Is Pleasure a Sin?


By , NY TIMES
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

It’s hard to say what is weirder:

A Sister of Mercy writing about the Kama Sutra, sexual desire and “our yearnings for pleasure.”

Or the Vatican getting so hot and bothered about the academic treatise on sexuality that the pope censures it, causing it to shoot from obscurity to the top tier of Amazon.com’s best-seller list six years after it was published.

Just the latest chapter in the Vatican’s thuggish crusade to push American nuns — and all Catholic women — back into moldy subservience.

Even for a church that moves glacially, this was classic. “Just Love: a Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics,” by Sister Margaret Farley — a 77-year-old professor emeritus at Yale’s Divinity School, a past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and an award-winning scholar — came out in 2006.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which seems as hostile to women as the Saudi Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, spent years pondering it, then censured it on March 30 but didn’t publicly release the statement until Monday.

The denunciation of Sister Farley’s book is based on the fact that she deals with the modern world as it is. She refuses to fall in line with a Vatican rigidly clinging to an inbred, illusory world where men rule with no backtalk from women, gays are deviants, the divorced can’t remarry, men and women can’t use contraception, masturbation is a grave disorder and celibacy is enshrined, even as a global pedophilia scandal rages.

In old-fashioned prose steeped in historical and global perspective, Sister Farley’s main argument is that justice needs to govern relationships. In the interest of justice to oneself, she contends that “self-pleasuring” needs “to be moved out of the realm of taboo morality.”

Immanuel Kant, who considered masturbation “below the level of animals,” must give way to Alfred Kinsey. “It is surely the case that many women, following the ‘our bodies our selves’ movement in the fourth quarter of the twentieth century, have found great good in self-pleasuring — perhaps especially in the discovery of their own possibilities for pleasure — something many had not experienced or even known about in their ordinary sexual relations with husbands or lovers,” she writes. “In this way, it could be said that masturbation actually serves relationships rather than hindering them.”

A breath of fresh air in the stultifying church, she makes the case for same-sex relationships and remarriage after divorce. “When it truly becomes impossible to sustain a marriage relationship, the obligation to do so is released,” she writes, adding, “as when in the Middle Ages a broken leg made it impossible to continue on a pilgrimage to which one had committed oneself.”

Taking on the Council of Trent and a church that has taken a stand against pleasure, Sister Farley asserts that procreation is not the only reason couples should have sex. Fruitfulness need not “refer only to the conceiving of children,” she writes. “It can refer to multiple forms of fruitfulness in love of others, care for others, making the world a better place for others” rather than just succumbing to “an égoisme à deux.”

The Vatican showed no mercy to the Sister of Mercy, proclaiming that “the deliberate use of the sexual faculty” outside of marriage or procreation, or on one’s own, is wrong; that homosexual sex acts are “deviant,” and that marriages are by and large indissoluble. Sister Farley issued a statement that she did not intend for the book to be an expression or criticism of current official Catholic teaching, and academics and the head of her order rushed to her defense.

This latest ignoble fight with a noble nun adds to the picture of a Catholic Church in a permanent defensive crouch, steeped in Borgia-like corruption and sexual scandals, lashing out at anyone who notes the obvious: They have lost track of right and wrong.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York blasted The New York Times after Laurie Goodstein wrote that, as the archbishop of Milwaukee in 2003, he authorized payments of up to $20,000 to sexually abusive priests “as an incentive for them to agree to dismissal from the priesthood.”

Cardinal Dolan insisted through a spokesman that it was “charity,” not “payoffs.” But if you were the parent of a boy abused by a priest who went away with 20,000 bucks, maybe “charity” is not the word that would come to mind.

Its crisis has made the church cruel. The hierarchy should read Sister Farley’s opprobrium against adults harming vulnerable children and adolescents by sexually exploiting them; respect for the individual and requirement of free consent, she says, mean that rape, violence and pedophilia against unwilling victims are never justified.

“Seduction and manipulation of persons who have limited capacity for choice because of immaturity, special dependency, or loss of ordinary power, are ruled out,” she writes.

If only the church could muster that kind of clarity, rather than Dolan-style “charity.”

The biggest climate victory you never heard of– USA


The fight against coal in the US has achieved great success due to activists’ passion and commitment.
Last Modified: 27 May 2012

As long as coal plants are still being built, it doesn’t matter how many wind farms there are, argues author [EPA]
Mark Hertsgaard
Mark Hertsgaard
Mark Hertsgaard is a Fellow of the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C., and the environment correspondent for The Nation. He is the author of six books that have been translated into sixteen languages, including, most recently, HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth.

San Francisco, CA Coal is going down in the United States, and that’s good news for the Earth’s climate. The US Energy Information Administration has announced that coal, the dirtiest and most carbon-intensive conventional fossil fuel, generated only 36 per cent of US electricity in the first quarter of 2012. That amounts to a staggering 20 per cent decline from one year earlier. And the EIA anticipates additional decline by year’s end, suggesting a historic setback for coal, which has provided the majority of the US’ electricity for many decades.

Even more encouraging, however, is the largely unknown story behind coal’s retreat. Mainstream media coverage has credited low prices for natural gas – coal’s chief competitor – and the Obama administration’s March 27 announcement of stricter limits on greenhouse gas emissions from US power plants. And certainly both of those developments played a role.

But a third factor – a persistent grassroots citizens’ rebellion that has blocked the construction of 166 (and counting) proposed coal-fired power plants – has been at least as important. At the very time when President Obama’s “cap-and-trade” climate legislation was going down in flames in Washington, local activists across the United States were helping to impose “a de facto moratorium on new coal”, in the words of Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute, one of the first analysts to note the trend.

If the activists hadn’t been there talking to the government regulators and newspaper editorial boards and making the case that coal was a bad bet, the plants would have gone forward.Thomas Sanzillo, former deputy comptroller for the New York state government

Another surprise: most of these coal plants were defeated in the politically red states of the South and Midwest. Victories were coming “in places like Oklahoma and South Dakota, not the usual liberal bastions where you’d expect environmental victories”, recalls Mary Anne Hitt, the director of the Beyond Coal campaign, which provided national coordination for the local efforts. The victories in Oklahoma were particularly sweet, coming in the home state of Capitol Hill’s leading climate denier, Senator James Inhofe.

Of course the activists had help: the falling cost of natural gas and a decline in electricity demand following the 2008 financial collapse made coal vulnerable. But it was grassroots activism that turned this vulnerability into outright defeat, argues Thomas Sanzillo, a former deputy comptroller for the New York state government who has collaborated with Beyond Coal. “If the activists hadn’t been there talking to government regulators and newspaper editorial boards and making the case that coal was a bad bet,” Sanzillo explains, “the plants would have gone forward, because the utility companies would say, ‘We can handle the costs,’ and those [government] boards are often good ol’ boy boards.”

Stopping new coal

In contrast to mainstream environmental groups’ lobbying on Capitol Hill for cap-and-trade, the Beyond Coal movement’s strength was grounded in the unsung work of retail politics: activists talking with friends and neighbours, pestering local media, packing regulatory hearings, protesting before state legislatures, filing legal challenges and more. Nor was the anti-coal movement comprised solely of the usual suspects. In addition to environmentalists, it included clean energy advocates, public health professionals, community organisers, faith leaders, farmers, attorneys, students and volunteers like Verena Owen, a self-described “permit nerd” from Illinois, who proved herself so capable that she was recruited to serve as Hitt’s co-director for the Beyond Coal campaign.

Stopping new coal may be “the most significant achievement of American environmentalists since the passage of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act” in 1970, says Michael Noble of the Minnesota environmental group Fresh Energy, one of Beyond Coal’s key activists.

The health benefits alone are enormous. “Every year, coal-burning power plants… cause more than 200,000 asthma attacks nationwide, many of them affecting children,” New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said in July 2011, citing data from the US Environmental Protection Agency. “Coal pollution also kills 13,000 people every year and costs us US $100bn in medical expenses,” Bloomberg added.

Which helps explain why the billionaire mayor has pledged $50 million of his own money to support the next phase of Beyond Coal’s work: shifting from blocking proposed coal plants to shutting down existing plants and replacing them with clean energy. “Our goal is to shut down one third of America’s [roughly 500 existing] coal plants by 2015 and to stop coal worldwide by 2030,” says Bruce Nilles, the senior director of the Beyond Coal campaign at the Sierra Club, which houses the campaign.

This landmark achievement in the climate fight remains unknown… because the US media and political class view public issues through the lens of official Washington.”

Meanwhile, the moratorium on new coal amounts to the biggest victory against climate change yet won in the United States. Measured by the volume of greenhouse emissions averted, the moratorium will likely have a greater impact than the cap-and-trade bill congressional Republicans rejected in 2010. Assuming, generously, that the cap-and-trade system would have worked as well as claimed, that bill would have cut US emissions by a scientifically meager 4 per cent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. Scientists have said that reductions of 25 to 40 per cent are required to provide a reasonable chance of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. By contrast, blocking 166 coal-fired power plants will, without question, keep an estimated 32.25 billion tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere (assuming a typical 50 year lifespan for the blocked plants) – an amount greater than the entire world’s emissions in 2010.

Nevertheless, this landmark achievement in the climate fight remains unknown, not only outside of the United States but to most Americans as well. Why? Mainly because the US media and political class view public issues through the lens of official Washington. There, conventional wisdom held that the cap-and-trade bill was the absolute limit that the US political system could tolerate. When even that supposedly realistic option was rejected in 2010, many observers – including some inside-the-Beltway environmentalists – concluded that the US was simply incapable of taking meaningful action against climate change. Corporate polluters were too strong, went this argument, the political system was too dominated by money, the public was too confused and apathetic.

Not so, insist Beyond Coal’s activists. The moratorium on new coal shows that Americans don’t “have to wait for Washington to get the country on the right climate track,” Hitt argues. “This campaign has demonstrated we can do this state by state, plant by plant, town by town. Not just that we can do it, but we are doing it.”

The big picture

The genesis of Beyond Coal was a confidential meeting of clean energy activists and philanthropic donors held in Wisconsin in 2003. The advocates confronted a harsh truth, recalls Noble: They had been working the wrong problem, focusing on renewable energy while all but ignoring the climate crisis. “What does it mean that we celebrate the construction of a $100 million wind farm in Minnesota when at same time a 900 megawatt coal plant was being built in [Iowa]?” asks Noble. “That’s called losing. If you looked at the problem through the lens of carbon, all the work we had done was undone by a single [coal] plant, a plant that wasn’t challenged by a single environmentalist.”

What does it mean that we celebrate the construction of a $100 million wind farm… when at the same time a 900 megawatt coal plant was being built… ? That’s called losing.– Michael Noble, Minnesota environmental group Fresh Energy

The Midwest was the most coal-dependent region in the US; it got 60 to 90 per cent of its electricity from coal. At subsequent strategy sessions, Nobel joined Nilles – at the time, a Sierra Club activist in Wisconsin – in arguing that henceforth every proposed coal plant in the Midwest should be challenged. “We didn’t know how we’d oppose [them all], we just knew we had to,” says Nilles.

But there was disagreement within the ranks. A program officer at one of the Midwest’s largest philanthropies, the Joyce Foundation, disputed Nobel and Nilles’ idea of opposing every coal plant. It made more sense, the philanthropist argued, to mount tightly focused, legally based challenges to a few marquee coal plants and then leverage those victories into a broader offensive.

The test of the dueling approaches came in 2005. In opposing a proposed plant in Wisconsin, the Joyce Foundation “put all their chips on a big bucks legal strategy, with no politics, and [they] lost at the state Supreme Court by one vote,” recalls Rick Reed, a program officer at the Garfield Foundation who helped launch the anti-coal campaign. “That taught us a lesson: you’ll never be able to beat these things without an integrated strategy that includes real people who are affected by these plants, who’ll reject the economic argument publicly.”  Tom Sanzillo, the former New York state deputy comptroller, saw the value of such an integrated strategy in one of the first fights he handled for Beyond Coal.

US phasing out coal power plants

Two large coal plants were scheduled to be built in eastern Iowa. Carrie Le Seur, an attorney with the non-profit group Plains Justice, recalls getting phone calls from local people who “didn’t like the idea that there would be these big belching coal plants in the midst of prime farmland, and big transmission lines as well.” Le Seur began submitting legal challenges to the plants. Meanwhile, Sanzillo appeared before the Iowa Public Services Commission to warn the regulators, “You can’t build [these plants] for the costs the companies say… and the costs will keep going up.”

Reinforcing that message, activists met with legislators, Governor John Culver and the editorial board of the Des Moines Register, which ended up editorialising in favor of investing in wind power rather than coal. The activist pressure was critical, Sanzillo argues, for it convinced the state regulatory board to limit the total amount of money the proposed coal plant could cost consumers. Forced to risk their own money, rather than ratepayers’, the company cancelled the project.

This approach – hard numbers plus grassroots pressure – became the model Beyond Coal followed in state after state: Ohio, Florida, even Kentucky, the heart of coal country. In South Carolina, another Deep South state, says Sanzillo, activists “put me in touch with small business associations and I was able to explain how big industrial interests historically got treated better on these things than small businesses. That was smart, because it got the small businesses fighting with the big industrials, which was just the fight we wanted: a business fight rather than an environmental fight.”

A bigger battle

The new phase of the Beyond Coal campaign will be more challenging: There is a big difference between fighting a proposed plant and seeking to close one that is already providing electricity, jobs and tax revenues. But Beyond Coal has already helped broker a deal in Washington state that could become a model for other plant closures.

When environmentalists first targeted the state’s only coal plant, they ran into opposition not just from its owner, the Trans-Alta company, but also from the union that represented the plant’s workers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. As a matter of long-term strategy, Beyond Coal was committed to working through any disagreements with labour, so compromises were made. “We wanted a five year timeline for closing [the Trans-Alta plant] and we settled for 10,” Nilles recalls. “Not because of the company but because of IBEW.”

In-depth coverage of the COP17 in Durban, South Africa

The agreement was hammered out behind closed doors in a Seattle hotel during negotiations requested by Washington governor Christine Gregoire. Keith Phillips, a senior aide to the governor, spent two days shuttling between rooms containing representatives from the Trans-Alta company and Beyond Coal, but not the IBEW. That left the environmentalists to argue labour’s case – which they did. They insisted that the plant’s workforce be retained throughout its closure and transition to a greener facility; that workers be trained in the technologies that would replace coal, especially energy efficiency; and that the company, not the taxpayers, subsidise the transition. Trans-Alta agreed, pledging $55 million that will be controlled by the affected communities to fund economic development and clean tech. “A lot of the money will pay for insulating schools and other public buildings,” says Bob Guenther of the IBEW, who signed off on the deal in a subsequent meeting.

Fundamental change

Beyond Coal’s successes offer “a fundamental message about how to make change in this country,” says Mary Anne Hitt. What happens in Washington, DC, is important, Hitt acknowledges, but it is not necessarily the best arena to target. The effort to pass climate legislation focused on Capitol Hill, a battlefield where the power of money rigs the system.

Then, to satisfy inside-the-Beltway definitions of what was politically realistic, mainstream environmental organisations embraced a policy – cap-and-trade – that was incremental in its remedy (a 4 per cent emissions cut by 2020) and incomprehensible in its mechanism. “We can’t go out in the streets about that,” one grassroots activist complained. “Most people can’t even understand it.” These strategic choices made it impossible to build the kind of public pressure that could overcome the deep pockets and political muscle of the fossil fuel industry.

The Beyond Coal campaign, by contrast, organised people locally around tangible targets: their air, their water, the climate their children would inherit. It eschewed middle-of-the-road messaging in favour of a simple, clear demand – No New Coal – that ordinary people could rally around. This approach enabled it to appeal to a broad coalition of supporters (public-health advocates, even unions), beyond the usual environmental allies. Finally, Beyond Coal targeted not the federal government but rather local and state governments, where elected officials can be personally lobbied – and more easily voted out of office – by ordinary citizens, thus counteracting the power Big Money enjoys in Washington.

Like the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Beyond Coal campaign has shown that the status quo is not all-powerful. When large numbers of people unite around a compelling critique of the existing order and build political power at the local level, they can change the world. And perhaps even the planet.

Mark Hertsgaard is a Fellow of the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C., and the environment correspondent for The Nation. He is the author of six books that have been translated into sixteen languages, including, most recently, HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

‘Inquiry into rights violations in Koodankulam’


 

6 June 2012, Chennai, Nandini Krishnan, Millineum post

A independent report on the protests indicates human rights violations during demonstrations.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has promised there will be an inquiry into the alleged human rights violations at the site of the Koodankulam Nuclear Plant in Tirunelveli district, where villagers and activists have been agitating against the plant.

A report on the protests, released by an independent committee on Monday, indicates that there were human rights violations in the Centre and State governments’ handling of the demonstrations.

The report was prepared on the basis of a public hearing held by the committee in Chennai on 14 May. The hearing was headed by former Chief Justice of the Madras and Delhi High courts, Justice A P Shah. Other members included advocate Geeta Ramaseshan and Prabha Kalvimani of Irular Tribes Protection Association.

The report found that people’s right to freedom of speech and movement were severely hampered, and that the state police harassed the protesters.

The document, titled ‘Report of the Jury on the Public Hearing on Koodankulam and State Suppression of Democratic Rights’, asked the Centre to release information on the site evaluation and safety aspects of the nuclear power plant, going by the orders of the Central Information Commission [CIC]. Its other recommendations were: dropping of more than 250 criminal cases registered against the organisers and participants of the anti-nuclear agitation, most of which are for sedition and waging war against the nation, release of protesters who have been arrested, as ‘they were only exercising a legitimate right to protest’, lifting of curbs on the free movement of citizens under Section 144 of the CrPC, resuming of talks with the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy [PMANE], which is heading the protests, action against the vandals who damaged a school run by the family of a protest organiser, restoration of public transport, disclosure of details of the India-Russia agreement, under which the Rs 13,000 crore plant is being constructed.

Since the Fukushima disaster in Japan, there have been protests against the construction of what will be India’s largest atomic power plant. Villagers say the plant is a threat to their lives as well as the ecology, which in turn would affect the livelihood of fishermen.

Two government-appointed committees of experts have submitted reports saying the plant is safe. In November last year, former President and top nuclear scientist APJ Abdul Kalam visited the plant and gave it the green flag in his inspection report.

However, none of this has satisfied the protesters, who are still demanding the closure of the plant and holding hunger strikes.

Following the release of the report, the Chennai Solidarity Group for Koodankulam Struggle questioned the silence of the National Human Rights Commission and the State Human Rights Commission on the conduct of the police and district administration.

When Jayalalithaa was asked about the situation by reporters during a press conference held upon her return to Chennai from Delhi, the Chief Minister assured them that there would be an inquiry into the alleged violations.

5 Million Farmers Sue Monsanto for $7.7 Billion


Five million farmers are suing Monsanto over excessive royalty fees. (photo: Friends Eat)
Five million farmers are suing Monsanto over excessive royalty fees. (photo: Friends Eat)

 

By Anthony Gucciardi, Natural Society

06 June 12

 

aunching a lawsuit against the very company that is responsible for a farmer suicide every 30 minutes, 5 million farmers are now suing Monsanto for as much as 6.2 billion euros (around 7.7 billion US dollars). The reason? As with many other cases, such as the ones that led certain farming regions to be known as thesuicide belt, Monsanto has been reportedly taxing the farmers to financial shambles with ridiculous royalty charges. The farmers state that Monsanto has been unfairly gathering exorbitant profits each year on a global scale from “renewal” seed harvests, which are crops planted using seed from the previous year’s harvest.

The practice of using renewal seeds dates back to ancient times, but Monsanto seeks to collect massive royalties and put an end to the practice. Why? Because Monsanto owns the very patent to the genetically modified seed, and is charging the farmers not only for the original crops, but the later harvests as well. Eventually, the royalties compound and many farmers begin to struggle with even keeping their farm afloat. It is for this reason that India slammed Monsanto with groundbreaking ‘biopiracy’ charges in an effort to stop Monsanto from ‘patenting life’.

Jane Berwanger, a lawyer for the farmers who went on record regarding the case, told the Associted Press:

“Monsanto gets paid when it sell the seeds. The law gives producers the right to multiply the seeds they buy and nowhere in the world is there a requirement to pay (again). Producers are in effect paying a private tax on production.”

The findings echo what thousands of farmers have experienced in particularly poor nations, where many of the farmers are unable to stand up to Monsanto. Back in 2008, the Daily Mail covered what is known as the ‘GM Genocide’, which is responsible for taking the lives of over 17,683 Indian farmers in 2009 alone. After finding that their harvests were failing and they started to enter economic turmoil, the farmers began ending their own lives — oftentimes drinking the very same insecticide that Monsanto provided them with.

As the information continues to surface on Monsanto’s crimes, further lawsuits will begin to take effect. After it was ousted in January that Monsanto was running illegal ‘slave-like’ working rings, more individuals became aware of just how seriously Monsanto seems to disregard their workers — so why would they care for the health of their consumers? In April, another group of farmers sued Monsanto for ‘knowingly poisoning’ workers and causing ‘devastating birth defects’.

Will endless lawsuits from millions of seriously affected individuals be the end of Monsanto?

By Anthony Gucciardi, Natural Society

06 June 12

 

aunching a lawsuit against the very company that is responsible for a farmer suicide every 30 minutes, 5 million farmers are now suing Monsanto for as much as 6.2 billion euros (around 7.7 billion US dollars). The reason? As with many other cases, such as the ones that led certain farming regions to be known as the ‘suicide belt’, Monsanto has been reportedly taxing the farmers to financial shambles with ridiculous royalty charges. The farmers state that Monsanto has been unfairly gathering exorbitant profits each year on a global scale from “renewal” seed harvests, which are crops planted using seed from the previous year’s harvest.

The practice of using renewal seeds dates back to ancient times, but Monsanto seeks to collect massive royalties and put an end to the practice. Why? Because Monsanto owns the very patent to the genetically modified seed, and is charging the farmers not only for the original crops, but the later harvests as well. Eventually, the royalties compound and many farmers begin to struggle with even keeping their farm afloat. It is for this reason that India slammed Monsanto with groundbreaking ‘biopiracy’ charges in an effort to stop Monsanto from ‘patenting life’.

Jane Berwanger, a lawyer for the farmers who went on record regarding the case, told the Associted Press:

“Monsanto gets paid when it sell the seeds. The law gives producers the right to multiply the seeds they buy and nowhere in the world is there a requirement to pay (again). Producers are in effect paying a private tax on production.”

The findings echo what thousands of farmers have experienced in particularly poor nations, where many of the farmers are unable to stand up to Monsanto. Back in 2008, the Daily Mail covered what is known as the ‘GM Genocide’, which is responsible for taking the lives of over 17,683 Indian farmers in 2009 alone. After finding that their harvests were failing and they started to enter economic turmoil, the farmers began ending their own lives — oftentimes drinking the very same insecticide that Monsanto provided them with.

As the information continues to surface on Monsanto’s crimes, further lawsuits will begin to take effect. After it was ousted in January that Monsanto was running illegal ‘slave-like’ working rings, more individuals became aware of just how seriously Monsanto seems to disregard their workers — so why would they care for the health of their consumers? In April, another group of farmers sued Monsanto for ‘knowingly poisoning’ workers and causing ‘devastating birth defects’.

Will endless lawsuits from millions of seriously affected individuals be the end of Monsanto?

Doctor, Heal Thyself ! # Satyamevjayate #Aamir khan


 

Doctors asks Aamir Khan to apologise for his recent show on Satyamev Jayate

 

Rediff.com, Last updated on: June 06, 2012

The latest episode of Aamir Khan‘s [ Images ] television showSatyamev Jayate probed into malpractices that some doctors follow, looking at the way they dole out wrong treatments for monetary gains. It has understandably not gone down too well with the medical fraternity.

Dr Sanjay Nagral — a consultant surgeon, department of surgical gastroenterology , Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai [Images ] — explains what exactly has hurt the doctors. 

Satyameva Jayate‘s recent episode on healthcare in IndiaImages ] has created quite a stir within my fraternity. What began as benign posts on social media and closed door conversations has snowballed into a movement against what is being described as a ‘diatribe’ by Aamir Khan against the medical profession.

In an additional bizarre twist, the Indian Medical Association, the apex body of medical professionals in the country, is asking Aamir to ‘apologise’ and, in what can only be termed as an acute case of silliness, has called for ‘boycotting’ him.

The issues raised in the show, and the profession’s response to them, have important lessons. Lest they get lost in the din and drama, here is a contrarian view for the record.

What is it exactly in that episode that has hurt my colleagues?

From my reading of the various statements, it seems there are some common themes that many are upset about.

First, the show ‘exaggerated’ the extent of unethical practice in the profession. Second, it showed only the ‘bad’ side of the profession, not the ‘good’. Third, it was factually incorrect at times.

There were those who wanted to know why doctors are being targeted when the entire society is corrupt.

Finally, the one below the belt: Who is Aamir Khan to pontificate about service to the poor when he charges crores of rupees for the show?

The last one, though probably the most superfluous, is the most emotive of all.

Is it really a revelation that ‘stars’ like Aamir charge such amounts for television serials? If Aamir declares he has not charged for the show, will it in any way alter the response to the show?

Post your comments on Satyamev Jayate here.

Now, we come to the more substantive issues.

What was one of the unethical practices that the show highlighted and ‘exaggerated’? The episode talked about the practice of ‘cuts’ and ‘commissions’ that are offered by doctors, labs and hospitals for referral of patients. These are cash transactions; they are not revealed in official documents and are arbitrary in amount.

Although there is no documentation of the extent of this practice (Not surprising! How many would admit to it?), having had a ringside view in a large metropolis for many years, I would suggest it involves a large majority of referrals.

We can quibble over the precise extent, but that would just serve to obfuscate the issue at hand.

Hasn’t such ‘fee splitting’ become so commonplace and institutionalised that, as a young doctor, if you don’t participate in it, you are effectively ostracised? Isn’t this activity non-transparent and doesn’t it increase the cost of health care and affect quality? Has any medical association ever tried to build internal resistance or opposition to such a patently corrupt practice?

The show talked about the shocking state of the Medical Council of India and how its president, Dr Ketan Desai, was arrested by the CBI in 2010 on charges of corruption. He was thereafter removed from the post of MCI president by the government and is now cooling his heels in Tihar jail.

Desai amassed crores (one estimate pegs the amount of money recovered from the raid on his home at Rs 1800 crore (Rs 18,000 million)) from the lucrative business of recognition of medical colleges.

The episode also showed how Desai, who had been indicted by the courts and temporarily sacked in 2002, staged a return. What the episode did not mention is that the same individual was also the national president of the Indian Medical Association.

Thus, a convicted individual not just survived but actually thrived for an entire decade at the highest levels in the Indian medical establishment both as the president of the Medical Council as well as the IMA. Isn’t this a reflection of the permissiveness and ambivalence medical professionals have developed towards corruption in their own representative bodies?

The current president Dr K K Talwar, who appeared on the show, had no credible answer when asked why not a single doctor in India has had his licence cancelled when the General Medical Council of the UK figures showed substantive numbers every year.

One of the ‘errors’ repeatedly pointed out by those outraged by the show is the numbers that were quoted about private and public medical colleges in India. One wonders, though, what is more important — the precise number or the fact that India can be counted among the countries that have the highest number of private medical colleges in the world? Isn’t the crass commerce of medical education in these colleges, where seats are sold at high prices, the real issue?

Isn’t it true that private medical college empires have grown because they have managed to hire and retain medical teachers, set up arrangements with hospitals to provide ‘clinical material’ in the form of patients and get recognition for postgraduate courses from inspection teams consisting largely of doctors?

Of course, there is a large industry supported by politicians at work here but the collusion of the profession is substantial.

Did the episode show examples of ‘good’ doctors and the positive side of things?

To be fair, the show did profile alternative models quite extensively. The issue of generic drugs and the work of Dr Samit Sharma in Rajasthan [ Images ] were highlighted in some detail.

That they predictably chose media favourite Dr Devi Shetty, when they could have profiled any of the hundreds of brave, committed doctors who have chosen to work under harsh  conditions in rural India to come up with alternative models of people-centric health care, is a pity. But some of this is inherent to the medium and its compulsions.

And, finally, a very old complaint — why should doctors be ‘targeted’ when the entire society is commercial and corrupt?

It is obvious that, unlike other professions, health care has a huge social dimension and hence will inevitably be scrutinised more intensely. But it is exactly this aspect that also gives doctors more visibility (don’t many of our colleagues enjoy a lot of media publicity on a regular basis?).

Historically medicine has a social contract which allows it a unique form of self-regulation in the form of medical councils, a front on which we have failed miserably. So whether it is the killing of the female foetus or the sale of kidneys, the state has had to step in with new laws because self-regulation failed.

The principle of market economics have been rejected by most societies, including western nations, as inappropriate to health care. In a strange paradox, India has one of the most privatised of health care systems.

Now, before my colleagues say that this is a result of state policy, which it essentially is, we have to admit India’s medical profession is a willing and enthusiastic participant in this process. Witness in the current boom of market medicine a new entrepreneurial spirit that is sweeping the profession. But the same market medicine, which uses media and television to sell its wares, is disturbed when the medium turns around and asks disturbing questions.

Was the show free of blemishes? Of course not.

There were occasional moments, like when the rather improbable allegation of a ‘liver transplant’ being advised for gastroenteritis was made by a member of the audience. Or when a family alleged that they did not know that a pancreas would be transplanted with the kidney in a large private hospital in Bengaluru [ Images ]. But these aberrations should not distract from the big issues that the show managed to raise.

Rampant commercialisation of the practice and of medical education, hard selling by pharmaceuticals, the high cost of drugs and the shocking price differences for the same drug from different brands are all highly disturbing parts of our healthcare policy.

That a popular film star with a huge audience articulated on prime time television what health activists have been saying for years is perhaps what has disturbed some in my fraternity.

Organisations like the IMA should actually seize the moment and ask Aamir to commit to a sustained public campaign on universal health coverage and the right to health. That would also test Aamir on a charge that has been made about him; that he raises social concerns transiently to stimulate interest in an ongoing release.

As for the boycott call, I would suggest that Aamir doesn’t really need to worry on that count. He has to just sneeze or cough and there will be a bevy of doctors running to attend on him.

After all, being a film star’s physician counts a lot in a doctor’s professional trajectory in India.

Hot water sprout at Manappad – Geo thermal studies in the region are a must to ensure KKNPP’s safety


On 3-6-2012, Sunday, a strange geological event occurred at Manappad, located 44 kilo meters north east of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) site. The event was witnessed by the local people. The event raises many disturbing questions with respect to the safety of the reactors being built hastily at the site.

At about 6.10 A.M. Mrs.Flone Gomez, a fisher woman, 60 years old heard a very loud blast outside her house. Her house is situated on the southern bank of the Karumaniyar River/Back Water and is at about 700 meters south east of the Manappad Karumaniyar Bridge. The sound was so loud that all the members of her house and her neighbors ran out to see what was happening. What they saw baffled and frightened them.

The river is about 1000 meters wide in front of Mrs Flone’s house. The river does not have fresh water and is filled with the sea water. Usually in May the river is dry but this year the sea continues to fill it. The low tide occurs at about 9 AM and the water level rises after 11 AM. Fisherfolks catch crabs in this creek when they do not venture into the sea.

At about the center point of the river in front of Mrs. Flone’s house “the water had raised into a fountain reaching the height of the street lamp post. The diameter of this fountain was about 10 to 12 feet. It looked like a circular well water rising up. The fountain lasted for about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Then the water fell back to its original state. The water in the circle was then seen boiling with bubbles coming up, for about the next 2 minutes. Then something from the bottom – mud or rocky material circular in shape – started rising up like a pancake. It rose to about 2 feet above the water level and this lasted for about 1 minute. Then it fell down and the whole event was over. The spot has well marked circular boundary even today and is about 4 feet deep while the spots around it are only 1-2 feet deep. The event was reported to the local Panchayat chief who in turn alerted the Police. The Police came to the spot at about 10 AM and made the initial enquiry. No one from KKNPP or the Geology Departments (both Central and the State) have visited the spot yet.”

Mrs.Flone was disturbed to see a few newspapers reporting the event as possibly due to a bomb blast. She questioned “If it was due to a bomb, then there was no smoke, no smell and how can it produce a water fountain of the height of a lamp post? How can you explain the water boiling after the water sprout had subsided? How can one explain the circular pancake like mud rising after this? It definitely cannot be due to a bomb.”

When Professor Victor Rajamanickam, an eminent senior Geologist who had conducted many geo chemical and geo morphological studies in this area was contacted, he opined: “This seems to be like a geo-thermal event; something like a hot water spring. The spot (8.381N, 78.05E) is located on the Achankovil shear zone. Hence one should think whether this shear zone is currently becoming active. The rock melt extrusions that had occurred at Abhishekappatty, Thiruppanikarisalkulam, Anikulam and Surandai in the years 1998, 1999 and 2001 had in fact alerted us to this point. Now, this event, alerts us to this issue once again. The Department of Atomic Energy should look into this at once and appoint a panel of geologists to study this event geologically, geo chemically and geo physically, so that the safety of the reactors will not be jeopardized.”

 

In fact, the DAE had neglected such events in the past. It chose to send its geologists to look at the Rock Melt Extrusion sites after a period of 13 years (in January 2012) only after People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) had presented clinching scientific evidences about their volcanic origin. But even before analyzing the samples they had collected, they chose to conclude that the rock melt was indeed due to leakage from the high tension electricity lines.

The geo thermal event at Manappad in fact confirms the idea put forward by Biju John, D.T. Rao, Yogendra Singh and others in their paper titled “Neotectonic Signatures in the southern Peninsular India and Gulf of Mannar” that the Achankovil shear is becoming active in recent times. It would be helpful if one remembers that it is these three scientists from the Institute of Rock Mechanics, Kolar who were given the job to study the Rock Melt Extrusion sites by the DAE in January 2012 and it is an irony that they are yet to release the results of their January 2012 studies on the Rock Melt Extrusions.

A similar event had happened at Pannayarkulam, located 11 kilometers north of the KKNPP site in November 2011 during the monsoon rains. This event in which the land had subsided suddenly into a deep pit that was rapidly sucking the water flowing from the nearby area had indicated that this might be a sill hole in a Karst terrain. The expert teams appointed by the Government of India and Tamil Nadu chose to ignore the facts that PMANE presented regarding this event.

The present event at Manappad and the high subsurface heat flow found at Nagarkovil from 1991 suggests that the Achankovil shear zone and the region south of it should be studied in depth for their geo thermal nature. This indeed becomes very important when nuclear reactors are being constructed in the region.

Hence, commissioning of the reactors should be stopped immediately. The Manappad hot water sprout should be studied thoroughly and only after placing the results of this study in the public, should further decisions be taken on the reactors.

People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy

Want a book to make the bestseller’s list? Ban it. # Censorship


 

Ron Charles
Wednesday, Jun 6, 2012

From papyrus to vellum to paper to e-books, two principles of publishing have not changed over the centuries:

1. Churches can’t resist the temptation to condemn books.

2. Nothing boosts book sales like condemnation by a church.

Who, after all, would have read Sister Margaret Farley’s “Just Love” if the Vatican hadn’t censured it this week? The Catholic Church delivered the nun’s treatise on Christian sexual ethics from the wilderness of obscurity into the promised land of fame. For any book publicist, such denunciation is an answer to a prayer. On Amazon’s Web site, “Just Love” immediately ascended from No. 142,982 to No. 16.

What did the Holy See expect? The Book of Acts describes Christians’ first book-burning celebration as a big success, but in the modern age, highly publicized reproof seems to spark a tremendous rise in sales.

Salman Rushdie was already a Booker Prize-winning author when he published “The Satanic Verses,” but the fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989 transformed the novelist into an international celebrity (albeit one who had to hide for several years).

Similarly counterproductive effects are often the result when a religious organization tells the faithful to look away.

Nicholas Karolides, a professor of English at Wisconsin State University-River Falls, is a co-author of “120 Banned Books.” For many years, he’s tracked efforts to remove titles from schools — from “The Catcher in the Rye” to “My Brother Sam is Dead,” which has been challenged for taking the Lord’s name in vain. He notes that such actions don’t always have the desired effect. “I’ve heard an author or two say that they were pleased that their books got challenged because that caused people to read it. One can say without much doubt that if a book is censored, other people will want to find out what was censorable about it.”

Consider, for instance, “The Last Temptation of Christ” (1953), by the Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis. That imaginative reimagining of Jesus got its biggest boost from its biggest enemy, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who reviled Martin Scorsese’s 1988 movie version of the novel.

The British writer Philip Pullman seems to relish damnation from the church. The “His Dark Materials” trilogy regularly raises alarm in certain religious circles, but that hardly intimidates him. Pullman once told a reporter, “Wherever you see organized religion and priesthoods and power, you see cruelty and tyranny and repression.” Such talk may offend some believers, but it helps keep his name and his books in the news.

Before he became pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger complained about the “subtle seductions” of the “Harry Potter” books that “deeply distort Christianity in the soul.” So far, His Holiness hasn’t moved against The Boy Who Didn’t Die, perhaps sensing that J.K. Rowling’s novels are already popular enough without his help.

It’s a quandary religious leaders have faced since long before movable type: Socrates was condemned to death for “denying the gods recognized by the state.” We’ve all heard of Socrates; who remembers his judges?

But Gutenberg goosed the censored into action like nothing before him. From the mid-16th to the mid-20th centuries, the Vatican maintained an Index of Prohibited Books which eventually included everybody from Descartes to Galileo to Simone de Beauvoir.

Ron Bogdan, a senior cataloger at the Folger Library in Washington who has studied 16th- and 17th-century books, notes that censors have always had a tough time stamping out material they didn’t like. “It was a matter of principle,” he says, “but the logistics of it were just unimaginable” once printing technology began to spread. “Censors bit off much more than they could chew in terms of all the material.” Ironically, the Index of Prohibited Books quickly became a kind of buyer’s guide: “Publishers liked to get their hands on those books,” he says, “because those titles became so popular.”

You don’t have to be a large church — or even an old one — to bully writers. Small evangelical groups in the United States have condemned books by Tolkien and Steinbeck. The Mormons did everything in their power to silence a heretical memoir by Ann Eliza Young, Brigham Young’s 19th wife. The Christian Science Church’s manual still formally forbids members from buying, selling or circulating “incorrect literature.”

Still, we may finally be learning what John Milton argued almost 400 years ago: Trying to regulate what people read is counterproductive.

Margaret Bald, who has written about the religious repression of literature, notes that “nowadays the church very rarely condemns books or tries to censor books that it disapproves of on moral grounds, except when a priest or a nun, as in this case, writes a book that contradicts Catholic doctrine.” Speaking by phone from her home in New York, she points out that there were many attempts around the world to ban Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code,” (including by Islamic clerics in India who found the film version “blasphemous”) “but the Roman Catholic Church didn’t.”

“The most recent history,” Bald says, “involves Muslims and Islamic religious authorities in other parts of the world. In this country, it’s more parents or people on school boards trying to pressure libraries to remove books. Churches don’t really have the authority to ban them.”

“Over the long run,” she says, “it does seem that religious censorship has been pretty futile.”

On the other hand, Professor Joyce Latham at the School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee recommends looking beneath the stated objection to a book. “What we know about repression,” she says, “is that the target is not usually the point.” These cases usually involve a certain degree of bait-and-switch: What, she asks, is the church’s real interest in suppressing Sister Farley’s writings on sexual relations? “When we see women achieving significant leadership roles within a male hierarchy, in order to suppress that emergent voice, [the authorities] have to find a way of discrediting that voice. As Sister Farley is one of the leading academics in terms of Christian theology, there is a need to roll that back, to discipline her in a way that others will feel tentative about stepping out on their own.”

“If the idea is to suppress the book, it will only achieve increased distribution. But if the intention is suppress the religious sisters, it may impact them.”

Ron Charles is deputy editor of The Washington Post’s book section . You can follow him on Twitter @RonCharles

Lincoln’s fake– Facebook


Date: Jun 15, 2012
 

Social Network>> History • The US

The blogger community was fervent about the claims made by Illinois blogger, Nate St Pierre. He revealed that Abraham Lincoln had requested for a patent for the visual appendix and concept of what we now call “Facebook” in 1845 but Lincoln’s request had been rejected.

The blog was found to be a hoax.

According to Pierre, Lincoln was proposing that each town build a centrally located collection of documents where every man would have his own page, and talk about himself as well as his work and family. Each man could also decide if he wanted to make his page available to the entire town, or only to family and friends.

In the first 24 hours after his post, the article was shared on Facebook more than 10,000 times, Pierre said. Forbes magazine posted a story under the headline, “Abraham Lincoln Filed a Patent for a Dead-Tree Facebook in 1845”.

But many historians soon investigated Pierre’s claims and found the story was fabricated. “I just did it for fun. But also wanted to make a bigger point: that the Internet would fall over itself to be first and share without checking,” Pierre said.

‘Independent India worse for tribals’


Author(s): Richard Mahapatra, Down to Earth
Date: Jun 15, 2012

Past two months saw B D Sharma negotiating release of high-profile hostages by the Maoists in Odisha and Chhattisgarh. TV viewers saw and heard Sharma, probably for the first time. Widely respected in the civil society, he has been championing the rights of tribals for four decades now. He served as collector in the undivided Bastar district of Chhattisgarh in the 1970s, after which he quit the Indian Administrative Service. Later he was appointed the commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Known as the mover behind the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act, Sharma says the tribals will not accept the current development model as an alternative. Excerpts from a conversation with Richard Mahapatra

B D Sharma

Photo: Sayantoni PalchoudhuriYou are often asked what has changed in Bastar since you quit the job of a collector. What has not changed?

The tribals’ own design of development. They still lead a life based on their natural resources. In the Gondi language there is no future tense. This is because they have plenty of resources around: land, forests and water. This is where the conflict lies: people outside their world want to get those resources and impose new development models on them.

But as a fallout we are now trapped in a zero-sum game: if the government is wrong the Maoists must be right and vice versa. Where do tribals feature in this prolonged conflict? It is rather a minus-sum game. The tribals have suffered beyond their tolerance. They have been stripped of their natural capital. We deliberately don’t talk about their rights. As the SC/ST Commissioner, I once asked tribals why they supported Maoists. They said: “We are free from the tyranny of the land and police officials.” The message is clear: give tribals their rights and you don’t have Maoists. When I was the collector of Bastar, I refused permission to big projects. Trust me, that kept the Maoists away.

Do you suggest we need to control access to tribal areas?

Yes. I feel we all committed a mistake by not applying the Article 19 of the Constitution in tribal areas of central India. (It ensures fundamental right to move freely across India but limits access to certain areas.) We have imposed the restrictions in north-eastern states.

But the Constitution has provisions that acknowledge tribal rights

That is another problem of interpreting the Constitution. PESA is a radical piece of legislation. But even after 16 years of enactment no state has issued guidelines or implemented it in the right spirit. We have to change the perception. PESA is not Central legislation but a provision under the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution, which gives the tribals rights over their natural resources. Since we treat this as a law there is a tussle between states and the Centre. Anyway, nobody is interested in implementing PESA. Former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Digvijay Singh, once told me PESA was voted in Parliament because nobody read that. That speaks about the intention of our lawmakers.

Do you feel after the high-profile abductions and your negotiation, there will be a perceptible progress in meeting tribals’ development aspiration?

The conflict will not end with this because it did not start with this. The conflict is about ownership of land, forest and water resources in tribal areas. Till it is not settled in favour of the tribals, the conflict will continue. For record’s sake, I am not a Maoist, nor a government employee now. The state government has set up a high-powered committee to review the cases of all prisoners languishing in Chattisgarh jails, including the cases demanded by the Maoists. I think that is an achievement.

There is lack of confidence on panchayats, despite the fact that they have plenty of funds for development work. How do you approach the dilemma?

First, you don’t talk about confidence when you have done nothing to empower them. Second, tribals have their traditional governance system that the Constitution recognises. Why don’t you empower those institutions? Even during the British Raj, tribal areas were termed “excluded areas”, with their own institutions and power over local resoures. Independent India has become worse for them.

Interviewee:
B D Sharma

India’s nuclear radiation threat to Sri Lanka


June 6, 2012, 8:44 pm

by David Soysa

“God is so far away, and US is so near”. So goes a popular Mexican saying which is equally applicable to Sri Lanka’s plight, being so close to India.

Although Sri Lanka survived even India’s (under Indira and Rahul Gandhi) ‘Agni’ Terrorism, we and even our future generations may not be able to survive from a possible nuclear disaster to Kudankulam 2000 MW nuclear reactor in India. The Russian-built reactor is only 150 miles from Jaffna, and less than 600 miles from Hambantota.

Justice C. G. Weeramantry (former Judge of the International Court of Justice) in a letter addressed to the world’s Environmental Ministers (and published by our newspaper after Japan’s Fukushima disaster) under the title “Halt Construction of new reactors” highlights; a) lethal doses of radiation to exposed persons 150 miles away from the damage to a nuclear reactor and the radio active contamination of the environment more than 600 miles away are a dire note of warning; b) radioactive contamination of the environment could result in congenital deformities for a thousand generations to come; c) no power on earth can insure against, earthquakes, tsunamis, wars, insurrections, negligent management and other disasters; d) several nuclear accidents have already occurred even in developed countries like the US, Russia and Japan. Even the resources of those countries were strained on damage control. Smaller states (like Sri Lanka) could be completely crippled and e) besides accidental damage reactors, radioactive nuclear waste disposal poses a grave threat to humanity.

These are dire warnings from an internationally respected authority on international law. I could hardly add a word, to wake up Sri Lankans, who are sleeping at noon, while the clock is ticking away in Kudankulam. This is not the first time either. When India announced plans to launch Sethu Samudram project in violation of the international law, even our High Commission in New Delhi took no notice. It took a full page article published in The Island of 13th October 2004 to wake up Sri Lankans. Fortunately, our ablest Foreign Minister Laxman Kadirgamar and Secretary H. M. G. Palihakkara took prompt and effective action to save Sri Lanka from that potential danger to our environment, security and shipping. It was done diplomatically and scientifically.

India, which is seeking a seat in the Security Council as a permanent member, has been notorious for violating and treating UN conventions and decisions with impunity and contempt. To date India has failed to implement the famous UN Security Council Resolution on Kashmir, passed several decades ago. Instead, the Indian army is maintaining a reign of terror against the majority Muslims. It is not surprising therefore that India has built a massive nuclear reactor at Kudankulam close to the sea and only 150 miles from Jaffna, without either informing Sri Lanka of the project or obtaining a no objection clearance from the latter as required by International law.

In an article published in The Island of 05.08.2007, I alerted our authorities with the following. I followed this with another published in The Island of 03.12.2007. But that too did not wake up Sri Lankans. “A two thousand mega watt nuclear power project on the coast of Tamil Nadu is being built, to be completed by 2008, like the Sethu Canal project. Indian citizens are now demanding to be informed of the safety aspects of the nuclear fuel complex at Halaya Kadal and the fast breeder reactor at Kal Pattikam, where 30% of the staff lost their lives due to last Tsunami in December 2004. A nuclear submarine base is planned to be sited at Ramanatha Puram in the Sethu Canal.

Indian security analysts of Tamil Nadu have begun to express their grave fear that a devastating nuclear disaster could occur due to one of the following. First, as it happened to Kashiwasaki Kariwa plant in Japan, an earthquake could damage the nuclear plants in Tamil Nadu coast end so close to Sri Lanka resulting in deadly radioactive leaks affecting both Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu. Besides earthquakes, the area is also prone to tectonic activity, cyclones and tsunamis, according to Indian meteorological department. The department has assigned Palk Bay area as an area for volcanic and cyclonic activity”. (The Sunday Island of 05.08.07).

In conformity with Sri Lanka’s current culture of damage control after the damage (remember the pre-Geneva and post-Geneva debacle) our authorities are now seeking to negotiate with India a Radiological Emergency Preparedness Programme. Thus, we have given our approval for India’s nuclear plant in Kudankulam implicitly. What use are these programmes in the event of an accident? Such programmes could not prevent disaster due to the Fukushima accident. While Japan and Germany are closing down their nuclear reactors, since accidents cannot be prevented, India is planning to build more nuclear plants as stated by Indian Prime Minister after the Fukushima disaster.

Besides UN Conventions on Nuclear Safety, International Law requires ‘every State to ensure that activities under its jurisdiction are conducted so as not to cause any damage by pollution to other states and their environment.’ Article 146 of United Nations Convention on “Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)” also deals with the need to protect human beings and the environment. India has violated these UN Conventions.

While Sri Lankans have been sleeping, in India long before Fukushima disaster, Peoples’ Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) organized some 9,000 people to perform satyagraha and several hundreds are on an indefinite fast against Kudankulam plant. AMANES indictment adds “as a result of our rulers’ nuclear madness, our land, water, air, sea, marine life and food security will become poisoned”. Shouldn’t we enlighten our fishermen in the North and the East on this danger? Minister of Fisheries may not be concerned.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalaam, missile scientist and India’s former President visited Sri Lanka recently. It is a pity that our media (or the authorities) could not ask Kalaam, how he plans to prevent an earthquake, tsunami, cyclone (or even an enemy attack on the prime target) from damaging the Kudankulam plant? Judge Weeramantry in his open letter referred to earlier adds: “Indeed, we are committing the gravest possible crime against future generations and are doing so with a full consciousness of the effect of our actions”. What a judgment on the crime of indifference, by those sleeping at noon!

There appears to be some Sri Lankans in authority who are too nervous to raise this issue with India, after India let this country down in Geneva on 22nd March 2012. This is a reflection of ignorance of how other friendly countries settled such issues very amicably. Ireland, US, UK, New Zealand, Japan are well known examples. Space restrictions prevent me from going into details which find themselves in an article I wrote to the People’s Bank Economic Review – August – December 2005. As trustees of the environment, should we betray the unborn future generations just to please India?

Soviet Union leader Kruschev said after a nuclear disaster “the living will envy the dead”.

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