Tug-of-War Over Nuclear Future


Fukushima *

 

Suvendrini Kakuchi

TOKYO, Mar 26 (IPS)  – Pushed and pulled in opposite directions, the future of Japan’s energy plans in the wake of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant two years ago is emerging as a fight between national economic advancement and what anti-nuke activists call “the lives of the people”.“The tug-of-war between the government and opponents of nuclear power has become an excruciatingly difficult issue in Japan,” Professor Takao Kashiwage, nuclear technology expert at the prestigious Tokyo Institute of Technology, told IPS.

“The emotional (turbulence) following the devastating consequences of the Fukushima accident is masking a real and objective debate” about the country’s energy needs and its nuclear future, he added.

Kashiwage sits on the official cogeneration energy committee and backs Japanese Prime Minister Shintaro Abe’s energy platform that calls for a re-start of Japan’s nuclear reactors after the implementation of new safety standards that will be established by an independent expert commission in July.

“Japan’s energy security is heavily dependent on nuclear power. To halt this source (that produced around 30 percent of energy needs prior to the accident) completely is too drastic a step for the country,” he explained. Japan currently imports 84 percent of its energy needs.

On the other side of the fence are anti-nuclear activists, who have drawn negative attention to the development of nuclear power plants by Japan’s nine most powerful utility companies, supported by public funds on the basis of creating a secure supply of energy for resource-poor Japan.

Large sums of revenue were poured into cash-strapped localities to host nuclear plants that were touted as “safe”: according to official estimates, a single reactor costs about 10 billion dollars, though activists say the amount is much higher when other expenses, such as support for new facilities and subsidies for hosting local governments, are taken into account.

But, as the Fukushima accident made tragically clear, those projects failed to meet safety requirements such as contingency plans for large-scale evacuation of residents in the event of a crisis.

Activists point to the heavy toll the Mar. 11 disaster took on communities living close to the Fukushima Daiichi reactors as one of the more jolting examples of the tragic human consequences of nuclear power. They have also called attention to the environmental risks of storing radioactive material that could easily poison the surrounding area.

Indeed, life-threatening radiation leaks have already forced entire communities to leave their homes and jobs, with more than 300,000 people still living in temporary housing, scores of families separated and miles of farmland transformed into contaminated wastelands, unable to produce a single edible crop.

Yasuo Fujita, 67, is one of these many nuclear refugees.

His family had lived for several generations in Namie village, located just seven kilometres from the stricken nuclear plant. Shortly after the meltdown, he was forced to give up his beloved sushi shop that he had run for 30 years and move to Koto-ku, a Tokyo ward.

Today Fujita is still waiting for compensation from the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to restart his life. “I lost everything in a second because of the Fukushima accident,” he told IPS.

“Despite government plans to rebuild Fukushima within three to four decades, nobody believes they can return. With (scores of) young people now moving away, there is no point in returning even if the government does make the area safe again, a prospect we do not believe in anyway,” Fujita added.

Meanwhile, the announcement last Monday that cooling of the spent fuel rods of three reactors at the Fukushima plant would be suspended due to a power outage created national panic and exposed a key problem in Japan’s nuclear industry: the lack of transparency leading to poor information dissemination and negligence of solid safety procedures.

The ‘Yomiuri’, Japan’s leading daily, noted on Thursday that TEPCO’s public announcement of the problem on Monday evening came too late, and illustrates the company’s “lax safety measures”, including the absence of a back-up plan to deal with accidents.

But as Japan’s massive fuel bills continue to rise for the second straight year – in February liquefied natural gas imports grew 19.1 percent, contributing almost 40 percent of the record 8.2-billion-dollar trade deficit, according to the Finance Ministry – and household utility bills climb 20 percent on average to meet increasing electricity costs, public support for the anti-nuke camp appears to be wavering.

An opinion poll conducted by ‘Asahi’, Japan’s leading national newspaper, in February revealed that 46 percent of respondents were in favour of continuing nuclear power if safety measures are strengthened — higher than the 41 percent who support total abolishment.

Only two of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors – units 3 and 4 of the ?hi nuclear power plant located in the Fukui Prefecture – are operating, while the rest have been closed for maintenance or repairs, bringing nuclear power supply to almost zero.

This is a drastic reduction from pre-Fukushima levels, and a huge set back for national plans to grow the energy source to 50 percent of total supply.

Faced with the stark reality of the impacts of the accident and deep public commitment to avert another disaster, Abe is currently pushing safety measures, including installation of the new Nuclear Regulation Authority, comprised of independent experts, which has already issued seismic warnings against two nuclear power plants.

An upcoming national election in the summer marks an important turning point. If Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party wins, experts contend the coast will be clear to restart idle nuclear plants.

But Aileen Smith, head of Green Action and a leader in the anti-nuclear movement, told IPS that activists will do their best to halt these plans, applying pressure in the form of lawsuits and large public protests and demonstrations.

“The government is talking of restarting idled plants. But the dangerous reality on the ground is such that utility companies applying for permission will face an uphill struggle,” she said.

 

 

Gujarat – Mega Nuclear Power Plant Raises Fear of Fukushima Type Disaster


‘We are staring at the possibility of a man-made disaster in the shape of a nuclear power park’

by Ranjit Devraj, Inter Press Service

 

Bhagwat Singh Gohil frets for the future of his bountiful orchards in Mithi Virdi village in western Gujarat state’s coastal district Bhavnagar. “After contending with droughts, rough seas and earthquakes we are staring at the possibility of a man-made disaster in the shape of a nuclear power park.”

[]

Women protesting against a proposed nuclear plant at Mithi Virdi in the Indian state Gujarat. Credit: Krishnakant/IPS. Speaking with IPS over telephone from Mithi Virdi, Gohil said he and other villagers are unconvinced by official declarations guaranteeing the safety of the Gujarat Nuclear Power Park (GNPP) which, when complete, is due to generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity.

“They could not have chosen a worse site for a mega nuclear power plant – we have a history of earthquakes and fear a Fukushima type disaster in the Gulf of Khambat where the GNPP is coming up,” said Gohil. “Also, Gujarat borders Pakistan, a hostile neighbour. What if this nuclear facility is bombed in a future war?”

On Mar. 5  Gohil and some 5,000 villagers silently walked out of a public hearing  held by the local administration seeking approval for construction for the GNPP which is due to be equipped with six Westinghouse-Toshiba nuclear reactors, each with a 1,000 megawatt capacity.

“We did not want to be party to an illegal public hearing that was seeking endorsement for an environment impact assessment (EIA) report that was flawed and ignored many safety aspects which we are soon going to publish in a parallel document,” Rohit Prajpati, leader of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (Environment Protection Group), a voluntary agency active in Gujarat told IPS.

“To begin with, the EIA was drawn up by Engineers India Limited (EIL), a public sector consultancy that does not have the required accreditation – a fact which is apparent on the government’s own website,” Prajapti said. “An attempt was made to hoodwink the villagers, but they did not buy it.”

According to the terms of reference, EIL was supposed to carry out a detailed risk assessment and provide a disaster management plan, but the final document avoids that responsibility. “We have made written protests about this flawed EIA to the environment ministry,” Prajapati said.

According to V. T. Padmanabhan, independent researcher and member of the Brussels-based European Commission on Radiation Risk, basic safety aspects are being glossed over in the EIAs in the rush to set up a string of nuclear parks along India’s vast coastline.

“The EIA drawn up for the Mithi Virdi project, for instance, ignores the fact that there has been no study conducted on maximum flood levels – and that in an area that is seriously prone to tidal floods,” Padmanabhan told IPS.

On Mar. 6, answering questions in parliament concerning the new nuclear parks, V. Narayanswamy, minister in the prime minister’s office, said coastal nuclear power parks are designed with consideration given to possible earthquakes, tsunamis, storm surges and tidal flooding.

“Safety is a moving target in nuclear power plants and is continuously evolving based on the reviews by utilities and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB)  besides internationally evolving standards,” Narayanaswamy informed parliament.

But, it is not just the villagers and activists who are worried at the haste with which the public sector Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) is going about setting up coastal nuclear power projects – the courts have been lending a sympathetic ear to the protestors.

On Mar. 12, the high court of the southern Andhra Pradesh state halted plans for a 9,000 megawatt nuclear park at Kovvada in coastal Srikakulam district following a petition filed on behalf of local residents and fishermen by J. Rama Rao, a retired naval engineer.

The high court took notice of the petitoners’ plea that the government was going about attempting to acquire land for the 6,000 megawatt nuclear facility even though the project is yet to gain clearance from the AERB.

Kovvada villagers have been on a relay hunger strike since December 2012 against the proposed nuclear power plant. Their petition cited the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear meltdowns to say that in the event of an accident, future generations would be affected by radiation contamination.

But, in spite of the protests and intervention by the court the government appears determined to push ahead with plans to generate 40 gigawatts of nuclear energy by 2020, most of it from nuclear parks in various stages of completion along India’s peninsular coastline.

Narayanasamy stated in parliament that electricity will begin to flow from the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in southern Tamil Nadu by April. The KNPP, which is designed to generate 9,200 megawatts, has been in the making since 1988 when a deal was signed for its construction between India and Russia.

KNPP is yet to have valid Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearances. Last November, NPCIL also admitted in the Supreme Court that it had constructed a desalination plant without mandatory environmental clearance, showing how existing rules are being bypassed.

“CRZ clearance is not a technical formality, but an important procedure designed to protect India’s sensitive coastal region,” said Padmanabhan, adding that the haste in setting up coastal nuclear plants contrasts with the bureaucratic red tape that India is known for.

“What we are seeing is a repeat of the Fukushima experience where investigations by a parliamentary committee have shown that although triggered by a tsunami, the meltdown of the rectors was man-made and a result of collusion between the government, the regulators and the utility Tokyo Electric Power Company,” Padmanabhan said.

Poor governance and lack of independent regulatory oversight in the construction of nuclear plants have already been pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor General, India’s powerful government watchdog.

 

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How Some Organized Religion Leads to Mental Health Problems


By Valerie Tarico, Alternet

Religious Trauma Syndrome:

Groups that demand obedience and conformity produce fear, not love and growth.
March 25, 2013  |

At age sixteen I began what would be a four year struggle with bulimia.  When the symptoms started, I turned in desperation to adults who knew more than I did about how to stop shameful behavior—my Bible study leader and a visiting youth minister.  “If you ask anything in faith, believing,” they said.  “It will be done.” I knew they were quoting the Word of God. We prayed together, and I went home confident that God had heard my prayers.  But my horrible compulsions didn’t go away. By the fall of my sophomore year in college, I was desperate and depressed enough that I made a suicide attempt. The problem wasn’t just the bulimia.  I was convinced by then that I was a complete spiritual failure. My college counseling department had offered to get me real help (which they later did). But to my mind, at that point, such help couldn’t fix the core problem: I was a failure in the eyes of God. It would be years before I understood that my inability to heal bulimia through the mechanisms offered by biblical Christianity was not a function of my own spiritual deficiency but deficiencies in Evangelical religion itself.

Dr. Marlene Winell is a human development consultant in the San Francisco Area. She is also the daughter of Pentecostal missionaries. This combination has given her work an unusual focus. For the past twenty years she has counseled men and women in recovery from various forms of fundamentalist religion including the Assemblies of God denomination in which she was raised. Winell is the author of Leaving the Fold – A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion, written during her years of private practice in psychology. Over the years, Winell has provided assistance to clients whose religious experiences were even more damaging than mine. Some of them are people whose psychological symptoms weren’t just exacerbated by their religion, but actually caused by it.

Two years ago, Winell made waves by formally labeling what she calls “Religious Trauma Syndrome” (RTS) and beginning to write and speak on the subject for professional audiences. When the British Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Psychologists published a series of articles on the topic, members of a Christian counseling association protested what they called excessive attention to a “relatively niche topic.” One commenter said, “A religion, faith or book cannot be abuse but the people interpreting can make anything abusive.”

Is toxic religion simply misinterpretation? What is religious trauma? Why does Winell believe religious trauma merits its own diagnostic label?

Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is religious trauma syndrome?

Religious trauma syndrome (RTS) is a set of symptoms and characteristics that tend to go together and which are related to harmful experiences with religion. They are the result of two things: immersion in a controlling religion and the secondary impact of leaving a religious group. The RTS label provides a name and description that affected people often recognize immediately. Many other people are surprised by the idea of RTS, because in our culture it is generally assumed that religion is benign or good for you. Just like telling kids about Santa Claus and letting them work out their beliefs later, people see no harm in teaching religion to children.

But in reality, religious teachings and practices sometimes cause serious mental health damage. The public is somewhat familiar with sexual and physical abuse in a religious context. As Journalist Janet Heimlich has documented in, Breaking Their Will, Bible-based religious groups that emphasize patriarchal authority in family structure and use harsh parenting methods can be destructive.

But the problem isn’t just physical and sexual abuse. Emotional and mental treatment in authoritarian religious groups also can be damaging because of 1) toxic teachings like eternal damnation or original sin 2) religious practices or mindset, such as punishment, black and white thinking, or sexual guilt, and 3) neglect that prevents a person from having the information or opportunities to develop normally.

Can you give me an example of RTS from your consulting practice?

I can give you many. One of the symptom clusters is around fear and anxiety. People indoctrinated into fundamentalist Christianity as small children sometimes have memories of being terrified by images of hell and apocalypse before their brains could begin to make sense of such ideas. Some survivors, who I prefer to call “reclaimers,” have flashbacks, panic attacks, or nightmares in adulthood even when they intellectually no longer believe the theology. One client of mine, who during the day functioned well as a professional, struggled with intense fear many nights. She said,

I was afraid I was going to hell. I was afraid I was doing something really wrong. I was completely out of control. I sometimes would wake up in the night and start screaming, thrashing my arms, trying to rid myself of what I was feeling. I’d walk around the house trying to think and calm myself down, in the middle of the night, trying to do some self-talk, but I felt like it was just something that – the fear and anxiety was taking over my life.

Or consider this comment, which refers to a film used by evangelicals to warn about the horrors of the “end times” for nonbelievers.

I was taken to see the film “A Thief In The Night”. WOW.  I amin shock to learn that many other people suffered the same traumas I lived with because of this film. A few days or weeks after the film viewing, I came into the house and mom wasn’t there. I stood there screaming in terror. When I stopped screaming, I began making my plan: Who my Christian neighbors were, who’s house to break into to get money and food. I was 12 yrs old and was preparing for Armageddon alone.

In addition to anxiety, RTS can include depression, cognitive difficulties, and problems with social functioning. In fundamentalist Christianity, the individual is considered depraved and in need of salvation. A core message is “You are bad and wrong and deserve to die.” (The wages of sin is death.) This gets taught to millions of children through organizations like Child Evangelism Fellowship and there is a group organized  to oppose their incursion into public schools.  I’ve had clients who remember being distraught when given a vivid bloody image of Jesus paying the ultimate price for their sins. Decades later they sit telling me that they can’t manage to find any self-worth.

After twenty-seven years of trying to live a perfect life, I failed. . . I was ashamed of myself all day long. My mind battling with itself with no relief. . . I always believed everything that I was taught but I thought that I was not approved by God. I thought that basically I, too, would die at Armageddon.

I’ve spent literally years injuring myself, cutting and burning my arms, taking overdoses and starving myself, to punish myself so that God doesn’t have to punish me. It’s taken me years to feel deserving of anything good.

Born-again Christianity and devout Catholicism tell people they are weak and dependent, calling on phrases like “lean not unto your own understanding” or “trust and obey.” People who internalize these messages can suffer from learned helplessness. I’ll give you an example from a client who had little decision-making ability after living his entire life devoted to following the “will of God.” The words here don’t convey the depth of his despair.

I have an awful time making decisions in general. Like I can’t, you know, wake up in the morning, “What am I going to do today?” Like I don’t even know where to start. You know all the things I thought I might be doing are gone and I’m not sure I should even try to have a career; essentially I babysit my four-year-old all day.

Authoritarian religious groups are subcultures where conformity is required in order to belong. Thus if you dare to leave the religion, you risk losing your entire support system as well.

I lost all my friends. I lost my close ties to family. Now I’m losing my country. I’ve lost so much because of this malignant religion and I am angry and sad to my very core. . . I have tried hard to make new friends, but I have failed miserably. . . I am very lonely.

Leaving a religion, after total immersion, can cause a complete upheaval of a person’s construction of reality, including the self, other people, life, and the future. People unfamiliar with this situation, including therapists, have trouble appreciating the sheer terror it can create.

My form of religion was very strongly entrenched and anchored deeply in my heart. It is hard to describe how fully my religion informed, infused, and influenced my entire worldview. My first steps out of fundamentalism were profoundly frightening and I had frequent thoughts of suicide. Now I’m way past that but I still haven’t quite found “my place in the universe.

Even for a person who was not so entrenched, leaving one’s religion can be a stressful and significant transition.

Many people seem to walk away from their religion easily, without really looking back. What is different about the clientele you work with?

Religious groups that are highly controlling, teach fear about the world, and keep members sheltered and ill-equipped to function in society are harder to leave easily. The difficulty seems to be greater if the person was born and raised in the religion rather than joining as an adult convert. This is because they have no frame of reference – no other “self” or way of “being in the world.” A common personality type is a person who is deeply emotional and thoughtful and who tends to throw themselves wholeheartedly into their endeavors. “True believers” who then lose their faith feel more anger and depression and grief than those who simply went to church on Sunday.

Aren’t these just people who would be depressed, anxious, or obsessive anyways?

Not at all. If my observation is correct, these are people who are intense and involved and caring. They hang on to the religion longer than those who simply “walk away” because they try to make it work even when they have doubts. Sometime this is out of fear, but often it is out of devotion. These are people for whom ethics, integrity and compassion matter a great deal. I find that when they get better and rebuild their lives, they are wonderfully creative and energetic about new things.

In your mind, how is RTS different from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

RTS is a specific set of symptoms and characteristics that are connected with harmful religious experience, not just any trauma. This is crucial to understanding the condition and any kind of self-help or treatment. (More details about this can be found on my Journey Free website and discussed in my talk at the Texas Freethought Convention.)

Another difference is the social context, which is extremely different from other traumas or forms of abuse. When someone is recovering from domestic abuse, for example, other people understand and support the need to leave and recover. They don’t question it as a matter of interpretation, and they don’t send the person back for more. But this is exactly what happens to many former believers who seek counseling. If a provider doesn’t understand the source of the symptoms, he or she may send a client for pastoral counseling, or to AA, or even to another church. One reclaimer expressed her frustration this way:

Include physically-abusive parents who quote “Spare the rod and spoil the child” as literally as you can imagine and you have one fucked-up soul: an unloved, rejected, traumatized toddlerin the body of an adult. I’m simply a broken spirit in an empty shell. But wait…That’s not enough!? There’s also the expectation by everyone in society that we victims should celebrate this with our perpetrators every Christmas and Easter!!

Just like disorders such as autism or bulimia, giving RTS a real name has important advantages. People who are suffering find that having a label for their experience helps them feel less alone and guilty. Some have written to me to express their relief:

There’s actually a name for it! I was brainwashed from birth and wasted 25 years of my life serving Him! I’ve since been out of my religion for several years now, but i cannot shake the haunting fear of hell and feel absolutely doomed. I’m now socially inept, unemployable, and the only way i can have sex is to pay for it.

Labeling RTS encourages professionals to study it more carefully, develop treatments, and offer training. Hopefully, we can even work on prevention.

What do you see as the difference between religion that causes trauma and religion that doesn’t?

Religion causes trauma when it is highly controlling and prevents people from thinking for themselves and trusting their own feelings. Groups that demand obedience and conformity produce fear, not love and growth. With constant judgment of self and others, people become alienated from themselves, each other, and the world. Religion in its worst forms causes separation.

Conversely, groups that connect people and promote self-knowledge and personal growth can be said to be healthy. The book, Healthy Religion, describes these traits. Such groups put high value on respecting differences, and members feel empowered as individuals.  They provide social support, a place for events and rites of passage, exchange of ideas, inspiration, opportunities for service, and connection to social causes. They encourage spiritual practices that promote health like meditation or principles for living like the golden rule. More and more, nontheists are asking how they can create similar spiritual communities without the supernaturalism. An atheist congregation in London launched this year and has received over 200 inquiries from people wanting to replicate their model.

Some people say that terms like “recovery from religion” and “religious trauma syndrome” are just atheist attempts to pathologize religious belief.

Mental health professionals have enough to do without going out looking for new pathology. I never set out looking for a “niche topic,” and certainly not religious trauma syndrome. I originally wrote a paper for a conference of the American Psychological Association and thought that would be the end of it. Since then, I have tried to move on to other things several times, but this work has simply grown.

In my opinion, we are simply, as a culture, becoming aware of religious trauma.  More and more people are leaving religion, as seen by polls showing that the “religiously unaffiliated” have increased in the last five years from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. It’s no wonder the internet is exploding with websites for former believers from all religions, providing forums for people to support each other. The huge population of people “leaving the fold” includes a subset at risk for RTS, and more people are talking about it and seeking help.  For example, there are thousands of former Mormons, and I was asked to speak about RTS at an Exmormon Foundation conference.  I facilitate an international support group online called Release and Reclaim  which has monthly conference calls. An organization called Recovery from Religion, helps people start self-help meet-up groups

Saying that someone is trying to pathologize authoritarian religion is like saying someone pathologized eating disorders by naming them. Before that, they were healthy? No, before that we weren’t noticing. People were suffering, thought they were alone, and blamed themselves.  Professionals had no awareness or training. This is the situation of RTS today. Authoritarian religion is already pathological, and leaving a high-control group can be traumatic. People are already suffering. They need to be recognized and helped.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington and the founder ofWisdom Commons. She is the author of “Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light” and “Deas and Other Imaginings.” Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

 

#India – Padma Shri Laxman Mane is accused of rape #Vaw


Published: Tuesday, Mar 26, 2013,
By DNA Correspondent | Place: Satara (Maharashtra) | Agency: DNA

The Satara police have filed a case of rape against Padma Shri Laxman Mane (in pic) after three women alleged that they were sexually exploited by the former MLC between 2003 and 2010.

“The women work as cooks with the Sharadabai Pawar Ashram Shala in Jakatwadi, Satara district. They approached us on Sunday following which we lodged a formal complaint,” said inspector Shrirang Langhe of the Satara taluka police station. “Mane is working president of the residential school for nomads and de-notified class students. The victims are Dalit married women aged between 30 and 35.”

Langhe said the victims alleged that Mane exploited them after promising to make them permanent employees of the school. “They said he took them to various places, including Pune and Satara, and raped them.” Mane has not been arrested. “We went to his house and places frequented by him. But we have not been able to locate him,” Langhe said.

The writer’s wife Shashitai denied the allegations. “My husband has been implicated by the police. This is an attempt to malign his image. This case has been cooked up to target Mane who is doing good social work. The case has not only defamed us, but also all fans and followers of Laxman Mane,” she said.

Shashitai told DNA that her husband received threatening calls on several occasions. “Laxman Mane took pains to raise the institution and filed criminal cases against several erring staffers over the last six years. Filing this case is part of a conspiracy hatched by his opponents and the women who approached the police have been used by them. Stringent action must be taken against the women who have filed the false case.”

A resident of Karanja village in Satara district, Mane has authored 10 books and is the editor of periodical Band Darwaza. His autobiography Upara, which highlighted problems faced by denotified tribes, has been translated in Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil, Malayalam as well as English and French.

He won the Sahitya Academy Award in 1981 and the Padma Shri in 2009. Mane has been president of the Adivasi Sahitya Sammelan (1989), Asmitadarsh Sahitya Sammelan (1987), Ambedkarwadi Dalit Sahitya Sammelan (2001) and Samatawadi Sahitya Sammelan (2010). He has also been associated with a number of NGOs and was MLC from 1990 to 1996.

@DNA

 

Naveen Soorinje- ‘State is biased against Muslims, Dalits, farmers’


Most people are relieved when they walk out of prison. Naveen Soorinje, a TV journalist bailed last week after four-and-half months in jail, says his incarceration was a blessing. Soorinje, 28, made headlines in July after he videoed vigilantes of an illiberal Hindu sectarian outfit attacking young men and women at a private party in the coastal Mangalore city in Karnataka. The police, however, named him a co-accused in the case and arrested him in November. The son of a small villager farmer, Soorinje has reported extensively on communal and caste violence, police atrocities and organised crime in his ten-year career. Importantly, he has campaigned against corruption in journalism in his city in the last three years. He spoke to Tehelka’sImran Khan after his release on March 23.
Imran Khan

March 25, 2013

Naveen Soorinje. Photo: Ashok KR

How do you feel after spending nearly five months in prison?
My jailing was a gift from the police. It gave me a chance to study another face of theirs. A journalist doesn’t easily get that opportunity. I saw how deeply the communal forces have penetrated the government and the city administration.

What did you experience in the jail?
The biggest learning was that nearly 40 percent of the inmates are Muslims. Most were arrested after communal violence. Some are rotting there for years. I did not meet a single Hindu or Christian arrested for communal violence. The only non-Muslims communalists arrested are the vigilantes for their morality policing, and only those who were exposed in my video although their attacks are an everyday event in Mangalore.

What was your routine in the prison?
We would queue up at 6 am to be counted to make sure no one died overnight. But the famous prisoners didn’t need to. A quick shower and a short walk was allowed at 7.30 am and breakfast at 9.30 am. Often, other prisoners came to me thinking I could help them as a journalist. I wrote out their petitions and complaints. Many inmates had overstayed for months because they couldn’t raise even Rs. 500 to post bail. I helped them borrow money from other inmates.

Why did it take you so long to get bail?
The RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and the local administration colluded in my case and lied to the court about me. The police claimed I had absconded even though I was at work in the city. This delayed the decision on my bail.

Does your prison experience offer any lessons for journalists?
Journalists should also hear out the accused instead of just being police informers. Our moral obligation and primary duty is to be the informers of the people. It was my video footage alone that led to the vigilantes’ arrest. Journalists should also realise that the police serve their masters in power. Police officers that were secular under a Congress government turned communal when the BJP came to power in 2008. The prison showed me the state’s bias against the minorities, Dalits, farmers and adivasis.

Some 500 people in the Mangalore jail are held on mere suspicion and all are Muslims. A 15-year-old boy was picked off the street because a police officer found him suspicious. He has been in judicial custody for months. Rehman, an 80-year-old qawwali singer who can’t even walk, was arrested because he owned two SIM cards. A Dalit man is in prison for three months because he allegedly stole a bucket, worth Rs. 75, from a Brahmin. Can’t such cases be resolved at the police stations? Most of the time journalists unthinkingly accept press releases from the police and “sentence” the accused.

Are you happy with the support you received from the news media?
I didn’t expect much except from a few friends but I am overwhelmed with the support I got and I am thankful to all. I must, however, say that most journalists in Mangalore didn’t support me for various reasons, including ideological.

What next?
Continue working as a journalist. I plan to write a book based on my experiences in jail. I have many stories to tell.

 

#Chhattisgarh- Villagers who took on Maoists shot dead by police #WTFnews


MADPAL (SOUTH CHHATTISGARH), March 26, 2013

Suvojit Bagchi

The family of victims, killed allegedly by the police. The woman on the left (with the kid) is the wife of Raghunath Vanjam, Poddi. The old woman in the middle is Raghunath's mother, Gutta. On extreme right is Sudru Vanjam's wife, Ramwati. Photo: Suvojit Bagchi
The Hindu The family of victims, killed allegedly by the police. The woman on the left (with the kid) is the wife of Raghunath Vanjam, Poddi. The old woman in the middle is Raghunath’s mother, Gutta. On extreme right is Sudru Vanjam’s wife, Ramwati. Photo: Suvojit Bagchi

The Chhattisgarh police have killed two activists of the Salwa Judum, a government-backed militia to take on Naxalites, which the Supreme Court declared illegal and unconstitutional.

A couple of eyewitnesses told The Hindu that the villagers, of the Muria Gond tribe, were “killed in cold blood by the police.”

A magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the incident, which has angered the residents of several villages in Bijapur district, 400 km south of the capital Raipur, who took out a rally recently.

On February 14, seven Madpal residents went into the forest to recover the carcasses of animals, including two peacocks, they had killed the night before. Near Kurmed, a village 2 km from Madpal, they were stopped on a mud dike between two patches of arable land.

The eyewitness said 50-60 police personnel asked the tribals, who wielded bows and arrows, to surrender their arms. “We were told to sit down, knees folded and our hands placed behind our waist,” said Kuta Vanjam, head of Madpal, who accompanied the hunters.

After confirming their identity, the constables fired randomly at the villagers. Dasru Vanjam, who also went with the villagers, was shot in the thigh. He averred that the villagers were “unarmed” when the firing started. The police fired from a “distance of 15 to 20 yards,” he said, raising his crutch and pointing to the boundary wall of his house. While Raghunath Vanjam, 35, died on the spot, Sudru Vanjam, 32, was alive for a while, he said.

The Madpal villagers heard the gunshots around 8 a.m. that day. Raghunath’s mother Gutto chased the police for half-a-km. “They told me to go back or they would shoot me,” Gutto said, crying inconsolably. Raghunath’s wife Poddi Vanjam, 32, said that along with the other villagers, they spent four years in Salwa Judam’s Mirtur camp and returned home in 2009. “Now, we are suspected by the Maoists and killed by the police.”

At the peak of the anti-Maoist movement, several villages of south Chhattisgarh were evacuated, and the tribals were forced to shift to camps in the vicinity of police or paramilitary forces stations, mostly adjacent to motorable roads. One such camp was at Mirtur, housing as it did the residents of Madpal and 16 other villages. At least 10,000 people stayed there, as estimated by this correspondent during a visit in 2007.

That is why the incident has surprised Salwa Judam founder Mahendra Karma. “These men [Raghunath and Sudru] were in the anti-Maoist operation… it is a fake encounter, and [we] demand a proper inquiry. Every villager in remote areas is not a Maoist, the police should understand,” Mr. Karma said on the phone.

Bijapur Superintendent of Police Prashant Agrawal has also concluded that the “dead and the injured tribals are not Naxalites.” “There were some 50 Naxalites in the area, and an exchange of fire [with the police] took place. The villagers came in between the police and the Maoists and got shot,” he said.

However, the First Information Report filed in the Mirtur station states that the police seized usual accoutrements of Naxals, including single shot gunpowder rifles, Communist literature, bows and arrows and bullets casings.

The villagers said the exchange of fire had “never taken place.” They have been asked to testify before the sub-divisional police officer on March 21.

 

Gujarat tops in India with 149 swine flu deaths in 2013


 

swine

Smitha R l Ahmedabad, March 26,2013, DNA
There is a reason why swine flu statistics are being treated as state secret. Gujarat has recorded the highest number of swine flu deaths in the country in 2013 and has the second highest number of cases as well. The state had 808 swine flu cases and 149 deaths due to the disease up to March 23, 2013. This means 18% of the cases resulted in death whereas Delhi, which recorded the highest number of swine flu cases at 1454, had a death rate of mere 1.1%. The national capital recorded just 16 deaths in 2013.
This dubious distinction could explain why the Gujarat government is clamping down on information and statistics about swine flu cases. It should be noted that the last update on swine flu from the health department was on March 19, at which point the number of deaths due to the disease was 125 while the total cases reported where 701. In the four days since then, the state has recorded a whopping 107 cases and 24 deaths.
Earlier, health minister Nitin Patel when contacted by DNA had gone on record to state that that the government was not releasing the data because it was to have a debate on the issue in the assembly on Monday as demanded by a member of the Opposition.
However, Congress MLA Chandrika Baria who was to move the private member’s bill in the assembly on the matter, was not present on Monday and hence it was not discussed. 
“As the member was not present, we did not discuss the matter. We will talk tomorrow on the matter,” was all that Patel was willing to say about the data. It should be noted that Patel had earlier said that the government would release the swine flu data from Monday onwards.
Interestingly, principal secretary, health services, PK Taneja; additional director of health Dr Paresh Dave; and nodal officer for swine flu Dr Dinkar Raval did not take calls from DNA. A message to them on the matter also did not elicit any reply.
Earlier, the state government’s handling of swine flu had come in for sharp criticism by the Gujarat high court. In its report filed before the court on March 21, the health department had merely stated that only 6.2% of the total cases of swine flu in the country were reported from Gujarat, and that it was less than other states. Unimpressed by the data, an annoyed high court had then directed the state to file a detailed report on swine flu.
In contrast, Delhi had 1,454 cases but only 16 deaths during the same period

 

Madhya pradesh HC – Only law dept nod needed to prosecute corrupt govt officers #Goodnews


Saji Thomas l Bhopal, DNA, mARCH 26,2013

In a landmark verdict, the Madhya Pradesh High Court has said that a government servant accused of corruption can be prosecuted even without getting sanction from his/her parent department. The court held that the law department had the final authority to award sanction to prosecute a government servant.
At present, law department waits for recommendations of parent department/General Administration Department (GAD) while awarding prosecution sanction against a corrupt government servant. The verdict is set to put an end to this practice.
Delivering the judgment on March 18, the principal bench of high court said: “…opinion of parent department is not at all binding on the law department while considering the case for grant of sanction”. It further said: “Order granting sanction…has been passed after due application of mind on the basis of material collected and brought before the sanctioning authority”. The bench pointed out: “To seek opinion from the parent department is part of the procedure…and thus not binding”.
The order was passed by the division bench of justice Ajit Singh and justice Tarun Kumar Kaushal in a criminal revision petition filed by M P Chaturvedi, a Superintendent Engineer (SE), associated with Bansagar Canal Circle, Rewa.
The SE had moved the high court against order of special judge Shahdol, which had accepted the prosecution sanction given by law department, on the ground that his parent department had not given any recommendation to sanction his prosecution. According to the SE, under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, it was the parent department that was authorised to grant prosecution sanction.
The SE had been booked under Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 and Indian Penal Code (IPC) for alleged irregularities in processing of tenders for a work by Economic Offence Wing (EOW).
“The order will go a long way in prosecuting the corrupt government servants who have been successfully escaping the trial on the plea of not having prosecution sanction from the government”, said advocate Punkaj Dubey, counsel for EOW.

“The court has also affirmed that the prosecution against a corrupt government servant cannot be dropped merely on the ground that there was no prosecution sanction”, he told DNA, quoting from the high court order: “…the trial has reached the state of defence evidence. At such a fag end stage of trial, in our opinion, there is hardly any scope for entertaining a technical objection in respect of sanction”.

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