False Charges and Brutality in Prison: Mohd Amir Khan


June 15, 2012

Guest post by MOHD. AMIR KHAN at Kafila

[ Mohd. Aamir Khan has spent 14 years in prison and was acquitted earlier this year]

I am in deep pain today. As though terrible, terrible memories, locked away in the deep recesses of my mind have been pried open. Heard on news that an accused in terror case was killed in judicial custody in Yerwada jail. That too in his high security cell.

I had read that the British rulers unleashed physical and mental torture on prisoners in colonial jails, but have never heard that they carried out killings of hapless convicts or undertrials in their custody. The naked truth of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo has been brought before the world. But who will illumine the dark secrets of the netherworld of our prisons? Brutalisation and torture are routine in our jails.

I speak from experience, having lived for fourteen long and seemingly unending years in prisons in three states. There was a near fatal attack on me twelve years ago while I was lodged in the model prison of India, Tihar Jail. But when I survived the attack, a case was slapped on me. While I was thankfully acquitted in the case, not one of those who attacked me was charged until my father – who was still alive then—appealed to the court to intervene. Mercifully, the Court accepted his complaint and registered a case, which still goes on in Tees Hazari court.My co-accused, Mohd. Shakeel, died an unnatural death in Dasna jail in 2010. The jail superintendent and other officials are facing a trial in Ghaziabad. I have been witness to many such incidents of attack on accused, especially Muslims accused of terrorism. Have you ever heard of an attack on Lt. Col. Purohit, Swami Assemanand, Sadhvi Pragya etc? I pray for the safety and well being of all but why this difference? When news broke of Sadhvi Pragya’s torture in custody, the senior most leader of the second largest party rushed to the Prime Minister. But why are we abandoned? When there is but one national flag, one national anthem and one Constitution, why are people treated differently? Will the senior leader feel any need to raise the custodial murder of Qateel with the PM?

Whilst I was in Rohtak Jail in Haryana, a prisoner, who had recently been transferred from Ambala Central Jail, told me that prime accused in the Samjhuata Express blast received VIP facilities. I was surprised. I also heard that Pragya Thakur was sent for treatment to a hospital outside the jail, whereas most of us are not given proper treatment even in the jail dispensary.

Let it be that some undertrials receive VIP treatment and some deprived of it. At least treat us like human beings. Is it too much to ask for security against physical attacks. Is it too much to ask to live with dignity inside Indian prisons?

You might think that I am reacting unnecessarily. But I have lived the claustrophobic, life sapping existence of a prisoner. I know first hand the frustration and helplessness that comes with it. I can feel the pain of Qateel’s family. I wonder now whether his family will ever find justice. I wonder whether anything can recompense for his loss? I wonder whether this open mockery of our constitutional guarantees will continue unabated?

My only purpose in writing this is to appeal to all humane, secular people of this country to consider this matter of life, security and dignity of prisoners urgently.

In the hope for a more just future.

The (Auto) Rakshasa and the Citizen


June 14, 2012

A petition from an organization called Change India invaded my Facebook wall today right before – rather ironically, it turns out— my morning auto ride. The petition is filed under a category on the site called “petitions for economic justice.” When you open it, the image pasted below opens. A sharp fanged, dark skinned “auto-rakshasa” demands one-and-a-half fare. The commuter is “harassed.” The petition that accompanies this image urges the ACP of police to create “an efficient system” so that complaints made to report auto-drivers who overcharge or refuse to ply can be tracked. How, it asks, can “concerned Bangalorean citizens” expect “justice” if their complaints are not tracked?  We all must, it urges, “join the fight.”

Image

Let me first say quite clearly that I do not mean to undermine the intentions and frustrations of those who launched this campaign and, yes, when the meter goes on without asking, it eases a morning commute significantly. The question is: if this does not happen at times (and indeed it doesn’t) then why is this so and what does one do about it? There is a lot to be said about the economics of the issue itself and I welcome others reading who know more to write about it more extensively. But this piece is not about that. It is about the campaign itself and how we articulate political questions in our cities. It is fundamentally about the easy, unremarked way in which a working urban resident and citizen – who is also, after all, a “fellow Bangalorean” and concerned with “economic justice”– can be termed and portrayed a “rakshasa” as if it were a banal utterance.

 

Our urban institutions don’t, in many ways, work. We know this, the poor have always known it and it seems to be the newly discovered ire of elite politics. We complain, the petition says, and “no action” is taken. This complaint is not unique to this campaign or to the elite. The narrative commonly told about our cities today is in terms of “failure” and “illegality” whether it is dysfunctional institutions, corruption, broken infrastructure or slums. I am not contesting these failures or the anger of the petition writers at it. There is, however, a “but.” It is, put bluntly, this: not all institutional failures are the same, not all crimes are equal and not all illegalities lead to the same consequences. Protesting against them without taking this into account is not just ineffective, it is deeply unjust. Let me take an example from housing. Rich people who build illegal houses make “farmhouses” and “unauthorized colonies.” Poor people who do the same make “slums.” In a campaign against “illegality,” only one of them gets demolished. Only one is called an “encroacher” and a “pickpocket.” Only one of them can be a “rakshasa,” the other gets to be a “citizen.”

But, the campaign writers may rightly say: “We are not against autodrivers – it is about complaining against those that overcharge.” Does then a campaign’s representation, these words, this cartoon (ahem) really matter that much? It does. These imaginations, names, words and aesthetics alter, narrow and limit urban politics. You cannot see a rakshasa as another citizen who lives in your city. There was an alternate way to run this campaign: to sit with associations and unions of auto-drivers and come to an agreement. To find out if auto fares are reasonable, high or low. To figure out community mechanisms to prevent non-metred travel. To, if that’s what came out of the engagement, support campaigns for metre fare increases as inflation, prices and petrol/gas increase. To work out a periodic shock-absorption surcharge for periods with very high gas prices. To find out why it costs four times as much to own and register an auto than a Tata Nano. To find out what the daily rental of the auto-driver is that he is trying to make in his twelve hour shift. To figure out why his fares are regulated though the rental he pays isn’t. To consider, quite simply, the auto-driver as a person and a citizen rather than a criminal or a rakshasa. To find out how the institutions the petition is angry at have failed him just as much and, most likely, with much deeper consequences.

Instead this campaign pits “concerned citizens” against “autodrivers” that are, as the image suggests, always already criminal. It repeats the mistake of multiple recent middle-class campaigns for “economic justice” and “social change.” These campaigns increasingly target a particular set of issues –for example, corruption or security – that should concern all of us but because of the way they are defined and articulated instead exclude what is a majority of our urban citizens.

Where do such images come from? Let me trace just one possible thread. In another context, Leela Fernandes has argued that Indian cities are defined by a “new urban aesthetic of class purity.” She was referring to new forms of elite built environments from streets cleared of the poor, gated communities and enclosed malls, and parks where one can walk and play but not sleep and work. Yet this aesthetic doesn’t just manifest itself in the built environment – it is part of an elite urban politics that cannot imagine the poor as fellow citizens. Elite and middle-class campaigns thus become something altered– they are reduced to the protection of what Fernandes calls a “lifestyle.” Not the Right to Life, but the Right to Lifestyle. In the protection of this lifestyle, the working poor cannot exist as fellow citizens with rights and dignities. Their concerns cannot be part of the conversation. They are “rakshasas” that take resources from the state, are the sole reason for public debt, encroach on public land, burden athe government for “handouts,” and pollute and dirty the city just as they take hard-earned tax money taken away from its rightful heirs.

The responses that these campaigns seek can understand “economic justice” only in the form of punitive and disciplinary punishment for the always already criminal poor. In this particular campaign, the only possible result is a deeper surveillance and harassment of auto-drivers by law enforcement – no other interaction is possible, no other solution is conceived. Herein lies the tragedy. What is this campaign fundamentally meant to be about? It is about what happens to a complaint made to a public institution about a service. It could relate then to other, larger campaigns about getting public institutions to work and be accountable to all parts of what makes our urban public. The autodriver is as interested in this question as you or I yet he is excluded, in this frame, from asking it. Worse, he is held responsible for it.

Read more at Kafila

Indian Govt Imposing Koodankulam Plant on People


English: Construction site of the Koodankulam ...

Published on: June 13, 2012 –

BY PRAFUL BIDWAI, The Navhindtimes

SO monumentally arrogant is India’s nuclear establishment that it brazenly brands its critics insane and in need of psychiatric treatment. It has asked the state-run National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS) to “counsel” the tens of thousands protesting against the Koodankulam nuclear power station in Tamil Nadu that it’s perfectly safe.

This marks a new offensive to impose nuclear power upon people who have resisted Koodankulam’s Russian-made reactors since 1988. After Fukushima, the presumption that fears about nuclear hazards are irrational betrays delusional insensitivity.

The police have filed 107 first information reports against an incredible 55,795 people in Koodankulam, charging 6,800 of them with “sedition” and “waging war”. This sets a new record in harassment of popular protests anywhere. Leave alone sedition, there hasn’t been one violent incident during the seven-months-long Koodankulam protests.

NIMHANS psychiatrists, to their shame, are striving to help people “understand the importance of the nuclear power plant”. They treat opposition to nuclear power as a disorder like schizophrenia, paranoia, or craving for victimhood.

By their criteria, more than 80 per cent of the population of Japan, Germany, France and Russia, which opposes new nuclear plants, must be considered insane. As an academic research institution, NIMHANS shouldn’t act as a nuclear propaganda agency.

Role of Foreign Hand

NIMHANS seems to have taken its cue from the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, who attributed the protests to the “foreign hand”. But the real “foreign hand” is Dr Singh himself, who is hitching India’s energy trajectory to imported reactors, including French reactors at Jaitapur (Maharashtra), and American reactors at Mithi Virdi (Gujarat) and Kovvada (Andhra).

After Fukushima, nuclear safety can no longer be analysed from the usual “expert” probabilistic perspective. As the official German Ethics Commission on safe energy says, Fukushima has decisively changed nuclear risk perceptions: “More people have come to realise…that major accidents can indeed occur.” As physicist Mr Alvin Weinberg said: “A nuclear accident anywhere is a nuclear accident everywhere”.

Fukushima occurred in an industrially advanced country, still hasn’t been brought under control, and exposes flaws in the global nuclear industry’s technological risk-assessment methods. Says the Ethics Commission: Fukushima “has shaken people’s confidence … [They] are no longer prepared to leave it to … experts to decide how to deal with… the possibility of an uncontrollable… accident.”

This applies to India too. Its Department of Atomic Energy has a poor safety culture and record. DAE parrots clichés about the Russian reactors’ safety. But it doesn’t even have full access to their design.

It’s the DAE and Nuclear Power Corporation, not the protesters, who are delusion-prone. When the Fukushima crisis decisively turned for the worse with hydrogen explosions, the DAE secretary, Mr Sreekumar Banerjee said these were “purely a chemical reaction and not a nuclear emergency …”.

Of course, the explosions were chemical reactions. But the hydrogen indicated severe nuclear fuel damage. The explosions ruptured plant structures, aggravating the nuclear emergency with three reactor-core meltdowns.

Last September, the government suspended work on Koodankulam until people’s safety concerns are fully allayed by a 15-member ‘expert group’. This failed to convince anyone or furnish any documents, including the environmental impact assessment report. It refused even to meet the independent scientists nominated by the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy.

Koodankulam raises two sets of safety issues: specific to the reactors and site, and generic to nuclear power. The reactors haven’t been certified safe by an independent international or Indian agency. A recent report by nuclear safety experts on Russian rectors shockingly reveals that they are grievously under-prepared for natural or man-made disasters.

Russian reactors are marked by 31 “serious flaws”, including: absence of regulations to deal with contingencies; inadequate protective shelters; lack of records of previous accidents, which would enable learning from past mistakes; and poor attention to safety-significant systems.

The report questions the reactors’ ability to remain safe long enough if cooling systems fail. These systems are vulnerable to metal fatigue and welding flaws. Worse, the earthquake hazard isn’t considered in designing Russian reactors. Many lack earthquake-triggered automatic shutdown mechanisms.

There are serious site-specific issues too, including impact on people and fisheries, and inadequacy of safety systems and waste storage. The site could be vulnerable to tsunamis caused by “slumps” (massive agglomerations of loosely-bound seabed sediments), small-volume volcanic eruptions, and geological and hydrological instability.

Koodankulam is probably the world’s sole nuclear plant without independent freshwater supply. The desalination plant, on which it will fully depend, could fail.

Safety Procedures Bypassed

These issues were highlighted in an impressive 84-page report by PMANE. The official committee hasn’t answered them.

NPC is now bypassing Atomic Energy Regulatory Board safety procedures. It’s rushing into starting the first reactor, which gathered rust for five months. Prior to nuclear-fuel loading, it should be put through another “hot run”, similar to last year’s, says former AERB chairman, Mr A Gopalakrishnan.

In this operation, the core is loaded with dummy fuel and hot water is circulated through it at the same temperature as its operating level to check its vessels, piping, valves, etc. The AERB also mandates an emergency evacuation drill in the emergency planning zone covering a 16-km radius, before fuel loading. Nothing suggests this will happen.

Koodankulam violates the stipulation that there must be zero population within a 1.5-km radius, and only a sparse population within a 5-km radius. Several thousands live in the 1.5-km radius. At least 40,000 people live within a 5-km radius, and 100,000 in the EPZ.

The generic hazards of nuclear power include radiation at each stage, from uranium mining, fuel fabrication, reactor operation and maintenance, to waste storage. Cancer-causing radiation is harmful in all doses. Routine emissions from reactors also pose
grave hazards.

Even graver is the problem of nuclear wastes, which remain hazardous for thousands of years. Science knows no safe way of storing, let alone neutralising, them.

Nuclear power is the only form of energy production with a potential for catastrophic accidents like Fukushima. These problems make nuclear power uniquely, irredeemably, hazardous.

Koodankulam concentrates these hazards, dangerously. It must be scrapped.

Tarun Sehrawat, photographer for Tehelka, passed away. R.I.P


While his breath still lingers, against reason, there is an atom in all of us that still hopes for another miracle

Tarun Sehrawat was on the road to recovery but a massive lesion has struck a cruel blow.

By Shoma Chaudhury

THIS ISa salute to a friend and colleague. He lives yet, as mere breath goes, but his spirit is beyond the reach of human knowledge. Any minute now, the doctors say, his tenuous hold on life will cease.Four weeks ago, this column shared with readers the story of Tusha Mittal, 27, and Tarun Sehrawat, 22, two TEHELKA reporters who had contracted ravaging fevers while on a field trip into the Maoist stronghold of Abujmarh, deep in the heart of tribal Chhattisgarh.

 

Tusha, gratefully, has recovered and is well. But Sehrawat seems lost to us. His jubilant young body was hit by a deadly mix of cerebral malaria, typhoid and jaundice, all at the same time. This did not just affect him; it maraudered him. Four Sundays ago, there seemed no logical reason why he should survive, but survive he did, pulling back with youthful will from impossible odds, pulling back from scavenged liver, lungs, kidney, brain and a coma. A few days ago, he was breathing on his own again, taking baby steps, sipping tea.

 

A miracle of science and human will. The first thing he asked for when he regained consciousness was his camera. His return to office seemed just a month away.And then, the unthinkable happened. On Sunday, 10 June, suddenly, inexplicably, Sehrawat was hit again. His brain began to haemorrhage acutely. A massive lesion shut down the right side of his body. By Monday, moving invincibly like a nuclear cloudburst, 80 percent of his brain was gone.

Everything known to modern medicine has been done for Sehrawat, but it appears the boy we knew is no more.This morning, there was a call from Sehrawat’s father. Ranbir Bhaiya has not stepped out of the super-speciality hospital his son is in from the moment he was admitted. He has held his spot outside the ICU, willing his child back to health. On Monday though, as we stood silently looking at the CT scans, with the surety of a father’s heart, he knew the cold truth. In one last desperate bid, he had said very quietly then in Hindi, “If we have to face danger, we must face it completely. Please tell the doctors they should cut open his skull if necessary.

There’s no problem. I’m willing to give any part of my brain if needed.”The dignity and impenetrable grace of Ranbir Bhaiya’s hope and grief has been both an ache and a lesson these past few weeks. Throughout the rollercoaster ride of positive signs and setbacks — and this last crushing blow — not once has his voice been raised in self-pitying despair or recrimination against fate. He is testimony, if there ever was one, that life and death is always and only to be taken on the chin.This morning, with his child a shadow waiting to leave, reaching into deep reserves within himself, Ranbir Bhaiya had called to say he had decided to authorise a biopsy. “I know now we can’t get him back,” he said in his quiet way, “but I want other families to benefit from what happened to us. I want the doctors to investigate his brain and increase their understanding.” He also wanted to sign permissions for organ donation, if his son’s were fit enough to donate.

Young Sehrawat has always been a volunteer for life, hungry for adventure and experience. Honouring that even in tragedy, the father wanted every atom of him to be a tribute to human positivity.Ranbir Bhaiya was once a driver. In the dark years of TEHELKA’s history, while an assassination threat hung over TEHELKA Editor Tarun Tejpal, it was Ranbir who escorted his daughters to school and back, his tall strapping loyalty a greater source of comfort than any police detail could have been. When Ranbir’s own sons came of age, they were absorbed into TEHELKA.

Polished young men, they were not just the promise of the father’s life; they embody the promise of human capacity. Arun Sehrawat, tall, good-looking, works in TEHELKA’s IT department; Tarun Sehrawat, fearless and very gifted, was our staff photographer.To lose Sehrawat to a story is a heartbreak beyond the surface reach of words. I have wished several times these past few weeks that we had never attempted the trip to Abujmarh. But to persist with that thought is a bigger betrayal of who Sehrawat was than the lesions in his brain have been. And while his breath still lingers, against reason, an atom in all of us still hopes for another miracle.

Shoma Chaudhury is Managing Editor, Tehelka.
shoma@tehelka.com

Shoma Chaudhury
Shoma Chaudhury

Illegal mining marred communities


Published: Friday, Jun 15, 2012, 12:47 IST | Updated: Friday, Jun 15, 2012, 12:48 IST
By Subir Ghosh | Place: Bangalore | Agency: DNA

The Indian mining industry has spiraled out of control, and the government has miserably failed to regulate it. The scale of lawlessness in the multi-billion dollar industry is hard to assess, and the industry has not only fuelled corruption, but also wreaked havoc on both local communities as well as the environment.

This overview of the mining industry comes from a 70-page report—Out of Control: Mining, Regulatory Failure, and Human Rights in India, released by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday. The report lays the blame squarely on the Indian government. “It has encouraged lawlessness by failing to enforce law or even monitor whether mine operators are complying with them,” HRW said.

The report delves deep into the reasons for the state of affairs – it says deep-rooted shortcomings in the design and implementation of key policies effectively left mine operators to supervise themselves. The pervasive lawlessness in the scandal-ridden mining industry is essentially the failure of governance.

The HRW report acknowledged it as a national problem, but narrowed down on illegal mining in Goa and Karnataka for its two well-documented case studies. The report talks of an annual rate of 30 criminal acts for every legitimate mining operation in the country, and goes on to show how even mines operating with the approval of government regulators are able to violate the law with impunity.

HRW researchers visited iron mining areas in Goa and Karnataka and found that reckless mine operators had destroyed or contaminated water sources people depend on for drinking water and irrigation. In some cases, miners even heaped waste rock and other mine waste near the banks of streams and rivers, leaving it to be washed into local water supplies or agricultural fields during the monsoon rains.

If this was not all, some operators punctured the local water table and then simply discarded the vast torrents of water that escape—permanently destroying a resource that entire communities rely on. Some farmers complained that endless streams of overloaded ore trucks passing along narrow village roads had left their crops coated in thick layers of metallic dust, destroying them, and threatening economic ruin.

Yet, it is not the ministry of mines that has been castigated – it is the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) which has been singled out for criticism by HRW. It talks of crucial environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports being extremely inaccurate, deliberately falsified, or both. The most bizarre case cited is that of a mine in Maharashtra being cleared even though its EIA report contained large amounts of data taken verbatim from a similar report prepared for a bauxite mine in Russia.

Read more here

PRESS INVITE: Breach of Contract Compromises KK Reactor Safety


A warning to the TN Govt on Koodankulam

A warning to the TN Govt on Koodankulam (Photo credit: Joe Athialy)

PRESS INVITATION

Breach of Contract Compromises KK Reactor Safety;

Increases suspicion over NPCIL refusal to share Safety Report

WHAT: Press Conference to release newly discovered

information regarding safety breach in

Indo-Russian contract

Livestreaming of Event: http://www.livestream.com/koodankulamshah?t=227743

WHEN: 16 June, 2012. 1130 a.m.

WHERE: Chennai Press Club

Chepauk

WHO: Dr. V.T. Padmanabhan, Scientist

(Radiation and Health)

Background:

Nuclear power plants, in Europe and North America, are subject to extremely stringent design specifications and safety tests. Tolerance for deviations in design specifications is extremely low, and any such deviation has to be accompanied by rigorous study to validate that the change in design does not compromise reactor safety. However, numerous design changes have been made to what was agreed in the Indo-Russian agreement. Most recently, it has come to light that the Russian suppliers have provided a critical equipment with a design different and more risky than what was originally agreed upon. This introduces considerable concerns over reactor safety and the risks of disastrous radiological events. Under the circumstances, the nuclear establishment’s secrecy – where access to the Safety Analysis Reports have been denied despite an order from the Central Information Commission – increases the suspicion that serious shortcomings are being withheld from public scrutiny.

 

For more information, contact:

Chennai Solidarity Group for Koodankulam Struggle – 9444082401 or 9841031730

This renaissance is just a fairy tale


Nuclear power plant symbol

Nityanand Jayaraman

June 15, 2012, The Hindu

The unpredictable financial implications of constructing, running, decommissioning plants and handling risks are causing a global rethink on nuclear energy

For a professed proponent of liberalisation and free trade, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh‘s penchant for a technology that cannot float without subsidies is telling. Nuclear power’s unfavourable economics are not lost on Dr. Singh.

Recently, Westinghouse Electric and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to negotiate the setting up of AP1000 reactors in Gujarat, ending a slump in interest from the Toshiba subsidiary in India’s nuclear market. For Toshiba’s Westinghouse and other nuclear equipment suppliers, the Civil Nuclear Liability Act’s clause on supplier liability was the key hurdle to investing in India. The companies wanted the Indian government to insulate them from the financial fallouts of any potential disaster caused by their technology by spreading that liability among taxpayers. The recent MoU suggests some progress in moving towards this goal.

More obstacles remain, though. Nuclear projects are un-bankable. The government may deploy mental health specialists to deal with the fears of Kudankulam protestors. But those shrinks are unlikely to be able to allay the fears of financiers or nuclear equipment suppliers.

According to nuclear energy expert Peter Bradford, “The most implacable enemy of nuclear power in the past 30 years has been the risk not to public health but to investors’ wallets. No nuclear power project has ever bid successfully in a competitive energy market anywhere in the world.” Mr. Bradford was member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and chair of the New York and Maine electricity regulatory commissions. He teaches a course on nuclear power at the Vermont Law School.

Second thoughts

Unpredictable financial implications associated with constructing, running, decommissioning plants and handling nuclear risks are causing a rethink on nuclear energy worldwide. But these developments seem to slip by India without so much as causing a ripple.

Germany and Switzerland have decided to phase out nuclear power, despite their substantial dependence on it. Israel abandoned its year-old civilian nuclear programme after Fukushima. Belgium revived a pre-Fukushima decision to phase out nuclear power, using the Japanese disaster as a reminder. Italy and Kuwait gave up their nuclear debut by abandoning plans for 10 and four plants respectively. Mexico dropped plans for constructing 10 plants. All of Japan’s 54 reactors are now closed, and plans for 14 new reactors killed.

The story of nuclear energy’s unviability is told not just by the actions of naysayers, but also by the experiences of those — like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, Turkey, Vietnam and South Africa — pursuing nuclear programmes. All of them want the nuclear option, but have no idea how they will finance it.

If the U.S. is Dr. Singh’s inspiration, then the so-called nuclear renaissance’s trajectory in that country gives even more cause for despair. In 2009, the U.S. declared a nuclear revival with promises of more than 30 new reactors. Today, most of these projects are doomed. Even candidates for federal loan guarantees such as the South Texas project, and the Calvert Cliffs-3 project in Maryland, have been mothballed.

State governments in the U.S. do not seem to share the Federal Government‘s enthusiasm for nukes. Bills to reverse moratoria on nuclear plants in Minnesota, Kentucky and Wisconsin failed last year. In Missouri, North Carolina and Iowa, legislators defeated bills to charge electricity consumers in advance to finance reactors.

“At the time of Fukushima, only four countries — China, Russia, India and South Korea — were building more than two reactors. In these four nations, citizens pay for the new reactors the government chooses to build through direct subsidies or energy price hikes,” Bradford notes.

Finland was among the few that reiterated its commitment to nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster. The 1,600 MW Olkiluoto nuclear plant uses French company Areva‘s technology. Areva’s modular design was expected to make it faster and cheaper to build. But 11 years later, the project is behind schedule and its $4.2 billion budget is up now by 50 per cent. After Fukushima, Areva admits that the same plant would cost $8 billion. Even Areva’s home project, in Flamanville, France, has suffered a $4 billion cost overrun and a four year delay. Indeed, 31 out of 45 reactors that were being constructed globally around 2009 were either delayed or did not have official dates for commissioning, says a report for the German Government by consultant Mycle Schneider.

In India

In Kalpakkam, meanwhile, the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor was slotted to contribute to the grid in March 2012. In 2005, Baldev Raj, Director of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam, boasted that the 500 MW unit will be completed in 2010, 18 months before schedule. Till date, there is no sign of this happening. The Kudankulam plant, which is now 23 years old since conception, lost only eight months due to protestors.

In Jaitapur too, the government has more to worry about than local protestors. Areva, the technology supplier, is in trouble. Last year, it announced losses of €1.6 billion, and the sacking of 1,200 workers in Germany. Last June, it decided to suspend production at a Virginia reactor component plant due to declining market prospects. Its expansion plans in France, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. may never materialise. Areva expected to sell 50 nuclear reactors this decade. It has not received a single order since 2007.

Now, with a socialist president at the helm in France, Areva’s future looks even more uncertain. French President François Hollande had promised voters a reduction in nuclear dependence from 75 to 50 per cent, and shutdown of an aging reactor in Fessenheim. Whether or not he carries through with these promises, it appears certain that no new plants will be built or planned during his term. Both conservative-led Germany and socialist France will make up the shortfall from the nuclear phase-out, by investing in renewables for electricity and new jobs. In replacing nuclear with renewables, these nations are declaring that despite its carbon dividend, nuclear is too risky — financially, politically and environmentally — to pursue.

(Nityanand Jayaraman is an independent writer and volunteer with the Chennai Solidarity Group for Kudankulam Struggle.)

Update on Seema Azad Case- Protest on June 26th- Emergency Day


 
Kavita Srivastava-
This is short note to give you a quick update in the Seema Azad case.
At a few hours notice a meeting was called on the 13th of June, 2012 at the Gandhi Peace Foundation against the conviction by a trial court sentencing  the Seema Azad and her husband Vishwa Vijay to life imprisonment. the meeting was called to share the travesty of justice in the flawed judgement condemning Ms Seema Azad and her husband Vishwa Vijay for life in prison on ridiculous grounds. Seema Azad the organising secretary of PUCL, Uttar Pradesh is a cultural and literary activist based in Allahabad. She was the editor of Dastak, a monthly magazine.

 

 The Delhi meeting was attended by more than 35 persons who  included Justice Rajinder Sachar, ex chief justice of the Delhi and Sikkim high Court, and former president of the PUCL,  Ravi Kiran Jain, Vice President PUCL and Senior Counsel Supreme Court & Allahabad High Court and was her lawyer for Seema; Shri Anand Swaroop Varma, Editor of Teesri Duniya and writer; Neelabh, poet and writer, Harish Dhawan of the PUDR, Chhittranjan Singh, Mahipal singh and Kavita Srivastava from the PUCL, Harsh Dhobal from HRLN, Madhuresh from NAPM, Roma and AShok Chowdhary from the National Forum for forest workers and forest people, journalist Bhasha Singh, Literary critic Ajay Singh, Adiyog from Lucknow, ND Pancholi from PUCL Delhi, Mahtab from the FPHRD along with several other activists, lawyers and literary persons.
The meeting began with Mr. Chittranjan Singh welcoming all and stating the two fold agenda of the meeting, which was mainly sharing of the critique of the judgement and planning the campaign activities.
Mr. Ravi Kiran jain presented the critique. the 70 page judgement, showed no evidence. According to Mr Jain the case at no stage went never went beyond the FIR. Infact the incriminating piece of evidence that the police had tried to show,  were mainly books and pamphlets and other “Maoist” literature that they were supposed to be carrying and had on their body at the time of their arrest on the 6th of February, 2012, Mr, Jain clarified that under no circumstance any of this could be counted as evidence, as the police had broken the seals of the packets without taking the magistrates permission and therefore tampering and planting of material could not be ruled out.
Secondly, the police had taken Seema’s remand illegally after the completion of ninety days, which is not permissible. During this two day remand they  had taken her to her house, where they showed the recovery of two mobiles and some more literature. Apart from the fact that the remand itself was illegal and had been challenged in the Allahabad High Court where a recall application was pending. The proper search was not carried out as according to CrPC rules and therefore planting of material was possible. .
Apart from this there was no other shred of evidence, although the prosecution tried to string together Seema’s case with one other case made out in Gorakhpur and 2 cases of Kanpur,  where according to the police they picked up several maoists, who were actively involved with the CPI (maoist) party. They tried to show how they had seized the same literature and there were some confessions of some other prisoners which showed that they were Maoists.  Which goes against the Indian jurisprudence where confession in front of police is not addmissable as evidence.
It was shocking to read that Seema had been convicted for sec 13 (punishment for indulging in unlawful), 18( punishment for conspiracy), 20 (being a member of a terrorist gang), 38 (membership of a terrorist gang), and 39 (providing support to a terrorist organisation ) of the UAPA amended 2004 and 2008, and u/s 120, 121 and 121(A) of the IPC.
 It also came as a rude shock to all that that Seema had been sentenced to 10 year rigorous imprisonment in most of the above sections along with fines of 5000 to 10 thousand rupees. except in 13 where is it was 5 years rigorous imprisonment. She was also sentenced to life u/s 121, waging war against state.
For those who are not aware rigorous imprisonment means working in either the factory of the jail or in the kitchen
Mr Ravi Kiran Jain shared with all that the criminal appeal would be filed in the Allahabad High Court very soon. although they have sixty days but they would not wait in this case.
Mr Anand Swaroop Varma and Neelabh Ashk shared the possible campaign that we could undertake.
 It was decided  that
  1. 15th June : Press conference exposing the travesty of justice condemning Seema to life, will be addressed by Justice Sachar, Ravi Kiran Jain, Anand Swaroop Varma and Neelabh Ashk will address, Ravi kiran jain will present the legal critique.
  2. 26th June: Emergency Day : PUCL Convention against the judgement in the Seema Azad case, all groups will be invited to participate . Along with condemning the judgement a campaign for the release of Seema Azad will also be planned. A poster will also be released for this purpose.  A critique of the judgement will be presented which will be prepared by Ravi Kiran Jain, Harish Dhawan, Neelabh Mishra and Anand Swaroop in English and Hindi and will not be longer than 5-6 pages.
  3. 25th June : Delhi activists to protest outside UP Bhawan.
  4. The entire judgement will be translated in english, which is being coordinated by Harish Dhawan.
  5. It was also planned that Allahabad and Lucknow must have protests, probably several groups are already planning this. Also a letter to Akhilesh Yadava against this conviction.

Homeless in Silicon City, India


As the city prepares to welcome the monsoon, its poor are left to battle it out in the streets. In 2010, the Supreme Court ordered state governments to set up shelters for the homeless people. The October 2011 deadline has long expired and the work is yet to show good progress in many states. Karnataka, as usual, is a laggard state and Bangalore, lags many other cities such as Belgaum, in helping the lot of its poor. The city may need 80+ shelters, but only seven have been built so far. The majority of the homeless poor do not seem to be aware of them.

The man in this video earns Rs. 70 per day, almost twice Montek’s gratis to BPL people.
These are the aam aadmi for whom the Congress is shedding crocodile tears and setting up the UID database at a cost of Rs. 20,000/ Crores (as per the Union budget) to prevent “leakages” of LPG and BPL rations.
 

Open Letter to the Board of the Swiss Press Club- Silencing Alternative Media and Insulting citizens


switzerland

switzerland (Photo credit: siette)


Below is the open letter sent to the Board of the Swiss Press Club, among others, to report on the censorship of alternative media and civil society by the Executive Director, Guy Mettan, on the occasion of a press conference just before the WHA, at which the Swiss delegation to the World Health Assembly were presenting the Swiss government’s position on a variety of  issues including WHO reform.

 

The extraordinary behavior of the executive director is strongly reminiscent of “Les Nouveaux Chiens de Garde” (The new watch dogs) referring to a recent French film documenting the service offered to those in power, by certain journalists who collude, often with zeal, in preventing democratic discussion of issues that are critical to the people and in this case, to their health and survival.

 

It is no wonder that “Health for All” remains a dream. We must support independent journalism everywhere and I want to thank the other staff of the Swiss Press Club whose welcome and respect for freedom of expression were exemplary.  

 

Alison

 

 

 

 

Open Letter to the Board of the Swiss Press Club

Guy Mettan, Executive Director of the Swiss Press Club,

Silences alternative media and insults citizens

Dear Members of the Board of the Swiss Press Club,

On Monday 14 May 2012, a press conference on “Switzerland and Global Health, Swiss foreign policy in the area of health and reform of the World health Organization”.

As a member of the People’s Health Movement (PHM), I attended the press conference in order to report back to the PHM electronic information network (phm-exch).  I am not a professional journalist but I contribute articles to newspapers, medical journals, and magazines on various aspects of international health.

I also contribute regularly to alternative media working on health and environmental issues, and in particular the People Health Movement internet information network (phm-exch) which serves health professionals and /or health activists all over the world. I was an international civil servant with the World Health Organization for 18 years. I continue to defend the constitutional mandate of the people’s international health authority.

The PHM is closely involved in the highly controversial issue of current WHO reform which was the subject of the press conference. Furthermore, PHM, on invitation by the WHO, has participated in all the preparatory discussions on WHO reform that were open to civil society.

Other “simple citizens” were also present at the press conference. Their particular interest was the Swiss delegations’ position on the 1959 Agreement (WHA 12-40) between the WHO and the IAEA which prevents the former from fulfilling its mandate in radiation and health, and the re-establishment of a department of radiation and health, which was closed down 3 years ago, leaving WHO with no competence in this critically important area of public health.

After the four ambassadors’ presentations, the participants were invited to ask questions. There were a dozen journalists in the room of whom 5 or 6 asked a question. With a censorious gesture of the hand, Guy Mettan indicated a vigorous “No” several times to a young woman wishing to ask a question. He informed participants that the Press Conference was for professional journalists and that “he would not take questions from anyone else in the room”.

Ambassador Silberschmidt intervened to say that he and the other ambassadors were very willing to answer questions posed by citizens. Forced to concede and show a minimum of good will and respect for democracy, Mettan announced that professional journalists with press cards would have priority and then he “would allow one question from one other person in the room”.

Astonished at what appeared to be an attempt to censor civil society and alternative media, I remarked that there were no more questions from journalists and that twenty minutes of press conference remained.

“You are here to make propaganda” replied Mettan and he announced that the press conference was over.

Shocked by this behaviour, I approached the podium to ask Mettan about the status of alternative media at the Swiss Press Club. Without replying to this question, Mettan lashed out again: “You are here to make propaganda” and he added “You are here to criticize WHO”.

It is interesting to note that Raphael Saborit, who is the spokesperson for the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs came rapidly up to the podium to support Mettan, and repeated his words. His unfortunate gesture somewhat tarnished the courtesy shown by the four ambassadors.

This clumsy censorship had surprised the participants and attracted a small crowd of people one of whom filmed the exchange. Under this pressure, Mettan informed me that I could ask questions after the press conference during the tea break. I observed that the point of a press conference was that the journalists present take advantage of the discussions. Some of the ambassadors were still present around the podium and listening to the exchange. Mettan snapped at me “So ask your question!” which I then did.[1]

Dear Members of the Board of the Swiss Press Club,

I leave aside the question of Guy Mettan’s lamentable rudeness.

I observe that the Executive Director of the CSP deprived the Swiss Ambassadors of the opportunity to respond to question posed by alternative media, which may reflect the positions and aspirations of Swiss citizens. He also deprived the Geneva and international media of precious information on the complex and controversial question of WHO reform. Alternative media, often linked with associations and NGOs, are privy to specialized information which are rarely available to professional journalists working for mass media. Their questions are often incisive and the responses are especially important for their internet readers.

Just to put the incident in context, I must explain that the group, IndependentWHO (of which I am a member and of which PHM is a founding association)  had  held its own press conference at the CSP three days before (for the Scientific and Citizen Forum on Radioprotection: from Chernobyl to Fukushima). Two women, welcoming us with warmth and professionalism, had informed us about the interesting press conference that was to take place the following Monday. We had asked if the event was open to the public and if we could participate and they had replied “Of course, you are very welcome!”

I remind you that “the SPC was established by the Republic and Canton of Geneva and the City of Geneva for public institutions” and I would like to ask the following question:

Given that a large proportion of information today is disseminated through alternative media (often electronic networks) what is the position of the SPC on the participation in press conferences of the many people who are active in the dissemination of information through these networks?

It goes without saying that I respect the current procedures of the SPC. I assume that the SPC fully recognizes the legitimacy and value of alternative media and the need to offer facilities for these networks in the interests of plurality of information sources and freedom of expression.

Yours sincerely,

Alison Katz

Member, Peoples Health Movement, IndependentWHO, SolidaritEs, Centre Europe Third World


[1] I welcome the fact that the Swiss delegation recognizes WHO as the chief architect of international health policy. But the delegation also supports the “multiplicity of health actors” including public private partnerships (PPP). One of the biggest and most influential of these is the Global Fund which deals with the three big killers worldwide (AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria), and WHO does not even have a seat on the board of the GF. Is support for PPPs  therefore incompatible with support for WHO as the central architect of international public health?

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