Indian tribal women demand their reproductive rights #mustshare


 

Anumeha Yadav

20 September 2012

Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) living in Chattisgarh, India, struggle to provide for their families and are forced to lie about their identity to overcome the sterilisation restriction owing to a three decade old order of the Madhya Pradesh government that restricted PTGs from being targeted during the sterilisation drives of the time.

Sarguja: A three decade-old Madhya Pradesh government order has several adivasi families in Chattisgarh in a quandary. They struggle to provide for themselves but are turned away by government officials if they try to restrict their family size.

“I do not want more children but the ‘mitanin’ (village health worker) says she cannot take me or anyone from my community to the clinic for an operation,” says Phool Sundari Pahari Korva from Jhamjhor village, located in the forests of Sarguja district in north Chhattisgarh. She has five children – her oldest is 18 and the youngest, a daughter, is six months. All of Sundari’s four younger children have frail limbs and bellies swollen by malnutrition; the skin on her younger son’s chest has peeled off due to an infection.

PTGs_India.jpg
Sabutri Bai Korva says the nurse who helped her get sterilisation done was going to be suspended/ Photo credit: Anumeha Yadav/WFS

The reason that Phool Sundari, a Pahari Korva adivasi, was denied sterilisation at a local government clinic: A 1970s order of the Madhya Pradesh (MP) government that restricted Pahari, or Hill, Korvas and four other Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) living in Chattisgarh from being targeted during the sterilisation drives of the time.

The original intent was to protect the PTGs, a term recently amended to Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups, from ‘extinction’. The PTGs were adivasi groups dependent on pre-agricultural technologies that had stagnant or declining populations. But 30 years on, the Chhattisgarh government has continued to enforce this anachronistic order adding to the economic burden of these families.

Sabutri Bai, Sundari’s neighbour, recounts that she got sterilisation done after giving birth to her sixth child three years back but was surprised at what followed. “When the staff at the Lakhanpur clinic found out I am a Pahari Korva, they were going to dismiss the nurse who allowed me to get operated,” she says. “It makes no sense. We have 1.5 acres land. How do they expect us to provide for more and more children?” asks her husband, Phool Chand Ram, who used to work under the rural employment guarantee act, MNREGA, two years back but gave it up when he got wages only a year later. Their eight-member family survives by selling firewood, earning Rs 100 (US$1=Rs 55) for every two-day trip they make into the depleting forest.

Over 50 kilometres away, in the villages of Batauli block, the situation is similar. Pahari Korvas struggle to provide for their families and are forced to lie about their identity to overcome the sterilisation restriction. “I stopped producing nursing milk after I gave birth to my fourth child. I could only give my babies rice-water. When I wanted to get the operation done, the malaria link worker (a government health worker) said I should give my caste as Majhwar or else the Shantipada hospital would not do it,” says Mangli Bai Korva of Govindpur village.

The original order, passed on December 13, 1979, identifies PTGs, including Pahari Korvas, Baigas, Abujhmaria, Birhor and Kamar tribes, in 26 blocks in MP to be excluded from sterilisation but allows them access to contraceptives. “You have been given district-wise targets for sterilisation. An exception should be made for tribal communities whose population is stagnant or decreasing… they should have access to other contraceptives if they require. …Everyone except these communities will be encouraged to get sterilised…,” reads the two-page order.

Adivasi families in Sarguja, however, say they have never heard of temporary or permanent contraceptive methods such as birth control pills, condoms, or the copper-T, an intrauterine device. Further, while the order permits PTG families to go in for sterilisations after procuring a certificate from the Block Development Officer, neither health workers nor tribals are aware of this provision and most have no direct access to block officials.

A discussion among Pahari Korvas in Batauli, on whether or not the government should allow the operation, generated diverse reactions. While the youngsters burst into giggles, Shri Ram Korva, who has six children, wonders loudly with faultless logic, “If the thought is to preserve our population, then that is good. But if we are forced to say we are Majhwar or Oraon at the clinic, won’t we stop being Korvas anyway?” Jhoolmati Korva, a village elder, has the final word, “If the couple wants it, they should be able to get the operation even after giving their correct name.”

Sarguja has over 4,500 Pahari Korva families. Since 1996, they have been the focus of several development schemes, which promote agriculture, animal husbandry and horticulture, executed through the Pahari Korva Development Agency. But despite good intentions and adequate resources – last year, the agency had a budget of Rs 3.72 crore – district officials admit not much has changed. “Schemes do not get implemented properly because there is little coordination among various departments. We are now trying to involve the Pahari Korva Mahapanchayat in planning the use of funds,” says R. Prasanna, the District Collector. “Maybe if the Mahapanchayat made a collective appeal, the government will reconsider the sterilisation order,” he adds.

In the three decades since the order has been in force, the PTG population has increased but their access to health and nutrition has stayed as uncertain as ever and it is this fact that is central to the debate over the restriction. National Family Health Survey-3 data shows that compared to the national average of 46 per cent of underweight children, 70 per cent children born in PTG families are underweight. Malaria and diarrhoea epidemics are frequent every monsoon. In the instance of Pahari Korvas, the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) is 166 deaths per 1000 live births, more than double the national average, says a 2007 study by researcher Sandeep Sharma. The study also records the crude death rate as well as birth rate among these adivasis – more children are born, but many more die.

So, is the government hiding dismal malnutrition and high mortality numbers with a sterilisation ban? “Independent surveys show the government undercounts the level of malnutrition. For three years between 2007 and 2010 the state reported zero deaths from malaria and diarrhoea to the central Ministry for Health and Family Welfare,” says Sulakshana Nandi, a public health activist based in Raipur. “Block and district clinics in Raipur and Mahasamund were out of stock of contraceptives when we visited this January. PTGs are in a bind because they neither get adequate nutrition nor access to contraceptives,” she adds.

The ban has been a matter of public debate in the state since an investigation by journalists in Kawardha district last year traced how dalals (middlemen) from MP were luring Baiga tribals across the border for sterilisation for Rs 1,000, ironically as part of MP government’s continued sterilisation drives. Since then PTG communities such as Kamars in Gariaband district and the Baigas in Kawardha have organised public meetings demanding that the government remove the ban and focus instead on improving access to public services. “Baigas want to restrict their family size for their well-being, not because of Rs 200-300 that we could earn as incentive for sterilisation in clinics in MP,” asserted Bhaigla Singh Baiga, a community leader while addressing the Baiga Mahapanchayat meeting in Taregaon in May 2012.

Government officials have taken notice of these demands. “I agree that the demographic situation has changed and that informed choice should be available to everyone. It is, however, incorrect to blame high mortality on the failure of state services; ‘anganwadis’ can provide only supplementary nutrition, substantive nutrition has to come from the household,” says Kamalpreet Singh Dhillon, Director-Health Services in Raipur.

But nutritious food continues to be elusive for the Pahari Korvas living deep inside the Mainpat and Khirkhiri hills. Today, they wait for both their right to food and their freedom to decide family size.

SOURCE: Women’s Feature Service

 

Flunking Atomic Audits- CAG Reports and Nuclear Power


 

English: Internationally recognized symbol. De...

English: Internationally recognized symbol. Deutsch: Gefahrensymbol für Radioaktivität. Image:Radioactive.svg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Vol – XLVII No. 39, September 29, 2012 | M V Ramana

 

The recent Comptroller and Auditor General‘s report on the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and, more broadly, on nuclear safety regulation has highlighted many serious organisational and operational flaws. The report follows on a series of earlier CAG reports that documented cost and time overruns and poor performance at a number of nuclear facilities in the country. On the whole, the CAG reports offer a powerful indictment of the department of atomic energy and its nuclear plans.

M V Ramana (ramana@princeton.edu) is a physicist who works at the Nuclear Futures Laboratory and the Program on Science and Global Security, both at Princeton University, on the future of nuclear power in the context of climate change and nuclear disarmament.

The new report (Report No 9 of 2012/13) of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the acti­vities of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) could not have come at a more appropriate time (CAG 2012). Concern about nuclear safety has naturally increased significantly since the multiple accidents at the Fukushima Daichi ­nuclear reactors. The response of the ­Indian nuclear establishment and, more generally the Government of India, to Fukushima can largely be characterised as an attempt to placate people’s concerns about the potential for accidents at Indian nuclear facilities. One element in that strategy was to emphasise that safety regulation at the Nuclear Power Corporation’s (NPC) facilities was impeccable. The CAG report has essentially demo­lished this claim.

Independence of Regulator

A basic tenet of regulation is that the safety regulator must be independent of industry and government. Article 8 of the international Convention on Nuclear Safety, which India has signed and ratified, calls upon signatores to “take the appropriate steps to ensure an effective separation between the functions of the regulatory body and those of any other body or organisation concerned with the promotion or utilisation of nuclear energy” (CNS 1994). The absence of such separation has been identified as one of the factors that led to the Fukushima accidents by the Independent Investigation Commission.1

India’s nuclear regulatory regime suffers from the same lack of effective separation. Despite India’s international commitments, awareness of best practices, and criticism by various outsiders, the CAG report pointed out, “the legal status of AERB continued to be that of an authority subordinate to the central government, with powers delegated to it by the latter” (CAG 2012: vi).

At first glance the AERB does seem independent of the department of atomic energy (DAE) and the NPC. It reports to the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) rather than the DAE. The problem, as the CAG observed, arises from the “fact that the chairman, AEC and the secretary, DAE are one and the same” and this fact ­“negates the very essence of institutional separation of regulatory and non-regulatory functions” (p 12). The chairman of the NPC is also a member of the AEC. ­Another significant constraint on the AERB’s activities is that the organisation “is dependent on DAE for budgetary and administrative support” (p 13). What all this means, in effect, is that despite all pretences and claims to the contrary by the DAE and its attendant institutions, the AERB lacks power and independence. As common experience would indicate, it is hard to criticise one’s boss or force action in ways that he or she does not want. Of the 3,200 recommendations by the AERB’s Safety Review Committee for Operating Plants, the DAE had not complied with 375, with 137 recommendations dating back to earlier than 2005 (p 42).2

The lack of separation is not an accident, but a choice made by the nuclear establishment. As early as the 1970s, Ashok Parthasarathi, a senior bureaucrat and science adviser to the prime minister, had suggested that the

inspection of all nuclear installations from the point of view of health and environmental safety should be administered by a body with a suitable name and located in department of science and technology, as that department had been assigned the national responsibility for ensuring the preservation of environmental quality (Parthasarathi 2007: 131-32).

But even the idea of having an external agency monitor its environmental record was not acceptable to the AEC, let alone having someone monitor safety in its facilities.

In the subsequent decades, many have emphasised the importance of having an effective and independent regulator, in particular, A Gopalakrishnan, the chairman of AERB from 1993 to 1996 (for example, Gopalakrishnan 1999). Gopalakrishnan has also recounted many instances where the DAE and NPC have actively interfered with the safety activities of the AERB. Others from AERB have tried to defend the board, its independence, and its ability to monitor safety (for ­example, Parthasarathy 2011). Unfortunately, the situation for any regulatory agency is like that of Pompeia, Julius Caesar’s wife, of whom, Caesar is supposed to have said, “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion”. Now, the CAG report adds to public suspicion of the independence of the AERB and it is not going to be easy for the AERB to be seen as capable of effectively regulating nuclear power.

From the AERB to the NSRA

The situation described by the CAG might change with the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) Bill of September 2011 being introduced in Parliament by the Government of India. Indeed, the DAE did state to the CAG “that the process of improving the existing legal framework for introducing greater clarity in respect of separation of legal responsibilities concerning promotional and regulatory functions had already been taken up”, mentioning the NSRA Bill (p 11). Essentially, the same argument has been offered by AERB secretary R Bhattacharya in response to the CAG report (Jog 2012).

Technically, that may be a valid defence, but just because the AERB is to be replaced by the NSRA – assuming, of course, that the government manages to get it through Parliament – should we be confident of the safety of the DAE’s nuclear facilities? The underlying problem highlighted by the CAG is not just the legal status, but one of effectiveness. And looking at the content of the bill and the context under which the NSRA has been created, it seems unlikely that it will create an effective separation between the regulatory authority and the nuclear establishment.

In the NSRA as has been envisioned, many of the key processes involved in ensuring effective regulation will continue to be controlled by the AEC. The power for crucial steps like the appointment of members is vested with the central government. But for most purposes, the authority empowered to act on behalf of the central government is the AEC. The AEC chairman will also be one of the key members of the Council of Nuclear Safety that will set the policies with respect to radiation and nuclear safety that will fall under the purview of the NSRA.

There is another problem that the CAG did not discuss. The AERB suffers from a lack of technical staff and technical facilities, and this lacuna has been exploited by the DAE (Ramana and Kumar 2010: 53). Further, there is little expertise outside the nuclear establishment on technical issues relating to nuclear facilities, and no proposed method of enhancing such independent expertise. For these reasons, there will continue to be cause for concern about nuclear safety in the country.

Plan Not, Care Not?

A different structural and institutional problem highlighted by the CAG report has to do with protection of workers from radiation. Earlier, each nuclear plant had a Health Physics Unit that was part of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). However, in 2009, these units were transferred from BARC to NPC. This “meant that the functions of monitoring of radiological exposure as well as the responsibility of radiological surveillance” is now with NPC – the operator of the reactors (p 45). In other words, “AERB had no direct role in conducting independent assessments and monitoring to ensure radiological protection of workers despite being the nuclear regulator of India” (p vii).

The CAG report also shows that the AERB has not exactly been particularly zealous about promoting nuclear safety, illustrating this through a plethora of examples. One is that it never fulfilled an official requirement from 1983 to prepare an overall nuclear and radiation safety policy, which would have given structure to practical radiation safety planning at lower levels. The AERB has not been proactive in participating in emergency planning exercises; the CAG notes that these exercises have highlighted ­inadequate emergency preparedness (p 61). Nor does the AERB have the mandate to take follow-up action with district or state authorities when it detects deficiencies in emergency preparedness (p 60).

The AERB has also not paid any attention to planning for decommissioning nuclear reactors. Nor has NPC. All nuclear plants in the country were operating without any decommissioning plans, including plants that are over 30 years old (p 65). The AERB did put out a safety manual on decommissioning in 1998, but neither the plants that were operating then nor the ones that were commissioned subsequently have produced a decommissioning plan. Now, on paper, each reactor that started operations after 1998 was required to submit such a plan before the AERB issued a construction or operating licence. This leaves two possibilities: The AERB did not insist on NPC following its regulations – or NPC did not bother to comply with the requirement, and there was not much AERB could do about it. Neither of these possibilities is comforting.

The CAG vs the DAE

Though this is the first time the CAG has looked at nuclear regulation, the agency has exposed various other problems with the DAE in its audits from earlier years. It is perhaps the most prominent government body to openly criticise several aspects of the DAE’s functioning. The few examples listed below should ­illustrate the agency’s ongoing monitoring of various facets of the DAE and how the nuclear establishment has fallen short on so many dimensions.

The trend started with the 1985-86 report, which included for the first time an audit of a nuclear power project (Chandrasekharan 1990: 1024).3 In what was to become a pattern, this first report documented cost and time overruns in the case of the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS). Approved in 1965 at a cost of Rs 60 crore each, the capital cost more than doubled for each of the reactors, with substantial increases in 14 of 20 expenditure heads, and the projects were delayed by over eight years for each reactor. These “constituted inadequacies in planning of the projects rather than wages of development of indigenous technology” (Chandrasekharan 1990: 1026). Even with inadequate provisions for decommissioning, repairs, waste management, and so on, the CAG found that the rate of return on capital was only 3.5% and not the 12% expected of power projects.

A couple of years later, the CAG found a similar pattern of cost and construction time increases with the Narora reactor, noting that in 10 major heads of expenditure there had been cost overruns of 188% or more (CAG 1988). This was well before the reactor was commissioned, and the final cost figures were significantly higher. What was important was that the CAG’s conclusion that the revision of costs indicated that the project got “approved on unrealistic cost estimates” and its censure of the DAE saying, “Unrealistic cost estimates and optimistic time schedules make financial allocations and controls less meaningful” (CAG 1988).

Some years later, in 1993, the CAG studied yet another reactor – the Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) – and found again not only the pattern of cost increases and time overruns, but also that its performance was wanting (CAG 1993). The CAG documented that by the time the reactor first became critical in 1985,4 the net time overrun had become 220% and the corresponding increase in cost had gone up by 164%. The CAG also described several of the incidents and accidents involving the FBTR during just the first five years of operation. These included a nitrogen leak in 1987, followed by “a complex mechanical interaction due to fuel handling error in the reactor damaged certain ‘in-vessel’ components” that took two years to rectify; and the failure of the load cell and damage to the Capsule Transfer Gripper (CTG) in 1989.

Over the years, the CAG has also documented cost increases, time overruns, and/or poor functioning with a number of other nuclear facilities. These include the Tuticorin (Chandrasekharan 1990: 1028-29), Baroda (CAG 1988), and Manuguru heavy water plants (CAG 1994),5 Dhruva research reactor (Chandrasekharan 1990: 1029), Waste Immobilisation Plant (WIP) and Solid Storage Surveillance Facility (S3F) at Tarapur (CAG 1996), the Nuclear Fuel Complex (CAG 1998), and the Nuclear Desalination Demonstration Plant at Kalpakkam (CAG 2008).

In 1999, the CAG audited another aspect of the DAE’s functioning: its propensity for making large-scale expansion plans. Such grandiose projections have been a staple of the DAE’s strategies to garner political and financial support (Ramana forthcoming). In 1984, the DAE drew up a plan to set up 10,000 MW of nuclear power by the year 2000. What actually materialised from the profile was shocking:

Against the targeted additional power generation of 940 MW by 1995-96, gradually increasing to 7,880 MW by 2001 AD, the actual additional generation of power under the profile as of March 1998 was nil in spite of having incurred an expenditure of Rs 5,291.48 crore” (CAG 1999: 20).

The implications of this abject failure to deliver for current projections of nuclear expansion are profound.

This impressive, if depressing, series of reports by the CAG points to an even more depressing reality: the DAE cannot be easily forced to change its ways. For example, despite the CAG’s warning after its Narora case study not to get projects approved on “unrealistic cost estimates and optimistic time schedules”, the DAE continues with this practice till today. Its flagship project – the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor – was initially expected to be commissioned in 2010 (Subramanian 2004), but has been delayed by more than three years; the update from January 2012 was that the reactor would go critical in early 2013 but that would be followed by “a year of testing” before it is declared commercial (IANS 2012). Its cost estimate has gone up from Rs 3,492 crore to Rs 5,677 crore, as of November 2011, when approximately 80% of the work on the reactor had been completed (Srikanth 2011).

Conclusions

Many have written about the nuclear establishment’s safety problems, problems with radiation exposure, accounting problems, and so on (some examples are Bidwai 1978; Subbarao 1998; Gopalakrishnan 1999; Gopalakrishnan 2000; Subbarao 1999; Dias 2005; Ramana 2007; Ramana and Kumar 2010). The CAG’s advantage has been in its access to various documents that would be unavailable to members of the public.6 Put together, the CAG reports, including the latest one, amount to a pretty damning assessment of the DAE and its activities. The CAG has done its bit. It is up to Parliament, and to the population at large, to hold the DAE accountable.

Notes

1 As the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission’s Official Report to Japan’s Diet put it, “The TEPCO Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and TEPCO, and the lack of governance by said parties. They effectively betrayed the nation’s right to be safe from nuclear accidents” (Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission 2012: 16).

2 There are other ways in which the DAE has marginalised the AERB. In the case of the Kalpakkam Atomic Reprocessing Plant, AERB approval for construction was sought only in 1994 when “construction of the plant was already in progress” (Sundararajan, Parthasarathy and Sinha 2008: 26). What, one wonders, were the odds that AERB would disapprove of the project even if it had found a problem with the design?

3 Earlier reports had, in the words of an official history of the CAG, not included any “worthwhile comments” on the AEC or the DAE “despite the massive expenditure incurred in the development of nuclear energy and connected research and development” all of which was “virtually kept shrouded in mystery and secrecy, except the publicised benefits leaked out to the media by the Department/Commission” (Chandrasekharan 1990: 1024).

4 Even then, the reactor was not fully functional and the steam generator, essential for producing electricity, began operating only in 1993 (Hibbs 1997).

5 We have already written about the case of the CAG and heavy water plants in the pages of this journal (Ramana 2007).

6 The CAG “scrutinised records relating to issue of consents, authorisations, licences, and regulatory inspections; minutes of various committee meetings; utility correspondence files; project reports, etc, during the period September to November 2010 and September to October 2011” (p 5).

References

Bidwai, Praful (1978): “Nuclear Power in India – A White Elephant?”, Business India, 4 September.

CAG (1988): Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Comptroller and Auditor General, New Delhi.

– (1993): Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, New Delhi.

– (1994): Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, New Delhi.

– (1996): Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, New Delhi.

– (1998): Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, New Delhi.

– (1999): Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, New Delhi.

– (2008): Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, New Delhi.

– (2012): Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, New Delhi.

Chandrasekharan, R K (1990): The Comptroller & Auditor General of India: Analytical History 1947-1989 (New Delhi: Ashish Publishing House).

CNS (1994): “INFCIRC/449 – Convention on Nuclear Safety”, http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Infcircs/Others/inf449.shtml

Dias, Xavier (2005): “DAE’s Gambit”, Economic & Political Weekly, XL (32): 3567-69.

Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (2012): The Official Report of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (Tokyo: The National Diet of Japan), http://naiic.go.jp/en

Gopalakrishnan, A (1999): “Issues of Nuclear Safety”, Frontline, 13 March. http://www.flonnet.com/fl1606/16060820.htm

– (2000): “Undermining Nuclear Safety”, Frontline, 24 June.

Hibbs, Mark (1997): “Kalpakkam FBR to Double Core, Load First Thorium-232 Blanket”, Nucleonics Week, 38 (48): 10.

IANS (2012): “India’s First PFBR to Go Critical Early 2013”, Zee News, 21 January, http://zeenews.india.com/news/nation/igcar-finalises-design-of-commercia…

Jog, Sanjay (2012): “AERB Downplays CAG Report, Says High Safety Standards Maintained”, Business Standard India, 24 August,http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/aerb-downplays-cag-report-sa…

Parthasarathi, Ashok (2007): Technology at the Core: Science and Technology with Indira Gandhi (New Delhi: Pearson Longman).

Parthasarathy, K S (2011): “Atomic Energy Regulatory Board Not Quite Subatomic”, Economic Times, 19 April.

Ramana, M V (2007): “Heavy Subsidies in Heavy Water”, Economic & Political Weekly, XLII (34): 3483-90.

– (forthcoming): The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India (New Delhi: Penguin India).

Ramana, M V and Ashwin Kumar (2010): “Safety First? Kaiga and Other Nuclear Stories”, Economic & Political Weekly, XLV (7): 47-54.

Srikanth, R (2011): “80% of Work on Fast Breeder Reactor at Kalpakkam Over”, The Hindu, 27 November.

Subbarao, Buddhi Kota (1998): “India’s Nuclear Prowess: False Claims and Tragic Truths”, Manushi, 109: 20-34.

– (1999): “Is Our Nuclear Regulator Effective?”, The Observer of Business and Politics, 9 December.

Subramanian, T S (2004): “A Milestone at Kalpakkam”, Frontline, 19 November.

Sundararajan, A R, K S Parthasarathy and S Sinha, ed. (2008): Atomic Energy Regulatory Board: 25 Years of Safety Regulation, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Mumbai.

 

 

 

Kudankulam protests: Fishermen lay siege to Tuticorin port


Protests against the Kudankulam nuclear plant continue unabated with thousands of fishermen having laid siege to the port at Tuticorin today, demanding the closure of the controversial plant.

by Sam Daniel, Edited by Mala Das | Updated: September 22, 2012 11:30

Protests against the Kudankulam nuclear plant continue unabated with thousands of fishermen having laid siege to the port at Tuticorin today, demanding the closure of the controversial plant.

Nearly thousand fishing boats have blocked entry to the Tuticorin harbour, which is situated around 60 miles away from the nuclear power plant. The loading of nuclear fuel, which is on at one of the reactors at the Kudankulam plant, has not in the least dented the determination of the protesters, all fishermen hailing from the districts of Tuticorin, Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli – where the plant is located.

“Fishermen in Kudankulam and surrounding districts are protesting over the last 400 days, but the government is not listening and we will have to resort to these kind of protests,” said a fisherman. These fishermen are worried that the plant, once commissioned, will destroy their livelihood. Subash Fernando, Spokesperson of the Agitation Committee, says, “Once the plant is commissioned, the radiation from it would disqualify our catch for export to the European market, and even if nuclear fuel is loaded, it’s not too late to stop it”.Two expert committees appointed by the government have found the plant to be safe, dubbing public fears unfounded.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who initially supported the cause of the movement, later did a U-turn, citing that the project could bring relief to the state which is reeling under a severe power shortage. Around a lakh and half people, who live in the vicinity, are opposed to the plant. “If India believes in democracy, the government should listen to the people.

If Japan could have a Fukushima disaster, imagine what could happen in India which was also hit by a tsunami not long ago,” said a villager. Presently, the Supreme Court is hearing a petition that challenges the go-ahead given to the nuclear plant. Petitioners cite that the plant is yet to incorporate 11 of the 17 safety recommendations made by a government task force after the Fukushima disaster.

However, the atomic energy department claims these are only enhanced safety features which would be implemented in phases. At Idinthakarai – ground zero for the protests – just three kilometres away from the plant, around four to five thousand villagers are continuing their protest demanding the closure of the plant. Two weeks ago, around 10 thousand people marched towards the plant in a bid to lay siege; police opened tear gas and resorted to lathicharge to disperse the crowd.

A non-bailable warrant has been issued against SP Udhayakumar, the face of the movement, as he failed to honour a court summon. He says “the government is trying to project them as the most wanted terrorists”. The Kudankulam power plant is the first nuclear project to near completion after the Fukushima disaster. Some countries like Germany have decided to turn away from nuclear energy and the international community is keenly watching how India handles the rising opposition to the project..

 

Watch the videos

http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/news/kudankulam-protests-fishermen-lay-siege-to-tuticorin-port/247805?v_also_see

 

 

 

Sayonara nuclear power


Editorial- The Hindu , sEPT 22, 2012

The much needed big push towards low-cost,, highly-efficient, cutting-edge renewable energy technologies was lacking till recently. Even the compulsion to cut down carbon dioxide emission levels by 2020 failed to overcome the inertia. But the landscape has squarely and dramatically changed following the 9 magnitude earthquake and killer tsunami waves that resulted in the catastrophic accident in the Fukushima nuclear reactor units in Japan. In what may appear as well co-ordinated announcements made very recently, Japan and France, both major nuclear power champions, have announced their departure from nuclear energy dependence. If March 11, 2011 has gone down in history as a dark day for Japan, the government’s September 14 decision to end its reliance on nuclear power by 2040 by closing down all 50 reactors will forever be remembered as a defining moment. This will, in all probability, mark the beginning of a renewable energy technology revolution. If after World War II, the Japanese people transformed their nation into one of the world’s most industrially developed ones, the possibility of the country producing an encore with alternative energy technology developments cannot be ruled out.

Japan is not alone. The Fukushima shiver has had its reverberations in France as well. By 2025, France will cut its reliance on nuclear energy by 25 per cent from the current level of 75 per cent by shutting down 24 reactors. Six months after the Fukushima catastrophe and following Germany’s decision to get out of nuclear energy by 2022, Siemens had made public its decision to exit nuclear power business. The engineering giant intends to shift its focus to alternative energies. By 2020 Germany intends to derive 35 per cent of its energy needs from renewable sources. While critics decry Japan’s plan to wait another three decades before switching off its last nuclear plant, the decision is not without basis. Some 30 per cent of the country’s power requirement is met by these plants. Decommissioning operating plants that have not completed their lifetime will mean economical suicide. This period also gives Japan the time to develop and scale up revolutionary technologies that are better adapted to harness power from even very low wind speed, and low-intensity sunlight for the better part of the year in countries situated in higher latitudes. The focus will also be on developing technologies for harnessing wave energy. To begin with, the cost of production using these alternative technologies may be higher than even nuclear. But costs are bound to fall over time and wider acceptance is inevitable.

Keywords: renewable energy technologies, nuclear power, alternative energy, Fukushima catastrophe, Kudankulam

In Narendra Modi’s good-governance regime, four villagers expose mega housing scam using #RTI


Vinita Deshmukh | 21/09/2012 02:54 PM | Moneylife

Four villagers who tenaciously used RTI are presently on a satyagraha in front of the Rajkot district collectorate demanding action against corrupt officials in the Indira Awaas Yojana but no one, including Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, is listening

While Narendra Modi’s Gujarat is portrayed as a sterling example of good governance, brazen corruption in the premier housing scheme, Indira Awaas Yojana meant for those below poverty line (BPL) has not led to action against corrupt officials who have been diverting housing funds meant for the poorest of the poor to the ‘rich’ and ‘influential’ of the village, as exposed through RTI (Right to Information).

The Indira Awaas Yojana scheme is run by the Union rural development ministry to construct houses for people below poverty line. The financial assistance comprises Rs75,000 allotted to a woman or in the joint name of husband and wife. It is also extended to widows and war widows. It was the plight of a poor widow of Dhank village in Rajkot district that led to the corruption trail through incriminating evidence found through a series of RTI applications filed in the last two years, but the corrupt continue to be protected.

To protest against inaction by the state government, four villagers of Dhank in Rajkot district where the scam was exposed, Bharatbhai Ghughal, Bhanjibhai Jogel Naranbhai Varagiya and Govind Gangera are on satyagraha for the past one week in front of the Rajkot Collector’s office, to demand proper action against officers responsible for corruption in Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY). These officers, which include block development officers, assistant engineers and sarpanchs diverted funds to the rich and influential of the village for renovation of their houses. In some cases, the very same ‘rich’ and ‘influential’ people were also beneficiaries of another similar state government-run scheme, Sardar Patel Awaas Yojana (SPAY). As per rules, only villagers below poverty line can avail of one of the two schemes.

The endless power of citizen empowerment through RTI is reflected in this particular case, two villagers of Dhank who studied up to Std VII—Bharatbhai Ghughal and Bhanjibhai Jogel—tirelessly pursued the RTI route for two long years and blew the lid off a mega housing scam that is allegedly prevalent in most villages of Gujarat. Their frustration at corrupt officials not being punished despite incriminating evidence they exposed forcing the State Information Commission to direct vigilance commission to take action, has forced them to sit on satyagraha in front of the Rajkot Collector’s office.

In a press statement issued by the Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP) which has guided these two villagers to crusade through RTI, Ghughal and Jogel have stated that, “We are agriculture labourers. Through RTI we came to know about the scam. We have approached the vigilance commission, as well as panchayat, rural housing department but no action is being taken against the officers who were responsible for this corruption. We were threatened by village sarpanch and panchayat officials but we are fighting for the cause to change the system. It’s almost a year but government has not taken any action against the responsible officers.” The press release has appealed to citizens and activists, nationwide to contact Bhanjibhai Jogel, Bharatbhai Ghughal on 09974573036 for moral support and send emails requesting action on the corrupt to RM Patel, Additional Chief Secretary, Panchayat and Rural Housing Dept (GOG)

secprh@gujarat.gov.in, commi-prh@gujarat.gov.in; D Rajgopalan, Chief Information Commissioner – Gujarat gscic@gujarat.gov.in ; Rajendar Kumar, District Collector Rajkot collector-raj@gujarat.gov.in and/or N B Upadhyay, District Development Officer, ddo-raj@gujarat.gov.in.

Jogel and Ghughal filed RTI applications at the Gram Panchayat office in 2010 requesting names of the beneficiaries in Dhank village for the IAY and SPAY schemes for the last five years. When the sarpanch came to know of this, he along with his men beat the duo. In fact, he threatened to kill them by burning their houses in the night—a statement which he made in front of the District Development Officer (DDO) who was unmoved by it. Refusing to cow down, they took the help of Pankti Jog, a RTI activist working for MAGP which also has a whistleblowers’ helpline, based in Ahmedabad. She filed a police complaint and also ensured police protection to them.

When the PIO did not reply, they filed the first appeal with the first appellate authority, that is, the District Development Office of Rajkot district. During the hearing, the PIO submitted a hand-written chit with six names of beneficiaries who received allotment out of the rules. Jogel and Ghughal refused this shabby information and demanded a certified copy of the list of beneficiaries and whether they belonged to the BPL section of the society. Says Pankti Jog, “finally multiple RTI applications were filed to procure the same information and finally they received the list. The information stated that there were 65 beneficiaries in the last five years out of which 22 of them belonged to the affluent class and had received multiple benefits, meaning they received money two to three times under the two housing schemes and had renovated their houses with it.”

Jogel and Ghughal then analysed the sheet, re-worked it in an excel sheet format and with red marks defining irregularities. They then sent it to the Vigilance Commission for suitable action against the illegal beneficiaries. Says Pankti Jog, “The Vigilance Commission was initially slow in its action but in March 2011 directed the principal secretary of the panchayat department to conduct and inquiry and submit its report to the commission. The panchayat department sought details from the District Rural Development Authority (DRDA) by conducting investigation on ground. The two RTI applicants helped the authorities in identifying homes and the DRDA conducted a panchnama and collected testimonials which proved that 22 affluent households had indeed siphoned the money meant for the poorest of the poor.

Manu Moudgil, who has done a case study on this issue states that the villagers bravely used the RTI after the conventional methods of procuring failed. He writes, “it was in 2010 that Gughal and Jogal observed that well-to-do people owning large properties were getting the houses meant for below poverty line persons. They, joined by four others, decided to raise the issue first through official representations. Their first step was to file a joint complaint to the Taluka (Tehsil) Development Officer (TDO) on 30 March 2010, seeking an inquiry into the matter. Getting no response from the administration, they armed themselves with knowledge about the RTI Act, which they had heard was bringing about transparency in governance.”

Despite incriminating evidence found against the seven officers including the sarpanch of the village Dhank which has a population 7,000 odd, neither the Panchayat Department nor the Vigilance Commission is taking action against them. States Pankti Jog, “corruption in these housing schemes’ disbursal of money runs in crores of rupees across Gujarat but the Narendra Modi government seems hesitant to take action.” The reason why these poor villagers have had to resort to satyagraha.

(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet – The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart – Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte. She can be reached at vinitapune@gmail.com.)

Fuelling Of Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant Has Begun


By People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy

21 September, 2012
Countercurrents.org

Idinthakarai : Even as hundreds of thousands of Tamils, Malayalis and Indian citizens from other states are protesting against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) for more than a year now, and a batch of appeal petitions are being heard by the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court, the discredited and the CAG-disparaged Atomic Energy Regulatory Commission (AERB) has given clearance for the fuel loading in the first unit of the KKNPP. It is reliably learnt now that the Nuclear Power Corporation India Limited (NPCIL) has started the loading process.

The ruling establishment’s message is loud and clear. “We do not give a damn about the Indian citizens, their democratic and nonviolent opposition to harmful policies and projects and the very democratic heritage of our country. We will put the interests of foreign countries and their MNCs ahead of the wishes and wellbeing of the Indian citizens.”

Hundreds of thousands of fishermen, farmers and merchants and their families from Tamil Nadu and Kerala who rely on the sea and land for their survival and existence do not figure anywhere in the scheme of things of the Indian ruling class. The central government’s dictatorial decision to open up the retail trade and a few other key sectors of our national economy to FDI should also be seen in this light. Hundreds of thousands of Indian citizens and families that depend on the retail trade for their livelihood and sustenance do not matter in their pro-American and pro-Corporate political stance. Even as eight crore Tamils in Tamil Nadu oppose the visit of the Sri Lankan president to India, the Delhi elites are entertaining him with feast and festivities.

The leader of the DMK is, as usual, blaming the AIADMK for not initiating a dialogue with the PMANE and the struggling people in the Koodankulam issue. Although his party is part of the central government, the DMK chief has not asked the Prime Minister to do anything about the KKNPP issue. The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister is keeping a deafening silence about the issue also. The Tamils are left high and dry having been abandoned by both the strong parties of Tamil Nadu in the wake of grave dangers such as nuclear power parks, poisoned sea and sea food, polluted land and crops, and radiation-affected progeny.

The PMANE Struggle Committee and the struggling people all over Tamil Nadu and the rest of India demand immediate cessation of the fuelling of the KKNPP and convert it into a pro-people and pro-Nature energy project.

The Struggle Committee, PMANE

UID Authority started work sans homework, says social activist #Aadhaar


200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Monday, 17 September 2012 14:31
HEMANTA KUMAR PRADHAN | BHUBANESWAR, Pioneer

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) had done no homework before starting its job,” said social activist Dr Usha Ramnathan in her speech in a debate on ‘Is there any necessity of UID’ organised by the Lohia Academy here on Sunday. She said the UID project is not governed by any law.

Stating that the National Population Registrar (NPR) which collects bio-metric data is flouting the law and the whole exercise being undertaken in the country is illegal, Ramnathan said NPR is governed by law but it is exceeding what the law envisages. On the other hand, UID is a project which is not governed by any law, she said.

UIDAI in its own report said, the people were anxious while giving their fingerprints in the UID camps. Even the people wondered about the reason of taking their fingerprint and in what way it would benefit them, the report added. The Government has imposed a technology which the people of the country know nothing about. The UID project is more urban-centric, said the participants during the debate.

“We don’t have any Indian bio-metric company in the project. They are publicly saying that they would encrypt the data and it would be safe, but it won’t. Other modern technologies could hack that. The latest technology would break the earlier technology and the hacked data may pass into the hands of some outsiders. Then why we all are putting some imaginations at risk where there is no meaning,” said Ramnathan.

Ramnathan said India in the 90’s had started the process of delegation of power to the people and in the last decade it brought the Right to Information Act which has given a democratic space for the people of the country. But the Central Government again wants to centralise power by using the UIDAI project which would take all the data of an individual, she added.

She also said the companies work hierarchically, but democracy does not. “When you bring a company person, you cannot expect him to understand democracy, he would understand only hierarchy. The people who have worked most of their lives in top positions of a company, how can we expect that they would work taking people’s perspectives into account,” she asked.

Ramnathan lamented that the Government has become very greedy to know every details of every individual. “I have the right to know everything about our State but the State has no right to know everything about me. In that way the State wants to govern us and control us like a colonial State. Now the people who have the power are behaving like colonial rulers, which is neither Constitutional nor a good politics and no democratic country in the world is working in this manner,” said Ramanathan.

Participating in the debate, Gopal Krishna of the Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties at New Delhi said the proposal of merging the Election ID cards with UID makes a mockery of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on Finance on UID Bill. It is noteworthy that all Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) have UID as well. Notably Land Titling Bill makes a provision for linking land titles to UIDs of Indian residents, he added.

These acts of convergence would undermine the Constitutional rights and change the meaning of democracy, he said, adding, “It is an act of changing both the form and content of democracy and democratic rights in a new technology-based regime where technologies and technology companies are beyond regulation because they are bigger than the Government and legislatures.”

Companies can’t acquire SC, ST land: Supreme Court


PTI Sep 20, 2012,  IST Tags: Supreme Court| Scheduled Caste| Schedule Tribe (The Supreme Court said that…)

NEW DELHI: In a significant ruling, the Supreme Court today said that the land belonging to scheduled castes or tribes cannot be bought by non-dalits, including companies as such transactions are unconstitutional. A bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra gave the verdict on an appeal by the Rajasthan government against the state high court’s order holding such a sale to be valid in law.

The high court had passed its order on an appeal by a firm, Aanjaney Organic Herbal Pvt Ltd, against the refusal by the state authorities to recognise or grant mutation to the purchase of a plot by the company from a person belonging to scheduled caste. “The Act is a beneficial legislation which takes special care to protect the interest of the members of Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe. “Section 42 (SC, ST Act) provides some general restrictions on sale, gift and bequest of the interest of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe, in the whole or part of their holding.

“The reason for such general restrictions is not only to safeguard the interest of the members of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe, but also to see that they are not being exploited by the members of non-Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe. “We find Section 42(b) of the Act has to be read along with the constitutional provisions and, if so read, the expression ‘who is not a member of the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe’ would mean a person other than those who has been included in the public notification as per Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution,” said Justice Radhakrishnan, writing the judgement for the bench.

That property was purchased on September 26, 2005 through a registered sale deed for a consideration of Rs 60,000. The high court had held that such a transfer was valid as the company being a ‘juristic person‘ does not have a caste and, therefore, any transfer made by a Scheduled Caste person would not be hit by Section 42(b) of the Act. “If the contention of the company is accepted, it can purchase land from Scheduled Caste / Scheduled Tribe and then sell it to a non-Scheduled Caste and Schedule Tribe, a situation the legislature wanted to avoid. “A thing which cannot be done directly can not be done indirectly by over-reaching the statutory restriction. “We are, therefore, of the view that the reasoning of the high court that the respondent being a juristic person, the sale effected by a member of Scheduled Caste to a juristic person, which does not have a caste, is not hit by Section 42 of the Act, is untenable and gives a wrong interpretation to the above mentioned provision,” the apex court said.

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