#India- Environment ministry denies forest clearance to Vedanta #goodnews


18 FEB, 2013, 04.47AM IST, ET BUREAU

Forest clearance to mine the hills for bauxite for the plant was to follow, but was denied during former environment minister Jairam Ramesh’s tenure.

Forest clearance to mine the hills for bauxite for the plant was to follow, but was denied during former environment minister Jairam Ramesh’s tenure.
NEW DELHI: The environment ministry has defended in the Supreme Court its decision to deny forest clearance under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) to Orissa Mining Corporation’s plan to mine the Niyamgiri Hills to source bauxite for Vedanta‘s alumina plant, while simultaneously leaving the door open for possible dilution of the Forest Rights Act in other project areas. The alumina plant was granted environmental clearance in 2007. Forest clearance to mine the hills for bauxite for the plant was to follow, but was denied during former environment minister Jairam Ramesh’s tenure.Both OMC and Vedanta’s Indian arm Sterlite have challenged in court the MoEF‘s refusal to give forest clearance to mining. The MoEF has defended its refusal to give permission to divert forest land for mining in the hills on several counts — that it violates the fundamental rights of the Dongria Kondhs, a vulnerable tribal group living in this scheduled area, and also their right to inhabit and use the forests as traditional forest dwellers under the FRA. The plan to mine a 7 sq-km area atop the hills held sacred by this tribe violates their right to religion, the MoEF affidavit, filed on Friday, said.

OMC, Sterlite and the Odisha government had accused the MoEF of indulging in doublespeak on the FRA to deny clearance only to OMC’s mining plans and asked the court to direct it to explain whether no forest land can ever be diverted for development under FRA or they were only making an exception for Vedanta.

In a reply affidavit, the MoEF defended its refusal to deny forest clearance to 26% joint venture partner OMC’s plans to mine the hills, but left scope for the Act to be diluted in other cases, possibly to take care of development considerations raised by the PMO, experts suggested. The ministry was asked to state whether the FRA did not envisage any diversion of forest land for development activities or whether it could be permitted under some terms. In its affidavit, the ministry said eligible forest dwellers cannot be evicted “till the process of recognition and vesting of individual and community forest rights under the Act is complete.” Even in areas where rights have been recognized or are “likely to be recognised” diversion of forest land should be “avoided” and that it should be “the last resort after examination of alternatives.”

Cuban Hip-Hop Group Las Krudas Embraces Feminism


By Fari Nzinga

WeNews guest author

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Las Krudas is part of an art movement in Cuba created by black feminists, says Fari Nzinga in this essay in the anthology “Getting In is Not Enough.” But like female rappers in the U.S., they fight invisibility in the industry.

 

Cuban hip hop artists Las Krudas
Cuban hip hop artists Las Krudas perform at SXSW in Austin, Texas, 2012.

 

 

Credit: austin tx/Alan on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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(WOMENSENEWS)–Black Cubans have long been told by Cuban authorities that they do not need places to express the problems of race and class because there are no such problems: they have all been solved by the Revolution. Nevertheless, black Cubans do face all manner of discrimination in contemporary Cuba.

With few formal political outlets open to young black Cubans, hip hop has emerged on the island as a powerful form of political expression; a kind of “theater of the oppressed” that addresses the racial and economic problems encountered by black Cubans. The all-female group Las Krudas stands out as particularly courageous within this hip-hop scene.

My interviews with them, among 23 conducted with women of African descent, sketch a portrait of a striking phenomenon: the emergence of a strongly oppositional, black, feminist activist art in Cuba.

Although Las Krudas cannot represent the experiences of all black women on the island, they occupy a unique position within a growing black hip-hop intelligentsia. While their activities and lyrics point to specific issues of contemporary concern around the politics of race and gender in Cuba, they differ from U.S. black female rappers and their Cuban male contemporaries in that they unwaveringly advance a feminist agenda in which they seek to politicize the social and economic reality of being black and female in Cuba. Las Krudas therefore call attention to the situation of black women in a social and political context that denies the existence of racism, sexism, status and privilege.

Fighting Invisibility

Despite Las Krudas’ members’ increasingly important position as feminists within the Cuba hip-hop culture, they share with U.S. female rappers a frustrating invisibility. In both Cuba and in the United States, women as fans, advocates and artists in hip hop are virtually ignored in discussions of the phenomenon. Both in the United States and in Cuba, male artists have been touted for the political awareness and resistant nature of their rap lyrics. For example, male rappers in both the United States and Cuba protest and criticize the multiple ways the black male body and masculinity is policed and surveilled. By contrast, many themes dominant in black female rappers’ lyrics in both the United States and Cuba articulate and-or question hegemonic notions of femininity and black female sexuality.

Although in their lyrics many black U.S. female rappers defend women against sexist assumptions and misogynist assertions made by their black male counterparts, and they attempt to build their female audience’s self-esteem and raise consciousness levels in efforts to encourage solidarity among women, most perceive feminism to be a movement specifically related to white women. In solidarity with black men, many U.S. black female rappers refuse to identify or affiliate themselves with a movement that is perceived as speaking largely to heterosexual, white, upper middle-class women’s concerns.

Unlike their North American counterparts, Las Krudas readily identify themselves as feminists and refuse to relinquish their strong critiques of the nature and effects of Cuban patriarchy on the lives of marginalized women. Las Krudas’ lyrics encourage black women to reject the racism and sexism of patriarchal notions of femininity and they seek to raise the self-esteem of their female audiences. Many U.S. black female rappers do the same, but Las Krudas’ open embrace of feminist ideals makes them unique in the world of hip hop.

Overcoming Obstacles

This open embrace of feminism by Las Krudas has caused problems for them within the state-controlled music marketing entity. One example of the racially inflected sexism routinely experienced by the group occurred during the planning of the all-women’s concert where I first saw them perform. The hip-hop agency that organized the concert is state-subsidized and run by a white man and a black woman. The agency did not want to have to pay any of the groups or artists that they did not represent (which, in this case, included all the female rapera groups in this all-women’s concert).

In addition, the director of the theater where the concert was taking place pushed for the inclusion of men on the stage even though the concert was intended to feature female artists exclusively. For instance, he tried to force the female rappers to incorporate male dancers and rappers into their acts, something Las Krudas resisted.

Ultimately, Las Krudas prevailed and successfully performed their own original, pro-woman songs, without the “enhancement” of male dancers. Las Krudas member Odaymara, aka Pasa Kruda, notes that the hip-hop world in Cuba is very sexist: “the rap world is (hmmmmph!) tan fuerte, so strong. Muy machista, muy, muy, muy: Very sexist, very, very, very.”

Odaymara explained that she was annoyed and angered at the women’s concert not only because of the way the organizers treated the female rappers but also because while the men (of the hip-hop world) showed up, their presence was perceived as counterproductive; the men never lent any real support to the women’s cause according to Las Krudas. Also, regarding the other female rappers at the concert, Las Krudas memberOlivia, aka Pelusa, noted while the women were very good interpreters of text, los textos were not written by them but by men.

Las Krudas agreed that the feminist movement as well as the hip-hop movement in Cuba has a “long way to go. Long, long, long.”

 

From “Getting In is Not Enough,” edited by Colette Morrow and Terri Ann Fredrick. Copyright 2013 by The Johns Hopkins University Press. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Fari Nzinga is a Ph.D. candidate in cultural anthropology at Duke University. She currently works as an independent writer and research consultant. Colette Morrow sat on the editorial board of Feminist Formations from 2002 to 2012, served as president of the National Women’s Studies Association (U.S.) and is a Senior Fulbright Scholar. Terri Ann Fredrick is an associate professor of English at Eastern Illinois University. Proceeds from the book go to Feminist Formations, formerly The NWSA Journal, and are applied to publishing costs.

Jeanne Theoharis is a professor of political science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. She received her AB in Afro-American studies from Harvard College and a Ph.D. in American culture from the University of Michigan. She is the author or coauthor of six books and numerous articles on the black freedom struggle and the contemporary politics of race in the United States.

West at its duplicitous worst in wooing Narendra Modi


DNA 18FEB2013

 

English: Narendra Modi in Press Conference

 

Shastri Ramachandaran

 

The ardent overtures to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi by Europe, the UK and the US tell us more about these states betraying their own constitutional values than about Modi’s appeal abroad. Even the BJP has prudently desisted from crowing about the party’s “growing international appeal” as some admirers of Modi are prone to doing in private.
The impression gained from conversations with some retired and a few serving officials in the ministry of external affairs (MEA) is that Europe and the UK have not earned any diplomatic brownie points for making a beeline to Modi, under whose watch Gujarat witnessed the massacre of nearly 1,500 Muslims in 2002. Not long before the carnage, these very western governments were fuming over churches being torched and attacked and Christians being targeted in Modi’s Gujarat. The US, in contrast, has played its cards more shrewdly.
Long before the much-publicised British high commissioner’s visit, in October 2012, re-opened the communication channel to Modi, the Danish ambassador was already talking to him. As one diplomatic observer pointed out, “Denmark probably did it out of pique or spite – because the Government of India had consigned the Danish embassy to the diplomatic doghouse”. The Danish government – because the ambassador was unlikely to act on his own in this matter – wanted to show the UPA government its displeasure at being isolated.
The reasons for Denmark being isolated include its executive’s refusal to appeal a judicial order against the extradition of Kim Davey, who is wanted in the Purulia arms drop case. The cartoons of the Prophet (which Indians and New Delhi found objectionable) and Danish state broadcasters telecasting films shot in violation of visa conditions were just two of the many issues that had soured relations.
Worse than the transgressions was the Danish government’s defence of these offending acts. So, it came as a surprise when the Danish government — which cited India’s atrocious human rights record and abominable prison system to justify its refusal to extradite the terrorist Kim Davey — went out of the way to court Modi. That Modi was chief minister during the massacre of 1,500 Muslims, and for this reason barred from getting a visa or travelling to Europe, the UK and the US, seemed to hardly matter as an issue of diplomatic concern.
It is possible that the Danes were used to test the waters before biggies, such as the UK and Germany, took the plunge. Not long after the UK foreign office asked its high commissioner in India to build bridges to Modi, envoys from EU countries queued up to meet the man who is projected by influential sections as a potential prime minister.
The West, which never misses an opportunity to berate or slam India for human rights violations and is forever preaching about democracy, religious freedom, rule of law and respect for judiciary, seems to have admitted that these are at best nonsense; and, at worst, instrumental in negotiating better terms of trade.
The EU ambassadors rationalised their cosying up to Modi by arguing that he had not been “judicially arraigned yet” for the massacres in Gujarat; and that making up with Modi was proof of their respect to India’s democratic institutions, electoral system and judiciary. The countries which barred his entry are now falling over each other to invite him to Europe; and, he is to be feted by not only European business but also the European Parliament.
As for the US, its ingenuity will be severely tested when it comes to inviting Modi for a visit because its law bars foreign government officials who have “committed particularly severe violations of religious freedom”. However, this would be a minor hurdle when Washington chooses to roll out the red carpet for Modi.
What emerges from these developments is that the West, for all its protestations about human rights and democracy, couldn’t care less about either M – Modi or the Minorities. The only M that spurs the West is Money. It is the cynical pursuit of financial profit – investment opportunities and defence contracts — that guides western governments when it comes to the “lesser people” and “lesser nations”.
One of the most jarring developments in the aftermath of the 2002 riots was that, contrary to general expectation, a delegation led by the US Commerce Secretary did not put off its visit to Gujarat. It was business as usual for Washington.
Whether Modi becomes prime minister or not, there is no doubt that the West has earned his contempt, rightfully.
The author is an independent political and

 

Koodankulam: Shoddy equipment develops leaks, #India Wake up call


February 17, 2013, 8:21 pm
article_image

by Sam Rajappa

 

ACCORDING to the Department of Atomic Energy and the authorities of Nuclear Power Corporation of India, the loading of uranium fuel rods at the 1,000 MWe-capacity first unit of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project was completed on 2 October last year, but has not produced a single unit of electricity so far.  Critical equipment supplied by Atomstroyexport of Russia, building nuclear reactors abroad, were found to be shoddy and have developed leaks even before commissioning of the plant. The financial statement released by Atomstroyexport shows its losses have doubled in the last year and it is on the brink of bankruptcy.  Russian engineers at the Koodankulam plant site have not been able to plug the leaks.  In a desperate attempt to commission the plant, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made it a prestige issue, NPCIL has flown in technicians from Croatia and Germany to carry out repairs in the Russian designed and erected plant. NPCIL claims to have spent an excess of Rs. 4,500 crore on the non-functioning power plant. The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy has threatened to lay siege on the Koodankulam nuclear complex in a non-violent manner if the Centre commissions the first unit in haste and secrecy without attending to its safety requirements, and sought a White Paper on the KKNPP and its reactors from the Centre. It was turned down.

 

An official statement issued by NPCIL on 25 January said the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board has given permission to “repeat the full systems test at the first unit.”  One needs to repeat a test only if it failed in the first instance. NPCIL’s desire to gloss over its failure and make it seem as if the ‘permission’ is a hard-won victory is understandable. But why is the AERB condescending even after RK Sinha, chairman of Atomic Energy Commission, had said that “there are some system parameters like flow, pressure, temperature that need to be maintained within particular values.” During the first hydro test conducted last December, certain valves did not behave the way the manufacturer claimed they would. These valves were opened, repaired, and some components replaced. The fact that brand new valves malfunctioned raises questions about the quality of equipment supplied. Identification of defective valves at this late pre-commissioning stage suggests that the quality of assurance of individual components was deficient.

 

In February last year, Russia’s Federal Security Service arrested Sergei Shutov, procurement director of Rosatom subsidiary Zio-Podolsk, on charges of corruption and fraud. Zio-Podolsk is the sole supplier of steam generators and some other key components for Russian nuclear reactors worldwide, including India.  Shutov was charged with using cheap Ukranian steel blanks in nuclear reactors. NPCIL should reveal whether the leaky valves were supplied by Zio-Podolsk. A PTI feature issued in July 2011 reveals, quoting DAE sources, that the Koodankulam plant was expected to be commissioned in March 2009, long before protesters held up work on the project for nearly six months, but was delayed because of difficulties experienced in receiving equipment from Russia “in sequential order.” The article says: “The designers discovered that several kilometers of power and control cables in the reactor were missed after the completion of double containment of the reactor.” The problem was rectified after the cables meant for power supply to instrumentation in different buildings were incorporated by breaking open the concrete walls in the containment domes and was sealed again bringing the cables from the switch yard to inside. Breaking open and resealing the containment dome is unprecedented in nuclear power industry.

 

As the Manmohan Singh government is determined to unleash all kinds of atrocities on peaceful protesters against the shaky Koodankulam plant like filing 325 cases including sedition, waging war on the Indian State and on other serious sections of the Cr PC and IPC with 5,296 named as accused and 221,483 unnamed accused at one police station alone near the plant site, PMANE has taken up the issue with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi who had earlier reached out to the tribal people opposed to Vedanta Resource’s Rs. 4,500-crore bauxite mining project in Orissa’s Niyamgiri Hills. Rahul had then said: “True development takes place by respecting the interests of the poor,” and offered to be their sipahi in Delhi.  SP Udayakumar, coordinator of PMANE, in a letter to Rahul, said if the Congress did not respect people’s power, democracy and peaceful struggles, and starts the Koodankulam plant forcibly, it would prompt the voters at least in Tamil Nadu and Kerala to shun the Congress.

 

Unmindful of the people’s fears about the breaking open and resealing of the dome of the Koodankulam plant, the AERB, DAE and NPCIL remain tight-lipped. Even a small mishap in a nuclear facility will have the potential to destroy millions of people in our densely populated country. In a recent report, the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India has passed strictures on the ‘toothless’ AERB for not even ensuring nuclear and radiation safety in any of the atomic installations in the country. The long-awaited Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill, tabled in the Lok Sabha on 7 September 2011, ostensibly to bring about much needed independence and transparency in administering safety of nuclear operations, remains a non-starter.  According to A Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of AERB, the Bill fails to serve any of its laudable objectives in its present form.

 

The Bill seeks to establish a Council of Nuclear Safety to be chaired by the Prime Minister and will have as its members five or more Cabinet ministers, the Cabinet Secretary, chairman of the AEC and experts nominated by the Union government. The CAS will constitute two search committees, one to select the chairperson and the other to select members of the NSRA. The CNS is empowered to create an Appellate Authority to hear any appeals on any order or decision of the NSRA. The same Appellate Authority will also decide on appeals from the government against the NSRA. What the government tries to do under this Bill is to create a high level council under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister to control and curb the freedom of action of the NSRA.  Clause 20 of the Bill stipulates the NSRA should function in a manner consistent with the international obligations of India.

 

If the NSRA were to find the equipment supplied by Russia to the Koodankulam plant substandard and do not conform to safety norms, the regulatory body dare not act for it would be contrary to “India’s international obligations” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has promised unilaterally to his Russian counterpart while on a visit to Moscow in December 2011.

 

The same clause also says the NSRA “shall not interact with bodies outside India without the prior approval of the government.” The subservient nature of the proposed NSRA has been made abundantly clear in Clause 48(1) which says: “the Central government may, by notification, supersede the regulatory authority for such a period not exceeding six months. Upon notification, the chairperson and members of the NSRA shall vacate their offices as such; … all the powers, functions and duties shall, until the authority is reconstituted, be exercised and discharged by the Central government.” The NSRA can never be independent unless the appointment of its chairperson and selection of members of the regulatory authority as well as supersession of the NSRA are left to Parliament and not to the ruling party of the day. (The Statesman/ANN)

 

The writer is a veteran journalist and former Director of Statesman Print Journalism School

http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=72856

 

Employment tribunal hearing first claim for caste discrimination collapses


Thursday 14 February 2013 21.52 GMT, Guradian

Amardeep and Vijay Begraj

Judge recuses herself after visit by police officers

Amardeep, left, and Vijay Begraj sought an employment tribunal hearing over alleged caste discrimination at the law firm where they worked. Photograph: Adam Gerrard

Sam Jones

An employment tribunal hearing the first claim for unfair dismissal on the grounds of caste discrimination has collapsed after information handed to the judge by police led the judge to recuse herself from the case.

Vijay Begraj, a former practice manager at the Coventry solicitors firm Heer Manak, and his wife Amardeep, a former solicitor at the same firm, had claimed that they were discriminated against because he is from a lower Asian caste than she is.

Vijay Begraj is from a Dalit background – the caste formerly known as “untouchables” – while Amardeep is from the higher Jat caste, the same caste as their employers.

The tribunal, which sat for a total of 36 days, heard allegations that the couple had suffered caste-based discrimination, humiliation, victimisation and harassment as a result of their relationship.

Begraj claims a colleague told him that he was lucky to be a practice manager in the UK as his caste meant he would have been a cleaner in India. He also told the tribunal that he had been assaulted by two relatives of one of the firm’s partners and had been called derogatory names relating to his Dalit status. Heer Manak has described the claims as “ludicrous” and “outrageous”.

On 5 February, after sitting since August 2011 to consider 110 allegations, the tribunal was abandoned after the judge, Merry Cocks, recused herself in the wake of a private visit from two West Midlands police officers four months earlier.

The officers asked to speak to her on 19 October last year, a day after Davinder Prasad, general secretary of Caste Watch UK – who had given recently evidence at the tribunal for Mrs Begraj – told police that the windows of his home had been smashed.

After Cocks had told both parties of the police visit a week later, Heer Manak’s lawyers made an application for the tribunal to recuse itself on the grounds that the information handed over by the police may have given rise to bias.

Although Mr and Mrs Begraj’s legal team opposed the application, arguing that the tribunal was used to disregarding extraneous material, Cocks decided to recuse herself, adding that she was “very much aware of the consequences of this decision for all the parties”.

The couple’s solicitor, Jonathan Naylor, a partner at Shoosmiths, said that his clients were “extremely disappointed” by the decision and were considering an appeal. He said: “The actions of the police and the tribunal, completely beyond our clients’ control, appear to have deprived Mr and Mrs Begraj of a just resolution of their claims. We think it is a matter of great concern and regret that substantial time and costs, including significant amounts of taxpayers’ money, have seemingly been wasted.”

He added that their case had already led to questions being asked in the House of Lords about the caste system and its impact on the UK.

“The tribunal’s decision to disqualify itself leaves our clients without a fair conclusion to their serious complaints of caste-based discrimination, victimisation and harassment. Mr and Mrs Begraj are rightly concerned that, after two years of pursuing justice, they have been denied this during the last few days of the tribunal process,” he said.

“Such an outcome will surely deter other victims of discrimination from pursuing genuine claims.”

The judiciary of England and Wales confirmed that police had approached the judge and that she had “quite appropriately” decided to recuse herself “on the basis that it could lead to a perception of bias on the judge’s part”.

A spokesman for West Midlands police said that it was investigating a complaint relating to “the circumstances of police interaction” with the judge. The spokesman added: “The investigation is being carried out by the Professional Standards department of West Midlands police working with the Independent Complaints Commission.” It said the two officers concerned had not been suspended and were carrying on with their usual duties.

 

169 Aadhaar cards seized from a house #UID #WTFnews


200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

DC | 24 min 55 sec ago

 

 

 

Nellore: Even as people are facing several ordeals to obtain Aadhar Cards, police have found 169 Aadhar cards in the residence of a former corporator Velpula Rajani at Ummareddygunta of Nellore on Saturday.

 

 

Police have raided the house along with revenue and civil supplies wing officials following a tip off over the sale of the cards by the husband of the corporator. The team led by V Town CI S.V. Rajasekhar Reddy was puzzled when they found 169 cards, which are ready for delivery, in the house.

 

 

They had no clue as to how they are lying in the house when they are supposed to be delivered to the applicants by the postal department. In addition to the cards, the team also noticed applications for Aadhar, ID cards and Aadhar data enrolment receipts at the house during the search. This led to suspicion over printing of fake Aadhar cards.

 

 

When contacted, Reddy said that Velpula Rajani or her husband Sagar were not at home when they searched the place.

 

 

He said that Aadhar cards are being printed at the regional printing centre in Hyderabad with the data transferred from Bengaluru and sent as bulk mail to Central Post Office in Hyderabad.

 

 

Thereafter the cards are sent to post offices concerned through speed post based on the pin number. He said that cards are distributed by postmen only after obtaining signature of the card holder or his family members in a sheet containing 100 names of recipients.

 

 

“We are obtaining the sheets from the post office concerned to verify further whether the cards are delivered to the former corporator by some erring postman,” Reddy said.

 

 

 

Ten Urgent Reasons to Reject Nuclear Power Now #mustread #mustshare


Sunday, 17 February 2013 07:54 By Jim McCluskeyTruthout | Op-Ed

Bags of radiation-contaminated materials, to be stored in a mountain, in Kawauchi, Japan, Nov. 16, 2012. With the slow pace of cleanup efforts, residents of Okuma, a town evacuated in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, have become pessimistic about ever living there again. (Photo: Ko Sasaki / The New York Times) Bags of radiation-contaminated materials, to be stored in a mountain, in Kawauchi, Japan, Nov. 16, 2012. With the slow pace of cleanup efforts, residents of Okuma, a town evacuated in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, have become pessimistic about ever living there again. (Photo: Ko Sasaki / The New York Times)Many citizens do not want nuclear power. They know it is both far too dangerous and far too expensive. UK governments have largely supported nuclear power as well as nuclear weapons. Many citizens do not want nuclear weapons because they know they are insanely dangerous, and they want to live without the constant threat of sudden and complete annihilation hanging over them and their children. The close relationship between the weapons and power in every sense of the word may explain differences in politicians’ and citizens’ agendas on these issues.

The remedy is for us to wise up, get organized and then instruct the politicians to either do what we want – or join the job market. Here are 10 reasons we should reject nuclear power now.

1. Nuclear Power Stations are Prohibitively Dangerous.

There have now been four grave nuclear reactor accidents: Windscale in Britain in 1957 (the one that is never mentioned), Three Mile Island in the United States in 1979, Chernobyl in the Soviet Union in 1986 and now Fukushima. Each accident was unique, and each was supposed to have been impossible.

A recent book, Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, concludes that, based on records now available, some 985,000 people died between 1986 and 2004, mainly of cancer, as a result of the Chernobyl accident.

Alice Slater, New York representative of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, comments: “The tragic news uncovered by comprehensive new research that almost one million people died in the toxic aftermath of Chernobyl should be a wake-up call to people all over the world to petition their governments to put a halt to the current industry-driven ‘nuclear renaissance.’ Aided by a corrupt IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), the world has been subjected to a massive coverup and deception about the true damages caused by Chernobyl.”

At Fukushima we have the worst industrial disaster ever. Three simultaneous ongoing complete meltdowns have proven impossible to stop or contain since they started almost two years ago. These meltdowns are still pouring radiation pollution across the Japanese landscape.

International experts (e.g. Charles Perrow in Normal Accidents) agree that there will continue to be disastrous failures at nuclear power stations, and that this cannot be avoided.

As Edward Teller, the great nuclear physicist, said, “If you [try to] construct something foolproof, there will always be a fool greater than the proof.”

2. Nuclear Power Stations are Prohibitively Expensive.

Nuclear power stations are so expensive that they are never built without substantial contribution to their costs from citizens in the form of subsidies.

The UK government has said it will not subsidize new nuclear power stations. However this seems to refer to the most overt form of subsidies and not to “hidden” subsidies.

Nuclear power stations are so dangerous that no insurance company will undertake to pay the total costs of a disaster or a terrorist attack. So to get them built, the government has to limit liability. This is a subsidy.

The cost of decommissioning also is an enormous sum. Any limitation to liability for decommissioning costs will be a subsidy. If the industry does not pay the total costs of disposing of nuclear waste and ensuring it is safe for thousand of years, then this is a subsidy. The industry does not pay the total costs of all research into nuclear energy. This is a subsidy.

3. The Same Technology is Used for Power and Weapons.

Any country that purifies uranium for use in nuclear power stations can also use its purification plant to manufacture weapons-grade fissile material. Nuclear power stations use the same technology as that required to manufacture nuclear weapons.

Already, nuclear power development has been used repeatedly as a cover for creating nuclear weapons. Of the 10 nations that have developed nuclear weapons, Jim Green, of Friends of the Earth, Australia, tells us, “six did so with political cover and/or technical support from their supposedly peaceful nuclear program – India, Pakistan, Israel, South Africa, North Korea and France.”

4. Nuclear Waste is Dangerous for Thousands of Years.

Since nuclear waste will be dangerous for thousands of years, we are dumping our energy problems on future generations instead of using the benign methods of creating energy that are available to us.

The currently favored “solution” of burying the waste in bedrock and sealing off access forever is desperate and irresponsible.

5. Plants and Waste Storage are Vulnerable to Terrorist Attack.

Because of their potential of mass destruction, nuclear power stations are a major target for terrorists. The 9/11 atrocity would be tiny by comparison. If a large plane were flown into a nuclear power station, the disaster would be immeasurably worse than Chernobyl.

John Large, an international independent expert on nuclear power, has said that if a plane was flown into the nuclear waste storage tanks at Sellafield, the whole of the English Midlands could be catastrophically contaminated.

Safety studies of Sellafield carried out for local authorities tell us that a direct hit by a passenger jet on the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant would contaminate Britain with two and a half times more radioactivity than the amount that escaped during the Chernobyl disaster.

The studies also inform us that up to 2,646 pounds of the highly radioactive and long-lasting isotope caesium-137 would be released into the atmosphere, contaminating Britain, Ireland, continental Europe and beyond, making huge swathes of the country uninhabitable and causing more than two million cancers.

In the light of the twin towers atrocity, this is a completely unacceptable risk.

6. They Epitomize the Centralization of Power.

There is a burgeoning awareness among citizens that they are more free and more in control of their lives if facilities and decision-making occur at the local level, that national government should only control those matters that cannot be dealt with locally. Nuclear power is the ultimate way of centralizing power, putting it in the hands of experts, multinational corporations and national – often distant – government. In complete contrast to this, benign methods of supplying power, such as wind and water turbines, solar energy and heat pumps can be in the control of local communities and even, for some provisions, households.

7. Poor countries are made dependent on rich ones.

Poor countries do not have the knowledge and facilities to design, build, maintain and run their own nuclear power stations. This puts them at the mercy of the rich and more technically advanced states if they go down the nuclear power route.

Technically less advanced countries with nuclear power stations increase the safety risks. As Professor Peter Bradford of Vermont Law School, a former member of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, writes, “A world more reliant on nuclear power would involve many plants in countries that have little experience with nuclear energy, no regulatory background in the field and some questionable records on quality control, safety and corruption.” By adopting benign forms of power supply, the UK could help to promote the people-friendly way forward.

8. These plants draw funds away from the development of sustainable energy.

The spending of funds on research and other nuclear power development is highly detrimental to the development of sustainable energy supplies.

Each nuclear power plant costs around 5 billion pounds (7.9 billion in US dollars) to build. With such sums available, we could quickly realize our sustainable energy potential. As Friends of the Earth tell us, “With some of the windiest weather in Europe and almost 8,000 miles of coastline, the UK is a powerhouse waiting to be switched on.”

9. Uranium will become increasingly scarce.

The quantity of available uranium is limited and will decline. The price will go up. If the world adopts nuclear power as a major source of energy, there will be uranium wars just as there are now oil wars. There are unlikely to be wars fought over sustainable locally generated solar, wind or wave power.

Thomas Neff, a research affiliate at MIT’s Center for International Studies writes, “. . . shortage of uranium and of processing facilities worldwide leaves a gap between the potential increase in demand for nuclear energy and the ability to supply fuel for it.”

10. Government supports nuclear power against the will of the people.

The adoption of nuclear power is favored by the government, but in a referendum, it would be rejected by citizens as being too dangerous and too expensive. A major reason that government favors this form seems to be due to vast amounts of money and effort being put into lobbying by the power companies. Their profits are huge, so they have the funds for lobbying, whereas the NGOs and citizens-at-large, who are against nuclear power and have overwhelming arguments, do not make the same impact because they lack the funds for effective lobbying.

This is one tendency we are trying to help counter by this article.T

 

Bangladesh amends war crimes law, mulls banning Islamists


By Anis Ahmed

DHAKA (Reuters) – DHAKA | Sun Feb

Feb 17 (Reuters) – Bangladesh‘s parliament, meeting the demands of protesters thronging the capital, amended a law on Sunday allowing the state to appeal any verdict in war crimes trials it deems inadequate and out of step with public opinion.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators jamming central Shahbag Square for the 13th day burst into cheers amid driving rain as the assembly approved the changes.

The protesters have been demanding the death penalty for war crimes after a tribunal this month sentenced a prominent Islamist to life in prison in connection with Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

The life sentence pronounced on Abdul Quader Mollah, assistant Secretary General of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, for murder, rape and torture had stunned many Bangaldeshis.

The amendment will “empower the tribunals to try and punish any organizations, including Jamaat-e-Islami, for committing crimes during country’s liberation war in 1971”, Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said after the change was approved.

Lawyers said the amendment sets a timetable for the government to appeal against Mollah’s sentence and secure a retrial. The previous law did not allow state prosecutors to call for a retrial except in the case of acquittals.

Adoption was quick — less than a week after the amendment was approved by the cabinet in the overwhelmingly Muslim country of 150 million.

OPPOSITION BOYCOTTS PARLIAMENT

Opposition benches were empty as the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (the BNP) of former premier Begum Khaleda Zia and its allies have been boycotting sessions almost since her arch rival, Sheikh Hasina, leader of the Awami League, took office in 2009.

The BNP accuses the prime minister of using the war crimes tribunal as a weapon against its opponents. Hasina denies the allegation.

In its first verdict last month, the tribunal sentenced a former Jamaat leader, Abul Kamal Azad, also an Islamic preacher, to death in absentia for similar offences.

Eight other Jamaat leaders, including its current and former chiefs, are being tried by the war crimes court that Hasina set up in 2010 to investigate abuses during the 1971 conflict. Three million people were killed and thousands of women were raped.

The government is facing growing pressure from the protesters to ban Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamist party, and groups linked to it.

Students and teachers throughout the country hoisted the national flag and sang the national anthem simultaneously to support the demonstrators’ call to put war criminals to death.

Law minister Shafique Ahmed told reporters the government was considering such a ban.

Jamaat activists have called a country-wide strike for Monday, but demonstrators and many shopkeepers have pledged to resist any attempt to enforce such a stoppage.

Demonstrators have shown new resolve after the killing on Friday of one of the protest leaders, a popular blogger.

Bangladesh became part of Pakistan at the end of British rule in 1947 but broke away in 1971 after a war between Bangladeshi nationalists, backed by India, and Pakistani forces.

Some factions in what was then East Pakistan opposed the break with Pakistan. Jamaat denies accusations that it opposed independence and helped the Pakistani army.

(Editing by Ron Popeski)

 

Bangladesh war crimes trial: Blogger killed, violence escalates


Feb 17, 2013

 

Dhaka, Bangladesh: Blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider, a 30-year-old architect, was found dead near the gate of his home on Friday night, a local police official, Abdul Latif Sheikh, said. An autopsy showed Haider had at least eight stab wounds, said Sohel Mahmud, a physician at Dhaka Medical College Hospital said.

Police have launched an investigation into the killing, but would not say anything about who may have been responsible. Haider’s family and friends suspect Jamaat-e-Islami in the attack, but the Islamic party issued a statement Saturday denying involvement.

Demonstrations in Bangladesh. AP.Demonstrations in Bangladesh. AP.

His friends said Haider posted many statements in his blog urging the young generation to support tougher punishments for Mollah and others facing charges stemming from the 1971 war for independence.

For many in Bangladesh, the “V” for victory sign was more than they could bear.

They had waited more than four decades for justice in the mass killings and rapes during their independence war. But there was a smiling Abdul Quader Mollah on Feb. 5 apparently celebrating his life sentence — given in place of an expected death sentence — for his role in the killing of 381 civilians.

Within hours, thousands of university students demanding his death poured into the streets of Dhaka, the seeds of what has grown into a mass protest that has exposed again the unhealed wounds from the nation’s 1971 war for independence from Pakistan.

“I could not take it. That was really insulting,” Gazi Nasiruddin Khokon, a protester who works for an online newspaper, said of Mollah’s victorious gesture after his sentencing last week. “If we don’t get proper justice for such crimes, where would we stand in the future?”

Mollah was convicted by a special war crimes tribunal that was set up to hold people accountable for the first time for their roles in the civil war, where Bangladesh says as many as 3 million people were killed and 200,000 women raped by Pakistani troops and local collaborators.

But the trials are also seen as part of a long and bitter rivalry between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the main opposition leader, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who is allied with the Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami, many of whose leaders face charges before the tribunal.

Jamaat, which opposed Bangladesh’s fight for independence, and Zia have called the tribunal politically motivated, while international rights groups have raised questions about the conduct of the trials. The head of one of the tribunals resigned in December over reports he had improper conversations with a lawyer about the panel.

Mollah, an assistant secretary of Jamaat, was found guilty Feb. 5 of killing a student and a family of 11 and of aiding Pakistani troops in killing 369 others. Members of his party took to the streets in anger at his conviction, exploding homemade bombs and clashing with police.

But they were soon overshadowed by thousands of protesters who flooded a major intersection in the capital, Dhaka, upset by what they said was a lenient sentence of life in prison, which actually means just 14 years in Bangladesh. They also were inflamed by the image of Mollah smiling at journalists and holding up two fingers in a “V” sign as he was led from the court, apparently in celebration of his avoiding the death penalty.

Fueled by online posts, the protests grew until hundreds of thousands of people took over the Shahbagh intersection, which they renamed Projonmo Chattar, or New Generation Platform.

Many slept there, collecting donations for food. Others came after work and stayed late into the night, listening to chants for justice over loudspeakers. Some beat drums and wrapped their heads in scarves with slogans saying “We want death for the war criminals” and “Traitors have no place in this land.”

The protesters also called for Jamaat to be banned.

The immensely popular national cricket team came to the site to express solidarity with the protesters, and on Thursday evening, organizers said more than 100,000 candles were lit at the site.

To counter any accusations that the protest was organized by Hasina’s government, politicians were banned from the stage.

“This is a history. A new history is in the making,” said Aminul Islam, a 30-year-old bank employee at the protest site.

“It is unbelievable,” he said. “This is our fight, this is another war, not with rifles in hand, but with an unconditional urge to bringing those to book for killing our people and dishonoring our mothers and sisters.”

Even though many of the protesters had not been born when the war raged, they were still scarred by it and the lack of accountability for those accused of crimes during the fighting, said Hassan Shahriar. To some that lack of accountability was reflected in the fact two members of Jamaat have served as Cabinet ministers.

“Generation after generation have seen no remedy, no punishment for the perpetrators. Rather they have become influential political actors, social actors, and the new generation has been silently frustrated,” he said. “The wounds are still fresh.”

The protesters are also fed up with corruption, nepotism and other perceived injustices and have seized on the tribunals to express their dissatisfaction, he said.

On Saturday, nearly 100,000 people mourned as the body of a blogger believed to be one of the organizers of the protest was brought to the intersection.

In response to the demonstrations, the government has sent a bill to Parliament that would amend the law creating the tribunals, allowing the prosecution to appeal if it felt a sentence handed down was too lenient.

Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said the bill was expected to be passed by Parliament on Sunday, and the government has said it would use it to appeal Mollah’s sentence.

One legal analyst, Shahdeen Malik, said the amendments would strengthen the law, and that the country’s legal system could be counted on to give verdicts based on evidence and not simply in response to street pressure.

But New York-based Human Rights Watch criticized the proposed amendments, saying that passing retroactive laws to overturn unpopular verdicts violated the country’s commitments to protect the rights of defendants.

“Convictions of those responsible for the 1971 atrocities is important for the country, but not at the expense of the principles that make Bangladesh a democracy,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

AP

 

Making waves with news- Khabar Lahariya #womenempowerment


MEENA MENON, The Hindu

BREAKING INTO A MAN’S DOMAIN:The newspaper is empowering women.PHOTO: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT.

BREAKING INTO A MAN’S DOMAIN:The newspaper is empowering women.PHOTO: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT.

For a newspaper that’s ten-years-old, Khabar Lahariya (News Waves) has certainly made waves, as its name suggests. It won the Laadli Media Award in December 2012 for gender sensitivity, and before that the Chameli Devi Jain and UNESCO awards. The 40 women who run the newspaper in six districts are from backward communities and mostly live in remote areas of the country. They walk sometimes over 10 kilometers to gather news, have to put up with sustained taunts and opposition and face the challenge of establishing themselves in a male-dominated profession.

Yet they wouldn’t give this up for the world. Young Shalu from Lucknow says, “I got to see Bambai [Mumbai] and for me that alone is worth it. I want nothing more.

The Lucknow edition comes out in Hindustani and for Rizwana Tabassum, it was her desire to become a journalist just “so I can ask other people lots of questions”, she says. Rizwana is from Varanasi and her parents often insist she come back home before dark. More than her parents, it’s her neighbours and busybodies who are more worried. “Others have big problems due to my work and timings,” she laughs.

Guddi started working for the Sitamarhi edition of the paper in 2010 which comes out in Bajjika, the local language. She had to take her daughter, whom she has named Leher after the paper, along with her after the neighbours complained that she was leaving the child behind. Her husband, too, ticked her off but Guddi was firm. She told her husband he had a role to play in the child’s upbringing.

One day, when she had to go far away to meet labourers who hadn’t been paid for three years, Leher fell ill and she was faced with a tough call. She insisted her husband accompany her and her daughter and she made them wait while she did her story. On her way back she took the child to hospital. “Five days after my story appeared, the labourers were paid their salaries,” she grins.

Some of the women like Meera from Chitrakoot, is a post graduate and others are still studying, points out Shalini Joshi from the NGO Nirantar which has been instrumental in getting this project off the ground.

Government programme Mahila Samakhya had a newspaper called Mahila Dakya which closed in 2000. Meera says people were disappointed when it shut down. They said they missed reading about government schemes and local news. There was a discussion on reviving it and in 2002, the new paper was launched. “We drew lots to decide on the name and Khabar Lahariya was chosen,” says Kavita.

The first edition was printed in 2002 in Chitrakoot in Bundeli language and in 2012 the sixth edition in Varanasi in Bhojpuri was launched. The eight-page paper has special editions which can go into 12 pages on some days. The weekly launched its website in Mumbai recently and already has a huge following on Twitter and Facebook.

The women not only gather news, they also do the layout and search for international and national news on in the Internet for which there is a section. Initially, some of them were scared to even touch a computer but now they are all net savvy. The paper comes out in Bundeli, Awadhi, Bajjika, Bhojpuri and Hindustani and has a readership of 80,000 with a circulation of 6,000 copies. The readership is high because one paper is often read by more than 15 to 20 people.

The newspaper is running due to support from the Dorabji Trust and the United Nations Democracy and Equity Fund. Shalini says the money from the awards goes to bring out the paper but they are formulating a business plan. The cost of the paper is Rs. two while production cost is Rs. six. So it is difficult to sustain the paper on sales alone and other options are being examined. The journalists are being trained in using Internet and information and communication technology, says Bishakha Datta from Point of View.

The women are acquiring a formidable reputation with the government as well. “ Aa gayi Lahariya wali(the Lahariya woman has come) — they say when I go to offices. Once I had gone to a hospital where a hand pump was damaged and took pictures. Even before my story appeared, it was repaired,” says Savita.

“At first it was difficult but we made contacts and we also gave them the paper. They were very happy to read their stories,” Sunita says, adding that sometimes people couldn’t pay Rs. two but she still gave it to them.

The women also pointed out that in their milieu even wearing a salwar kameez was not an option and talking to men was taboo. Especially after the Delhi gang rape incident, Arshi from Lucknow says that her parents were warned by her relatives not to let her go out. “My mother supports me and we don’t even wear a naqab as is customary,” she adds.

While there are the usual cynics, the women said that most people valued their work and it had brought change, for instance, some villages had lights because of reports, people got their salaries and in one instance, a Dalit woman who cooked mid-day meals could stay back despite opposition from the upper castes in Sitamarhi. For these women to break into a “man’s domain” has been exhilarating.

 

The decade-old multi-lingual Khabar Lahariya is serving hinterland news to its readers and championing women empowerment at the same time

 

 

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