Infiltrated, Spied On Leftist Groups

 By Kristen Gwynne | Sourced from AlterNet

The Associated Press has obtained another document detailing the New York Police Department‘s (NYPD) spying, this time on liberal political groups. Documents and interviews obtained by the AP show that undercover NYPD officers attended meetings run by liberal organizations, and kept intelligence files on activists planning demonstrations across the country.

The AP reports that the NYPD’s infiltration tactics are nothing new:

  The infiltration echoes the tactics the NYPD used in the run-up to New York’s 2004 Republican National Convention, when police monitored church groups, anti-war organizations and environmental advocates nationwide. That effort was revealed by The New York Times in 2007 and in an ongoing federal civil rights lawsuit over how the NYPD treated convention protesters.

Police said the pre-convention spying was necessary to prepare for the huge, raucous crowds that were headed to the city. But documents obtained by The Associated Press show that the police department’s intelligence unit continued to keep close watch on political groups in 2008, long after the convention had passed.

In April 2008, an undercover NYPD officer traveled to New Orleans to attend the People’s Summit, a gathering of liberal groups organized around their shared opposition to U.S. economic policy and the effect of trade agreements between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

When the undercover effort was summarized for supervisors, it identified groups opposed to U.S. immigration policy, labor laws and racial profiling. Two activists — Jordan Flaherty, a journalist, and Marisa Franco, a labor organizer for housekeepers and nannies — were mentioned by name in one of the police intelligence reports obtained by the AP.

“One workshop was led by Jordan Flaherty, former member of theInternational Solidarity Movement Chapter in New York City,” officers wrote in an April 25, 2008, memo to David Cohen, the NYPD’s top intelligence officer. “Mr. Flaherty is an editor and journalist of the Left Turn Magazine and was one of the main organizers of the conference.Mr. Flaherty held a discussion calling for the increase of the divestment campaign of Israel and mentioned two events related to Palestine.”

The document provides the latest example of how, in the name of fighting terrorism, law enforcement agencies around the country have scrutinized groups that legally oppose government policies. The FBI, for instance, has collected information on anti-war demonstrators. The Maryland state police infiltrated meetings of anti-death penalty groups. Missouri counterterrorism analysts suggested that support for Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, might indicate support for violent militias — an assertion for which state officials later apologized. And Texas officials urged authorities to monitor lobbying efforts by pro Muslim-groups.

  The AP noted that police often monitored protests to plan for the possibility of violence or riots, adding that:

By contrast, at the height of the Occupy Wall Street protests and in related protests in other cities, officials at the U.S. Homeland Security Department repeatedly urged authorities not to produce intelligence reports based simply on protest activities.

“Occupy Wall Street-type protesters mostly are engaged in constitutionally protected activity,” department officials wrote in documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the website Gawker. “We maintain our longstanding position that DHS should not report on activities when the basis for reporting is political speech.”

  But Occupy Wall Street organizers say the NYPD is following them, and infiltrating, them as well. The New York Times recently reported that some occupiers believe they are being spied on by NYPD officers, and that the NYPD’s surveillance is OWS-related.

The surveillance, also documented in Muslim neighborhoods, is being carried by what the AP categorizes as an un-checked, secret unit:

  The Intelligence Division, a squad that operates with nearly no outside oversight and is so secretive that police said even its organizational chart is too sensitive to publish. The division has been the subject of a series of Associated Press articles that illustrated how the NYPD monitored Muslim neighborhoods, catalogued people who prayed at mosques and eavesdropped on sermons.

Read full document here

An Aarti From Time, A Brookings Chalisa- a Response to Times Cover on Narendra Modi

Are they drowned in Modi’s magnetism? Is this worship exigency?

Narendra Modi is no doubt a successful politician. There is almost a special kind of luck that accompanies him in the public domain, luck that can be explained in two decisive electoral victories and the attraction that follows such success. He is constantly in the news and a set of those who fear and adulate the man suggest that the more the institutions of justice berate him, the more his TRP soars. News constantly props up the picture of a decisive chief minister. Last week, Time had him on the cover and Brookings Institution had a favourable report on him. There is a curious timing behind these reports. They hint that he is prime ministerial material and that a realistic sense of politics demands that one engage with the emerging Indian future.

One can match statistics with statistics to show that Modi’s achievement is exaggerated, that other states have done well or that GNP and GDP could take contrary turns in Gujarat. One can say, for instance, that in the five years between 2004-05 and 2009-10, Gujarat’s per capita income nearly doubled from Rs 32,021 to Rs 63,961. In the same period, neighbouring Maharashtra, the perceived laggard, saw its per capita income grow from Rs 35,915 to Rs 74,027. Several states besides Gujarat have shown double digit growth in their GDP in recent years, and Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have bigger economies. Gujarat now runs a revenue deficit—it spends more than it earns—and its surplus has disappeared. Several other states have improved their fiscal positions meanwhile. Reforms? Five states passed the Fiscal Responsibility Bill before Gujarat did in 2005, and 20 states preceded Gujarat in implementing VAT. Surplus power? Facts on the ground and increasing protests show this to be an exaggerated claim. Human development indicators? Gujarat lags behind in access to primary and higher education, is high on the percentage of population prone to hunger and starvation, access to fiscal credit among the marginalised is low, girl child schooling shows poor figures. State and central government figures support all this.

We think there is also a different way of responding—by asking what is the criteria for decency and well-being? One has to go to the structural roots of the argument, move beyond a gasping portrait of Modi already basking in a future at Lutyens’ Delhi. Time magazine’s two-page picture of Modi on the lawns is suggestive of that. It is as if the props are there, the script is also there, the players are waiting, and all one needs is an auspicious time. The Brookings essay on Modi goes one better and writes him a certificate of good conduct that would help revoke the ban on his US visa. For Brookings, banning a future prime minister would be bad politics.

Why the unholy haste by the brookings institution and time to glamourise a glamour-hungry modi who could well face charges of mass murder?

Time cites a social scientist in a preemptive act, a jumping of the gun proclaiming a once and future king before the democratic and legal process is over. Indian courts are yet to assess whether the evidence collected by investigators and assessed by the amicus curiae appointed by the Supreme Court can make out a case to prosecute Modi, his cabinet colleagues, ideologues, administrators and policemen. The charges are criminal culpability to conspire to commit mass murder, subvert the justice process and destroy critical evidence and records. Why then, we may ask, the unholy haste by Time magazine and the Brookings Institution when courts are seized of the matter, Modi could (or may not) be charge-sheeted for criminal offences, when general elections are nearly two years away?

The analysis presented states that Muslims are voting for Modi as the Congress is too weak to do anything for them. The question one has to ask is: Is such a lazy social science enough? Which section of Muslims is voting for Modi? Two, is a vote for Modi a legitimation of Modi or is it a shotgun wedding of a community that is desperate to survive and see that its people still wrongfully locked in jail are released?

Anyone who watched the Sadbhavna festival would realise that the Muslims who came were paying court to a king. There was no rapprochement, no forgiveness. If anything, the ritual expressed its distance from Muslim life. The Sadbhavna yatra was more a power game like ancient times where people swore fealty to the lord. The state government, in the ultimate display of control, has refused activists access to accounts of the public monies spent on an autocratic chief minister’s personal agenda.

One has to read the metaphors of the Time report. Modi is presented as wearing the white of a penitent embarking on fasts. The writer, Jyoti Thottam, suggests it’s an act of purification,
humility and bridge-building. To read Modi’s Sadbhavna fasts in this way insults the idea of fast as a moral weapon and confuses it for a strategic tool. White, anyway, is the most hypocritical colour of politicians. The question one has to ask before one uses words like humility and purity is: What is the moral nature of the act?

But Modi should not be seen only a personality. He is a Rorschach inkblot set before society, provoking basic questions. Modi, in terms of civic indicators like investment, rule of law and governance is scoring high. These statistics have been rigorously contested in the public domain, by the Gujarati media, by the opposition, even the state government’s own figures. And what about the CAG reports on Sufalam Sujalam project, the Kutch melas and the public disinvestment scams? A dispassionate assessment exposes the Modi makeover for the brazen public relations job it was meant to be.

The question that needs asking is whether modi fits into a vision of a society where the minorities have a place, where dissent has a place.

And then how does one look at and talk about his institution-building? He has refused to allow the Lokayukta to function freely. He has silenced the bureaucracy with threats, incentives of plum posts, juicy extensions that let senior bureaucrats retain power and visibility. His privatisation of medicine has to be independently assessed in terms of ethics, care, cost and well-being. Ahmedabad, home to at least four universities and some of the finest institutes, still cannot produce a critical debate on him, as many institutes have quietly imposed a gag order on dissenting intellectuals. The Congress, though weak as an opposition, has highlighted a major issue. Land is being bequeathed to major corporations like Tatas and Adanis on easy terms, transforming public lands into private goods. At the Gujarati taxpayer’s expense.

The Brookings narrative adds a second halo to Modi. It converts him tacitly from a politician to a statesman receiving courses on climate change and even writing a book on it. Behind both essays is an even more tacit semiotics. It is what we must call the Americanisation of Modi. It creates a political palatability to his reception abroad. Leave aside the American’s love of the Asian dictator with a keen and ready investment plan, there is first the Horatio Alger syndrome, portraying him as a self-made man, as a protestant ascetic, a journey Time portrays in the from-smalltown-boy-to-CEO-of-Gujarat, succeeding without family connections or fancy education. He seems very different from the young Congress elite, with their pampered backgrounds. Unlike other Indians, he keeps his family at a distance. There is no family coterie hanging around him, unlike around Laloo Prasad Yadav or Karunanidhi or Yediyurappa. The Brookings report then steps in by showing Modi to be a keen student of American politics, wondering whether Indian states can have the sort of freedom states in the United States do. He is entrepreneurly, eco-friendly, and all in all, a global man awaiting his time, open to World Bank reforms and yet a home-grown nationalist. Modi is also presented not just as prime ministerial material but as the Indian answer to China, a note that will play deep into the American and Indian psyche, presenting them a streamlined politician for the future.

The question one is asking is not whether Modi is a future prime minister. The logic of Indian electoral politics will answer that. The question is: Where does Modi fit into a vision of decent society in which the minorities and those in the margins have a place, in which dissent has a place? Is Modi’s future a participative future and a pluralistic one? His technocratic credentials are not in doubt, but his vision of democracy needs to be examined. Oddly, Modi might fail by the norms set by his own hero, Swami Vivekananda. Modi has failed to provide a civilisational answer to the crisis of Gujarat. Investment and development, even with the distorted statistics bandied around, are poor substitutes for such a vision. In Americanising him, the reports reveal the modernist flaw deep within his programme.

(The authors are trustees of Citizens for Justice and Peace) in the Outlook,Magazine

Koodankulam: Protests all over India, activists being arrested in Tamil Nadu

Internationally recognized symbol. Deutsch: Ge...

Internationally recognized symbol. Deutsch: Gefahrensymbol für Radioaktivität. Image:Radioactive.svg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

March24- Update

With no signs of dampening of people’s morale in Idithakarai, the situation in Koodankulam is getting crucial. And the government has pitched up its intimidation in response.

On March 23, 2012, concerned citizens, anti-nuclear groups and civil society organisations all over India observed a national day of protest supporting the people in Tamil Nadu opposing the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP). 1-day hunger strike was organised in Pune, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and other places of the country. In Chennai, the Koodankulam Support Group’s hunger strike entered 3rd day today. The National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM) held a day long sit-in and hunger protest at Jantar Mantar near the Indian parliament in New Delhi.

At the grassroots, the indefinite fast of 15 people including Dr. S P Udayakumar, Pushparayan and others, entered 6th day today. The people observing hunger-strike also include  Melret and 7 women.  The health condition of  fasting activists is on a constant decline, particularly the falling blood pressure of Pushparayan is a concern.  The immediates demands of the hunger-strike in Idinthakarai are: release of 10 activists arrested on March 19th from Koodankulam, removal of the heavy police deployment in the area and adherence to AERB guidelines for commissioning of reactors that includes elaborate safety drills and other steps.

While the Additional Director-General of Police (Tamil Nadu) claimed that situation in Koodankulam is ‘normal’ and police has not obstructed mobility of people and goods, the people in the region are intimidated by heavy police presence and arbitrary arrests of activists, slapping serious charges of sedition and war on Indian state.  Vanni Arasu was picked up on his way from Chennai to Madurai at midnight. Another anti-Koodankulam activist, Satish Kumar was picked up at Tirunelveli yesterday. Neither their location nor the charges under which they were arrested is known so far.

More here with Latest Pictures

How the “Pro-Life” Movement Puts Women Behind Bars

In Alabama, the claim that eggs, embryos and fetuses have separate legal rights has led to the jailing of 60 women.

Numerous organizations and leaders who identify themselves as pro-life have assured the public that their efforts to re-criminalize abortion and establish the unborn as separate legal persons will not result in the prosecution and imprisonment of women. Yet, in Alabama alone, the claim that eggs, embryos and fetuses have separate legal rights has provided the basis for arresting approximately 60 women.

These women are being prosecuted under Alabama’s 2006 law designed to provide special penalties for people who bring children into methamphetamine laboratories. Its official title is “Endangerment of Exposing a Child to an Environment in Which Controlled Substances are Produced or Distributed” and it provides that a person “commits the crime of chemical endangerment” by “exposing a child to an environment in which he or she…knowingly, recklessly, or intentionally causes or permits a child to be exposed to, to ingest or inhale, or to have contact with a controlled substance.”

This law makes no mention of pregnancy, pregnant woman, drug use, fetus, or any other words that would make it applicable to a pregnant woman who uses a controlled substance and seeks to continue her pregnancy to term. In fact, the Alabama legislature has repeatedly refused to amend this law or to create others that would address the issue of pregnancy and drug use through the criminal law.

Nevertheless prosecutors have argued, and the Alabama’s Court of Criminal Appeals has agreed, that the word “child” in the statute includes a “viable fetus” and therefore may be used to arrest and jail women who become pregnant, eschew abortion, go to term, and try to bring life into this world, despite having used a controlled substance.

The Appeals Court decision reaches far beyond women who use illegal drugs or even drug use at all. Many prescription drugs are controlled substances and there is no defense under the law if the drug is prescribed to the pregnant woman. This means that a pregnant woman who is prescribed a controlled substance (and her doctor who prescribed it) are now potentially subject to criminal penalties as well. And, if the word “child” in one Alabama criminal laws means “viable fetus,” then surely it would have to mean the same thing in others – including the state’s child abuse and related laws. This means that women are potentially criminally liable for an unlimited range of actions, inactions or circumstances during pregnancy believed by police and prosecutors to pose a risk of harm to the fetus. (Think “personhood” measure in disguise.)

Hope Ankrom and Amanda Kimbrough are two of the 60 women who have been charged under the chemical endangering law – not for running meth labs or bringing children to them, but rather for continuing their pregnancies to term in spite of having a drug problem. Ankrom and Kimbrough have appealed their convictions to the Alabama Supreme Court.

Forty-seven medical, public health and legal advocacy groups and individuals, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Nurses Association filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief in support of these mothers. They urge the court to reverse the lower court’s radical extension of the chemical endangering law to permit prosecution and punishment of new mothers, pregnant women, and their doctors.

These organizations and experts explain that while they do not in any way endorse the use of illegal drugs during pregnancy, medical consensus is that illegal drug use by pregnant women does not pose risks qualitatively different or greater than a wide range of other actions, inactions, exposures, and circumstances engaged in or experienced by pregnant women, such as smoking cigarettes.

Read more at Alternet

Anti- KKNPP Activists administered saline on Day 6 of fast

TIRUNELVELI (TN), PTI : The anti-nuclear activists observing an indefinite fast demanding scrapping of Koodankulam nuclear power plant were administered saline solution intravenously as their stir entered the sixth day today.

The medical intervention was made at the fast venue in Idinthakarai after a team of doctors from Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital examined the 15 agitators, including People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy coordinator S P Udayakumar, spearheading the protest against the project, officials said.

Doctors had yesterday said the protesters might have to be shifted to hospital if their condition deteriorated.

The core group of agitators are on the fast since Tamil Nadu Government on March 19 gave its go ahead for the commissioning of the Indo-Russian project, work on which had remained stalled since September last following protests by the locals citing safety concerns.

Meanwhile,, ADGP (Law and Order) S George today reviewed the security arrangements in and around Koodankulam.

Speaking to reporters at Koodankulam, he said police had been deployed in the area only to instill confidence in the minds of public and maintain law and order and they would never harass or cause inconvenience to the villagers.

“We will not arrest any public. Only those facing cases will be arrested. We will not harass public. Once law and order becomes normal, police will be withdrawn,” he said.

To a question when Udayakumar, slapped with charges including sedition and waging war against the country, would be arrested, George said he “cannot say when it will happen.”

Meanwhile, the state “Q” Branch police, which deals with extremist elements, last evening arrested Tamil Nadu Youth Resurgent Forum leader Satish when he was present at a marriage hall where MDMK chief Vaiko and others were lodged after their arrest for attempting to proceed to Idinthakarai to express solidarity with anti-nuclear activists.Police said Satish had links to Naxalite groups and more than 15 cases were pending against him.

Q Branch police also arrested Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi spokesperson Vanni Arasu at Rajapalayam in Virudhunagar district for bid to proceed to Idinthakarai, where ban orders are in force, to support the anti-KKNPP protest.

The UIDAI project: why some of the optimism might be Nir-aadhar

200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few months ago Nandan Nilekani had published an editorial in the National Medical Journal of India extolling the virtues of the Aadhar project for health. His article is available at Editorial-II.pdf

Anant Bhan  and Sunita Bandewar have responded to this article questioning some of the claims in the editorial.The resposne hasbeen published in the latest NMJI and is  below
The UIDAI project: why some of the optimism might be nir-aadhar

The article by Nandan Nilekani in the NMJI 2011 May-June issue[1] provides an interesting laundry list of advantages which an Aadhar number could provide to those registered through the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). Nonetheless, it is surprising to see no equivalent of a limitations section. The article fails to present a holistic and full picture of the landscape- in absence of any reference to expected challenges, the potential for duplication of existing mechanisms; and
threats the Aadhar project poses, particularly to privacy of personal information of individuals, and data security– and mention of any proposed measures the UIDAI is taking to address these.  Even a cursory uninformed examination of the claims in the article will lead the reader to believe that while the intention is laudable, the process and means can definitely be causes of concern. As readers, we had several questions related to the approach to, implementation of as well as legislative
adequacy of the UIDAI initiative and their implications for its success. .

Why two sets of identification data?

It is unclear as to why two sets of identification data – demographic and bio-informatics – are required for securing an Aadhar number. Also, the operational aspects and possible misuse could be causes of concern. Currently individuals face many problems in fulfilling the expectations of producing proof of residence, birth date etc. for securing other key government identification documents (such as voting card, passport and ration card) and it is unspecified how similar tribulations would be minimized for those seeking an Aadhar number?

Would securing an Aadhar number truly remain voluntary? 

While some benefits of having an Aadhar number are pointed out like immunization tracking for children, the system also worrying suggests a clear link between basic health provisioning (such as immunization) and the need for official proof of being an Indian resident (to be certified through the possession of an Aadhar number). If this is indeed the case, it would mean that providers especially in the public healthcare system might not be able to provide any kind of health services to vulnerable populations like ‘illegal’ immigrants in the country. It should not be the duty or responsibility of a healthcare provider to sit in judgment on a patient’s legal status of entitlement of health services. A patient presenting at a healthcare facility without an Aadhar number might be suspected of being a non-citizen- and stigmatized- and not provided any health services, or even worse, pursued by the state machinery. Linking Aadhar to essential public health services like immunization could mean that undocumented immigrants, among other vulnerable groups, would shun health programs and hence put themselves and others in the community at risk of vaccine-preventable and other communicable conditions.

Although, it is currently voluntary to opt to secure an Aadhar number, the emphasis on its use in health care context in the way Nilekani advocates in the article might run the risk of Aadhar number becoming almost inevitable and “mandatory” for better, swifter and smoother access to health care in due course of time. Aadhar has already become compulsory for LPG provision by government oil companies as part of a pilot project in Mysore[2]. Similar concerns have been expressed by others, too[3].

Wouldn’t the proposal of use of Aadhar for immunization tracking be duplication of efforts? 

The government has already launched a separate system for maternal and child health tracking,including immunization[4] through the National Rural Health Mission Health Management Information System  ( and it’s not clear why UIDAI should aim to replicate the same through Aadhar. We believe there might be other instances where such replication of efforts might be probable- this is both a waste of resources and increases the chances of threats to data security.

Is the health system sufficiently equipped to use Aadhar number? 

Assuming the Aadhar number could finally be used in the health care context as Nilekani delineates, is our health system equipped with the required e-platform across the nation; and are there adequately trained human resources to run such a sophisticated system  available, or being recruited, at every level within the health system?  It appears that the use of the Aadhar number as envisioned would warrant inter-ministerial and inter-sectoral coordination and resource investment for its meaningful realization. It is not clear as to how this is being planned and executed.

Would the system to protect privacy and data protection be truly foolproof? 

The issue of privacy of personal information (especially health) and associated challenges are not mentioned in the article. It is also not clear as how data safety will be ensured. In response to one of the questions in the parliament regarding mechanisms to protect data from unauthorised use in UIDAI, it was said that the data would be encrypted at source along with measures such as limiting physical use, and putting standard security infrastructure[5].

We wonder if that would be sufficient given the current trends of data theft from the supposedly safe and well protected sectors, such as banking and information technology which use similar mechanisms. As instances of theft and misuse of information becomes commonplace, as evidenced by increasing credit card fraud and frequent hacking of government websites[6],any framework for information collection which does not have robust safeguards  should be grounds for concern. As well, India does not have any coherent policy or law governing data encryption [7],[8], [9].

In the contemporary context of globalised terrorism, it would also be challenging for the UIDAI to comply with the promise of confidentiality towards data collected if faced with mounting pressures from investigation and intelligence agencies, whether domestic or foreign, to share bioinformatics information of individuals suspected to be associated with terrorism and violence.  Although a
somewhat different context, the recent episode of a vaccination campaign launched by the US intelligence agency CIA aimed specifically at collecting DNA samples from the Osama Bin Laden household in Abbottabad in Pakistan[10] is representative of reasons for our concerns on this front of the potential of misuse of a public health program collecting identifiable data.

The initial Aadhar registration system being implemented also provides reason for worry. As the enrolment process has been sub-contracted via tenders to private firms, there is seemingly no guarantee of how information and data security will be maintained. Moreover, ensuring data protection from interested parties such as insurance companies who could choose to deny health insurance coverage to individuals based on their health profiles is paramount. Unless stringent safeguards are built in, the Aadhar number could be a serious and risky intrusion into our privacy.

Furthermore, it is ambiguous as to how harmonization and reconciliation across various legal apparatuses, such as, the National Identification Authority of India Bill and the proposed Right to Privacy Bill[11] would be achieved with regards to protecting personal information gathered under the Aadhar project.

Against this backdrop,we believe the editorial by Nilekani raises more questions than provides answers, and hence it is apt to question the claims of the article.

Finally, we also find it disconcerting that though the author declares his affiliation with the UIDAI, there is no conflict of interest statement in the article. Nilekani as head of the initiative is expected to have a positive bias towards the program. We believe it would have been good practice for a conflict of interest statement to have been appended with the article.

Anant Bhan, Pune, Maharashtra

Sunita V S  Bandewar, Pune, Maharashtra



[1]Nilekani N. Building a foundation for better health: The role of the Aadhaar number. Natl Med J India.2011 May-Jun;24(3):133-5.

[2]Milton L. Aadhaar number to be must for LPG services. The Times of India. 2011 Aug 8 [cited 2011 Aug 18]. Available:

[3]Ramanathan U. A private right or a public affair? Tehelka Magazine. 2011 Jul 9 [cited 2011 Aug 18]; Vol 8, issue 27. Available:

[4]Government Health. Now, a tracking system for immunisation in India. 2011 August 3 [cited 2011 August 18]. Available:

[5]  Unique Identification Authority of India. Government of India Planning Commission, Rajya Sabha Questions. Question no 393(Answered on 2011 Feb 24) [cited 2011 Aug 20].  Available:

[6]Kurup D. ‘State actor’ linked to major cyber intrusions in India, world. The Hindu Bangalore edition. 2011 Aug 4 [cited 2011 Aug 18]. Available:

[7]Data Security Council of India.Recommendations for Encryption Policy Regulation u/s 84A of the Information
Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008.  Prepared by DSCI/NASSCOM with inputs from the industry.  2009 Jul 13 [cited 2011 Aug 16]. Available:

[8]Dalal, P.Encryption policy of India needed.  2011 Jun 19 [cited 2011 Aug 5]. Available:

[9]Waris S. Government asleep over encryption regulations. 2009 Aug 20 [cited 2011 Aug 21], Available:

[10]Reardon S. Pakistan. Decrying CIA vaccination sham, health workers brace for backlash. Science.2011 Jul 22;333(6041):395.

[11]Venkatesan J. Bill on ‘right to privacy’ in monsoon session: Moily. The Hindu, 2011 June 7 [cited 2011 Aug 17]. Available:


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