Sunday Reading-Koodankulam: The Inside Story


 

  DiaNuke.org

E Amudhan R.P. one of the most noted contemporary documentary film makers and media activisth. He has made several award winning films and his series Radiation Stories Part 1 & 2explored issues around the Kalpakkam nuclear project and Part 3 is an in-depth work on Koodankulam.Shooting on location, staying with the locals over many years, this film presents stark reality.

The PMANE led peoples’ struggle against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) has captured global attention because of its long, spontaneous and non-violent nature.

Recently, Amudhan was in Mumbai for the public screening of the Radiation Stories Part 3 – Koodankulam  and shared with me his views on what has made the Koodankulam struggle such a success and the inside details about the struggle.

It should serve as a guide for other agitations and for film makers who can learn from the strategies used by the people of Koodankulam and those used by the government in this epic David vs Golaith struggle.

Anuj Wankhede

Videos: RADIATION STORIES

Q) The KNPP agitation is being said to be based around one person – S.P. Udaykumar. Is that accurate?

The agitation is not based on one person. Fishing community has been opposing the nuclear project since its inception. Inland farmers, traders and labourers joined the movement after Fukushima disaster. The movement has a large participation of common people who genuinely oppose the project with full conscience and understanding. The movement has a collective leadership of village elders, women, youth, students, farmers, fishermen, vendors, traders, agriculture workers and salaried class.

Q) Your documentary showed a huge participation of women. Was that a deliberately planned strategy or it happened coincidentally?

Participation of women in the anti-nuclear movement in Koodankulam is visible to anyone who visits the place. Even the policemen of Koodankulam would acknowledge that the local women oppose the project very strongly with their participation in the protests, meetings, rallies and fasts. In fact the movement could sustain so long only because of the active participation of women as someone said in one of the meetings that women generally do not walk out of anything in the middle once they commit themselves.

Q) Has the Koodankulam movement been completely apolitical? None of the political parties seem to be backing it now. Are they averse to support given past experiences?

The Koodankulam is very much a political movement as it questions the whole politics of the Indian state. The anti-nuclear movement of Koodankulam questions the way any development project is planned in Delhi and dumped on the people without their consent. The movement also questions the concept of energy requirement and the arrogance of the nuclear establishment of the country. Energy is not energy alone anymore; it is an unfair and imbalanced accumulation and exercise of power by corporate companies, scientists, officials and politicians over the common people. Besides nuclear energy can never be a peaceful activity as it is a war against the local people and as it kills people even during the routine day to day operation.

As far as the participation of the political parties, the anti-nuclear movement in Koodankulam has always welcomed any support from any political party. But the leadership will be of local people only. Political parties throughout the years have proved again and again that they are capable of sacrificing people’s interest during a critical juncture. Any political party has its own history, focus and agenda. Anti Enron struggle in Ratnagiri was a perfect example where the Hindu parties dumped the people after they struck a deal with Enron.

Q) What comprise formula can be reached (if any) for the government to save face?

Government of India does not seem to want to go for any compromise with anyone especially in the nuclear front. They want to open up more projects across the country irrespective of the resistance. They have this embedded electronic and print media in India which is co-opted, threatened and bribed by the Prime Minister’s Office to support the nuclear adventures unconditionally. It is an international conspiracy to go nuclear in India at any cost in which even the most powerful people in this country are partners. The amount of money involved is huge where even a 2 percent cut would come in millions of rupees. Why would the government think of a compromise? We the civil society should spread the news and knowledge and involve more people in the anti-nuclear struggle as it is not about one reactor alone. It is a question of our sovereignty.

Q) As shown in your documentary, there is likely to be permanent loss of livelihood for the locals. What options have they thought if the project is commissioned?

People would oppose the project till the end. The authorities are planning to bring in 4 more reactors. There will be more disaster if the people stop opposing it. In fact it is time for more people from outside to participate in the movement as it is a long journey. Because there is going to be loss of livelihood for the locals the project cannot be allowed to be commissioned. We should continue to oppose it.

Q) Did you face any threats – directly or indirectly while filming the documentary?

I didn’t face any threat directly during the filming. But the local activists faced problems for accompanying me during the shoot. In 2008, the activists could not talk to me openly as there were many legal cases filed against them by the police for taking part in the struggle. It was difficult for me to organize the shoot openly. I had to do everything discreetly. I was almost caught by the authorities during a shoot as I was seen talking to people with the camera on the road. Local activists alerted me at the right time to escape. Otherwise they would have confiscated the equipment or at least the footage as they are capable of anything. I received many calls from the CID asking my whereabouts and my plans during the editing as I had just finished my film on Kalpakkam. I had to switch off my mobile phones to avoid the calls as it was distracting my work.

Q) The agitation has been non violent so far. At any point, was it difficult to restrain the agitators – especially youth?

That is where the collective leadership of the movement worked very well. It is natural for the youth or even elderly people to get agitated and loose the focus. But they had set their target very clearly. They knew they were fighting against the state which is inherently violent, which can use force against anyone given a slight chance. It is a true Gandhian struggle where every individual is a force irrespective of his or her physical strength. It is a fight using will power and mental strength. You don’t need arms to fight against anyone. In fact arms make you vulnerable. The state tried its bit to bring in a fake Maoist connection to the struggle and wanted to use it as an excuse to use force against the agitators. But the people’s genuine nonviolent struggle prevailed.

Q) You stopped filming because of the Sec 144 (Curfew) being imposed. Do you plan to continue filming again and if yes, for how long?

I didn’t stop the filming because of 144. I finished the filming in February 2012 as I wanted to release the film as soon as possible. I released it in February 2012 itself. I have been screening it around now regularly. I am planning to travel across the country and screen the film or the series as much as possible. I was in Maharashtra in June 2012 screening the film at 10 places among all kinds of audiences. The response was terrific. The young people are really concerned about the whole situation. They can feel that things are becoming worse across all the sectors. They know very well that if they don’t act now, it will be very difficult for them and their children. It is a collective failure.

I am going to Kerala next week for a 10 days tour of screening my film. I also want to shoot an all India film on the nuclear related experiences. Let us see.

Q) One defining moment of the agitation.

Fukushima disaster was the defining moment. It really opened up so many minds in and around Koodankulam. The agitators picked it up very intelligently and brought everyone together. Besides that the anti-nuclear activists of Koodankulam put pressure on the whole activist family of this country to rally around the issue to create an atmosphere where everyone was forced to discuss about the issue. So many meetings, rallies, fasts, books, films, street plays and social networking happened in one year which is historical. Now the whole experience of Koodankulam can be replicated anywhere in this country. If they can do it, anyone can do it.

Q) One moment you personally would never forget about the agitation.

I have been visiting Koodankulam since 1998. I have been part of many meetings and rallies. But the local support to the movement always was very moderate. Fishing community always opposed the project. But the inland farmers and traders were not very sure about opposing it. They even threw stones at the agitators. But to see the same Udhayakumar and other activists in 2012 in a completely different mode was a breath taking experience. To see thousands of ordinary men and women coming out on the streets of Koodakulam opposing the project was overwhelming. I had tears during the shoot in 2012. It somewhere vindicated my whole journey as a documentary filmmaker who believed in making only activist films.

Q) Your advice to others who are filming or covering such agitations – especially over extended periods of time.

I don’t have advice for any one. Every one’s experience and make up are different. I am a much laid back and low profile film maker. My experience would not be useful for all. But I am an activist first who genuinely supports many agitations. My film making is an extension to my activism. My film-making is only a part of my activity, to put it in other words.

 

Obituary–Mrinal Gore: A Life of Crusade


 

July 21, 2012 News

Mrinal Gore Obituary

With passing away of Mrinal Gore, an era of idealism, struggles against injustice and selfless social service ends

By Vibhuti Patel

Women’s rights activist and veteran socialist leader, who combined her crusade for social justice and distributive justice for more than five decades, passed away on 17th July, 2012 in Mumbai.

Hundreds of women and men from different walks of life – social and political workers, women’s rights activists, trade unionists, teachers, nurses, and community workers, for whose causes and day to day survival struggles she had strived for all her life, participated in the funeral procession.

Even powerful politicians whom she had campaigned against during the anti price rise movement had nothing but words of admiration and appreciation for her simple, transparent, spartan life and unflinching dedication to her mission of serving the poor and the marginalised sections of society.

She brought the issue of safe drinking water centre stage during 1960s. In 1964, she stormed into the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) offices and tore up the ballot papers after 11 people were killed in water riots in the slums. The municipal law that did not permit water connections to the slums was rectified. She is remembered by three generations of Mumbaikars as the “Paaniwali Bai” (a woman who got the water).

It was Mrinaltai i.e. “an elder sister” (as she was popularly addressed), who as an MLA in 1972, moved a resolution for the Slum Improvement Act (till then there was only the Slum Eradication Act). That landmark resolution was debated from 11.00 a.m. to 6 a.m. the next day before being passed. Mrinaltai used to tell us, “For the first time the assembly worked night and day,”

Mrinaltai and her husband Keshav Gore had impeccable socialist credentials. Jayaprakash Narayan was a witness at their wedding. After the death of Keshavji at a young age in 1958, Mrinaltai immortalised him by not only founding the Keshav Gore Trust but also making it an epicenter of all progressive, socialist and social movement activities, programmes and gatherings. Local, state level and national level progressive thinking stalwarts and change makers from different spheres-politics, tribal arts, writers, literature, feminists and environmentalists thronged the Trust.

Mrinaltai was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s Quit India movement as a young medical student. She gave up a promising career in medicine to plunge full time into organising the poor and the marginalised. For more than half a century and till her death, she had been involved with a series of organisations and leading protests both on the streets and in the corridors of power, focusing on women’s rights, dalit rights and civil rights such as water, housing, sanitation, education and health services, environmental concerns, communal harmony and trade union activities. Through camps, workshops, cultural programmes of Rashtriya Seva Dal, she groomed thousands of young minds to serve the society.

She was a woman of vision, ideas and praxis and a gifted and electrifying orator. At the same time she was warm and hospitable. She followed an open door policy, listened to everyone patiently and adopted best practices wherever she noticed. She is one public figure whom I never saw basking in the past glory. Instead she was eager to learn from the youngsters. Her speeches served as tonic to young activists like us in the 1970s and 1980s. My association with her began in 1972 when she visited Vadodara to do her homework to launch the campaign against price rise, black marketing and hoarding of essential goods by traders and ration shop owners.

In 1972, Gore contested the Maharashtra Assembly elections on the Socialist Party ticket and won with the highest margin in the state. As a firebrand MLA, she took up issues such as atrocities on marginal farmers, Dalits, tribal people and women. She always did her homework carefully and commissioned research, organized study circles, developed a library and documentation centre, prepared charts and exhibition for public education.

After the prices of essential commodities began skyrocketing, in September 1972, Gore was at the forefront in setting up the Anti-Price Rise Committee which mobilized the largest-ever turnout of women since the Independence movement.

During the Emergency rule, she was arrested and shifted from one jail to the other for 18 months and was kept in the prison cell along with murderers, lunatics and hardcore criminals. Once released in 1977, Mrinaltai was elected to Parliament on Janata Party ticket with the central slogan “Democracy versus dictatorship”. In 1985, she became an MLA again and took up the issue of banning sex determination tests in the legislative assembly resulting in Maharashtra being the first state in India to pass the Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act in 1988. During her hectic days as MLA, she would call me and Ravindra R.P. at 7 a.m. to discuss position of Forum Against Sex Selection on technical aspects of amniocentesis, ChorionicVillus biopsy and sex pre selection techniques. She always made flawless and full proof statements as a public figure.

She also led protests against the entry of US giant Enron in the power sector, fought against slum demolition and supported people displaced by the Narmada Dam and slum eviction drive of Bombay Municipal Corporation.

The demise of this veteran leader and champion of people’s struggles has created massive void in the social movements and struggles for human rights.

 

Federal Judge Shoots Down Contraception Lawsuit


July 17, 2012 by ·

 

Religious freedom won’t be ringing for the seven states that attempted to curb access to no co-pay contraception.

U.S. District Judge Warren Urbom of Lincoln, Neb. dismissed a federal lawsuit today that challenged the Affordable Care Act’s HHS mandate, which requires health insurers to provide coverage of birth control, emergency contraception and sterilization. In line with most criticisms of the ACA, the lawsuit argued that the contraception mandate violated the so-called religious liberties of American citizens.

The lawsuit was filed by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning along with the attorney generals of six other states: Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas. Several Catholic-affiliated institutions were also listed as plaintiffs.

In his ruling, Urbom said everything we already knew: Religious freedom is a non-issue when it comes to the ACA and its HHS mandate.

According to Urbom:

Although the rule that lies at the heart of the plaintiffs’ complaint establishes a definitive, final definition of ‘religious employer,’ the ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirements are not being enforced against non-exempted religious organizations, and the rule is currently undergoing a process of amendment to accommodate these organizations.

The cry of religious freedom has been echoing around the country since President Obama signed the ACA in 2010. This seven-state lawsuit might be out, but 43 Catholic-affiliated institutions, including major universities such as Notre Dame, are still entangled in 12 separate lawsuits against the federal government. These lawsuits, which also specifically challenge contraception coverage, were led by numerous American bishops who have been relentlessly leading the fight against affordable and accessible birth control.

Photo of the Affordable Care Act rally in Washington, D.C. from Flickr user LaDawna via Creative Commons 3.

Press Statement:Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU)


The Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU) is anguished at the recent developments in Maruti Suzuki plant, IMT Manesar where the management has resorted to anti-worker and anti-Union activities in a pre-planned manner leading to violence and the closure of the factory yesterday.

We have had a long tough struggle with the strong unity of our permanent and contract workers to establish and register our Union last year, and had recently as of April 2012 submitted our Charter of Demands to the management of Maruti Suzuki, and the process of negotiation for wages and other demands was underway. However the management has done its utmost to derail the process since long and is trying to break the back of the spirit of unity of the workers and the legitimacy of the Union.

It is due to this, and continuing with this vindictive attitude and in a pre-planned manner, yesterday, the afternoon of 18thJuly, a supervisor in the shop floor abused and made casteist comments against a dalit worker of the permanent category, which was legitimately protested by the worker. Instead of taking action against the said supervisor, the management immediately suspended the worker concerned without any investigation as was demanded by the workers. When the workers along with Union representatives went to meet the HR to demand against the supervisor and revoke the unjust suspension of the worker, the HR officials flatly refused to hear our arguments, and it was in no mood to resolve the issue amicably.

When the negotiation was going on with the leaders of the Union inside the office, the management called in the entry of hundreds of bouncers on its payroll from outside the plant to attack the workers, and blocked the exit. This is completely an illegal vindictive action in the spirit of conspiracy to corner us into submission even as our demands and methods are legitimate and peaceful. The exit gates were closed by the security on behest of the management and the bouncers brutally attacked the workers with sharp weapons and arms. They, joined by some of the managerial staff and police later, beat up a number of workers who have had to be hospitalised with serious injuries. The bouncers, who are anti-social elements on hire, also destroyed company property and set fire to a portion of the factory. The gates were later opened to oust the workers and enforce a lockout by the company.

We have the workers and the company’s welfare in mind and have worked towards it after the resolution of the dispute last year, and to blame the current violence on us is unjust, which should be properly investigated. We are still keen to dialogue with the company and want to sit with the company management and the government labour department to amicably resolve the matter and restore industrial peace in the factory.

Ram Meher

President, Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU)

Statement on the incident at the Maruti Suzuki Manesar Plant


Trade Union Solidarity Committee

6,  Neelkanth Apartments, Gokuldas Pasta Road,

Dadar (E), Mumbai. Phone No. 022- 24150750

July 20, 2012                                                                                                                        

                                                                                                                                

Statement on the incident at the Maruti Suzuki Manesar Plant on 18/07/12

Workers and Trade Unions were aghast when once again on July 19, 2012, reports reached

about the turn of events at the Maruti Suzuki plant at Manesar.

The major part of the media reports revolved around the tragic death of Maruti’s HR Manager owing to the unrest in the plant. Such was also the pattern of reporting in the past, when Maruti workers resorted to agitation some months ago, demanding the right to form a union of their own choice. The industry and media tend to paint such incidents as growing militancy of workers, instead of labour resistance to rampant exploitation, and for protection of their legitimate rights, honour and dignity.

Workers who create wealth, add value and bring prosperity to the nation are seen merely as a cost factor, a necessary nuisance, an easily disposable and dispensable commodity. What has appeared on the horizon of Maruti, has occurred in quick succession earlier in more or less similar incidents at Noida and Coimbatore and later in January 2012, at Yanam (Pondichery), where the union leader of the Regal Ceramics factory, Murali Mohan, was killed in a brutal lathi charge, resulting in arson in the area and leading to the tragic death of  factory manager, Chandra Sekhar. These incidents emanating from the most abominable labour policies pursued by the industry, with a double dose of HR arrogance, are fully supported by the state

Growing use of muscle power in the name of security personnel and bouncers at the work place has become the norm, in their attempt to scare workers. Reports reveal that Maruti Suzuki Manesar management brought into action 200 bouncers to discipline workers in the plant on July 18, triggering instant reaction from workers. Bouncers are nothing but goons. Maruti workers retaliated against goons.

Trade Union Solidarity Committee at Mumbai joins the anguish expressed by the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union. Hundreds of workers are injured, hospitalized and arrested as a consequence of the anti-labour, anti-union policies followed by the Maruti management and the Haryana government. The Haryana government has shamelessly supported the Maruti management in all its nefarious actions against the workers.

We express our solidarity with the struggling workers of Maruti Suzuki Manesar plant, and call upon the Maruti management to cease its WORKER HUNT policies. We also demand that the Haryana State government shed its naked support to the Maruti management.

Such a change, we believe, is essential to make industrial peace in the area a reality, where workers can get back to work, thus ensuring smooth functioning of the factory.

 

N. Vasudevan

(Convenor TUSC)



N VASUDEVAN
24150750
CELL 9821536676


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