SC student body wants toppers to be put on merit list


TNN

GUWAHATI: The All Assam Scheduled Caste Students’ Union (AASCSU) on Sunday said some of the toppers from the schedule caste (SC) community were put in the reserved category instead of the merit category by college authorities.

The students’ body said the college authorities during the admission process placed the SC merit students on the quota list instead of the merit list, which according to the body deprives other students from the community.

At a meeting held in Cotton College, the students’ body put forward issues affecting the community as a whole. According to them, the state government hasn’t been able to address their problems in a pragmatic manner. The body discussed various problems faced by SC students at their respective schools and colleges such as discrepancies in cut-off marks, pre and posts matric scholarships, admission in medical and engineering colleges. The also spoke about formation of a strong city committee.

“College authorities are putting the toppers from our community in the quota category deliberately instead of the merit list. This proves detrimental for other students from the community as there are limited seats within the quota. The government says it will be beneficial for us, but we think it isn’t the case,” said Praveen Baishya, AASCSU president.

He added that at a meeting with authorities concerned regarding the placement of SC toppers in the quota list, a circular was issued to the colleges and technical institutions to follow the decorum.

“We are focusing on a strong city committee to meet the interests of SC students. The Constitution has rights preserved for us. The state government is not serious about the Atrocities Act and one minister even said there have been no instances of atrocities on the SC communities. Funds meant for SC areas don’t reach the people and are even diverted,” said Baishya.

Govt proposes to amend two laws on land purchase and transfer


June 26, agencies

With the aim of tackling illegal transactions and evasion of taxes, the government today said it proposes to amend two laws related to land purchase and transfer.

The proposal to bring amendments to the Benami Transactions (Prohibitions of the Right to Recover Property) Act, 1989 and SEZ Act, 2005 was made at a preparatory meeting of National Council for Land Reforms (NLRC).

Chairing the meeting, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh told the non-official members of NLRC that suggestions on the steps taken by the government to bring reforms and related land management issues should be provided in a week’s time.

He said that the government proposes to bring amendments to the Benami Transactions (Prohibitions of the Right to Recover Property) Act to monitor evasion of ceiling laws through fraudulent land transaction.

Ramesh, who also holds the Department of Land Resources portfolio, said the Centre also proposes to amend the SEZ Act to put a ban on exemptions on diversion of land in Scheduled Areas and also on transfers of common property and and agricultural land for SEZ purposes.

The Rural Development Ministry had decided to hold the meeting of the non-official members of NLRC after they attacked the government of failing to convene a single meeting of the Council over the last four-and-a-half years. NLRC was constituted in February 2008 and is led by the Prime Minister.

The Minister also informed the non-official members of the Council that the Centre is planning to conduct surveys for a better understanding of the status of ‘bhoodan’ land, common property resources in villages and settlement operations in tribal sub-plan areas.

The Prime Minister asked me to meet the non-official members. I met them. Now the PM will fix a time,” the Minister said when asked about the timing of the full Council’s meeting.

P V Rajagopal of Ekta Parishad, who is a member of NLRC, said suggestions on the government’s proposals would be submitted on Saturday.

India is under undeclared Emergency


 

The Silent and Telling Emergency in India



S. P. Udayakumar, Idinthakarai, June 26, 2012

Today is the 37th anniversary of the infamous emergency that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed on the people of India. While some people were quite happy that the bureaucrats came to offices on time, shopkeepers kept price lists outside their shops, trains were punctual and so forth, many people were worried and concerned about the curtailment of our freedoms and entitlements. As a 15-year-old boy, I was worried about my father’s safety (as he was active in the DMK party), the complete absence of freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly, and most importantly, freedom from fear. People were afraid to speak their minds out, the newspapers were full of blank spaces because of censorship, and the society was enveloped by a thin layer of fear and suspicion. That was not the India I had grown up to love and cherish. Never did I imagine even in my wildest nightmares that I would find myself in a similar but silent emergency after some 37 years of liberty and freedom.

Today is the 100th day of my and Pushparayan’s self-exile here at Idinthakarai. On March 18, 2012 at 4:45 PM the Personal Assistant (General) of the Tirunelveli Collector called me and asked me and Fr. F. Jayakumar, the Parish Priest of Idinthakarai, to go and meet the Collector in his office the next morning at 10 am. The Collector, Dr. R. Selvaraj, himself called me later that night and the next day morning asking us to go and meet him. A warning bell rang in my mind and I told my friends that we were all going to be arrested. My intuition proved to be right; some 200 of our friends from Koodankulam, Koottapuli, Chettikulam and Erode were arrested. Rayan and I and 13 others embarked on an indefinite hunger strike demanding our friends’ immediate and unconditional release.

The Superintendent of Police, Mr. Vijayendra Bidari, called me on my mobile on March 19th evening and asked me to surrender. With him still on the phone, I asked the thousands of people who had gathered there for their permission to surrender and they all shouted down the idea. I asked the SP to send enough vehicles and two officers with the arrest warrants so that we all would get arrested en masse. He did not like that idea and hung up by saying, This is the last time I speak to you. We used to speak to each other quite often as I got his oral permission for all our rallies, campaigns and public meetings.

Ever since March 18th, Rayan and I never left this small coastal village (except two short visits to the nearby Kuthenkuzhi village by sea). Thousands of people including women and children from all the neighboring villages were keeping a constant round-the-clock vigil to protect us from police action. The Tamil Nadu government imposed 144 prohibitory orders in our area and blocked our access to food, water, electricity and other essentials such as baby food, vegetables and fruits. Young mothers were forced to feed their babies sugar water; pregnant women could not go to hospital; and men could not leave or enter the village. We were surrounded by a massive deployment of police personnel from all over Tamil Nadu and paramilitary forces. We rightly called the situation another Mullivaikal. Indeed, it was!

Pushparayan, Jesuraj and I are not afraid of police arrest or incarceration; we just do not want the struggle to be folded up by the Tamil Nadu police, the Government of India and its intelligence agencies. This is the reason why we have decided not to venture out of Idinthakarai. This self-exile has not been easy or smooth-going. But the singular achievement of our self-exile is keeping the struggle alive and active with several hunger strikes, public meetings, campaigns, planning meetings and other assorted activities.

So far, more than 300 false cases have been filed against us, the leaders of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), and the struggling people of southern Tamil Nadu. Up until December 31, 2011 some 170 FIRs were filed against us. A friend tabulated these cases and had this to say: Just between September and December 2011, FIRs (First Investigation Report) have been filed against 55,795 people and an undisclosed number of “others.” At least 21 sections of the IPC (Indian Penal Code) have been used, include Section 121 (Waging War against the Government of India) against 3600 people, and Section 124A (Sedition) against 3200 people. The Koodankulam police station has the dubious distinction, perhaps, of being the station where the largest number of “sedition” and “waging war” cases has been filed in the shortest time in the history of colonial and independent India. Here is a partial list of cases that were filed against us just in October and November of 2011:

Cr. No. 299/11 D.O. 13.10.11

Sec. 121, 143, 188, 153(A), 341, 506(1), 505(1)(b) & 7(1)(a) CLA Act R/W 120(b)

S P. Udayakumar and 19 others (including 4 women)

Cr. No. 301/11 D.O. 14.10.1

Sec. 143, 147, 188 R/W 34

S. P. Udayakumar and 13 others (including one woman) as well as 2,000 people

Cr. No. 303/11 D.O. 14.10.11

Sec. 147, 148, 341, 294(b), 353, 506(ii) IPC R/W 34.

S. P. Udayakumar and 13 others (including one woman) as well as 1,000 people

Cr. No. 304/11 D.O. 14.10.11

Sec. 147, 148, 452, 121, 506(I) IPC R/W 34 IPC

S. P. Udayakaumr and 2 others as well as 15 supporters

Cr. No. 305/11 D.O. 14.10.11

Sec. 147, 148, 452, 121, 506(I) IPC R/W 34 IPC

S. P. Udayakumar and two others as well as many people

Cr. No. 306/11 D.O. 14.10.11

Sec. 147, 148, 452, 121, 506(I) IPC R/W 34 IPC

Allwyn and four others as well as many people
Cr. No. 307/11 D.O. 14.10.11

Sec. 147, 148, 452, 121, 506(II) IPC R/W 34 IPC

S. P. Udayakumar and three others as well as many
Cr. No. 315/11 D.O. 15.10.11

Sec. 109, 121, 124 (A), 125, 143, 153(A), 341, 353, 505(1)(b), 506(i) IPC & Sec 3 of

PDDL Act & 7(1)(a) CLA Act. R/W 120 IPC

S. P. Udayakumar and 16 others (including 6 priests, 2 doctors, 2 women)

Cr. No. 316/11 D.O. 16.10.11

Sec. 147, 188, 353, 341 R/W 34 IPC.

S. P. Udayakumar and 13 others
Cr. No. 372/11 D.O. 21.11.11

Sec. 121, 124A, 143, 153(A), 447, 505(1)(b) & 7(1)(a) CLA Act, 120(B).

S. P. Udayakumar and 14 others as well as 3,000 people
Cr. No. 373/11 D.O. 21.11.11

Sec. 143, 188, 147, 124(A), 153(A)

S. P. Udayakumar and 19 others as well as 450 people
As you can see, some of the above cases carry the charges of sedition and waging war against the Indian State. But what is interesting is the fact that the Prime Minister of India, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, the Tirunelveli District Collector, the Tirunelveli Superintendent of Police (SP) and many other officials have been meeting with us on a regular basis as the diary below establishes. The question here is if we are guilty of sedition and of waging war against the Indian State and so forth, don’t these officials become co-conspirators in our crimes and stand accused of abetting us, the dangerous criminals? Shouldn’t the same charges be brought against them also?

September 15, 2011

Tamil Nadu Ministers Mr. Chellapandian, Mr. Chenthur Pandian, Mr. Shanmuganathan, Mr. Nainar Nagendran, MLA, and Mr. Rajendran, MLA came along with the District Collector, Deputy Inspector General (DIG), Superintendent of Police (SP), Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) and a few other officials to Radhapuram to meet with the Struggle Committee members.

September 21, 2011

The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu met with us in her office and passed a cabinet resolution the next day asking the central government to halt all the work until the fears and concerns of the local people were allayed. The Catholic Bishops of Kottar and Thoothukudi and the CSI Bishops of Tirunelvei and Thoothukudi and several other prominent citizens were with us. The CM talked to us for some 45 minutes.

October 7, 2011

A large delegation of the Struggle Committee members, the Catholic Bishops of Kottar and Thoothukudi and the CSI Bishops of Tirunelvei and Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu politicians, MPs and Tamil Nadu ministers met with the Prime Minister of India under the leadership of Tamil Nadu Finance Minister, Mr. O. Panneerselvam. Minister of State Mr. V. Narayanaswamy, Dr. Sreekumar Banerjee, the head of the Department of Atomic Energy, Dr. S. K. Jain, the head of the NPCIL, Mr. Shivsankar Menon, National Security Advisor, were also with us during the meeting.

October 10, 2011

Some of the Struggle Committee members had talks with the RDO and Additional Deputy SP (ADSP) from 12:30 to 3:00 PM; we insisted on their honoring the Tamil Nadu Cabinet resolution and stopping work at the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP).

October 20, 2011

Some of the Struggle Committee members met with Kerala Minister Mr. P. J. Joseph, Chief Minister Mr. Oomen Chandi, and the opposition leader Mr. V.S. Achuthanandan in their homes and/or offices.

November 1, 2011

Some of the Struggle Committee members were at the Collector office talking to the Collector from 11:00 am to 2:30 pm.

November 7, 2011

Some members of the Struggle Committee spent several hours talking to the Collector in his office.

November 8, 2011

M. Pushparayan and Mi. Pa. Jesuraj met with the Central Government’s Expert Group and held talks at the Collector’s office; the Collector and the SP also participated in the meeting.
November 16, 2011

Some of the Struggle Committee members met the SP in his office at 3:00 pm; then we met with the District Revenue Officer (DRO) and the Collector’s Personal Assistance (General) at the Collector Office.

November 18, 2011

In the second meeting of the team, M. Pushparayan and Mi. Pa. Jesuraj met with the Central Government’s Expert Group and held talks at the Collector’s office; the Collector and the SP also participated in the meeting.

November 30, 2011

Some of the Struggle Committee members went to the Collector’s office and met with the PA(G) at 5:00 pm; waited for the Collector who came only at 6:30 pm. Complained to him about more people entering the KKNPP, Dinamalar’s criminal activities, and the Tamil Nadu government’s slapping severe cases on us. He promised to look into all these issues and to send the RDO and the Deputy SP (DSP) to the KKNPP premises.

December 13, 2011

S. Sivasubramanian, Mi. Pa. Jesuraj, Muhilan and S. P. Udayakumar went to see the Collector at 5 PM. We had a long discussion with the Collector, the Planning Officer, RDO, ASP, one other official, and the PA(G) about the inflow of workers and vehicles into the KKNPP.

December 15, 2011

In the third meeting of the team, M. Pushparayan and Mi. Pa. Jesuraj met with the Central Government’s Expert Group and held talks at the Collector’s office; the Collector and the SP also participated in the meeting.

January 3, 2012

Some Struggle Committee members met the PA(G) at 5:30 pm as the Collector wasn’t there in his office. We gave him a memo for the Chief Minister.
January 6, 2012

Met with the ASP, ADSP and Inspectors of Koodankulam and Radhapuram police stations and discussed the people’s siege issue at length. The officials agreed to go and check the presence of workers at the KKNPP tomorrow.
January 12, 2012

Mi. Pa. Jesuraj, Muhilan and S. P. Udayakumar gave a memorandum to the BSNL officer at Radhapuram and the Tahsildar of Radhapuram. Then some of the Struggle Committee members went to Cheranmahadevi to meet the Sub-Collector, Ms. Rohini Ramdas Bidari at her office.
January 20, 2012

S. Sivasubramanian, Mi. Pa. Jesuraj, Muhilan and S. P. Udayakumar went to Tirunelveli to meet the SP and handed over a complaint about the Dinamalar newspaper. Then met with the PA(G) of Collector about the same issue. Later met with the Collector in his office and discussed about the Jan 31st meeting.

 

January 31, 2012

The fourth meeting with the Central government’s Expert Group did not take place. As our car entered the compound and approached the main office, a small group of some 15 men (both Congress and Hindu Munnani thugs) came rushing towards our car and pelted stones and attacked the vehicle. We drove out of the Collector office compound and refused to participate in the talks. Talked to the press and left the scene. Police escort came and took us to the Muntradaippu police station; The SP also came and met us there. In the meantime, some 10,000 people had gathered in front of the KKNPP front gate. We rushed to Koodankulam and talked to the people for almost an hour and asked them to disperse peacefully. The DIG, SP, RDO and several hundred policemen were there at Koodankulam. Took some people to meet the DIG at the Koodankulam police station and had a dialogue with him. Took the injured women to Radhapuram govt. hospital for treatment and they were all admitted as in-patients.

February 18, 2012

People laid a siege in front of the KKNPP from 12 pm till 9 pm. The Tamil Nadu government’s expert panel visited the KKNPP site at around 5:30 pm. They were there for hardly an hour. We held talks with the DIG and the Collector at the Koodankulam police station with two demands: reducing the work force at KKNPP to 20 and the Tamil Nadu panel should come to our villages to meet with the people.

February 19, 2012

Some of the Struggle Committee members went to the Collectorate in the afternoon. We had a long meeting with the team, Dr. Iniyan, Dr. M.R. Sreenivasan, Mr. Vijayaraghavan and Dr. Arivu Oli. The Collector, SP, DRO, RDO and PA(G) were also there.

February 29, 2012

We met the AIADMK MP Mr. Manoj Pandian as we were waiting to meet with the Chief Minister and talked to him about the struggle. M. Pushparayan, S. Sivasubramanian, Dr. R. Ramesh and S. P. Udayakumar met with the CM. She stood up, smiled and received us. I gave her some of my books. I spoke for some 15 minutes which she listened to very carefully and attentively. When I paused, she said, Have you finished? Then Dr. Ramesh spoke for 5 minutes and gave some of his reports. She said, I’ll go through them carefully. We thanked her and left.
More than 300 cases including sedition and waging war against the State’ charges and life in self exile in a remote coastal village without any mobility, family, access to health care, and other essentials of life make me remember the Emergency and MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act) days. Yes, there is a silent emergency prevailing in India today.

The State that accuses us of waging war against it is indeed waging a war against its own people. Also we have to ask what is seditious today in India. The Manmohan Singh government has scores of ministers who are accused of serious corruption and fraudulence charges but it is the common people like us who struggle for the safety and betterment of our people stand accused of sedition.

The Manmohan Singh government, the most controversial government independent India has ever had, has tried all kinds of dirty tricks to put down our struggle and the movement. They have been accusing us of receiving foreign money, acting at the behest of foreign powers, conspiring with the Catholic Church, conniving with opposition parties and so on. They have damaged my school, destroyed the poor little children’s library books, vandalized the children’s water taps, intimidated the family members, and indulged in all kinds of inhuman, devious and criminal behavior. The Indian government and the Department of Atomic Energy have refused to give any information to the public and are speaking half-truths, non-truths and complete nonsense just to mislead the country and enhance their own self interests.

Having exhausted all options to end opposition to the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant, the Government of India now plans to take a peek into all our minds and remove any fears with the help of psychiatrists from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) in Bangalore. The government is getting sicker and sillier.

Besides the prevailing silent emergency,’ there is also a telling emergency in the country, viz. we are stuck with a government that works for foreign governments, foreign corporations, foreign interests, and cannot for a second accept the simple fact that ordinary Indians’ can think through policy issues, take a stand on them, and stand up for their rights. We have got an emergency situation indeed.

Note: S. P. Udayakumar is the Coordinator of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) and the opinions expressed here are his own. For contact: spudayakumar@gmail.com  .

Phasing-out of Inefficient Lighting, Can Culminate in Major Economic And Climate Benefits


 

By Marianne de Nazareth

22 June, 2012
Countercurrents.org

Rio is not all negative, with positive national decisions being taken by countries, keeping the environment firmly in focus. Phasing out of inefficient lighting has been found to provide both major climatic benefits but also salient economic savings as well. In Rio ,countries have agreed to 2016 as the target date for transition to energy efficient bulbs. Plus looking at the various countries new policy status map and huge savings potentials have been assesed with these measures.

As high as a total of five percent of global electricity consumption could be saved every year ,through a transition to efficient lighting, resulting in annual worldwide savings of over US$ 110 billion, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners have said in a statement in Rio de Janeiro .

In some cases, the assessments show that the financial savings and climate change mitigation benefits achieved by phasing out incandescent lighting in developing and middle-income countries are much more significant than previous studies suggested.

The staggering yearly savings in electricity of the phase-out, has been found to be equivalent to closing over 250 large coal-fired power plants, resulting in avoided investment costs of approximately US$ 210 billion. Additionally, the 490 megatonnes (Mt) of CO2 savings per year is equivalent to the emissions of more than 122 million mid-size cars. A group of 14 pilot countries will seek to benefit from such opportunities as part of a Global Efficient Lighting Partnerships Programme, co-ordinated by UNEP and partners, that will get underway next month.

Interested countries can receive support to develop national phase-out plans for inefficient lamps from experts provided by the en.lighten initiative: a public-private partnership led by UNEP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in collaboration with Philips Lighting, Osram AG, and the National Lighting Test Centre of China.

Plus a new global policy map was launched, also produced by the en.lighten initiative, shows in detail the status of efficient lighting policies in countries around the world. The first resource of its kind in the lighting industry, the online map provides an overview of efficient lighting policies and successes, specifically in the residential sector. The information for each country covers standards, labels, supporting policies, product quality control activities and end-of-life policies, as well as a national ranking in terms of policy development. Ratings say en.lighten will be regularly updated according to a country’s progress in achieving a sustainable transition to efficient lighting.

“One of the most cost-effective ways to contribute to the reduction of global carbon emissions is the phase-out of inefficient lighting technologies,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director.

“Increasing numbers of countries are now achieving major financial savings, generating green jobs, and seeing reductions in mercury, sulphur dioxide, and other pollutants from power stations, through a switch to efficient lighting. As the Rio+20 negotiations continue, these new findings from the en.lighten initiative demonstrate that ambitious policies and partnerships must be seized if the social, economic, and environmental benefits of a transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient green economy are to be realized.”

“The en.lighten initiative is a showcase for the benefits of public private partnership,” said Monique Barbut, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility.

“Working together, we are accelerating the understanding of technology options, establishing quality and certification protocols, and promoting sound policies for countries to achieve their climate mitigation goals. We need more private sector leaders to follow the example of Philips and Osram and join the GEF in advancing technologies to protect the environment and foster sustainable development.”

Country lighting assessments, were released in Rio +20 which analyzed the benefits of shifting from inefficient light bulbs for consumers, the industrial, commercial and street lighting sectors. Products cover a wide range of technologies including innovative LEDs.The assessments were produced in conjunction with the International Energy Agency (IEA) and over 150 countries including Russia , India , China , and Brazil .

“The cleanest, most secure type of energy is the one that is not needed, which is why the IEA attaches so much importance to energy efficiency in our 28 member countries and beyond,” said Maria Van der Hoeven, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA)

“Lighting has a key role to play in improving energy efficiency, and continuing efforts to phase-out inefficient lighting products at a global level will enhance energy security and reduce global energy demand.”

The new assessments show that India could cut its lighting electricity consumption by over 35 percent, which is equivalent to avoiding the construction of 11 large coal-fired power plants and taking over 10 million cars off the road. The annual saving would be over US$2 billion. Due to the technological shift towards innovative LED technology, there is a great opportunity for countries to leapfrog to this advanced lighting solution in national markets.

Although LED lamps are currently expensive to buy for individual consumers, bulk procurement by governments, tax incentives and subsidies are making them a viable alternative. LEDs do not contain any mercury and last up to ten times longer than their CFL counterparts.

“Lighting accounts for around 20 percent of global electricity consumption. Therefore, energy efficient products are key to a sustainable and green future. Green is lean,” said Constantin Birnstiel, Chief Sustainability Officer, Osram AG. “As a long-term partner of the UN’s en.lighten initiative, OSRAM strongly supports the combat against climate change with energy-efficient lighting around the globe. Private partners can accelerate the success of global initiatives with their experiences and resources in individual countries.”

“Already many emerging and developing countries have committed to phase out inefficient lighting, thereby helping to create the first global industry sector transition to low-carbon innovative and sustainable solutions,” said Harry Verhaar, Head of Global Public & Government Affairs, Philips Lighting.

To date, almost 50 developing and emerging countries supported by en.lighten have committed to phasing out incandescent lamps by 2016. Work also begins next month in 14 new pilot countries to develop national plans towards phasing out incandescent lighting, as part of the UNEP en.lighten Global Efficient Lighting Partnerships Programme. The first national workshops will be held in July in Uruguay and Chile , followed by Belize , Costa Rica , Dominican Republic , El Salvador , Guatemala , Honduras , Nicaragua , Panama , Morocco , Jordan , Philippines and Tunisia .

2012 marks the United Nations International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, which aims to double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030. For the lighting sector, this goal can be reached in just four years, if the target to phase out inefficient incandescent lamps worldwide by 2016 is met.

Key facts at a glace:

· Electricity for lighting accounts for almost 20 percent of electricity consumption and 6 percent of CO2 emissions worldwide. According to the IEA, approximately 3 percent of global oil demand can be attributed to lighting.

· The global demand for artificial light will be 60 percent higher by 2030 if no switch to efficient lighting occurs.

· Incandescent lamps have already been phased-out, or are scheduled to be phased-out in most OECD countries, Argentina , Brazil , China , Colombia , Mexico , Vietnam and other developing countries.

· If Brazil extends current legislation to include commercial, industrial and street lighting applications, the country could save close to US $ 4 billion and reduce carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to 400,000 cars being removed from the road.

· The complete transition to efficient lighting in all sectors throughout Africa could reduce electrical demand enough to electrify over 14 million presently un-serviced households.

· Up to 95 percent of the energy emitted by incandescent lamps is heat, and their efficiency is low. In comparison, incandescent bulbs last around 1,000 hours which is significantly shorter than compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) which can last up to 12,000 hours.

· Like all fluorescent lamps, CFLs contain small amounts of mercury, which complicates their disposal.

· Some countries, such as Nigeria and China , are leapfrogging directly to light emitting diodes (LEDs) from incandescent lamps. LEDs do not contain mercury and have other advantages such as long life and low heat generation.

(The writer is a UNEP and UNFCCC fellow)

 

Sinking Into Murky Water With Russia


Nuclear power plant symbol


By Raminder Kaur

26 June, 2012
Countercurrents.org

In January 2008 I was surfing on the internet when I came across a Wikipedia entry on the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant under construction with the Russian Atomsroyexport since 2002. It stated that the nuclear plant when complete will provide a base as well as one-off fuel to a nuclear-powered submarine, news that I circulated at the time. It was also noted that dredging for the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project between India and Sri Lanka would make the sea navigable for such large vessels:

There are negotiations to see if a naval base is to be added here for both safeguarding the project and as a presence in the southern tip of the country. [5] A mini port became operational in Koodankulam on January 14, 2004 . [6] The port has been established to receive barges carrying overdimensional equipments for light water reactors from ships anchored at a distance of 1½ km. This removes the necessity of land transportation that increases the possibility of damage. The Sethusamudram project will enhance the military and provide Nuclear Submarine base in the canal, with the nuclear fuel supplied by the Koodankulam Nuclear Project.

The entry is no longer there, presumably edited out in view of the intensified anti-nuclear struggle which has reached a zenith around the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant. (1) Moreover, the admission is a major howler on the part of the person who sent it to the worldwide encyclopaedia. In the aftermath of the Indo-US nuclear civilian agreement ratified in 2008, Koodankulam has been classified as a civilian operation subject to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The fuel for India ‘s nuclear-powered submarine can no longer be legally taken from Koodankulam. But the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research at Kalpakkam on the other side of Tamil Nadu retains its military capacity and will now provide the life-long fuel required for the new Arihant submarine in the form of miniaturised pressurised water reactors. (2)

The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) are playing a dangerous game of nuclear poker. Examples of state vacillation between civilian and military uses of the Koodankulam region are common. On the one hand, it wants to stress that the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) is a civilian project tying it up with international agreements in the post-2008 scenario so that India appears as a respectable power that can responsibly deal with enhanced nuclear trade.

On the other, internally it wants to stress the defence angle, emphasising how essential power plants such as the KKNPP are to Indian security. Such rhetoric adds leverage to ill-conceived charges of ‘sedition’ and ‘war against the state’ filed against anyone who protests against their plans as has been done in outlandish numbers over the nuclear plant. (3) In fact, the DAE have misled court hearings on Public Interest Writ Petitions by stating that nuclear power stations are vital for national defence and they continue this logic in their campaigns to deter citizens in further querying or critiquing the nuclear plant project on any grounds to do with democratic rights and environmental impact. The former Indian Navy Captain, Dr Buddi Kota Subbarao, now an advocate of the Supreme Court of India describes these cases as fraud on the part of the DAE. (4) The use of DAE defence rhetoric for civilian nuclear power plants is not about defending the nation, but about defending themselves.

It has also come to light that the 1988 Inter-Governmental Agreement with Russia encloses an annexure which states that Russia will provide knowledge and services that relate to India ‘s development of a nuclear-powered submarine. This admission was noted in a website magazine on defence and security affairs, Tempur , in 2009.

The Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) that India and Russia Atomstroyexport signed on November 20, 1988 for the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) officially involved the construction of two 1,000 MWe  Russian VVER-1000-type light water reactors (at a cost of US$3.5 billion) at Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu State. However, a secret annexure of this contract also called for Moscow to offer its ‘consultancy’ and ‘vendor-development’ services, along with the supply of two KLT-40C reactor mock-ups (built by Afrikantov OKBM and designed to deliver 23.5 propeller mW from the 82.5mW reactor and using 20-45% enriched uranium-aluminium alloy, clad in zircaloy), their related heat exchangers and steam generators, plus their detailed engineering drawings off-the-shelf. (5)

The Indo-Russian deal was not just about the construction of a nuclear power plant but accompanied by dividends that bolstered Indian defence ‘know-how’ and ‘know-why’. Whilst this arrangement has only received public attention in recent years, it was in fact initiated before the Indo-US deal when Russia as a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty signatory violated rules to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and technology . (6) Even though a part of the same deal, the nuclear submarine vessel has been removed from Koodankulam as a military asset for there is no legitimate reason for KKNPP to be developed as a naval base.

In January 2012, the Indian Navy leased a one billion dollar Russian-built vessel for ten years, renaming it INS Chakra II. By the end of this year, India is expected to have developed its own nuclear powered submarine, Arihant, boosted by the deal over the Koodankulam Nuclear Power plant and where Russia will help train the Indian crew. (7)

Russia supplies 70% of India ‘s military hardware – an impressive feat until one thinks about the number of Indian pilots that have died on Russian-supplied MIG aeroplanes. Dubbed ‘flying coffins’ and widow-makers’, the Indian Air force have lost over half of their nearly thousand combat planes in deadly crashes in the last four decades due mainly to technical issues, even though as the film, Rang de Basanti shows so colourfully, officials prefer to put the blame on the pilots. (8)

Similarly, the submarine supplied to the Indian army has also had its share of mishaps. In 2008 a fire extinguishing system was activated by mistake and Freon gas that removed oxygen from the air suffocated around 20 people and injured another 21. (9) Questions about the age of the vessel and the competence of the crew have been raised. Former submarine captain in the Russian Navy, Alexander Nikitin, said that the accident was a result of ‘corruption and disintegration of the military-industrial sector’ in Russia . (10) This was the worst submarine accident since the sinking of the Kursk submarine which left 118 dead in 2000 – a disaster that could in fact have been averted if the Russian government had acted quicker and agreed to international collaboration. A similar disregard surrounded the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 where, after days of denial, the then USSR authorities conceded that they had a national and global disaster on their hands.

The Indian and Russian nuclear authorities persistently say that technologies and safety checks have been updated with the latest in engineering with regards to the Koodankulam nuclear power plant. The DAE has even petitioned the Madras High Court with the statement that nuclear disasters at Koodankulam are ‘impossible’. (11) But this is a proclamation born out of sheer arrogance. Moreover, the brain drain of Russian scientists in the former USSR has turned into a flood as the country struggles to retain its scientific talents since the collapse of communism. (12) The scientific ingenuity that is left in contemporary Russia does not compare with earlier years when they launched Sputnik into space. A leaked report proves that Russian officials themselves admit that their nuclear reactors are not fit for purpose when it comes to disasters or human negligence. 31 serious flaws in Russian reactor designs have been catalogued. (13)

India has had a love affair with Russia ever since the colonial era. Inspired by the revolution in 1917, communists in India showed a strong allegiance to the superpower, preferring it to alliances with the imperialist west. Political parties from the heady days of the Tashkent meeting in 1920 and organisations such as ‘Friends of the Soviet Union’ chaired by a Congress leader took root to ensure Russian politicians, artists and cultural ambassadors enjoyed a warm welcome in the subcontinent.

Despite Jawaharlal Nehru’s pledge for non-alignment, relations continued as one Cold War superpower jockeyed against the other. India ‘s Intelligence Bureau has had its training from the KGB since the 1950s. KGB activities were countered by CIA and other interventions in which one foreign spy was played off the other by those in India . Under Indira Gandhi’s rule, Cold War opacity became clearer as India leant more and more towards the USSR .

In the contemporary neo-liberal, post 9/11 era, India plays a game of chess with all major powers. Its allegiance with the former USSR continues under deluded circumstances.

The USSR is no more, but the political left idealises it as if it were still a communist country. The left continue to live under an ideological hangover and are tongue-tied when it comes to developing a consistent critique of Russian policy and practice in India . Their reasons stem from the fact that they favour the multipolarity that an alliance with Russia promises, rather than the unipolarity of the USA which, after all, in the global recession is living with a flagging dream of supremacy. They fail to see the reality of Russia today.

A much reduced but no less powerful Russia is in the throes of cut-throat capitalism and a mission to conquer the world through trade deals and natural resource dependency. The oligarchs of old who worked for the Kremlin continue to have parliamentary control and palatial residences but this time tied in with gangster capitalism. It is evident that they have little remorse and take no prisoners when it comes to muscling in on trade, whether it be legal, illegal or the grey area in between. The Kremlin has mutated into a racketeering Gremlin.

On the supposedly legal front, there are examples such as the nuclear corporate, Atomsroyexport with its large share held by the state corporate Rosatom. Together they are responsible for much of the nuclear expansion in the former Communist bloc, Asia and other countries in the south such as Iran . (14) As the controversy of Iran shows, how long these projects remain simply civilian is anyone’s guess. These are also countries where civil society, citizen’s rights and legislature are comparatively weak. Russia takes minimal heed of international or national law as their belated feting of mammon obscures concerns over human rights abuses. Witness Russia ‘s supply of ammunition and military hardware to the governments in Syria with regards to the atrocities committed against its people and, along with China and Israel , in Sri Lanka ‘s civil war that ended brutally in 2009. (15)

On the obviously illegal front, Russia has grown to dominate the trade in real estate, drugs and the sex trade with one of its favoured havens being Goa . (16) But as a report for the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention stated in 2001, their involvement in the so-called legal economy is much more lucrative:

The large criminal organisations that are presented as the dreadful ‘Russian Mafia’ by the domestic and foreign press, are at the moment apparently not interested in the drug business, though some of their younger affiliates may be dealing drugs. The extraordinary enrichment chances offered by the transition to a market economy explain, according to some interviewees, their lack of interest in drug trafficking. As a law enforcement officer put it, ‘they have such huge opportunities to make money in the so-called legal economy, that it makes no sense for them to deal drugs’.

Whether it is above or below board, ruthlessness defines their conduct led by free-wheeling despots with a passion for big bucks, football, fast cars and even faster women.

India continues to be one of Russia ‘s prime customers. Indian officials may declare themselves as patriots who love India , but as Ashis Nandy has argued for the west in more sophisticated language than is used here, they still fantasise about sleeping with the white adversary. (17) White men serve another function – of endorsing decisions made by the Indian state as demonstrated in the number of times politicians and nuclear officials call upon Russians and Croatians to say that their nuclear technology in KKNPP is safe. (18)

A bitter irony is that whilst Russians court Indians in trade and exchange, Russia itself has become a dangerous place in view of widespread racist attacks against anyone who is not white. Racism occurs not just in football grounds but even in the most liberal of their bastions such as universities: ‘ Those with black skin or an Asian appearance rarely venture out alone at night.’ (19) In a report published in May 2012, five people have been killed and about 70 injured in racist attacks so far this year. (20) But the racism is not just limited to ultra-right street thugs. It is evident in their institutions and corporates, and it is also apparent in the lack of regard they have for the lives and livelihoods of Indians living around the Koodankulam power plant in their transnational profiteering.

So why does the Indian government continue to trade with Russia in substandard and potentially dangerous technologies in military and nuclear hardware? Profits for the companies and kickbacks for the handshaking politicians have overruled the safety of Indian citizens. The 1986 Bofors scandal and the revelations of the 2001 Tehelka Operation West End sting operation in 2001 are only the tip of this melting iceberg in an international arms imbroglio. Official arguments about national security and national development are in fact a threat to national wellbeing and prosperity.

Now that nuclear relationships have broadened to encompass US and French corporates in the aftermath of the Indo-US deal, Indian authorities are not just having an affair, but pimping Mother India in the pursuit of profits. Koodankulam has become a region of civil war fought on non-violent grounds led by the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy against a venal state that threatens with violence. It is the state that has initiated this sorry state of militarised affairs in what was formerly a beautiful and tranquil region of India , a policy that also terrorises people living in other zones earmarked for nuclear developments.

Raminder Kaur is the author of Atomic Bombay: Living with the Radiance of a Thousand Suns, Performative Politics and the Cultures of Hinduism and co-author with Virinder Kalra and John Hutnyk of Diaspora and Hybridity.

1. The entry now appears on wikimapia and a couple of blogs. See http://wikimapia.org/8148328/Kudankulam-Nuclear-Power-Plant-%E0%AE%95%E0%AF%82%E0%AE%9F%E0%AE%99%E0%AF%8D%E0%AE%95%E0%AF%81%E0
%AE%B3%E0%AE%AE%E0%AF%8D-%E0%AE%85%E0%AE%A3%E0%AF%81%E0%AE%AE%E0%AE%BF%E0%AE%A9%E0%AF%8D-%E0%AE%A8%E0%AE%BF%E0%AE%B2%E0%AF%88%E0%AE%AF%E0%AE%AE%E0%AF%8D

2. http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/arihant-class/ It is interesting that the Sethusamudram project was emphasised as only a shipping canal. Proposals for the canal stress the reduction in time for heavy ships that would no longer need to sail south of Sri Lanka . But the actual saving in time is only a few hours for it cuts sailing by a mere 350 nautical miles, not the thousands of miles saved by other canal projects such as those in Panama and the Suez . In 2009, the Indian Ministry of Shipping declared that cost estimates had increased to around Rs 30,000 crores, an outrageous sum that makes no sense if the project is just to save on a bit of time and fuel. Even though proposals have been made to dredge the canal since colonial times, the reason for its inauguration in 2005 under the United Progressive Alliance party in power in the pre-Indo-US deal era has to be militarily strategic. The project is now on hold after much campaigning on environmental, economic and religious grounds as the peninsular pilgrim centre, Rameswaram, is the legendary place where Ram despatched his army of monkeys across the bridge Ram Setu to Sri Lanka . As any rate, the Sethusamudram Corporation Limited was unable to raise the funds needed to complete the project. See http://www.dnaindia.com/money/report_sethusamudram-project-cost-rises-by-rs-4500-cr_1292583

3. http://twocircles.net/2012apr18/koodankulam_fir_filed_
against_over_55000_people_6800_charged_sedition.html

4. http://www.countercurrents.org/subbarao080312.htm

5. http://officialsite.my/tempur/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=883&Itemid=2
http://www.dianuke.org/koodankulam-a-secret-annexure-in-the-indo-russian-agreement-for-a-nuclear-submarine/

6. http://www.fas.org/nuke/control/npt/text/npt3.htm The eventual public release of the now outdated Site Evaluation Report in May 2012 also reveals the Russian role in Koodankulam land clearance from the outset. http://www.deccanherald.com/content/252670/soviet-role-kkulam-land-clearance.html ; http://www.countercurrents.org/kaur290512.htm

7. http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/arihant-class/

8. http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/iaf-lost-half-of-mig-fighter-jets-in-deadly-crashes/1/187061.html

9. http://www.bellona.org/articles/articles_2011/nerpa_lease http://www.bellona.org/articles/articles_2008/Nikitin_comments_on_pac_fleet_sub

10 http://www.bellona.org/articles/articles_2011/nerpa_lease

11. http://www.deccanchronicle.com/channels/cities/chennai/no-disaster-can-hit-koodankulam-plant-centre-202

12 http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2099861,00.html http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704816604576333030245934982.html

13 http://www.bellona.org/articles/articles_2011/rosatom_report

14 http://www.unitedagainstnucleariran.com/company/atomstroyexport

15. According to an Amnesty International report, the USA and Russia rank first and second respectively in the ‘Big Six’ ring of arms traders. http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/big-six-arms-exporters-2012-06-11 See also http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/south-asia/chinas-aid-revealed-in-sri-lankas-victory-parade ; http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/feedarticle/10288835

16 http://www.mpicc.de/ww/en/pub/forschung/
forschungsarbeit/kriminologie/archiv/drug_trafficking.htm

17. Ashis Nandy (1989) The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self under Colonialism, Delhi : Oxford University Press.

18 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNx_x3unS9Q http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/tamil-nadu/article3429704.ece

19 http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,14870888,00.html

20 http://www.sova-center.ru/en/xenophobia/news-releases/2012/06/d24550/

Dalit students face discrimination when it comes to mid-day meals


, TNN | Jun 25, 2012, 03.06PM IST

PUNE: Children from the schedule caste (SC) are discriminated against in the implementation of government sponsored mid-day meal scheme and segregation is practiced in seating arrangements and in eating mid-day meals, said a report released recently by the Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN (WGHR).

” SC children are frequently treated in a humiliating and degrading manner in schools and in public places, at times accompanied by severe corporal punishment. Even in government sponsored schemes like the mid-day meal scheme, under which every child in every government and government-assisted primary school should be provided with a prepared mid-day meal each day of school for a minimum of 200 days, segregation is practiced in seating arrangements and in eating mid-day meals” states the report.

Activist Vilas Wagh says that discrimination was one of the reasons that increases dropout rate of SC, ST students. He agrees with the report observation that dropout rate of SC children is 50% before class eight. The difference in dropout rates between SC youth and all Indian youth has actually grown from 4.39% in 1989 to 16.21% in 2008. Moreover, the literacy levels are lowest among SC girls at 24.4%, compared to the national average of 42.8% for the general female population. In the Mushahar SC community, barely 9% of women are literate.

” Caste bias manifests itself also in higher educational institutions, where there have been reports of teachers ignoring SC students and unjustly failing them in exams; social exclusion and physical abuse; and the unwillingness of university administrations to assist SC students and support them. Between 2008-11, the number of SC students in higher educational institutions that committed suicide was 18 across India. This number only represents official statistics without counting all the SC students whose families did not protest against the incessant discrimination that eventually led to their suicide” states the report.

June 28th -Public Hearing- Urban Reforms


20110422_Mumbai_023

20110422_Mumbai_023 (Photo credit: Friar’s Balsam)

INVITATION PUBILC HEARING

28th June 2012, Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh

2-6 pm

Dear  Friends

AAawas  adhiar Sanyukt Kriti Samiti (AAWAS) is a Mumbai level Federation of Trade Unions, Left political parties, NGOs, CBOs and individuals. It was formed in 2005-2006 to protest massive evictions taking place then.

Mumbai has been the experimental hub of all measures being taken up for making cities more investment friendly. Direct impact of this has been dispossession, either directly or in more sophisticated form of the toiling masses. AAWAS has been since its formation in 2005-2006 (historical year of massive evictions in Mumbai) been consistently raising the voices of toiling class. The policy paradigm also does not attempt to understand and acknowledge a heterogeneous nature of problem and provide adequate solution. But solution has been homogenous. AASKS is attempting to bringing out various problems of the toiling strata who largely live in slums.

In the Public hearing planned on 28th June 2012 at Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh between 2-6 pm. The issues being taken up for hearing are – Urban Reforms that has changed the face of governance, planning and decision making in the city, the case of Dharavi Redevelopment, SRA, people living on Airport land, People living on rent, salt pan and forest land and many others.

We request your esteemed self to be a part of a panel and lend your voice and guidance for taking the struggle ahead.

Thanking you for your presence and time.

Regards,

On behalf of AAWAS

Dr. Uday Mehta, Convener Aawas Adhikar Sanyukt Kriti Samiti

A Stick Called 124(A) The State finds a handy tool in a colonial law to quell dissent


Outlokk-National Magazine | Jul 02, 2012

 


Sentenced Seema and her husband Vijay being taken to jail
sedition law: misuse

Panini Anand, Debarshi Dasgupta

Wrong Arm Of The Law
Why ‘sedition’ rings hollow in India 2012

The law Section 124(A) of the Indian Penal Code, 1870; non-bailable offence

The definition Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India

The accusers Other than the State, even individuals are free to file charges

The punishment Imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.

The misuse While the Supreme Court has specifically laid down that the provisions of section 124(A) are only made out where there is a tendency to public disorder by use of violence or incitement to violence, the clause has been grossly misused. While convictions are rare, the long and tortuous legal process is seen as a deterrent to others.

The victims The law is being used to punish fierce critics of the government, including political
dissenters, human rights activists and journalists

Global status

UK abolished sedition laws in 2010
New Zealand repealed it in 2008

Prakash Ram, a farmer from a village near Haldwani in Uttarakhand, had never heard of Mao Tse Tung. Ironically enough, his first lesson on Chairman Mao and his ideology came not from some gun-toting guerrilla but the Uttarakhand police. Accusing him of being a Maoist, they arrested him oncharges of sedition on August 30, 2004. It has taken eight years for the 28-year-old to be finally cleared of the taint, by the Rudrapur sessions court this month. “I spent two of the best years of my life behind bars (he was granted bail in 2006) and six more years in my legal battle for justice,” he says. “I may be free now but this arrest has spoilt my reputation and will make it difficult for me to get work. Who will pay for this? Will someone be held responsible?”

The dark days of Emergency, rung in 37 years ago this week, may have become a distant memory for some, but for many others, an Emergency-like situation is a recurring reality. Just as in 1975 and the year after, when the State suppressed dissent and abolished civil rights, the democratic republic of India continues to target disaffected voices and accuse of sedition anyone it sees as a threat.

Lost years Prakash Ram, a farmer from Haldwani, accused of being a Maoist. (Photograph by Tribhuvan Tiwari)

Rajinder Sachar, a retired chief justice of the Delhi High Court, thinks the situation today is actually worse. “In 1975,” he says, “the Emergency was more of a political game played by one political party but now everyone is restricted from speaking. One law after the other is passed, stopping one from speaking openly. A situation is being created where anybody can be declared anti-national. We are actually going through an undeclared Emergency.”

One of the latest victims of Section 124(A), a law that deals with sedition and which is a handy tool for the government to target trenchant critics, is Seema Azad and her husband Vishwa Vijay. A journalist couple from Allahabad, they had written fearlessly about corruption and illegal mining in Uttar Pradesh. Charged with sedition, the two were sentenced to life imprisonment and a fine of Rs 70,000 by a sessions court in Allahabad on June 8.

Seema and Vijay were arrested in February 2010 at the Allahabad railway station on their return from New Delhi. They were accused of being members of the banned CPI (Maoist) group simply because the police deemed the literature recovered from them to be “anti-national”. Their advocate Ravi Kiran Jain argues that this verdict ignores the observations the two-judge bench of the Supreme Court made in 2011 while hearing the bail plea of Dr Binayak Sen, who too was charged with sedition. “If someone has the autobiography of Gandhi at his home, will he be called a Gandhian,” the apex court had famously asked the prosecution lawyer. “Even in this case,” says Jain, “Seema and her husband were simply in possession of some literature on Maoism. This does not make them Maoists.” The advocate now plans to file an appeal on behalf of the duo in the Allahabad High Court.

 

Mission aborted Salem’s Piyush Sethia

Other than Dr Sen and the Allahabad couple, there were at least six other high-profile cases involving sedition in 2010. They include Arundhati Roy, who was booked under Section 124(A) for making a speech supporting azadi in Kashmir, and Salem-based environmental activist Piyush Sethia, who was accused of sedition for disrupting a Republic Day ceremony in Salem in 2010 by attempting to distribute a controversial anti-mining leaflet. In fact, things took on a farcical turn when Srinagar-based lecturer Noor Mohammed Bhatt was slapped with the sedition charge in December the same year for including a question in an English paper asking if stone-pelters were the real heroes and asking students to translate from Urdu to English a passage that read, “Kashmiri blood is being spilled like water, Kashmiri children are being killed by police and Kashmiri women are being showered with bullets.”

There is no official record of the total number of cases involving sedition, but the sudden spurt in such cases has generated much concern. Civil rights groups have launched a nationwide campaign to have the law repealed. Says veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar, who was in jail during the Emergency, “The sedition law is a weapon in the hand of the State which evokes doubts, suspicion and hatred in the mind of the people against whom the charges are made. Such an undemocratic and anti-people law must be repealed immediately. In fact, it should have been done many years back.” Most of these cases (see Memories of Another Day) have targeted people who have fearlessly spoken up for the rights of the marginalised, especially the Dalits and tribals.

It was for this reason that Sudhir Dhawale, a Dalit rights activist from Mumbai, was picked up by the Maharashtra police from Wardha in January last year for being a “Naxal supporter”. Still lodged in a Nagpur jail, many speculate the real reason he was picked up was his writings and activities that helped mobilise Dalits for their rights. Like him, Gananath Patra, the 73-year-old convenor of Chasi Muliya Adivasi Sangh in Narayanpatna in Orissa, too was charged with sedition and put behind bars in January 2010. He was released on bail earlier this month due to poor health but on the condition that he must not engage in any activism. He had earlier helped tribals in and around Narayanpatna take back around 10,000 acres of land that had been forcefully acquired from them.

Of course, it is activism in areas under the grip of left-wing extremism that the government is extremely sensitive about. Sethia, the Salem-based activist, found himself in the crosshairs precisely for this. Carrying pamphlets criticising Operation Green Hunt, he was set to spread his message cycling all the way to Sivaganga, the constituency Union home minister P. Chidambaram represents. However, the Tamil Nadu police arrested him in Salem itself, even before he could distribute the pamphlets at the R-Day ceremony there. Out on bail since February 2010, the sedition charges still hold. The real cause for his arrest though, Sethia believes, is his fight against illegal mining in the region. He was the main litigant in a case in the Madras High Court that resulted in the closure of a local mining unit that belonged to Vedanta. Funnily enough, there has not been a single hearing in Sethia’s case so far. “Either they should drop the charges, or they should go ahead with the case and finish it off. It is a sort of leash on my activities,” says Sethia, whose questioning gaze encompasses areas like the Forests Rights Act and water pollution and privatisation.

The nuclear flashpoint Koodankulam agitators are viewed with suspicion

Nuclear energy is another area that the government, including at the state level, has begun to get touchy about. The slightest whiff of opposition is promptly dismissed as anti-national. Little wonder then that as many as 3,500 protesters were charged with sedition in the aftermath of the Koodankulam protests in Tamil Nadu, where locals were agitating against the construction of a nuclear power plant. Says V. Suresh, an advocate at the Madras High Court and someone who has spent time with the locals, “While laws are meant to protect the people, in this case, the sedition law has been clearly misused by the government to further its interests.”

Anand Swaroop Verma, Delhi-based editor of monthly journal Samkaleen Teesri Duniya, expresses concern at a different level. This crackdown by the State, he says, has been met with only rare instances of media criticism and scrutiny. He attributes this to a media cooption strategy which ensures reporting of sedition cases is largely favourable towards the government. “Six years back, the PM, in a conference on internal security with CMs, had urged them to coopt the media and get them to play a more positive role in the fight against terrorism,” he adds. The media, of course, often colludes wilfully.

Even when filed on flimsy grounds, the legal hassles and harassment the sedition charge involves serve as a deterrent to others, forced as they are to think twice before taking on the might of the State. Ask E. Rati Rao, vice president of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties in Karnataka. While she was booked under sedition for asking uncomfortable questions on encounter deaths in the Malanadu area in October 2007, the case against her was dismissed in September 2010 after the police failed to file a chargesheet. “All they wanted to do was just terrorise me, and by doing so, terrorise others,” she says. “This sedition law and democracy do not go together. It is leading the State towards fascism.”

For a Congress-led government that draws its inspiration and legacy from Jawaharlal Nehru, it would do well to act on what the country’s first prime minister had to say on the sedition clause in a parliamentary debate in 1951 on the First Amendment to the Constitution. “Now so far I am concerned that particular section (124-A) is highly objectionable and obnoxious and it should have no place both for practical and historical reasons…the sooner we get rid of it the better.”

***

Memories Of Another Day

How a repressive 19th-century law is being indiscriminately unleashed on citizens fighting for the rights of their fellow citizens

  • Jogendra Chandra Bose The first case, in 1891, when the editor of Bangobasi was charged for criticising the British govt’s move to raise the age on consensual sex from 10 to 12, and for commenting on the negative economic impact of British colonialism
    Mahatma Gandhi Charged, along with Shankerlal Banker, the proprietor of Young India, for three articles in the weekly. Convicted in 1922.
    Balgangadhar Tilak The British govt alleges his speeches instigated the murder of two British officers. Convicted in 1897, 1905, 1916.
    Manoj Shinde Editor, Surat Saamna, charged in Aug ’06 for using “abusive words” against Narendra Modi in an editorial alleging administrative failure in tackling the Surat flood situation
    Kahturam Sunani Journalist, OTV, Charged in May 2007 in Sinapali, Orissa, for filing a report that Pahariya tribals were consuming ‘soft’ dolomite stones in Nuapada district due to acute hunger.
    Binayak Sen Doctor & Human Rights Activist. Charged in May 2007 in Raipur for allegedly helping courier messages to Maoist leaders. Sen had criticised the Chhattisgarh govt’s support to the vigilante group Salwa Judum.
    E. Rati Rao Resident Editor, Varthapatra, charged in Oct 2007 2010 in Mysore, Karnataka, for an article alleging encounter deaths in Karnataka.
    Prashant Rahi, Journalist, charged in Dec 2007 for allegedly possessing Naxal literature
    Bharat Desai Resident Editor, Times of India, Ahmedabad Gautam Mehta Photographer, Gujarat Samachar Charged in Jun 2008 for articles and photographs alleging links between the Ahmedabad Police Commissioner and the underworld
    Kirori Singh Bainsla Gujjar community leader Charged in Jun 2008 in Bayana, Rajasthan, for leading an agitation demanding ST status for Gujjars
    Lenin Kumar Editor, Nishan, Charged in Dec 2008 in Bhubaneshwar for publishing a booklet on the Kandhamal riots entitled ‘Dharmanare Kandhamalre Raktonadhi’ (Kandhamal’s rivers of blood)
    Laxman Choudhury Journalist, Sambadh, Charged in Sep 2009 in Gajapati district, Orissa, for allegedly possessing Maoist literature. Choudhury had been writing about the involvement of local police in illegal drug trafficking.
    V. Gopalaswamy (Vaiko) Politician, MDMK, Charged in Dec 2009 in Chennai for allegedly
    making remarks against India’s sovereignty at a book launch function
    Piyush Sethia Environmentalist and Organic Farmer, charged in Jan 2010 in Salem, Tamil Nadu, for trying to distribute pamphlets during protest against Chhattisgarh govt’s support to Salwa Judum
    Niranjan Mahapatra, Avinash Kulkarni, Bharat Pawar, others Trade union leaders and social activists Gujarat police allege links with CPI (Maoist).
    Arundhati Roy, S.A.R. Geelani, Varavara Rao, Shuddhabrata Sengupta, others Private complaint in Nov 2010 in Delhi alleging their speeches on Kashmir in a seminar are anti-India
    Noor Mohammed Bhatt Lecturer, Gandhi Memorial College, Srinagar, in Dec 2010 for
    setting a question paper for English literature students on whether ‘stone pelters were the real heroes’.
    Sudhir Dhawale Dalit rights activist and freelance journalist, Wardha. Maharashtra police allege links with CPI (Maoist) in 2011.

Source: Sedition Laws and the Death of Free Speech in India

Conflict diamonds’ entry to India raises money laundering fear


, TNN | Jun 26, 2012, 06.35AM IST

Conflict diamonds’ entry to India raises money laundering fear
Conflict diamonds are rough diamonds used by rebel groups in African countries to “finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments”. (Reuters photo)
NEW DELHI: A customs report has alerted the government that conflict diamondsare finding their way into India for processing, and then exported to the US and European markets. More than 48,000 carats of conflict diamonds were seized in Surat and Mumbai in the last one year.Investigations revealed that the diamonds were of Zimbabwean origin and were smuggled into India via Kenya. These diamonds were not supported by Kimberley Process Certification, a mandatory requirement for legitimate diamonds, and could be a conduit for money launderingas well.Conflict diamonds are rough diamonds used by rebel groups in African countries to “finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments”. They are also called blood diamonds as warlords in Angola, Sierra Leone and Congo, who were responsible for millions of civilian deaths had used them to fund their arms purchase and other activities.

The report was part of a dossier prepared for discussion at the recently concluded meeting of chief commissioners and directors general of customs and central excise in the national capital. The report says, “Even as rough diamonds are not subject to any duty, there is a need to remain alert to thwart the possibility of conflict diamonds being smuggled into the country.”

It adds, “The import of low quality rough diamonds and their subsequent export at grossly inflated values has been purposefully used to disguise the origin and movement of funds, as well as the origin and movement of goods by using multiple levels of firms, bank accounts, paper sale and purchase.”

Customs authorities have raided on traders in Surat and Mumbai and seized more than 48,600 carats of diamonds worth more than Rs 10 crore without carrying any certificates.

India processes most of the rough diamonds — it cuts almost 10 out of 11 diamonds sold across the globe — said an official. The total diamond imports were pegged at $15 billion in 2011-12, while exports were to the tune of $23 billion.

Customs official say diamond trade is highly susceptible to money laundering activities as in addition to being a zero-duty item; the stone is of high value, thus allowing huge transfers of funds with minimal number of transactions unlike other traded commodities.

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