Whistleblower: Nuclear Disaster in America is waiting to happen


Key federal official warns that the public has been kept in the dark about safety risks.

November 28, 2012  |

Photo Credit: Aleksey Klints/ Shutterstock.com

 This article was published in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org.

The likelihood was very low that an earthquake followed by a tsunami would destroy all four nuclear reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, but in March 2011, that’s what happened, and the accident has yet to be contained.

Similarly, the likelihood may be low that an upstream dam will fail, unleashing a flood that will turn any of 34 vulnerable nuclear plants into an American Fukushima.  But knowing that unlikely events sometimes happen nevertheless, the nuclear industry continues to answer the question of how much safety is enough by seeking to suppress or minimize what the public knows about the danger.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has known at least since 1996 that flooding danger from upstream dam failure was a more serious threat than the agency would publicly admit. The NRC failed from 1996 until 2011 to assess the threat even internally.  In July 2011, the NRC staff completed a report finding “that external flooding due to upstream dam failure poses a larger than expected risk to plants and public safety” [emphasis added] but the NRC did not make the 41-page report public.

Instead, the agency made much of another report, issued July 12, 2011 – “Recommendations for Enhancing Reactor Safety in the 21st Century,” sub-titled “The Near-Term Task Force Review of Insights from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Accident.”  Hardly four months since the continuing accident began in Japan, the premature report had little to say about reactor flooding as a result of upstream dam failure, although an NRC news release in March 2012 would try to suggest otherwise.

Censored Report May Be Crime by NRC  

That 2012 news release accompanied a highly redacted version of the July 2011 report that had recommended a more formal investigation of the unexpectedly higher risks of upstream dam failure to nuclear plants and the public.  In its release, the NRC said it had “started a formal evaluation of potential generic safety implications for dam failures upstream” including “the effects of upstream dam failure on independent spent fuel storage installations.”

Six months later, in September 2012, The NRC’s effort at bland public relations went controversial, when the report’s lead author made a criminal complaint to the NRC’s Inspector General, alleging “Concealment of Significant Nuclear Safety Information by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”  In a letter dated September 14 and made public the same day, Richard Perkins, an engineer in the NRC’s Division of Risk Analysis, wrote Inspector General Hubert Bell, describing it as “a violation of law” that the Commission:

has intentionally mischaracterized relevant and noteworthy safety information as sensitive, security information in an effort to conceal the information from the public. This action occurred in anticipation of, in preparation for, and as part of the NRC’s response to a Freedom of Information Act request for information concerning the generic issue investigation on Flooding of U.S. Nuclear Power Plants Following Upstream Dam Failure….   

Portions of the publically released version of this report are redacted citing security sensitivities, however, the redacted information is of a general descriptive nature or is strictly relevant to the safety of U.S. nuclear power plants, plant personnel, and members of the public. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has engaged in an effort to mischaracterize the information as security sensitive in order to justify withholding it from public release using certain exemptions specified in the Freedom of Information Act. …

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff may be motivated to prevent the disclosure of this safety information to the public because it will embarrass the agency. The redacted information includes discussion of, and excerpts from, NRC official agency records that show the NRC has been in possession of relevant, notable, and derogatory safety information for an extended period but failed to properly act on it.

 Concurrently, the NRC concealed the information from the public.

The Inspector General has not yet acted on the complaint.

Most Media Ignore Nuclear Safety Risks

Huffington Post picked up the story immediately as did the Union of Concerned Scientists and a number of online news sites.  The mainstream media showed little or no interest in a story about yet another example of the NRC lying to the public about the safety of nuclear power plants.

An NRC spokesman suggested to HuffPo that the report’s redactions were at least partly at the behest of Homeland Security. A second NRC risk engineer, who requested anonymity, said that Homeland Security had signed off on the report with no redactions.  As HuffPo noted:

If this were truly such a security concern, however, it would be incumbent on the agency to act swiftly to eliminate that threat, the engineer stated. As it is, the engineer suggested, no increased security actions have been undertaken.

This same engineer expressed serious misgivings, shared by others in and out of the NRC, that a nuclear power plant in Greenville, South Carolina, has been at risk from upstream dam failure for years, that the NRC has been aware of the risk, and that the NRC has done nothing to mitigate the risk.   In the redacted report, the NRC blacked out passages about this plant.

Event Unlikely, Would Be Sure Disaster 

South Carolina’s Oconee plant on Lake Keowee has three reactors, located 11 miles downstream from the Jocassee Reservoir, an 8,000 acre lake.  As HuffPo put it:

…the Oconee facility, which is operated by Duke Energy, would suffer almost certain core damage if the Jocassee dam were to fail. And the odds of it failing sometime over the next 20 years, the engineer said, are far greater than the odds of a freak tsunami taking out the defenses of a nuclear plant in Japan….

“Although it is not a given that Jocassee Dam will fail in the next 20 years,” the engineer added, “it is a given that if it does fail, the three reactor plants will melt down and release their radionuclides into the environment.”

When the NRC granted an operating license to the Oconee plant in 1973, danger from upstream dam failure was not even considered, never mind considered a threat against which some protection was needed.   The NRC and the plant’s owner both say the Jocassee Dam is not an immediate safety issue.   Oconee’s initial license was for 40 years.  It is now the second plant in the U.S. that the NRC has granted an extended license for another 20 years.

Union of Concerned Scientists Are Concerned 

The Union of Concerned Scientists, which says it is neither pro-nuke nor anti-nuke, but committed to making nuclear power as safe as possible, has considered the risk factors for Oconee. The NRC wrote in 2009 that “a Jocassee Dam failure is a credible event and in 2011 wrote that “dam failures are common” – and that since 1975 there have been more than 700 dam failures, 148 of them large dams 40 feet or more high.  The Jocassee Dam is 385 feet high.

For a dam like Jocassee, the NRC calculates the chance of failure at 1 in 3,600 per year – or 1 in 180 each year for the extended license.  NRC policy, when enforced, requires nuclear plant owners to mitigate any risk that has a 1 in 250 per years chance of occurring.

Oconee has three nuclear reactors, each of which is larger than the reactors at Fukushima, and so has more lethal radioactive potential.   Duke Energy reported its own upstream dam failure calculations to the NRC no later than 1996 and the NRC has responded by requiring no safety enhancements to address the threat.

Noting that the upstream dam failure risk does not take into account possible earthquakes or terrorist attacks, the Union of Concerned Scientists wrote:

The 34 reactors of concern are downstream from a total of more than 50 dams, more than half of which are roughly the size of the Jocassee dam. Assuming the NRC’s failure rate applies to all of those dams, the probability that one will fail in the next 40 years is roughly 25 percent—a 1 in 4 chance.

List of Reactors Potentially at High Risk of Flooding due to Dam Failure

 

Alabama: Browns Ferry, Units 1, 2, 3

Arkansas: Arkansas Nuclear, Units 1, 2

Louisiana: Waterford, Unit 3

Minnesota: Prairie Island, Units 1, 2

Nebraska: Cooper;  Fort Calhoun

New Jersey: Hope Creek, Unit 1;  Salem, Units 1, 2

New York: Indian Point, Units 2, 3

North Carolina: McGuire, Units 1, 2

Pennsylvania: Beaver Valley, Units 1, 2; Peach Bottom, Units 2, 3; Three Mile Island, Unit 1

Tennessee: Sequoyah, Unit 1;  Watts Bar, Unit 1

Texas: South Texas, Units 1, 2

South Carolina: H.B. Robinson, Unit 2;  Oconee, Units 1, 2, 3

Vermont: Vermont Yankee

Virginia: Surrey, Units 1, 2

Washington: Columbia

(Source: Perkins, et al., “Screening Analysis,” July 2011) 

#India-17% women report sexual harassment at workplace’ #Vaw


Aditi Nigam

New Delhi, Nov 28:

While Parliament is set to consider a Bill on sexual harassment at the workplace in this session, a new study shows “high incidence’ of such cases, with 17 per cent working women reporting facing such acts.

The study by Oxfam India and Social and Rural Research Institute, a wing of IMRB International, was done in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Durgapur, among working women from the organised and unorganised sectors.

Among sectors, the three that emerged as ‘unsafe’ for women were labourers (29 per cent), domestic helps (23 per cent) and small-scale units (16 per cent).

However, most of the women respondents reported to have faced incidents that were non-physical. A total of 102 out of 121 incidents were reported to be non-physical, whereas the remaining 19 incidents were physical in nature, says the study.

While a majority of respondents were aware of such acts, they were reluctant to take any formal action due to ‘fear of losing the job’, ‘absence of any complaints mechanism at the workplace’, ‘fear of getting stigmatised’ and ‘not aware of redressal mechanism’.

Violence against women is a human rights violation, whether it is domestic or sexual harassment at the workplace,” said Nisha Agrawal, CEO, Oxfam India.

Majority of respondents (both general population and working women) perceived women working in the unorganised sector to be more susceptible to sexual harassment. Over 80 per cent said there was need for a separate law for dealing with sexual harassment at workplace.

aditi.n@thehindu.co.in

 

#India-The quiet grip of caste


Jean Drèze, Hindustan Times
November 28, 2012
Some time ago I visited a Dalit hamlet in Rewa district. It was hemmed in on all sides by the fields of upper-caste farmers, who refused to allow any approach road to reach the hamlet. There were short roads inside the hamlet, but they stopped abruptly at the edge of it. The hamlet felt like an island, surrounded by hostile territory. I wondered whether any other country still cultivated such absurd and monstrous practices as the caste system. 

The next day I read an interesting article on this subject, written by my esteemed colleague André Béteille (The Hindu, February 21, 2012). The article began by pointing out that the hold of caste in social life is subsiding in many ways. For instance, the association between caste and occupation is becoming less rigid (as Chandra Bhan Prasad puts it more succinctly, “pizza delivery is caste neutral”). Similarly, the rules of purity and pollution are a little more relaxed today than they used to be. Following on this, Béteille argues that “organised politics” is the reason why “in spite of all this, caste is maintaining its hold over the public consciousness”. I submit, however, that there are simpler reasons for the survival of caste consciousness.

The real issue, actually, is not so much caste consciousness as the role of caste as an instrument of power. But the two are linked. To convey the point, some of us collected information on the share of the upper castes in positions of power and influence (POPIs) in Allahabad — the press club, the university faculty, the bar association, and the commanding posts in trade unions, NGOs, media houses, among other public institutions. The sample covers more than a thousand POPIs, spread over 25 public institutions. The share of the upper castes in this sample turns out to be over 75%, compared with around 20% in the population of Uttar Pradesh as a whole. Brahmins and Kayasthas alone have cornered about half of the POPIs — more than four times their share in the population. These are approximate figures, partly based on guessing castes from surnames, but the pattern is clear: upper castes continue to have overwhelming control over public institutions.
An attempt was also made to identify Dalits in the sample. This required further enquiries, since Dalits often do not have distinct surnames. In fact, many of them have no surname, or, at any rate, are listed in official documents (such as employee registers) under names — or nicknames — such as ‘Chote’ or ‘Sunita’. That itself is quite telling. More importantly, there was no evidence of any significant presence of Dalits in the sample institutions, except a few — such as the university faculty — where mandatory quotas apply.

The dominance of the upper castes seems to be, if anything, even stronger in institutions of “civil society” than in state institutions. For instance, in Allahabad the share of the upper castes is around 80% among NGO and trade union leaders, close to 90% in the executive committee of the bar association, and a full 100% among office-bearers of the press club.

Even trade unions of manual workers are often under the control of upper-caste leaders. There is some food for thought here about the grip of the caste hierarchy on social institutions, including some that are otherwise anti-establishment.

Perhaps Allahabad is particularly conservative in caste matters. It is, of course, just one city, and there is no intention here of singling it out for special attention. The point is to illustrate a general pattern that also applies to varying extents in many other parts of India. Indeed, many recent studies have brought out the continued dominance of the upper castes in media houses, corporate boards, judicial institutions, and even cricket teams.

Coming back to the issues raised earlier, it is not clear why “caste consciousness” would die in such circumstances. The dying of caste consciousness, in this situation, would sound like a good deal for the upper castes, since the system of domination would continue without much notice being taken of it. Dalits, for their part, have absolutely no reason to be unconscious of the dominance of the upper castes. A Brahmin who enters the press club and joins the company of other Brahmins and upper castes may be unconscious of the situation, and even feel proud of his lack of caste consciousness. But a Dalit who enters the same room and finds himself surrounded by upper-caste colleagues, some of them possibly active custodians of the caste hierarchy, is unlikely to feel at home. Similarly, the Dalits who are marooned in isolated hamlets of Rewa can be forgiven for feeling a little caste conscious.

No one can be blamed for being born in an upper caste, since it is not a matter of choice.
But perhaps this privilege entails a special responsibility to fight the caste system, instead of leaving that to the Dalits — or worse, obstructing their struggle for equality (like the landlords of Rewa).

Surely, for instance, there is a role for greater attention to “diversity” in public institutions, of the sort that has significantly reduced ethnic or gender imbalances in other countries. What prevents the bar association, NGOs or trade unions in Allahabad from ensuring that they do not become upper-caste clubs? Perhaps there is a constructive role here for caste consciousness of a different kind.

Jean Drèze is visiting professor, Department of Economics, Allahabad University
The views expressed by the author are personal

Gujarat-Sweet Deals Are Made Of Gas # Narendramodi #mustread


A dubious company registered in Barbados will enjoy a windfall of Rs 20,000 crore at the cost of Gujarat taxpayers thanks to an agreement inked under Modi’s watch

An Investigation By Ashish Khetan, Tehelka, Nov 29,2012

CORRUPTION AND cronyism in the allocation of natural resources have been dominating the national discourse for more than two years. The giving away of precious 2G spectrum and coalmines by the Congress-led UPA regime has triggered anti-graft movements and invited unprecedented scrutiny from institutions such as the CAG, the Supreme Court and the media. But in the heat and dust of accusatory politics and competitive journalism, there is one shady deal involving a precious natural resource worth billions of dollars that has escaped public scrutiny. The deal involves the Narendra Modi government and a dubious company incorporated in the Caribbean island of Barbados.


In perhaps what would qualify as one of the most scandalous contracts ever signed, the Modi regime gave away a 10 percent participating stake in an expansive gas field it had won in a bidding process to a company named GeoGlobal Resources that existed only on paper. The company, incorporated in Barbados, had a capital of just $64.

The deal was inked in March 2003, when the BJP was in power both at the state and the Centre. Shockingly, the Barbados-based company didn’t pay a single cent for its stake. Even the company’s 10 percent share to the cost of exploration was borne by a state PSU, the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC). Within days of signing the contract with the Gujarat PSU, GeoGlobal parked 50 percent of its stake in the KG Basin to another shell company in Mauritius.

The Gujarat government has justified this sweetened deal on the sole ground that GeoGlobal was a technical expert and had helped the government in preparing the geological model for gas exploration. But in its latest report, the CAG has pointed out that GeoGlobal’s technical assistance has been so deficient that GSPC had to hire another technical expert to revise the geological model from scratch. The revised technical advisory work cost the government just Rs 2.64 crore. While for the same work, it had given GeoGlobal a permanent stake of 10 percent worth millions of dollars.

On 27 March 2002, the GSPC formed a consortium with GeoGlobal Resources India Inc and an Indian company named Jubilant Enpro Pvt Ltd. GeoGlobal was incorporated only six days before the formation of the consortium and was effectively controlled by a single person named Jean Paul Roy, a resident of Guatemala. The consortium was formed to bid for a gas block measuring approximately 4,57,000 acres in the Krishna-Godavari Basin off the east coast of India under the National Exploration Licensing Policy III framed by the BJP-led NDA government.

THE STORY AT A GLANCE
01. The Modi regime gave 10 percent stake in a KG Basin gas field to GeoGlobal Resources, a company only on paper, incorporated in Barbados02. GeoGlobal, a one-man firm controlled by Jean Paul Roy, was formed just six days before the JV with GSPC, and was incorporated with a capital of just $64

03. GeoGlobal was picked as JV partner in a whimsical and arbitrary manner. No tendering procedure or transparent methods were adopted in selecting the company for the project

04. The worth of 10 percent stake could run into millions of dollars with total gas reserve in the field expected to be between 2 and 20 trillion cubic feet

05. GSPC also gave GeoGlobal a carried interest, as per which its 10 percent share towards capital and operational cost was borne by the state PSU

06. GeoGlobal’s work was so deficient that GSPC had to hire another technical expert, for which it was paid Rs 2.64 crore. A job for which GeoGlobal got a stake worth millions of dollars

07. So far, GSPC has spent in excess of Rs 20,000 crore in drilling and exploration costs. GeoGlobal’s share of Rs 2,000 crore towards expenditure cost has been borne by GSPC

08. Within days of signing the contract, Roy transferred 50 percent of his share in the KG Basin deal to a dubious entity incorporated in Mauritius

09. The nominal value of each share of GeoGlobal at the time of incorporation was $0.001. In January 2006, the shares hit a high of $14.92 per share

10. The 15,000-time appreciation in the share price was achieved on the strength of the sweetened KG Basin deal

11. The commercial operations in the KG Basin offshore block would commence from July 2013. GSPC is expected to drill 11 deepwater wells

At the time of bidding, the Gujarat government claimed that the gas field, designated as Block KG — OSN — 2001/3, had over 45 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas. As per the Modi government’s own estimates, the gas field was worth about $20 billion.

The absurdity of the deal could be gauged from the fact that the Modi government gave away 10 percent stake, which in its own eyes was worth millions of dollars to GeoGlobal on the ground that the company had international experience and a proven track record in the oil and gas exploration field. On the other hand, in its disclosures before the US authorities, GeoGlobal told its shareholders that the company had no exploration experience before venturing into India and the GSPC-led joint venture was its first foray in the oil and gas exploration business.

TEHELKA’s investigation shows that the company was fully controlled by Jean Paul Roy, who is a geologist by profession and had worked with various oil companies as a geological expert before forming this company. After entering into a joint venture with GSPC, Roy used this deal to showcase his credentials as the head of a corporation and entered into nine more contracts with the Government of India, a majority of which were signed when the NDA regime was in power.

“We are in the early stage of developing our operations. We have a very limited operating history and we have realised very limited revenues from our activities. Our activities in the oil and natural gas exploration and production industry have primarily involved entering into 10 Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) with the Government of India,” reads a company quarterly report for the period ending 30 June 2012.

Shockingly, GSPC also agreed to contribute GeoGlobal’s share of 10 percent to the venture fund set up for the exploration activities and the same was to be recovered only after the joint venture starts earning revenues from the sale of gas.

Reportedly, GSPC has so far spent around $3.069 billion towards exploration costs. GeoGlobal should have contributed $306.9 million out of the total cost. But it is the taxpayers of Gujarat who have been made to fund GeoGlobal’s share of expenditure.

By virtue of this agreement, it’s the taxpayers who have been made to finance GeoGlobal’s activities, while the company has walked away with a 10 percent Participating Interest in the gas field, a national wealth.

Soon after the deal was signed, Roy made a string of questionable share transactions by which he transferred half of GeoGlobal’s 10 percent stake in a company he incorporated in Mauritius. The contract between GeoGlobal and GSPC was signed in March 2003. In the same month, GeoGlobal entered into a “Participating Interest Agreement” with Roy Group (Mauritius) Inc, a corporate entity fully controlled by Roy, by which the company assigned 50 percent of the benefits and obligations of the production-sharing contract pertaining to the KG offshore block, i.e., 5 percent of its participating interest, to this newly incorporated entity in Mauritius. This transfer of 50 percent of its stake by GeoGlobal within days of inking the deal with GSPC raises serious questions about its motives and the mala fide of the entire deal.

After around five months, GeoGlobal effected a reverse takeover of a US company named Suite101.com. By this deal, all outstanding capital stock of GeoGlobal was exchanged for 34 million shares of Suite101.com. In addition, Roy was paid $2 million. As per the deal, 14.5 million shares of Suite101.com were delivered to Roy and the remaining 19.5 million shares were held in escrow to be released on the occurrence of certain events related to the KG Basin offshore exploration. On 2 February 2004, Suite101.com changed its name to GeoGlobal Resources Inc. The nominal value of the shares of GeoGlobal was one-tenth of a US cent ($0.001). But within a few years, in January 2006, the shares reached a trading rate of $14.92. In other words, there was a 15,000-time appreciation in the share value, which was primarily on the strength of the sweetened KG block deal.

The joint venture between GSPC and GeoGlobal raises serious questions about the management of natural resources, in general, and the production-sharing contracts signed between private parties and the Government of India in the oil and gas sector, in particular. Sources at the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) told TEHELKA that GSPC would start gas production by July 2013 and it is scheduled to drill 11 deepwater wells. As of today, the DGH reckons that the gas discovered so far is about 2 trillion cubic feet, which would be worth more than $1 billion. However, DGH sources added that it was possible that the company could discover more gas in the future.

TEHELKA sent detailed questionnaires to both the Gujarat government and GeoGlobal, and waited for more than 10 days for their response. Despite repeated reminders, both the parties failed to respond.

The so-called technical expertise provided by GeoGlobal and its promoter Roy has now been described as sub-standard, misleading and deficient by the CAG. According to sources, beyond the 10 percent stake, GSPC also paid hefty consultation fees to Roy for his technical assistance. TEHELKA could not get a confirmation or denial of the same by any of the parties concerned.

Geoglobal prepared an erroneous and deficient Geological model, says the CAG

IN APRIL, the CAG tabled a report on state PSUs in the Gujarat Assembly where it made a series of damning observations on the structure and the implementation of the joint venture between GSPC and GeoGlobal. However, unlike the CAG’s reports on 2G and coalmines, the audit body’s report on GSPC and its joint venture with GeoGlobal has gone unnoticed.

“Though the services of a technical expert could be measured and determined in monetary terms, the company admitted GeoGlobal Resources with 10 percent Participating Interest without any basis,” the CAG noted. The audit body also observed that GeoGlobal submitted a deficient and erroneous geological model, which not only delayed the exploration activities, but also led to a steep escalation of costs. The technical model prepared by GeoGlobal was so deficient, the CAG observed, that GSPC had to hire another technical expert viz, Petrotel USA, at a cost of Rs 2.64 crore. “The geological model of GeoGlobal had failed in respect of well depth estimate, its location and exploration cost estimates. Hence, Petrotel was engaged to thoroughly revise GeoGlobal’s geological model,” says the report.

After entering into a JV with GSPC, Jean Paul Roy used this deal to enter into nine more contracts with the Government of India, a majority of which were signed when the NDA was in power

The question that arises is that if the preparation of a new geological model, which has also yielded results, costs just Rs 2.64 crore, why did the Gujarat government give away a 10 percent permanent stake to GeoGlobal for the same kind of work — though it has proven to be deficient and faulty?

In its defence, the Gujarat government told the CAG that, “Mr Jean Paul Roy of GGR, being a technical expert in the field, was admitted as a joint-venture partner for the block. He would not have agreed to solely carry out a technical evaluation of the block for bidding without being offered a Participating Interest in the block” (GSPC’s reply as paraphrased in the CAG report).

But the CAG has rejected GSPC’s contention. “The reply is not tenable. The company’s contention that Mr Roy would not have agreed to carry out the technical evaluation without a Participating Interest being offered to him was an invalid apprehension not supported by any documents.”

GSPC’s reply also admits the fact that an individual geologist was passed off as a company for the purpose of forming a consortium and participating in the bid.

TEHELKA spoke with many retired ONGC, GAIL and DGH officials. Though none of them agreed to speak on record, they all agreed that natural resources need to be explored and utilised in a more transparent and just manner. They also raised questions on the pre-bid qualification process.

“The joint venture between GSPC and GeoGlobal should have failed at the pre-bid stage itself,” says an industry insider. “There is a difference between a company with years of experience, proven track record and a team of experts as its employees, and an individual geologist. It defies logic why GSPC should tie up with a shady company for such a difficult and complex deepwater exploration work.”

There is not much information available on Jean Paul Roy in the public domain except his Linkedin profile, which describes him as a geologist with “excess of 28 years of geological and geophysical experience in basins worldwide. Since 1981, he has held geophysical positions with Niko Resources, Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation, Reliance Industries, Cubacan Exploration, Petro-Canada, GEDCO, Eurocan USA and British Petroleum”.

GSPC manipulated the bidding cost to win the KG block, says the CAG

THE CAG report has slammed GSPC for deliberately underestimating the cost of exploration to qualify for the bid. The total net worth of the consortium between GSPC, GeoGlobal and Jubilant was $60.5 million. The consortium submitted that the estimated cost of drilling during Phase 1 would be $59.23 million.

The CAG’s Problems with the Gas Deal
THOUGH the services of a technical expert could be measured in monetary terms, GeoGlobal was given 10 percent stake without any basisGEOGLOBAL’S geological model had failed with respect to well depth estimate, its location and exploration cost estimates

THE TECHNICAL MODEL prepared by GeoGlobal was so deficient that GSPC had to hire another technical expert at a cost of Rs 2.64 crore

GSPC’S CONTENTION that GeoGlobal would not have agreed to do the technical evaluation without a stake that was not supported by any documents

GSPC MANIPULATED the cost of exploration and underestimated the cost of hiring a rig at the time of bid submission

GSPC HAS SUFFERED a loss of interest running into hundreds of crores of rupees by agreeing to contribute GeoGlobal’s share of 10 percent to the venture fund

“We observed that the estimated cost of Phase 1 was worked out on the lower side and if the cost of hiring rig and associated services that prevailed at the time of submission of bid was considered realistically, the estimated cost would have been $169.270 million, i.e., almost three times of the cost projected,” the report said.

GSPC deliberately kept the estimated cost less than its net worth so that it qualified the pre-bid stage.

So far, the state PSU has spent $3.069 billion towards exploration costs, more than 60 times of its estimate given at the time of bidding. By deliberately underplaying the cost of bidding and keeping it at an unrealistically low level, GSPC could justify its joint venture with a nonentity like GeoGlobal.

TEHELKA was told by a senior Gujarat IAS officer (now retired), who at one point was involved with the affairs of GSPC, that sometime in 2006-07, the government realised that the deal was scandalous and could be a source of embarrassment for the government. To correct things retrospectively, GSPC wrote to GeoGlobal and asked it to contribute towards the escalating exploration costs.

GSPC contended that the excess amount spent towards exploration costs was not within the terms of the Carried Interest Agreement, as per which GSPC had agreed to spend GeoGlobal’s share of 10 percent towards the project costs and recover the same from the company only after the commencement of commercial operations. But GeoGlobal has refused to pay anything to GSPC citing the contract.

“We estimate that the amount of GSPC’s claim as of 30 June 2012 to be approximately $306.9 million plus interest, of which 50 percent is for the account of Roy Group (Mauritius) Inc,” GeoGlobal has disclosed in its latest shareholders report.

In another report, GeoGlobal has stated its legal counsels have advised it that it was not liable to pay any amount to GSPC. “We have advised GSPC that it has no right to seek the payment and that we believe the payment GSPC is seeking is in breach of the Carried Interest Agreement,” says one of GeoGlobal’s quarterly reports filed before the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

In effect, GeoGlobal has walked away with a substantial stake in the KG Basin offshore block without investing a dime and without making any meaningful technical contribution.

Ashish Khetan is Editor, Investigations with Tehelka.
ashish.khetan@tehelka.com

Karnataka Govt pact with generic drug seller ‘illegal’


Chethan Kumar Bangalore: Nov 28, 2012 DH News Service

Documents reveal the MoU was signed more than 2 months before the company got licence

The Karnataka government’s agreement with a private firm (Esscubes Medisience Private Limited) to sell and market generic drugs has drawn flak within the ruling BJP and it is alleged that the company was favoured in violation of rules.

Incidentally, the name and address of one of the directors of the company matches with the name and address of a trustee in ‘AASARE Foundation’, a trust with which S A Ramdas, the Minister for Medical Education, has connections.

Although there is no evidence to directly prove that Ramdas used his influence in selecting the company, doubts have cropped up as documents show Shankarananda (No 76, II Cross, Lake Shore Gardens, Thindlu, Vidyaranyapura Post, Bangalore 97) has connections with both the Trust and Esscubes.

The Karnataka State Co-operative Consumers Federation Limited (KSCCF), a wing of the State government, entered into an agreement with Esscubes for sale and marketing of Generic Drugs on March 10 this year.

The Memorandum of Understanding between the two parties was aimed at executing the government’s novel initiative of providing generic drugs, which are a lot more affordable than drugs available in the market to the lower and middle-income groups.

However, documents with Deccan Herald show that the said company was chosen to market and sell the drugs in just a month and eight days after the Registrar of Companies, Karnataka gave the Certificate of Incorporation.

The Certificate of Incorporation for Esscubes with corporate identity number ‘U36912KA201PTC062395’ was given on February 2, 2012 and the MoU between the company and the KSFCC was signed on March 10.

Further, documents from the office of the assistant drugs controller reveal that the company was accorded the licence to carry out such business on May 2, 2012, suggesting that it was allowed to market and sell drugs even before it had the licence to do so.

Well-placed sources in the government said that the methods followed in selection of the company and the execution of the agreement were not as per the prescribed laws and suspected that there could be a role of influential persons in striking such a deal.

Sarvabhouma Bagali, a BJP MLA told Deccan Herald: “There is enough proof to show that the company was selected in an unfair manner and I will raise this issue in the Assembly.”
Repeated attempts to contact Ramdas were futile.

The company, violating the rules of the Memorandum of Understanding with KSCCF, had entered into a sub-lease agreement with KIMS, Hubli.

 

Medicare Is Faulted on Shift to Electronic Records


From the New York Times

November 29, 2012

By 

The conversion to electronic medical records — a critical piece of the Obama administration’s plan for health care reform — is “vulnerable” to fraud and abuse because of the failure of Medicare officials to develop appropriate safeguards, according to a sharply critical report to be issued Thursday by federal investigators.

The use of electronic medical records has been central to the aim of overhauling health care in America. Advocates contend that electronic records systems will improve patient care and lower costs through better coordination of medical services, and the Obama administration is spending billions of dollars to encourage doctors and hospitals to switch to electronic records to track patient care.

But the report says Medicare, which is charged with managing the incentive program that encourages the adoption of electronic records, has failed to put in place adequate safeguards to ensure that information being provided by hospitals and doctors about their electronic records systems is accurate. To qualify for the incentive payments, doctors and hospitals must demonstrate that the systems lead to better patient care, meeting a so-called meaningful use standard by, for example, checking for harmful drug interactions.

Medicare “faces obstacles” in overseeing the electronic records incentive program “that leave the program vulnerable to paying incentives to professionals and hospitals that do not fully meet the meaningful use requirements,” the investigators concluded. The report was prepared by the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees Medicare.

The investigators contrasted the looser management of the incentive program with the agency’s pledge to more closely monitor Medicare payments of medical claims. Medicare officials have indicated that the agency intends to move away from a “pay and chase” model, in which it tried to get back any money it has paid in error, to one in which it focuses on trying to avoid making unjustified payments in the first place.

Late Wednesday, a Medicare spokesman said in a statement: “Protecting taxpayer dollars is our top priority and we have implemented aggressive procedures to hold providers accountable. Making a false claim is a serious offense with serious consequences and we believe the overwhelming majority of doctors and hospitals take seriously their responsibility to honestly report their performance.”

The government’s investment in electronic records was authorized under the broader stimulus package passed in 2009. Medicare expects to spend nearly $7 billion over five years as a way of inducing doctors and hospitals to adopt and use electronic records. So far, the report said, the agency has paid 74, 317 health professionals and 1,333 hospitals. By attesting that they meet the criteria established under the program, a doctor can receive as much as $44,000 for adopting electronic records, while a hospital could be paid as much as $2 million in the first year of its adoption. The inspector general’s report follows earlier concerns among regulators and others over whether doctors and hospitals are using electronic records inappropriately to charge more for services, as reported by The New York Times last September, and is likely to fuel the debate over the government’s efforts to promote electronic records. Critics say the push for electronic records may be resulting in higher Medicare spending with little in the way of improvement in patients’ health. Thursday’s report did not address patient care.

Even those within the industry say the speed with which systems are being developed and adopted by hospitals and doctors has led to a lack of clarity over how the records should be used and concerns about their overall accuracy.

“We’ve gone from the horse and buggy to the Model T, and we don’t know the rules of the road. Now we’ve had a big car pileup,” said Lynne Thomas Gordon, the chief executive of the American Health Information Management Association, a trade group in Chicago. The association, which contends more study is needed to determine whether hospitals and doctors actually are abusing electronic records to increase their payments, says it supports more clarity.

Although there is little disagreement over the potential benefits of electronic records in reducing duplicative tests and avoiding medical errors, critics increasingly argue that the federal government has not devoted enough time or resources to making certain the money it is investing is being well spent.

House Republicans echoed these concerns in early October in a letter to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of health and human services. Citing the Times article, they called for suspending the incentive program until concerns about standardization had been resolved. “The top House policy makers on health care are concerned that H.H.S. is squandering taxpayer dollars by asking little of providers in return for incentive payments,” said a statement issued at the same time by the Republicans, who are likely to seize on the latest inspector general report as further evidence of lax oversight. Republicans have said they will continue to monitor the program.

In her letter in response, which has not been made public, Ms. Sebelius dismissed the idea of suspending the incentive program, arguing that it “would be profoundly unfair to the hospitals and eligible professionals that have invested billions of dollars and devoted countless hours of work to purchase and install systems and educate staff.” She said Medicare was trying to determine whether electronic records had been used in any fraudulent billing but she insisted that the current efforts to certify the systems and address the concerns raised by the Republicans and others were adequate.

The report also takes to task another federal agency that certifies the software systems used to qualify for the Medicare incentive payments, saying it should do more to ensure the systems’ reports are accurate and meet the “meaningful use” criteria.

Medicare has not audited any of the $3.6 billion payments it has made to date, according to the report, which faults the agency for its lack of prepayment review and reliance on self-reporting after money has been spent.

In their written response to the report, federal officials said they agreed with some of the inspector general’s recommendations that they clarify what hospitals and doctors need to do to qualify for the payments. But Marilyn Tavenner, the acting administrator for Medicare, strongly disagreed with the idea that the agency should do more to ensure payments are appropriate before writing a check.

Requiring an audit before paying hospitals and doctors “could significantly delay payments to providers,” she said, and these reviews “would also impose an increased upfront burden on providers.” Ms. Tavenner said Medicare took some steps to make sure providers were eligible for the payments but “does not believe prepayment audit is necessary at this juncture.” Medicare maintains that it has systems in place to verify the information being submitted.

Medicare has developed plans to audit payments it has made since the program started in 2011 and says it expects to issue additional guidance for hospitals and doctors.

The other federal agency, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, agreed with the inspector general’s recommendations and said officials were already working to improve the process of certifying systems.

The inspector general said Medicare should be able to review at least some payments before they were made to determine whether the hospitals and doctors actually qualified. The investigators suggest identifying a small number of providers where the information provided was inconsistent and conducting a review or audit.

 

In Delhi you can get married or buy a house ONLY if you have UID/ aadhar- #wtfnews


Keep your UID cards ready to get married, buy house
Neelam Pandey , Hindustan Times
New Delhi, November 28, 2012

Not having a Unique Identification (UID) card can spell trouble for you if you want to get any work related to property and marriage registration or secure certificates from the revenue department of the Delhi government. To encourage people to get enrolled, the department is insisting on a UID card or enrolment number for any kind of public dealing. What’s more, the Delhi government is considering making UID numbers mandatory for all public services from next year. A proposal to this effect has already been made in a meeting in September and will be sent for cabinet approval.

Arvinder Singh, urban development minister, said, “We are going to launch a massive awareness campaign. After that, we will link it to our schemes.” Dharam Pal, revenue secretary in the Delhi government, said, “From next year, other services will also be linked to UID card and guidelines are being framed for that.”

For now, Pal said if they didn’t have a UID card, “we are even accepting enrolment numbers”. Those who haven’t yet enrolled themselves are being asked to get an enrolment number in the district offices itself.

According to the first-phase figures released in August, a total of 13 million Delhiites enrolled for the project, while cards had been issued to 10.3 million. In the second phase, about 4 million will be added to the UID database.

This is not the only instance where UID is being linked to public dealings. The Delhi government has also tied up with the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIAI) for the Annashree Yojna wherein cash subsidies to the ‘vulnerable poor’ are being sent to bank accounts linked to the UID cards.

7 Bangladeshi juveniles are languishing in Indian Home, even after completion of their terms


28th November 2012

 

To

The Hon’ble Chairman

National Human Rights Commission

Faridkot House

Copernicus Marg

New Delhi – 1

 

Hon’ble Sir,

 

We write to draw your attention to the situation that seven minor boys (details are furnished in the list herein below) areillegally detained in ‘Anandashram’ Home, an observation home for children in conflict with law in Berhampore, West Bengal. They were arrested long back and framed under penal charges.

 

Information has been received that enquiry against them has already been completed under the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2000. But till date they have been detained in the home in violation of sections 38 and 39 of the Act.  

 

Section 38 & 39 of the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2000 states that—-

 

Section 38- Transfer. – (1) If during the inquiry it is found that the child hails from the place outside the jurisdiction of the Committee, the Committee shall order the transfer of the child to the competent authority having jurisdiction over the place of residence of the child.

(2) Such juvenile or the child shall be escorted by the staff of the home in which he is lodged originally.

(3) The State Government may make rules to provide for the travelling allowance to be paid to the child.

 

Section 39- Restoration. – (1) Restoration of and protection to a child shall be the prime objective of any children’s home or the shelter home.

(2) The children’s home or a shelter home, as the case may be, shall take such steps as are considered necessary for the restoration of and protection to a child deprived of his family environment temporarily or permanently where such child is under the care and protection of a children’s home or a shelter home, as the case may be.

(3) The Committee shall have the powers to restore any child in need of care and protection to his parent, guardian, fit person or fit institution, as the case may be, and give them suitable directions.

Explanation.- For the purposes of this section “restoration of child” means restoration to-

(a) parents;

(b) adopted parents;

(c) foster parents.—-

 

 

The children are eligible for immediate release and should be repatriated back to Bangladesh at the earliest in co-ordination with the respective High Commission.

 

We request you to look into this matter and take immediate steps towards his release in coordination with the government of India and initiate the process of repatriation so that the child can go back to his country without delay.

It has been months now that the children are still in the observation home and we fear that he will face indefinite stay if urgent action towards his release and repatriation is not taken.

 

We urge you to take the following action at the earliest:

  • Coordinate with Ministry of External Affairs & Ministry of Home Affairs,  Government of India; Government of West Bengal and Juvenile Justice Board, Berhampore, Murshidabad, West Bengal to take immediate steps towards release and restoration of the children
  • Provide consular services and a lawyer for the children in case the children have no legal representation.
  • Initiate action towards repatriation of the children so that the children can be sent back to the home country as soon as the child is released.
  • Ensure safety and rehabilitation of the children post release and post repatriation in lieu of the difficult time spent in a custodial setting in an observation home for months now.
  • We also urge that proper and effective steps should be taken from now on so that no child arrested  either by police or Border Security Force under the Foreigners’ Act’ is detained in custody and they must immediately be sent to their homes.  

 

We hope that you would share our concern for the children towards their safety and well-being in order to avoid any circumstance that leads to injustice.


Kindly acknowledge receipt of this letter.

 

Thanking You

Yours truly,

 

 

 

Kirity Roy

Secretary, MASUM

&

National Convener, PACTI

          Name and details

Name & Father’s name Address Age Date of arrest Case reference Sections charged
Jamil Hossain, s/o Mr. Ajahar Ali village – Bhabanipur, Post Office- Dubal Hati, Police Station and District- Nowgaon, Bangladesh 16 years 20.11.10 Habibpur Police Station Caseno.188/10, dated 20.11.12 U/S 14 (a) (b) of Foreigner’s Act
Helal Ali, s/o Mr. Asraful Ali village +Post Office- Char Alatuli, Sarkarpara, District- Chapai Nawabgunj, Bangladesh 13 years 25.05.11 Lalgola Police Station Case no. 242/11 dated 25/05/2011 U/S 14(a) and (b) Foreigner’s Act
Selim Sekh, s/o Mr. Sadek Sekh Village -Tarapur P.O. Sahapur Police Station-
Shibgunj, Dist-Chapai Nawabgunj, Bangladesh
17 years 20.08.11 Baishnabnagar P.S. Case no-206/11
dated 20/08/2011
U/S 14 (a) and (b) Foreigner’s Act
Abdul Jabbar, s/o  Mr. Rabiul Islam Village- Bhuglaori Pakhiyapara, P.O.Babupur Police Station- Shingong District-  Chapai Nawabgunj, Bangladesh 17 years 27.08.11 Baishnabnagar PS  Case no 215/11 dated 27/08/2011 U/S 279/411 of
Indian Penal Code and 14 (a) & (b) Foreigner’s Act
Anarul Islam, s/o Mr. Safiqul Islam Village Sahapara ,Police Station- Shibgunj, District Chapai Nawabgunj, Bangladesh

 

 

 

16 years 24.08.11 Baishnabnagar P.S. Case
no.210/11 dated 24/08/2011
U/S 14 (a) and (b) Foreigner’s Act
Borjahan Ali, s/o Md. Islam Ali village Nomo Jaganathpur P.O – Hasanpur,  P.S- Shibgunj Dist-Chapai Nawabgunj, Bangladesh 17 years 07.09.11 Baishnabnagar
PS Case no. 233/11 dated 7/9/2011
U/S 14 (a) and (b) Foreigner’s Act
Abubakkar Siddique, s/o Late Arsad Ali Village Thutapara, P.O- Sahapur,P.S- Shibgunj, Dist -  Chapai Nawabgunj, Bangladesh 17 years 02.01.12 Baishnabnagar PS Case no.  4/12 dated 02.01.12 U/S 447/332/353/34of Indian Penal Code, 3 of The Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act and 14 (a), (b) and (c) Foreigner’s Act

 


Kirity Roy
Secretary
Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha
(MASUM)
&
National Convenor (PACTI)
Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity
40A, Barabagan Lane (4th Floor)
Balaji Place
Shibtala
Srirampur
Hooghly
PIN- 712203
Tele-Fax – +91-33-26220843
Phone- +91-33-26220844 / 0845
e. mail : kirityroy@gmail.com
Web: www.masum.org.in

 

Supreme Court to examine Section 66A of IT Act #CENSORSHIP #FOE


New Delhi, November 29, 2012

IANS

 

 

Referring to the recent arrests over Facebook comments, Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said “we were considering taking suo motto cognizance of these incidents”.

The Supreme Court will on Thursday examine the constitutional validity of Section 66A of the IT Act in the wake of recent arrests of people for posting comments critical of politicians.

The apex court headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir directed the hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL).

The petition was filed by Shreyansh Singhal, drawing the court’s attention to the large-scale misuse of section 66A.

The section provides for action against people for posting offensive and annoying comments on websites or other electronic mediums.

As senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi mentioned the matter before the court, the chief justice observed: “We were wondering why nobody has filed a petition on the issue. In fact we were considering taking suo motto cognizance of these incidents.”

The PIL petitioner has drawn the attention of the court on some incidents of misuse of section 66A of the IT Act.

In April, Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra was arrested in Kolkata for circulating a cartoon depicting West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

More recently, a young woman, Shaheen Dhada, and her friend were arrested in Maharashtra for a Facebook post questioning Mumbai’s shutdown following Bal Thackeray’s death.