Clean Talking Campaign #mustshare

English: Mobile phone evolution Русский: Эволю...

English: Mobile phone evolution Русский: Эволюция мобильных телефонов (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



















Mobile phones have become an integral part of our life. But when was the last time you sat back and thought about all that goes behind powering your mobile phone and the network? Currently there are over 900 Million Indian people who use mobile phones. As this number increases, so does the need for energy to power the mobile towers.

Greenpeace is calling on the telecom industry to focus on managing its energy and carbon by substantially shifting its power generation for network operations to renewable sources, and to proactively advocate for economy-wide policies that combat climate change and increase the use of renewable energy.

Give a missed call to 080 3008 8402 to register your support to this issue




As part of Observing September 13 as Political Prisoner’s Day

We commemorate September 13 as the martyrdom of Jatin Das, the glorious revolutionary and freedom fighter during the tyrannical days of British colonialism. Jatin Das refused to be cowed down within the four walls of the prison in the Lahore Central Jail. Along with his comrades who were charged under the Lahore Conspiracy Case, Jatin Das fought for the right to be recognised as a political prisoner. He and his comrades dreamt of a subcontinent free from colonial rule. It is this political vision to free their motherland off the yoke of colonialism, from servility, to be in control of their own destiny as political beings fully conscious of their act made them demand their right to be recognised as a political prisoner. The historic hunger strike that Jatin Das initiated proved to be the stepping stone for all who dared to stand up against all odds within the four walls of the prison. Even Bhagat Singh, his beloved comrade, who also was part of the historic strike in the Lahore Central Jail, could not soften the steely resolve of Jatin Das who refused to take life saving medicines as he succumbed to his failing health. He vowed not to let anyone prevent him from lifting his fast till all the demands were met by the authorities. Apart from being recognized as Political Prisoners the other demands included right to better food, reading and writing materials etc. On the sixty third day of hunger strike Jatin Das dared one and all—the oppressed, exploited and humiliated—in his death to emulate his indomitable, undying spirit, defiant till the last breath. The body of Jatin Das was brought to Kolkata by train as thousands paid respect to their hero at every station. More than four hundred thousand people had thronged to see his body by the time it reached West Bengal.

Post-1947, the situation in the subcontinent hardly differs from what Jatin Das and his comrades fought for. More and more draconian laws of colonial vintage are being reinvented and selectively used with impunity against people who are raising their democratic aspirations, right to livelihood, for a dignified existence, for their right to self-determination. The old repressive machinery of the colonial state with its Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, the Police Act of 1861, Defence of India Rules, Preventive Detention Acts, not to speak of the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 which empowers the central and state governments of supposedly independent India to acquire land by advancing the pretext of ‘eminent domain’, ‘public purpose’ etc, and many others were perfected over the years by the ruling classes to inflict ever more misery on the people. The Preventive Detention Act, Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that were used by the British came handy for the new ruling class as it was used in the North East and Kashmir. Later the North East also saw the imposition of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) (1967) which was copied from the Armed Forces Special Powers Ordinance brought by the British in 1942. Today the same law has been revamped with more teeth and implemented. Since the 1950s till date every draconian law that received the gravest wrath of the masses of the people was then rehashed into another law with yet stringent clauses. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that the present UAPA is in a way a clever rehashing of the old MISA, NSA, TADA, POTA etc. rolled into one made more stringent with the worst kind of clauses to stifle all forms of dissent. Equivalent to the UAPA, state-wise enactment of similar laws has also been done. Further there is a concerted effort to form the notorious National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) along with the already constituted National Investigating Agency (NIA) which once made fully operational can give unimaginable powers to the centre to intervene in the day to day affairs of any region thus completely exposing the hollowness of the federal union that is India.

The deepening economic crisis has further sharpened contradictions not only among the ruling classes in the Indian subcontinent but between the ruling classes and the masses of the people. Today the subcontinent is witness to a wave of people’s movements such as those for the right to life and livelihood, against displacement, anti-feudal anti-caste movements, movements based on land, nationality movements, anti-nuclear, anti-dam movements etc. These movements directly or indirectly oppose the pro-imperialist policies of ‘Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization’. In this scenario the so-called ‘war against terror’ has become a convenient tool to criminally profile the rising voices of dissent, especially the Muslim community the majority of whom live in abysmal poverty and discrimination. We saw in a series of sensational bomb blast cases Muslim youths being incarcerated under trumped up charges. The sensation-driven media cooked up the plot with incriminating media trials even before the law took cognisance of the cases. Thus even before the person gets a chance to defend himself/herself before the court of law they are tried several times by a considerable section of the jingoist-communal media. Many of the Muslim youth from UP, Kerala, Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamilnadu, Maharashtra, Rajasthan have become cannon fodder for the so-called ‘war against terror’ of the state as alleged members of proscribed organisations the existence of which are never proved. The Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) has been banned till date and the state is yet to prove a cogent case before the tribunal about the veracity of the ban as many of the charges on this organisation have fallen flat. The Hindu communal elements as well as the parliamentary parties in Kerala including the CPM have stoked the flames of communalism under the garb of ‘love jihad’ to criminally profile the Muslim youth. Kashmiri Muslims are easy targets for the grist mill of the ‘war against terror’ as it is common sense to accept the incarceration or fake encounter of a Kashmiri youth in the Indian subcontinent. There are numerous undeclared detention/torture centres in Jammu & Kashmir. The Srinagar Bar Association and the leaders of various people’s movements in Kashmir have time and again highlighted the plight of the Kashmiri Muslim prisoners kept in various jails in Jammu. These prisoners–mostly under-trials, are subjected to the worst kinds of treatment. The North East also is witnessing the increasing incarceration of people as the protests against mega-dams are on the rise in this region. A large number of people who have been raising the demand for the Right to Self-Determination are being imprisoned for years together with Manipuris, Nagas and Assamese being specific targets. Besides, scores of Sikhs, Kamtapuris, Bodos, Dimasas, Sri Lankan Tamils, and till recently, even Burmese freedom fighters find themselves behind bars for years together being treated like the worst of criminals. Even the elderly among them suffering from various ailments, are not considered for bail even on health grounds.

As we are going to the press, Manmohan Singh the prime minister of India has already made it clear that with evident signs of a perilously slow economy of the subcontinent—aggravated by the tightening grip of imperialism riddled with the worst global economic crisis—all aspects of development should henceforth be considered a national security issue. Thus any dissent against the full fledged implementation of the pro-imperialist policies of Liberalisation-Privatisation-Globalisation will be considered anti-development and hence ‘anti-national’, and also might be branded as ‘seditious’. As an extension of the same approach the Chhattisgarh government have further criminalised the natural living of the Adivasis of Bastar region by declaring unlawful their carrying of traditional weapons. Already criminalised under various laws, the direct fallout is that a large number of these adivasis are being implicated in serious cases. Thousands of ordinary villagers are routinely picked up during search operations, incarcerated with impunity by security personnel having scant regard for legal procedure. Most of them implicated under “Naxal Offence” are not produced in the courts for long periods of time, on the pretext of non-availability of “sufficient police guards”. Hence the trial does not proceed for years together. Out of economic difficulty and for fear of harassment, family members of the under-trials are unable to visit them in jail thus making them even more vulnerable.

The adivasi “Naxal undertrials” are only kept in Central Jails. In many cases in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Jungal Mahal they are put in far away jails with maximum security so much so that their regular production in court becomes impossible. In these regions, the prisoners have petitioned the higher courts, all of which proved to be futile. Most of the adivasi under-trials are dependent on government legal-aid-lawyers who more often than not never go to meet the client or seek instructions regarding the case. Often they are amenable to pressures from the police or prosecution. Seldom do the courts have official interpreters/ translators to enable the adivasi communicate in their own language. The plight of the Dalits and other oppressed sections is no different. As the state gets desperate to stifle the voices of dissent, more and more human rights defenders, journalists, cultural activists are coming under the cross-hairs of its repressive machine such as the Kabir Kala Manch, Jeetan Marandi, Utpal, Sudhir Dhawle, Lingaram Kodopi, Mohammed Kazmi, Seema Azad, Vishwavijay…The list goes on and appears to be endless. Last but not the least, thousands of Maoists and people sympathetic to their cause also has been put behind bars with several false cases tagged to them. The conditions of women political prisoners are worse with many of them not even lodged in special barracks, devoid of health care facilities, without charge sheets filed against them and not even being produced before the court. Several political prisoners immediately after being granted bail or while acquitted are rearrested with fresh charges right before the prison from where they are released.

It is evident from the way the state indulges in desperate acts to silence all forms of dissent that it itself is the worst violator of the law and constitution of the ‘land of the largest democracy of the world’. It is also obvious that all arrests in matters of political dissent are political in nature and the state machinery is doing all these illegal and anti-democratic acts with impunity to ensure that the political prisoner remain within the prison for life. Hence it is the right of the democratic voice of the land to raise the demand for the unconditional release of all political prisoners and pending that, to give them the status of the Political Prisoner till they are held behind bars in the spirit and legacy of Jatin Das and his comrades!

1. All arrested on political grounds should be recognized as Political Prisoners.

2. Release all Political Prisoners unconditionally.

3. Repeal all Draconian Laws including AFSPA and UAPA.


Radia Tapes, Ratan Tata’s Privacy, Fundamental Rights And Public Interest

Privacy is a sacrosanct right that any civilized society must recognise. However, we have no dedicated privacy rights and laws in India. This is despite the fact that privacy laws in India and privacy rights in India have been constantly demanded in India by various civil liberty stakeholders. Even we have no dedicated data protection laws in India as on date.

This is bizarre as in the present information and communication technology (ICT) era absence of privacy and data protection laws in India are more by design than ignorance. Techno legal experts in India have been suggesting that we must give a special attention to the privacy rights in India in the information age.

They maintain that privacy and data protection requirements are essential part of civil liberties protection in cyberspace. It would not be wrong to assume privacy and data protection rights as integral part of human rights protection in cyberspace.

Fortunately, privacy rights issue is pending before the Supreme Court of India due to leakage of tapped conversation between Ratan Tata and Nira Radia. The Supreme Court of India must expand privacy rights in India as that is the need of hour. However, while respecting the privacy rights of Ratan Tata we cannot exclude the right of others to information. Clearly, there is a conflict between right to privacy and right to information that needs to be resolved by the Indian Supreme Court.

According to Praveen Dalal, leading techno legal expert of Asia and managing partner of ICT law firm Perry4Law, “The Indian Constitutional Scheme is based upon “Balance of Rights” and no right is absolute in nature. In case of conflict between two Fundamental Rights, the Fundamental Right that strengthens and substantiate the Public Interest should prevail”. Hence if there is a conflict between Right to Privacy and Right to Information/know, information can be disclosed in certain circumstances to substantiate and strengthen Public Interest, opines Dalal.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of India has warned that privacy violations may also pose national security problems in India. The court has asked Indian government to keep in place a system that can maintain the safety and privacy of any intercepted and tapped conversation. Let us see what would be the stand of Centre in this regard during the next hearing.


New cause for Vidarbha suicides?

33 power plants. 4,09,800 hectares of arable landaffected.

By Baba Umar, Tehelka

WHEN THE rest of India was busy celebrating the country’s 66th Independence Day, Suresh Ganpat Bhore, 40 was quietly contemplating his future inside his two-room hut in Sahur village of Wardha district in Maharashtra. Bhore’s sons Amul, 18, and Yogesh, 16, were away at the choupal, while his wife Mala Bai was milking the goats. As the evening set in, Bhore decided that he didn’t want to witness another dawn bereft of hope, and consumed monocrotophos, a toxic insecticide, to join the ranks of 8,200 farmers who have committed suicide in Vidarbha since 2002.

Bhore’s death was blamed on the Bt cotton seeds that required large inputs of water, fertilisers and pesticides. Since the crop on his 2.5-acre farm had failed for three consecutive years, Bhore was pushed into debt, and ultimately to suicide.

But farmers on the edge of bankruptcy, who have often tearfully beseeched the state and Central governments for help, fear another wave of suicides in Vidarbha. This time, the new crisis at hand isn’t droughts or debts but 71 coal-fired thermal power projects (33 have been approved, 38 are at various stages of clearance). Many of them belong to private firms and are seeking fresh water from dams (originally built for irrigation) and distressed rivers.

As the Centre looks to ramp up power production by 1 lakh MW in the Twelfth Plan, Maharashtra is planning to generate 55,000 MW from Vidarbha’s 11 districts, for which the state government has sanctioned the diversion of 2,049.20 million cubic metres (MCM) of irrigation water per year. This water, according to Greenpeace estimate, can be used to irrigate 4,09,800 hectares of single-cropped arable land.

A TEHELKA query on this to the water resources minister elicited no response.

Eighty percent work on Indiabulls’ 1,350 MW power project was complete before the Bombay High Court stayed it. The company has been directed to submit a plan by 25 September that looks at recycling water and drip irrigation in a bid to compensate for the shortage of water that may be caused by diversions. The rest of the approved projects are acquiring land or are in the initial phases of construction.

“Imagine, half of India’s new power will be produced in the parched areas of Vidarbha,” mocks Sanjay Kolhey, a farmer and member of the Kisan Ekta Manch, which is protesting against the allocation of 87.60 MCM water to Indiabulls’ power project and 35.92 MCM to Amravati Thermal’s 1,320 MW power project. The diversion would deprive 32,729 hectares of farmland of water in Amravati and Wardha districts from the Upper Wardha dam.
‘The water diversion will ruin Vidarbha. Many farmers will think about taking their own lives,’ says Kolhey, a farmer

“The move will ruin this region,” warns Kolhey. “Across wide swathes of rural Vidarbha, many farmers will once again think about taking their own lives.”

Kolhey’s assertion has many takers among the farmers’ community. In Hasnapur, an under-developed village in Amravati, farmlands are fed river water through a canal that is linked to the Upper Wardha Dam. This village is among those areas that are located at the tail-end of the canal.

“From November to March, we are fed canal water. If the water level goes down, we will be ruined,” says Gayanand Thackeray, whose father took his life in December 2002 after failing to repay a loan. The elder Thackeray’s 15 acres were inherited by his three sons who live with their wives and children in a dilapidated house.

“The productivity of Bt cotton is less, so is the market rate. We grow wheat in winters to meet the needs of our entire family of 12 members,” says Thackeray. “Diversion or decrease of the water level in the canal will force my family to follow our father’s footsteps. Is there a way out?”

Chenusta Sarpanch Pankaj Murlidhar, 40, echoes the sentiment. “The villagers are under the impression that water will be given for irrigation first and only then will the rest of it be diverted to industries. But that’s not the case,” he says. “That’s why I’m educating them about the pitfalls.”

Between 2003-11, diversion of irrigation water from dams for use by thermal power plants was already rampant. Existing power projects guzzled 398.87 MCM every year from six reservoirs — Upper Wardha, Gosikhurd, Dhapewada Stage 2, Lower Wardha, Lower Wunna/Wadgaon and Chargaon. The diverted water could have been used to irrigate 80,000 hectares.

In 2003, the Maharashtra Water Policy shifted the priority of water usage to industrial and commercial over irrigation. This remained the legislation until May 2011, when the state shifted agricultural use to second place after drinking and demoted industrial/commercial use to third priority. The resolution mentioned farmer suicides as the reason behind the change. But by then, the production of 55,000 MW by diverting 2,049.20 MCM/year of irrigation water had already been sanctioned.

It all happened when a high-powered committee (HPC) was created in 2003 to oversee the diversion of more than 25 percent of any water project. The group consisted of ministers of industry, agriculture, finance and water supply, and had the power to take decisions without further consultation. It also bypassed the Maharashtra Water Resources Authority Act of 2005, which laid down norms for intersectoral water diversions for which a public hearing was mandatory.

According to a 2011 report by the Pune-based Prayas ReLi Group, which examined the minutes of 17 of the 25 HPC meetings held from 2003 to January 2010, the committee diverted at least 1,500 MCM per year from irrigation to non-irrigation purposes. The committee continues to do so.

In a bid to check suicides among the distressed Vidarbha farmers, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced a relief of Rs 2,177 crore in 2006. In the 2012-13 Budget, Rs 300 crore was allocated to the Vidarbha Intensified Irrigation Development Programme. But more pressure in terms of power generation and irrigation water diversion in an area, which already generates 29 percent of electricity in Maharashtra but consumes only 13 percent, is being seen as “catastrophic” by environment groups such as Greenpeace.

Seeking immediate moratorium on the environmental clearances granted to inland coal-based thermal power projects, Jai Krishna, one of the authors of a recent Greenpeace report that studied the impact of coal-fired power plants on water supply, says, “By approving these projects in a region where water is scarce, we are doubling risks — 1. Of water conflicts effected by diverting irrigation water to power plants; and 2. Of forced shutdown of an operating power plant as a result of water scarcity.”
Thermal power projects in the pipeline in Vidarbha; 33 have been approved so far

55,000 MW
Of electricity to be produced

Million cubic metres of irrigation water to be diverted every year

Reduction of water level in Wardha river anticipated

Farmers have committed suicide in the region since 2002

Greenpeace, which had commissioned a team from IIT-Delhi to study the Wardha river basin for assessing the impact of coal-based power plants, has found that the annual mean flow in Wardha (one of the two rivers in Vidarbha, along with Weinganga) will be reduced from 1,419 MCM to 867 MCM, a loss of 40 percent if all the water requirements of the power plants are allowed.

THERE ARE 11 major dams and 58 medium dams in the region, controlled by the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC), a key wing of the Water Resources Department. The VIDC, which is also in charge of developing irrigation projects, however, sees no major threat to Vidarbha’s farmers posed by the diversion.

“Some areas will be affected but part of the revenue generated by the Irrigation Department will be used to build new projects and improve existing irrigation projects,” says VIDC Executive Director Prafullchandra Zapke. Zapke says the department will immediately repair canals to stop seepages, and work on lining and drip irrigation projects will be expedited.

But VIDC’s past record has been dismal. Many of its mega projects have remained non-starters even as the project cost have sky-rocketed. For example, the VIDC recently acknowledged that it had approved a massive hike in the cost of 38 irrigation projects in Vidarbha, from Rs 6,672 crore to Rs 26,722 crore. In seven major irrigation projects that were supposed to irrigate 5,61,021 hectares, the target reached was 67,308 hectares, while the cost escalated from Rs 1,613.71 crore to Rs 16,795 crore.

Even in villages where the river is located just 4 km away, framers ridicule the poor irrigation facilities. For example, in Rajurvadi area of Amravati district, villager Ankush Devdas says they had asked the officials to construct sub-canals and minor canals “but they never heeded our pleas”.

“One of the Irrigation Department’s arguments is that farmers don’t utilise the water and that’s why they are diverting it to industries. It’s a blatant lie,” says Ankush, whose father Gopal ended his life in 2005 after failing to repay his loan. Ankush, who has a Rs 50,000 debt, says poor irrigation facilities are keeping his farmland dry during winters when wheat is grown across the region.

The water politics has become murkier with the BJP and the ruling NCP-Congress alliance lobbing allegations at each other. While the BJP says it opposes diverting irrigation water to power plants, there are counter-claims that BJP leaders, including party chief Nitin Gadkari, are direct or proxy stakeholders in the power business.

Some media reports claimed that Gadkari, BJP MLA Devendra Fadnavis and former BJP MLAs Uttam Ingle and Madan Yerawar had stakes in the 32 MW Chintamani Agrotech and the 540 MWJinbhuvish Power Generation projects. The reports had also said Gadkari’s son Nikhil was an independent director at the 270 MW power plant set up by Ideal Energy.

But Fadnavis rubbishes these claims. “Gadkari and I were directors at Chintamani Agrotech but we resigned long ago,” he says. “Nikhil was director at Ideal Energy but when the promoters decided that it won’t be a co-generation project, he also quit. We also oppose the construction of Jinbhuvish Power Generation’s plant.”

As if mounting debts and poor yields were not enough, the inevitability of losing precious irrigation water to power plants has left farmers and their families a worried lot. “The power will be generated by denying us water. And the same will be used by urban and industrial people,” laments farmer Kolhey. “There is nothing left for farmers in Vidarbha. So the number of suicides is only bound to increase.”

Baba Umar is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.

Japan to aim for nuclear phaseout in 2030s: draft energy policy

TOKYO (Kyodo) — The Japanese government is contemplating setting a target to abolish nuclear power generation in the 2030s under a new national energy policy, in light of the Fukushima nuclear crisis last year, according to a draft of the policy obtained by Kyodo News on Wednesday.

“We will devote all policy resources to achieving zero nuclear power generation in the 2030s,” the draft said.

The draft said Japan will begin research on directly disposing of spent nuclear fuel, suggesting a shift in the current policy of reprocessing all spent nuclear fuel and reusing the extracted plutonium and uranium as reactor fuel.

The draft also said the government will keep its word not to make Aomori Prefecture, which has accepted facilities for the reprocessing of nuclear fuel and storage of radioactive waste under the current nuclear fuel recycling plan, a final disposal site.

It added that the government will review Japan’s new energy policy, which may be finalized this week, every year through 2015 and every three years afterwards.

The government has been struggling to balance the pros and cons of nuclear power. The review of the energy policy is intended to give consideration to the concerns of some local governments, as well as the United States, over the possible phasing out of nuclear power generation by Japan in the 2030s, government officials said.

In the wake of last year’s Fukushima disaster, the government has been working to create a new national energy strategy as the current policy, which calls for increased reliance on nuclear power, is no longer tenable.

The Democratic Party of Japan, headed by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, has proposed that the government set a goal of completely eliminating nuclear power generation in the 2030s in the new policy.

On Wednesday, Noda, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura and other relevant ministers discussed how to address the concerns of local governments that are still willing to keep nuclear facilities as well as the United States, with which Japan has a civilian nuclear cooperation pact.

Noda also sent his special adviser Akihisa Nagashima and Hiroshi Ogushi, a parliamentary secretary at the Cabinet Office, to Washington to explain the new policy.

Under the plan, the government has listed 10 areas in which it will review energy policy, including Japan’s relations with the international community and local cooperation on hosting nuclear facilities.

The draft said the government would transform the Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor in Fukui Prefecture into a research reactor.

To achieve a society that does not rely on nuclear power, Japan plans to limit the operation of existing reactors to up to 40 years since they first went online and not allow utilities to build new ones, according to the draft.

In the meantime, Japan will use existing nuclear reactors if they are confirmed as safe by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, it said.

Japan will also consider providing new support to local governments that have hosted nuclear plants for many years and receive subsidies to that end, the draft said.

The government is making last-ditch efforts to finalize the energy policy on Friday.

ACTION ALERT -Condemn Tamil Nadu Police’s Arbitrary Pick-up, Interrogation and Arrests

Sathish Kumar is one of the Koodankulam support activists who was picked up in March and imprisoned for 4 months on trumped up charges of “Waging War Against the State.”

Yesterday, he, alongwith another acquaintance of his named Muralidharan, were walking out of the Anna Centenary Library at around 2.15 p.m.. Both were picked up by Q-branch police. He was taken to Saidapet police station for interrogation. Among other things, he was asked to explain why he was not to be seen in any of the anti-Koodankulam protests since the time of his release on bail last month. At the time that he was picked up, Sathish was not engaged in any activity that could be even vaguely described as “political” — He was walking out of the library. From 2 p.m. to 9.30 p.m., neither his family nor his friends were intimated. His phones were switched off. At around 9.30 p.m., his family and friends learnt that he had been taken to Thiruvanmiyur Police Station and subsequently remanded to judicial custody in Puzhal Jail.

It is now more than 20 hours since he was picked up. The family has not been allowed to even see the FIR. Sathish and Muralidharan are still in Jail, and people are still in the dark as to what the charges are. A member of Sathish’s family who was going crazy trying to locate him all of yesterday finally learnt that he was being arrested at the Thiruvanmiyur Police Station.

The police deliberately misled her, telling her first that he was being charged under bailable sections, and then non-bailable, and then bailable. Below is an SMS from her: *”7(1)(A) of Criminal Law Amendment Act is non-bailable. Police told us that both are bailable. They didn’t inform the family about pick up; they didn’t share case details with the accused or the family before remand; they have denied us the chance of contesting it by providing false information orally without showing the FIR even after repeated requests.” *

Please call and fax Commissioner of Police:

JK Tripathy: 9840094500 044-28555034 (Fax). Email —

No more empty promises – Koodankulam wants concrete safety measures


By Nityanand Jayaraman

Living on a prayer Anti-nuke protesters hope for divine intervention

Photos: Amritaraj Stephen

AFTER LAST week’s violent crackdown on anti-nuclear protesters in Koodankulam, the Tamil Nadu government and the Centre have reiterated that nuclear power is perfectly safe and essential to India’s energy security. The Union home minister has trotted out the foreign hand; and J Jayalalithaa has appealed to “the people not to fall prey to the propaganda of those who oppose nuclear power as a matter of policy”.

The governments have not quite decided why villagers are not convinced by their assurances and the reports of two expert committees appointed by them. If the governments are to be believed, the people living along the southern stretch of coastal Tamil Nadu are either mentally deranged, needing treatment by NIMHANS, or are gullible and prone to the influence of foreign agents, foreign-funded local instigators, the Pope and/or the Maoists.

“Foreign NGOs are supporting the movement… I’m aware of these NGOs, but I’m not going to name those countries,” said Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde a few days ago. The prime minister made similar xenophobic statements in February. Within days of his statement, the police rounded up and deported an unsuspecting German backpacker, Hermann Rainer, from a budget hotel in Nagercoil. Rainer was allegedly the “brains” behind the anti-nuclear movement. The home ministry then went after four foreign-funded NGOs allegedly financing the agitation. Their foreign currency bank accounts were frozen to choke the movement. With the brains and the money gone, misthe movement ought to have died. But that has not happened.

In response to questions in the Rajya Sabha last March, Parliamentary Affairs MoS V Narayanasamy admitted that the government had no proof that the NGOs had actually diverted money to fund the agitation. For the same allegation to resurface, again, without any evident basis, raises questions not only on the government’s credibility, but also on its ability to ensure nuclear safety. After all, if the government is unable to regulate the flow of foreign funds, can it be expected to regulate the flow of invisible all-permeating nuclear radiation?

Political leaders and sections of the media have portrayed the protesters as obstinate and unwilling to listen to reason, phrases used to describe petulant children. In more charitable moments, they speak patronisingly of the fisherfolk and farmers who form the backbone of the agitation. “They are very simple people, knowing nothing but fishing and eating. They are being manipulated. It is very easy to mislead them by saying that their lives are at risk,” says South Zone IG Rajesh Das.

If the IG’s reading of the protesters as noble savages is a sincere one, there is little to wonder why the authorities have failed to “convince” them. “Udayakumar or Pushparayan are not instigating us,” says an irate Sagaya Initha, a ward councillor and vocal member of the anti-nuclear resistance. “This land and this sea is ours. This fight is ours. They are here at our insistence.”

Living on a prayer tell-tale signs of violence at Idinthakarai after the police firing

PEOPLE’S SCEPTICISM over government assurances of safety are not hard to explain. Five days before the police violence in Koodankulam, explosions in a Sivakasi fireworks factory killed 38 and injured twice as many. The incident exposed gaping holes in the licencing process, the failure of the regulator, and the total unpreparedness of the district administration to handle an emergency of this scale. The pot-holed roads delayed the arrival of fire tenders and evacuation of victims. Lacking any disaster response training, people did the wrong thing. They surged towards the fire to help potential victims, and were killed or maimed in subsequent explosions. None of the towns in the vicinity had a hospital with a burns ward.

The Sivakasi fireworks mishap is nothing compared to a full-blown radiological emergency. And how prepared are we in Koodankulam? The neighbouring districts of Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Kanyakumari and Thiruvananthapuram have no medical facilities capable of dealing with a radiological emergency. The district administration claims to have conducted an emergency response drill at Nakkaneri village in early June. The emergency response plan is a confidential document. A fact-finding report released by the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) termed the administration’s claims a “blatant lie”. Nakkaneri villagers, including panchayat officials, interviewed by the PUCL team have sworn that they learnt about the drill only from the next day’s newspapers.

Even the CAG’s recent report on the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) notes with concern that the nature of offsite emergency exercises highlighted the inadequacy of emergency preparedness to deal with radiological disasters.

The AERB’s dubious status as a crony regulator is well-established. The CAG found that the AERB is an authority subordinate to the government and that it did not have the powers to frame or revise rules on nuclear and radiation safety. If the proverbial fox and henhouse metaphor were to be used, AERB would not even qualify to be the fox.

The magnitude of a nuclear disaster necessitates safety and due diligence that is both complete and sincere. The AERB’s licencing process is neither. If preparing for the worst is the cornerstone of safety planning, the AERB has already cut corners. After Fukushima, it set up a task force to recommend measures to fortify India’s nuclear establishments. Going against the recommendation of its own committee, the AERB refused to consider the possibility of a larger-than-expected tsunami.

People hope and believe that Koodankulam will signal the end to power cuts in the state. But data suggest otherwise

Separately, learning from the experiences at Fukushima, where emergency response was vitiated by the lack of adequate fresh water and back-up power, the task force made 17 recommendations for Koodankulam. All had to be implemented before commissioning the plant. As on date, only six of the 17 safety conditions have been implemented.

After initially assuring the Madras High Court that it would ensure implementation of all recommendations before allowing fuel loading, the AERB now says that arrangements for fresh water and back-up power can wait until six months to two years from the time of commissioning. The high court too, in a spirit of upholding national interest, acquiesced. If a radiological emergency were to occur now, the “perfectly safe” plant will not have enough fresh water to prevent a meltdown. In the event of such an emergency, it is unlikely that the core fuel assembly will hold back on a meltdown in deference to the high court’s order.

Of all the arguments put forward by nuclear proponents, perhaps the most engaging one is about the indispensability of nuclear power to Tamil Nadu’s energy security. As a state that is reeling under power cuts, Koodankulam has demonstrated that people are willing to kill for electricity. People hope and believe that Koodankulam will signal the end to power cuts in the state. But a back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests otherwise.

Tamil Nadu generates about 8,500 MW of electricity from its installed capacity of 10,364 MW. At peak demand of 12,500 MW, the state faces a shortfall of 4,000 MW. TANGEDCO, the state electricity generator, estimates the transmission and distribution losses at 18 percent. For every 100 MW generated, 18 MW is lost in transmission. Of Koodankulam Plant 1’s 1,000 MW installed capacity, 472.5 MW is earmarked for Tamil Nadu. Indian nuclear power plants operate at a plant load factor (PLF) of around 60 percent; a 100 MW plant will only generate 60 MW. With PLF accounted for, Tamil Nadu’s net generation will be 280 MW. Factor in the transmission loss, and the consumer is likely to get a meagre 230 MW, or 6 percent of the shortfall. That is unlikely to make your lights glow brighter.

Nuclear plants are unpopular, expensive to build —Rs 13 crore/MW— and suffer long delays. Of the 23 years since the Koodankulam plant was announced, only one year’s delay can be attributed to local protests. In contrast, reducing transmission and distribution losses as a way of freeing up electricity is inexpensive —Rs 50 lakh/MW — popular and quick to implement. Losses in countries such as China and Switzerland are a meagre 7 percent. If Tamil Nadu were to halve its losses to 9 percent of its total installed capacity, it will save 932 MW — more than the state’s share from Koodankulam Units 1 and 2.

So, why nuclear? Perhaps, as analysts of nuclear geopolitics like MV Ramana and Suvrat Raju point out, the Koodankulam and Jaitapur projects are part of a controversial foreign policy agenda, where the purchase of expensive nuclear plants is used to buttress relations with world powers. That would explain the 6,500 villagers charged with waging war against the State and 3,580 with sedition.

Jayaraman is a writer and a volunteer with the Chennai Solidarity Group for Koodankulam Struggle



Kractivism-Gonaimate Videos

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September 2012
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