Lawsuit seeks evacuation of Fukushima children


Fukushima *

Fukushima * (Photo credit: Sterneck)

 

Sunday April 14, 2013 1:15 AM

By YURI KAGEYAMA

The Associated Press

TOKYO (AP) — Their demand: The right to live free of radiation. The plaintiffs who started the legal battle: 14 children.

A Japanese appeals court is expected to rule soon on this unusual lawsuit, filed on behalf of the children by their parents and anti-nuclear activists in June 2011 in a district court in Fukushima city, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) west of the crippled nuclear plant that spewed radiation when a massive earthquake and tsunami hit it more than two years ago.

The lawsuit argues that Koriyama, a city of 330,000, should evacuate its children to an area where radiation levels are no higher than natural background levels in the rest of Japan, or about 1 millisievert annual exposure.

In a culture that frowns upon challenging the authorities, the lawsuit highlights the rift in public opinion created by the baffling range in experts’ views on the health impact of low dose radiation. Although some experts say there is no need for children to be evacuated, parents are worried about the long-term impact on their children, who are more vulnerable to radiation than adults. Consuming contaminated food and water are additional risks.

After the Fukushima accident, the world’s worst since Chernobyl, Japan set an annual exposure limit of 20 millisieverts for determining whether people can live in an area or not. The average radiation for Koriyama is far below this cutoff point, but some “hot spots” around the city are above that level.

“This is the level at which there are no major effects on health and people can live there,” said Keita Kawamori, an official with the Japanese Cabinet Office. “Academic experts decided this was the safe level.”

A prominent medical doctor in charge of health safety in Fukushima has repeatedly urged calm, noting damage is measurable only at annual exposure of 100 millisieverts, or 100 times the normal level, and higher.

A lower court rejected the lawsuit’s demands in a December 2011 decision, saying radiation had not reached the 100-millisievert cutoff. The International Commission on Radiological Protection, the academic organization on health and radiation, says risks decline with a drop exposure, but does not believe there is a cutoff below which there is no risk.

An appeal filed is still before Sendai High Court in nearby Miyagi Prefecture more than a year later.

After the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which emitted more radiation than the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, the Soviet government made it a priority to evacuate women and children from within a 30-kilometer (20-mile) radius of the plant, bigger than the 20-kilometer (12-mile) no-go zone around the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

The number of children behind the original lawsuit dwindled to 10 for the appeal, and is now down to one as families left the prefecture voluntarily or the children grew older. Legally in Japan, a city has responsibility for children only through junior high, since high school is not compulsory.

But the case serves as a precedent for other Fukushima children.

Toshio Yanagihara, one of the lawyers, criticized the government as appearing more worried about a population exodus than in saving the children.

“I don’t understand why an economic power like Japan won’t evacuate the children — something even the fascist government did during World War II,” he said, referring to the mass evacuation of children during the 1940s to avoid air bombings. “This is child abuse.”

After Chernobyl, thousands of children got thyroid cancer. Some medical experts say leukemia, heart failure and other diseases that followed may be linked to radiation.

In Fukushima, at least three cases of thyroid cancer have been diagnosed among children, although there’s no evidence of a link with the nuclear disaster. There are no comparative figures on thyroid cancer in other areas of Japan.

The children in the lawsuit and their families are all anonymous, and details about them are not disclosed, to protect them from possible backlash of ostracism and bullying.

“Why is Japan, our Fukushima, about to repeat the mistakes of Chernobyl?” wrote a mother of one of the children in a statement submitted to the court. “Isn’t it up to us adults to protect our children?”

The trial has attracted scant attention in the mainstream Japanese media but it has drawn support from anti-nuclear protesters, who have periodically held massive rallies.

Among the high-profile supporters are musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, manga artist Tetsuya Chiba and American linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky.

“There is no better measure of the moral health of a society than how it treats the most vulnerable people within it, and none or more vulnerable, or more precious, than children who are the victims of unconscionable actions,” Chomsky wrote in a message.

A 12-year-old, among those who filed the lawsuit but have since left the area, said she was worried.

“Even if I am careful, I may get cancer, and the baby I have may be hurt,” she said in a hand-written statement.

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Blog for the evacuation lawsuit: http://fukushima-evacuation-e.blogspot.jp/

 

 

 

 

French Senate Approves Same-Sex Marriage Bill


By SCOTT SAYARE
Published: April 12, 2013
PARIS — The French Senate on Friday approved a bill to allow same-sex couples to wed and adopt children, leaving France poised to join the small group of nations that have fully legalized gay marriage, despite an unexpectedly vocal campaign by conservative opponents.

A final vote on the legislation, which figured among the campaign promises of President François Hollande, has been scheduled for next week in the lower house of Parliament, where the Senate’s minor amendments are expected to easily pass. Mr. Hollande’s Socialist Party holds a strong majority in the lower house, which approved an earlier version of the text in February.

Should the bill pass, parliamentary conservatives have vowed to challenge its constitutionality, though precedent suggests that a rejection by the Constitutional Council, which rules on such matters, would be unlikely.

The French debate over legalizing gay marriage comes as the Supreme Court of the United States is examining a law that prohibits it; one possible ruling in that case, concerning California’s ban on same-sex marriage, would require all 50 states to allow such unions. Same-sex marriage has been legalized in several American states, some areas of Brazil and Mexico and 12 countries, half of them in Europe.

In France, the left has broadly supported the bill on gay marriage, which many supporters prefer to call “marriage for all.” The country’s largest conservative party, the center-right Union for a Popular Movement, has opposed it. There have been a few dissonant voices at both ends of the political spectrum. On Friday, the Senate vote fell largely along partisan lines, 179 to 157.

“You have consolidated and reinforced the republican pact,” Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told the Senate after the vote. In opening marriage to same-sex couples, Ms. Taubira said, “we are simply recognizing their full citizenship.”

There has been marked opposition, however, in a country that remains largely Roman Catholic, with deeply rooted conservative convictions in much of the populace. Opponents of the bill, many of them rallying under a movement called La Manif Pour Tous, or Protest for All, have marched in the hundreds of thousands in Paris and across the country in recent months. Organizers have called for a mass protest next month.

Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders have also called upon the faithful to protest the legislation, which many opponents cast as a danger for future generations of children who could be raised by homosexual parents. Indeed, opposition has largely focused on the provision, now approved by both houses of Parliament, that would allow same-sex couples to adopt.

It is legal in France for someone who is gay or lesbian to adopt a child, but gays and lesbians may not adopt as couples, with equal parental rights.

A version of this article appeared in print on April 13, 2013, on page A10 of the New York edition with the headline: French Senate Approves Same-Sex Marriage Bill.

 

Safdar Hashmi And The Theatre Scene #sundayreading


 

pic courtsey- Jan Natya Manch

By Vidyadhar Date

12 April, 2013
Countercurrents.org

April 12 marks the birth anniversary of Safdar Hashmi, the radical theatre actor, who was murdered by Congress supporting goons near Delhi in 1989 during a street theatre performance. The day is observed as the national street theatre day.

That brings back some memories. Some time ago in Mumbai a police vehicle came along and asked a cobbler sitting on the footpath to get out as a so-called VIP motorcade was arriving. Surprisingly, the tone was not very rude but the order to him was undemocratic enough.

Obviously, all oppressive ruling classes are afraid of common people . In the very first scene in Shakespeare’s play Julius Ceasar, Flavius shouts at common people, calling them idle creatures. Imperial Ceasar is about to arrive in a triumphant procession.. Later, Flavius talks of driving away the poor from the streets, calling them vulgar.

A cobbler in the crowd is more than match for the arrogant Flavius. When confronted he describes himself as a surgeon of old shoes, a mender of bad soles. I can mend you, he says.

The system is trying to make the poor invisible, trying to drive them away in real life and in the media. In the numerous sickening television serials dominated completely by vulgar, selfish, consumerism-obsessed upper class, even the domestic worker is banished. As if this parasitical class does not depend on the toiling people.

The question is where can the lives of the poor be reflected in this set up ? They have to create their own spaces, their own plays, their own writers. The issue unfolded the same evening as the President’s motorcade when I attended the release of a book on street theatre written by Avinash Kadam and presided over by reputed film and stage director Dr Jabbar Patel at Bhupesh Gupta Bhavan at Prabhadevi.

Kadam has done remarkable service with his book giving a lot of information and some really satirical, comic and serious scripts. The book appropriately has on its cover a painting done by M.F. Husain on the killing of actor-director activist Safdar Hashmi .

The street theatre is truly a democratic theatre, it is performed free, in fact it invites the people to see the performance , it asserts its right to a public space and it gives voice to people’s problems generally in a highly entertaining way. Quite a few of these grow as part of people’s struggles and campaigns.

The Marathi theatre is the most vibrant theatre in the country but not every body is happy with the state of affairs.We have not created a single major playwright after Vijay Tendulkar, declared Premamand Gajwi, himself a radical dalit playwright, in Mumbai some time ago.

He said Tendulkar questioned the establishment and paid the price for his rebellion. There has been no real challenge to the establishment since Tendulkar, we have failed to tackle themes like the plight of Muslims and the attack on the World Trade Centre, Gajwi said.

Dr Shreeram Lagoo, eminent actor said in 1973 he was already a big name in theatre but when he approached producers with G.P. Deshpande’s significant play Udhwasta Dharmashala no producer was ready to take it because it did not have the commercial element.. Ultimately, Lagoo and others themselves did the play brilliantly at Chhabildas experimental theatre in 1974. I still remember the production showing the tragedy of a radical professor who is subjected to an inquiry by the university because of his radical views.

Mr G.P. Deshpande said that though Marathi drama had much a much bigger impact nationally than the Marathi novel, Marathi drama was not given enough importance in the literary discourse. Presidential addresses at Marathi sahitya sammelans sometimes did not even refer to Marathi drama.

Playwright Shafaat Khan said we are in such a situation that our grandmother’s fairy tales sound true today but real stories in theatre and television sound fake.

Last year I spent a lot of my own money to participate in a seminar on theatre spaces at the famed Ninasam, drama theatre complex, in a rural area in Shimoga district in Karnataka.

This seminar in Karnataka was different. It was held in very basic, simple surroundings. Most of the complex which includes drama theatres and training institute, does without fans and I heard that fans were specially installed in the campus for the first time in its history for our benefit of the seminar.

The participants including many Westerners and reputed Indian theatre personalities,who ate simple but tasty vegetarian meals served by a very courteous staff.

Ninasam is a very innovative, democratic venture. Set up by Kannada theatre personality Subanna half a century ago and nurtured by stalwalrts like Sivaram Karanth , it has brought serious international theatre and cinema to villagers. Villagers enjoy the best of Shakespeare and Satyajit Ray and De Sica, locally trained young students enact plays like Chekhov’s Seagull in Kannada with a lot of innovation. The barrier between the audience and spectators is broken. One day we saw an enactment of Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard in which we shifted our chairs between scenes, we sat on the other side of the theatre and so it was clean, good enjoyment.

Ninasam is set amidst greenery near Sagar town in Karnataka in one of the nicest areas in the country. I had a lovely journey from Honavar in coastal Karnataka by bus to Sagara, past the famaous Jog falls.

The odd part of the seminar was that much of the deliberation was submerged in so much bombast and jargon that I came away in dismay after two days instead of the scheduled five days. I had to cancel my train reservation and spend more money in the process. Over the years, I have heard so much highfalutin nonsense at seminars that I am now losing my patience. But this is not something that bothers me at a personal level only. What should bother all of us is the tremendous national waste of resources that these seminars involve. So much needless expense, especially when the seminars are heavily sponsored with air travel, accommodation in luxury hotels, lavish meals and so on and often the quality of deliberations is quite mediocre. There are a few seminas organized at a low cost as the one organized by geography scholar Swapna Banerjee Guha at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences a few years ago. The discussions were held in class rooms, so no expenditure on air conditioning and every one paid for his or her own lunch in the food stalls in the complex. We desperately need to transform the whole seminar culture. I am against compulsion and censorship but there is really a serious need to ask some of the academics to just shut up for some time and start speaking in a language which people can understand. Leftists are not free from the sin of talking in a high flown language with jargon. I remember a short story by left wing writer Ranganayakamma in which a sympathetic court acquits some armed revolutionaries of the charge of violence but convicts them for another offence – speaking in a language which people cannot understand.

Veteran theatre critics Rustom Bharucha and Sadanand Menon expressed serious reservations over the languge of the presentations of the Ninasam seminar. It is true that some of the presenters were highly talented people but what is the use of all the intelligence if one cannot communicate with common people and when one is in the field of communication ?

Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist and author of the book Traffic in the era of climate change. Walking, cycling, public transport need priority.

 

Press Release- Farmer suicides in Andhra Pradesh


Andhra Pradesh – HRF Press Release on farmers suicides in Mahabubnagar district

April 13, 2013

The Human Rights Forum (HRF) demands that the government take immediate steps to ensure that the families of farmers who have committed suicide are duly compensated and rehabilitated as envisaged under GO 421. Our enquiries in Mahabubnagar district revealed that 14 farmers have committed suicide in 2012 in just one mandal i.e Bijinapally. Not a single family of these 14 farmers been compensated under GO 421. In fact, of the total farmers’ suicides of 108 reported in the entire district last year, just one family, that of D Anandam in Jangamaipally village in Ghanpur mandal (he committed suicide on 9-8-2012) been given compensation. This is an appalling state of affairs.

A six-member HRF team visited several villages in Bijinapally and Jadcherla mandals of Mahabubnagar district on Saturday (6-4-2013) to look into instances of farmers’ suicides and governmental response. The team spoke with family members of the deceased, as well as their friends and relatives. In all, we elicited facts concerning six suicides in two villages of Bijinapally mandal and one suicide in a village of Jadcherla mandal. All seven had committed suicide during last year.
All these seven farmers belonged to the small and marginal category who were driven to desperation because they had run up accumulated debts of not less than Rs 2 lakh each due to successive failure of crops, principally of cotton. Since formal credit had all but dried up over the years, their borrowings were mostly at high interest rate from the informal sector of money lenders.

HRF is of the opinion that the families of all seven deceased are eligible for the financial assistance and rehabilitation package evolved as support in such cases under G.O 421. In all these cases it can easily and clearly be established that there was “correlation between farm-related operations, economic distress and social humiliation eventually leading to suicide.”
The GO (G.O.Ms.No.421 Rev DA-II Dept., dated 1/6/2004) provides for financial assistance as an interim relief package to support such families. This assistance is in the form of an ex-gratia of Rs one lakh besides loan settlement up to a sum of Rs.50, 000 as one time settlement to creditors. This relief was intended to help in some small measure in pulling these helpless families out of acute distress.

We have no hesitation in stating that the implementation of G.O 421 in Mahbubnagar district is pathetic. For instance, in Bijinapally mandal, the three-member divisional verification and certification committee (consisting of the RDO, DSP and assistant director of agriculture) had so far not completed the requisite enquiries into these cases as is required under GO 421. In fact, the RDO-led committee has not even visited a single village and spoken with family members or other local residents to ascertain facts of the case. This is truly shocking.

Reports of these suicides have appeared prominently in the local media. In fact, three farmers of Karkonda village in Bijenapally mandal had committed suicide within a span of 12 days (from April 23, 2012 to May 4, 2012. Two of them had taken their own lives on successive days, May 3 and 4). Yet, the three-member divisional level committee has not even visited the village till date. This is insensitive and irresponsible negligence.

In fact, many months have gone by, and in several of these seven cases, over a year has gone by since the farmers committed suicide. Yet, they have not gotten any relief. This delay defeats the very purpose of G.O. 421. Not only is the government doing very little to make farming viable, it has even failed in its minimal duty of providing some succour to those families whose earning members were driven to commit suicide as a result of a severe agrarian crisis.
We urge the Collector to immediately convene a review meeting with all RDOs on the matter of implementation of G.O. 421 and ensure that the three-member divisional committees visit the villages, verifies facts and renders justice to the families of farmers who have committed suicide.

VS Krishna (HRF State general secretary)
Madhu Kagula (HRF Mahabubnagar dist. convenor)

Details of farmers suicides HRF enquired into:

Midde Nagaraju (26) of Karkonda villagew, Bijinepally mandal. Committed suicide on 23-4-2012.
Geddampalli Mallesh (35) of Karkonda village, Bijinepally mandal. Died on 3-5-2012.
Boinpally Krishna Rao (45) of Karkonda village, Bijinepally mandal. Died on 4-5-2012.
Jangam Ramaswamy (32) of Palem village, Bijinepally mandal. Died on 5-3-2012.
Paspula Parsuram Goud (27) of Palem village, Bijinepally mandal. Died on 25-11-2012.
Mekala Pullaiah (48) of Bijinepally. Died on 27-1-2012.
Avancha Anjaneyulu (38) of Nasurullabad village, Jadcherla mandal. Died on 17-9-2012.

 

Koodankulam: THE HINDU’s Bias Stands Exposed #Censorship #Medua


 

newspapers-biasWhile the THE HINDU newspaper gave 2 full pages for Dr. Abdul Kalam’s justification of the Koodankulam project, it maintained a complete silence on the revelation about vulnerability of equipments in Koodankulam and the corruption of the Russian supplier, despite the issue being flagged by the former chief of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board Dr. A Gopalakrishnan himself.Below is an email conversation between Shri M G Devasahayam, the former IAS and Convener of the independent expert committee on Koodankulam and A S Paneerselvam, the Readers’ Editor of THE HINDU. This conversation happened in the context of a recent column by Mr. Paneerselvam titled From Cynicism to Trust.

The response by the Readers’ Editor reveals the self-righteousness of this prominent media house and the newspaper’s bias. Here is the full correspondence:

Mr. Devasahayam’s Letter to Mr. Paneerselvam: April 12, 2013

To,
The Readers’ Editor
THE HINDU

I have been a regular and avid Reader of THE HINDU for several decades and therefore has a right and duty to write this letter that has specific reference to what you wrote in your column ‘From cynicism to trust’ on 08 April 2013.

Suggesting that the Newspaper is ‘Living its Values’ just because it did not endorse statements by some advertisers is indeed far fetched after carrying the advertisements itself on full front-page, which is a commercial practise in violation of editorial ‘values and codes’.

Furthermore, giving huge news and edit-page space almost every day to one individual just because he is in a position of power is certainly not maintaining high editorial standards, particularly so because most of these appear to be egotistic, highly opinionated and loaded with hypocrisy. For instance yesterday’s (09 April) edit-page promotional article on a borrowed idea from US for setting up ‘Court of the Last Resort’ is harebrained to say the least written by an elite arm-chair critic who has no relationship with ground realities and has always sat on a pedestal having no concern for the pathetic victims of the heartless justice system till this worthy was upbraided for suo motto pleading for the pardon of highly-connected, super-rich Sanjay Dutt who actually was given a mild punishment compared to the offences he had committed.

While on the subject I would like to state that in the run up to the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections in 2011 some of us including two former Chief Election Commissioners, Chief Electoral Officers, senior civil servants, advocates and activists had initiated and pursued a movement for Electoral Integrity with the purpose of reining in money-muscle power in elections and went to grass-root levels addressing hall meetings and large groups of students in colleges. We also worked closely with Election Commission of India. Your Newspaper hardly took notice of it except for some odd reports that too emanating from the mofussil towns. We want to revive it now for the forthcoming Parliament elections, but are not sure of any media support for this initiative that can combat the ‘mother of all corruption’. I don’t think THE HINDU will even consider publishing an edit-page article on this subject if I write it!

Much more than publishing self-conceited opinions, what is important for the Readers is fair and unbiased understanding of burning current issues. In this I am afraid THE HINDU is wanting. There are severe flaws in the impartial / unbiased / objective reporting of current issues as well as selecting and publishing edit-page and op-ed articles. The Newspaper is also exhibiting reluctance in reporting mal-governance in Tamil Nadu while writing about these from other parts of the country. THE HINDU has also not observed the core values of fairness and impartiality in reporting on issues that vitally affect the sentiment, honour, life and livelihood of vast sections of the Tamil People who have been nurturing and sustaining the Newspaper for over a century. Though there are many I will confine myself to just three instances:

1. Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant: Coverage by the Newspaper of the long people’s struggle against KKNPP, which is being suppressed and oppressed through draconian measures like sedition/treason laws, Goondas Act, curfew, lathi-charge and tear-gas has been perfunctory and heavily loaded in favour of the state despite the fact that all environmental and safety norms and rules have been blatantly violated in the setting up of the plant and presently there are huge safety issues involved in the desperate attempts by the nuclear establishment to commission the plant through bluff and bluster.

Hearing a Special Leave Petition on this issue, Supreme Court in October/November 2012 had made a pointed observation: “We are concerned more about people’s safety than the money spent on the project.” As if to reinforce this concern Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan, doyen of India’s nuclear establishment and former Chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has categorically stated that the plant is not safe because sub-standard material has been used in the construction of the nuclear reactor itself and many critical types of equipment are suspect. He strongly demanded an immediate investigation by an independent experts group into the safety of KKNPP as it was Podolsk, the Russian company whose CEO was arrested for corruption, that had supplied the components for the reactor. He also said that China, where similar equipments have been supplied has already started inspecting the quality of its nuclear reactors and India too should do so without delay. This and many other things he said at a press interaction in this very city on 06 April 2013.

From what Dr. Gopalakrishnan said, as a corruption and non-transparency scandal nuclear-power in general and KKNPP in particular are far bigger and more serious than that of CWG, 2G Spectrum, Coalgate or Augusta Westland because it has direct and serious bearing on the life, safety and livelihood of millions of people. Yet THE HINDU completely blacked out this very important news event that happened right in Chennai and instead gave space to irrelevant and banal issues. This has deprived the public of getting to know an expert view on this vital matter that could have helped them to arrive at an informed opinion. This has violated the basic editorial code of the ‘right of the readers to know differing views’!

On the other hand the insincere assurances given by the Prime Minister to the President of a foreign country, vague and empty words repeatedly spoken by Mr. Narayanaswamy, and evasive statements made by NPCIL/AEC/AERB officials are given huge importance. Recently the sales-pitch made by a Russian engineer Y N Dudkin that ‘Kudankulam reactors are safest in the world’ was given fulsome and prominent coverage as if it was ‘Gospel truth’. So were all the earlier articles written (one more than half-page) and statements issued by the nuclear-illiterate APJ Abdul Kalam. Is this the kind of ‘independence’ the Newspaper boasts of?

On this burning issue that has been suppressed by your Newspaper you may read these Links:

2. Sri Lankan Tamils Issue: The anti-Sri Lankan Tamil stance taken by THE HINDU is so well known and talked about with revulsion that nothing more need to be said. But one bitter truth is that on this issue, that has huge bearing on the honour and dignity of Tamils as a race, the prejudiced and single-tracked position taken by your Newspaper without giving space to any counter-view is an insult to the institution’s hoary 134-year-old history with the legacy – liberty, justice and human rights – of its distinguished founders.

3. Coverage of the Tamil Nadu power crisis: Despite the fact that the crisis has been going on for years, basically due to gross mismanagement and rent-seeking, not once did the Newspaper highlight these maladies and offered viable and workable solutions available if only they were sought for. Instead the Newspaper has been content with some odd crisis-reporting and publishing long-winded handouts containing wrong diagnosis and false information thereby misleading the gullible public.

As I understand, the function of Reader’s Editor is to collect, consider, investigate, respond to, and where appropriate come to a conclusion about readers’ comments, concerns and complaints in a prompt and timely manner, from a position of independence within the paper.

According to the terms of reference the Readers’ Editor of The Hindu is a Board of Directors appointment. “He is independent of the Editor, the editorial personnel, and the editorial process. The key objectives of the appointment are to instititionalise the practise of self-regulation, accountability, and transparency; to create a new visible framework to improve accuracy, verification, and standards in the newspaper; and to strengthen bonds between the newspaper and its millions of print platform and online readers.”

Accepting the appointment as Readers’ Editor, you had said: “The efficacy and credibility of self-regulation depends on a robust autonomous system of redress. The Readers’ Editor’s Terms of Reference provide a clear mechanism to ensure accountability of the editorial team to its readers; and to retain and enhance readers’ trust in the newspaper. I will strive to do my best to be an effective interface between The Hindu’s readers and the 134-year-old institution.”

The credibility of this century-plus institution is at stake and it is time for you to do your duty as per your calling. Mine may be a small and insignificant voice. But if it is not heeded promptly it may not take long for this to resonate far and wide.

Awaiting appropriate action and early response.

Yours Truly,

M.G.Devasahayam

Mr. Paneerselvam’s Letter to Mr. Devasahayam: April 10, 2013

Dear Mr. Devasahayam,

I appreciate your efforts to express your opinion of the paper in general and my role in particular. There seems to be conflation of few issues in your mail, and this response is to disaggregate these and address each one of them based on their own merits.

1) Carrying jacket advertisements is not a violation of the values and codes. In fact, the article 6 of Living our Values says this very clearly: The Company recognises that good journalism cannot survive, develop, and flourish unless it is viable and commercially successful. Fair business practices are vital. What I said in my column was the paper’s commitment to resist the power of advertisers in resorting to unfair practices. Can you honestly point out another media outlet which has maintained such high standards? Of course, you have every right to differ from the stand taken by the paper on some crucial issues.

2) Your opinion on Justice Katju’s piece need not necessarily reflect the opinion of others. And, the opinion articles need not necessarily reflect the opinion of the paper.Your opinion is valid as much as Katju’s opinion. After all the newspaper is site for democratic debate.

3) On Nuclear power and Sri Lankan Tamil issues, I do see both change and continuity in the paper’s position over the time. The areas of continuity are: 1)Nuclear power remains an option for addressing the energy needs of the country, 2) Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity shall not be disturbed. The areas where the change has taken place are: 1)report on the protest against the nuclear power, give space to critical voices. (See M V Ramana’s book review yesterday and the space given for it). 2) constantly flag the failings of the Sri Lankan state both on the political front as well as the post war reconciliation front. It will be unfair on my part not to acknowledge these changes though these may not satisfy some who have a strong opinion on these matters. My personal opinion on nuclear establishment is well known but I do not expect that to be the opinion of the paper.

My personal working credo as the readers’ editor is to recognise that there are many points of convergence as much as points of divergence between the newspaper and its myriad readers and not to be torpedoed by ideological prism.

I do share the readers opinion to the editorial and the editorial’s stand point to readers on a regular basis so that one can know exactly where the paper stands on various issues. I do get much more strident criticisms from the Hindutva brigade. I do not expect the paper to soften its stand on secularism. The same principle extends to other issues too.

Hope I have explained my role rather clearly.

Regards,

Panneer

[A S Paneerselvam, Readers’ Editor, THE HINDU]

Mr. Devasahayam’s Letter to Mr. Paneerselvam: April 12, 2013

Dear Mr. Panneerselvam,

I have pondered over your rapid-fire response and was wondering whether it would be of any use to waste time on these interchanges when the mind-set of the Newspaper management in general and Reader’s Editor in particular appear to have been hermetically sealed with a preset agenda on most burning public issues. Hence the delay. Nevertheless I thought I should write because as they say ‘silence is consent’.

First to the jet-speed reply: Email containing my letter was sent at 10.34 AM on 10 April 2013 and your reply was received by me in exactly 52 minutes at 11.26 AM. Conceding that you received and read my mail instantly, in all of 52 minutes you had collected information on the major issues raised by me, considered them carefully, investigated into the factual veracity of the issues raised, came to a conclusion about my comments, concerns and complaints and responded to me ‘from a position of independence within the paper’ trashing all the points I had raised. Indeed, a fabulously efficient way of treating your Readers as interlopers and riff-raffs.

Your instant reply to my detailed well-deliberated letter, indicates that you have not given even scant attention to its contents. As the Readers’ Editor of The Hindu, you were expected to institutionalise the practise of self-regulation, accountability and transparency; and to ‘strengthen the bonds between the newspaper and its millions of Readers’.

Your vague response does not indicate that you are in a position of independence within the paper to strengthen the bonds between the readers and the paper. On the contrary, yours is an attempt to rationalise the one-sided coverage and blacking out of news relevant to the readers but may not be in the interest of the ruling regimes in the centre, the state and in some other country!

For instance Dr. Gopalakrishnan’s expert view was not on the desirability or undesirability of nuclear energy. Though he is a pro-nuclear man he had clearly highlighted the fact that Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant is unsafe in its present form because sub-standard material has been used in the reactor and quality of many key equipments are suspect. He was of the considered view that commissioning the plant under these circumstances could in all likelihood lead to accidents if not immediately, at least in the near future resulting in major disaster for the life and livelihoods of millions. Is it not the duty and responsibility of THE HINDU to report this view of one of the top most nuclear experts in the country so that your Readers know of the truth and the project proponents also can respond appropriately to clear the air of all doubt and suspicion.

Heaven forbid, if something untoward happens after the subservient nuclear establishment, which is under immense Russian and PMO pressure to commission the plant goes ahead at any cost, will not THE HINDU and other media that deliberately blacked-out this news be not accused of suppressing the truth? In the event it is inappropriate to equate this to giving space to M V Ramana’s book review which is a scholarly work whereas what Dr. Gopalakrishnan did was to warn of clear danger.

On accepting the onerous responsibility of Readers’ Editor, you yourself wrote: “The efficacy and credibility of self-regulation depends on a robust, autonomous system of redress.” What happened to those brave words?

Your own position on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue is well known. Did not your conscience prick when the Editor gave such prominence to Kusal Perera’s article on the op-ed page and denied space for my well-reasoned counter? My response did not challenge Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity because that was not the issue here. Yes indeed, there is real good continuity in what your Newspaper has been doing on the SL Tamil issue. Perhaps despite your good intentions and inside knowledge you are unable to break this continuity!

In passing all I would request is that after being captive to several interests please do not preach us about ‘Living our Values’, which your 134-year-old institution with a hoary past is certainly not adhering to.

Regards,

M.G.Devasahayam

Mr. Paneerselvam’s Letter to Mr. Devasahayam: April 12, 2013

Dear Mr. Devasahayam,

I feel really sad that you have drawn a different set of conclusions from my sincere effort to promptly address your concerns. If someone is familiar about the subject, does it really warrant a long duration to ponder and respond to queries? I beg to differ. The two issues you had touched–Nuclear and Sri Lankan Tamil– have a very strong emotive elements.

My role as the readers’ editor is not that of a pre-censor, but a post-publication evaluator. As a former IAS officer, I believe that you will appreciate that to make my role to be effective it not just enough to be truly independent and bold but also not to overreach. Some of your complaints are about the editorial policy, which is defined by the editor and his editorial team, really fall under the category of overreach for a readers’ editor. I can explain their policy but cannot interfere with it. I believe it is vital to support the independence of the editorial. The acid test for this is how I conduct myself when the paper’s opinion is different from my own. Can I exhibit the same level of tolerance when articles that are opposed to my views appear in print? Can I expect from our political leadership and the corporate houses to be tolerant if I do not posses the same?

I do not expect the paper to share my world view on all issues but that does not mean I can work for any publication in the country. The shared positions between the Hindu and myself outweighs my differences with the publication. The shared areas are: steadfast commitment to secularism, democratic values, to take the difficulties faced by poor and marginalised and finally a fine balance between public interest and what public is interested in.

I generally refrain from expounding on my personal political understanding as I believe they are evident in my writings as a journalist. I am also very, very clear that my views, ideology and politics, will not colour my role as the Readers’ Editor. This explanatory note is primarily because I value your work on JP and the Emergency, your personal contribution to his well-being during his days of arrest under your charge in Chandigarh. I think my strength lies in not conflating issues, but in my ability to disaggregate and see each one of them in their own light.

We can agree to disagree.
Regards,

A S Panneerselvan

Mr. Mr. Devasahayam’ Letter to Paneerselvam’s: April 14, 2013

Dear Mr. Pannerselvam,

Thanks for your prompt response. You have really been candid and I appreciate that. Under the circumstances there is nothing more to write except reproducing a letter received from PMANE, Struggle Committee, a short while ego which is self explanatory. The inference in the letter (in bold/large letters) is foreboding and ominous and clearly reflect the kind of coverage by THE HINDU in this extremely sensitive matter that has bearing on the lives and livelihoods of millions.

I have said what has to be said and if it is not heeded it is the Newspaper’s burden.

Regards,

M.G.Devasahayam

 

In Narendra Modi’s Gujarat- Cries of caste discrimination reverberate


 Narandra Modi's Vibrant Gujarat Story: Propaganda vs Fact #mustread

TNN | Apr 14, 2013, 02.24 AM IST

AHMEDABAD: “We are not allowed to get our hair cut at the barber’s shop in our village even if we are ready to pay a few rupees more. If the barber agrees to cut our hair, he is beaten black and blue by the upper caste people of the village,” said BhupatZala, a resident of Badarkha village near Dholka.

The same problem is faced by dalits in Bhat, Kashindera, Ranoda and several other villages of Dholka district. “The dalits are not allowed to have tea in hotels in the vicinity of these villages and they are also not allowed to enter the temples built for the ‘upper classes’ of the society.”

Tales of discrimination tore through the tag of ‘developed’ state as hundreds of members of the dalit community poured on to the streets of the city to raise voice against injustice meted out to them on the eve of 123rd birth anniversary of Dr B R Ambedkar. Thousands of people from 16 states of India and 18 districts of Gujarat participated in the dalit rally organized by Navsarjan and Jan Vikas.

The rally started from Aanand Ashram in Sarkhej and ended at Sanskar Kendra, Paldi. Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of Dr B R Ambedkar, Mallika Sarabhai, the former Chairman of UGC Sukhdeo Thorat, member of planning commission Dr Sayeeda Hameed, founder of Hamal Panchayat Baba Adhav remained present in the rally to support dalit rights. The cultural groups from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh performed special art of drum beating in the rally.

People from different states who arrived in the city to stand for dalit rights unanimously said that untouchability still prevails countrywide. Suresh Kumar, a member of Dalit Foundation, Himachal Pradesh, said, “The dalits of Santoshgarh village of Himachal Pradesh are till date not allowed passing from the streets where Brahmins and Rajputs reside. If a dalit touches the house of an upper class man, he is beaten cruelly. A small boy who mistakenly entered a temple built for upper class communities was beaten to death.” The dalits who came to participate in the rally from Himachal Pradesh also agreed that the police and legal system do not support or protect them.

In Rajasthan, Mamgilal Meghwal’s 30 bigha land was seized by the upper class people. His land was allotted to him on three different names Magga, Mangiya and Mamgilal which is a common tradition in dalits. Taking benefit from that, his land was seized. “Even after submitting identity proofs provided by Gram Panchayat and Jilla Panchayat, I was denied. I registered a complaint against them and also filed a court case, but no actions were taken by the authorities,” said Mamgilal.

Anju Saha, a student from Manjali village of Uttarakhand, said, “Dalit ladies are not allowed to cook food in our village school. If they touch it, the Brahmin and Rajput kids won’t eat it. These upper class students don’t sit with the dalit students. We are even asked to leave seats empty in the busses.”

Ray of hope

This proves that the problem of untouchability is ubiquitous in India. However, Satara district of Maharashtra and Karmabhoomi of Dr B R Ambedkar has a different story. According to Chandrakant More and Ujjavala Bhandare from Satara, even though the district is dominated by upper class people, no need has emerged to fight for dalit rights in recent years.

 

#India – A love affair is the reason for denial of work to Dalits #Vaw #WTFnews


R. ARIVANANTHAM, The Hindu 

Dalit women explaining their woes of discrimination at Deveerahalli village on Thursday. Photo: N.Bashkaran

Dalit women explaining their woes of discrimination at Deveerahalli village on Thursday. Photo: N.Bashkaran

Over 300 Dalit families of Deveerahalli Village, of Kudimenahalli Panchayat, in Krishnagiri district allege that they are being denied work by intermediate castes of the village and of six other nearby villages. The reason behind this, they say, is that a Dalit youth in their area had fallen in love with a girl of an intermediate caste from Sathinayakkanpatti under Damodarahalli Panchayat.

The girl is back with her parents after the youth’s parents wanted her to go back, as they feared the type of mob fury which was unleashed on three colonies in nearby Dharmapuri district, over a similar issue in November last year. But, the boycott of the Dalits of the Krishnagiri village continues though the affair had come to light in December and the girl had gone back to her home.

Intermediate castes have banned Dalits from working on their agriculture fields, brick kilns and other income-earning activities since then. The decision to bar them from such forms of employment was allegedly taken by a ‘khap panchayat’ — a council of older persons who issue decrees to their community members on matters such as marriage — consisting of the leaders of seven villages, in and around Sathinayakkanpatti and Deevarahalli, on December 24 last year, alleged A. Manikandan, district convener of Naam Tamizhar Katchi.

Many Dalits, who have also taken up the lands of intermediate caste on lease, for cultivation of crops, lost lakhs of rupees due to the economic boycott. They were not allowed to step into the farm lands. M. Kumar (37), who is District president of HIV Positive Network, said, “After the incident in December, the neighbouring landowner refused to give water for irrigating my ragi crop, cultivated on half an acre. I was forced to buy water from another village and bring it by tractors to save my crop’’. S. Salamma (45) of Deveerapalli village says she has two young sons to take care of. As her husband, a daily wage earner, has been rendered jobless because of the boycott, the family is totally dependent on the earnings from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) works and the free rice distributed through the public distribution system.

M. Chitra (30), mother of two male children, said, “There is no discrimination at the MGNREGS worksite, but the intermediate castes stopped speaking to us after the order of the khap panchayat”.

The decision taken at the khap panchayat allegedly ordered that Dalits should not be employed under the MGNREGS also. But, it was rejected by the village panchayat president K. Murugesan. Himself a member of an intermediate caste, he told the village leaders that he could not indulge in discrimination as the head of a local body. The parents of the youth and the girl could not be contacted for their comments.

X. Irudayaraj, District Secretary, Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front, and G. Sekar, District Secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist), added the police and revenue authorities should take action against those indulging in the boycott of Dalits, which denied them livelihood.

Stating that his inquiry found a boycott of the Dalits, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Bargur, G. Gajendran said, on Saturday, that he would conduct a meeting between the Dalits and caste-Hindus. As for the love affair, Mr. Gajendran said that even before a formal complaint was lodged by the girl’s family, a police team visited the village and took all possible measures to prevent any untoward incident, and the girl returned to her parents.

Press Release – State of the Urban Youth India 2012 : Employment, Livelihoods, Skills


youth

 

 

 

Every third person you meet in an Indian city today is a youth.  In about seven years the median age in India will be 29 years, very likely of a city-dweller, making it the youngest country in the world.

The State of the Urban Youth India 2012: Employment, Livelihoods, Skills is published by IRIS Knowledge Foundation (IKF), Mumbai India for the UN-HABITAT Global Urban Youth Research Network (GUYRN) of which IKF is part. It is a first attempt to pull together a data and knowledge base on and of youth in urban India.  The focus of the Report is youth employment and youth livelihoods in urban India.   Through a three-city survey the Report incorporates a youth perspective on the situation of urban youth that is revealed by data and literature.

The Report rolls out a data embedded panorama of urban youth and provides the material for public debate on programmes and policies on youth employment, skill development and livelihoods. It does not aspire to make recommendations, but only to suggest broadly the need for a paradigm shift in addressing the issue of the urban young so that youth are in charge of change.

The Report evolved through discussion among scholars from different fields. In developing the Report the attempt has been to include youth voice and contribution. The field survey was mainly conducted by research students in the social sciences. Of the illustrations in the volume, seven photographs were winning contributions in a youth contest ‘Urban Shutter’ specially organized to generate photographs for the volume.

For printed copies of the Report, pl contact :

Aarti Salve Telang:  aarti@esocialsciences.org

April 10, 2013

* The youth photographers are:  Rahul Manav (pp. 29 and 43) ; Jitu Mohan (p. 79); Jini Nikita (pp. 91 and 119); Himanshu (p. 113) and Akshath (p. 133)

T-131, Tower 1, 3rd Floor, International Infotech Park, Vashi, Navi Mumbai – 400703. India. Tel.: +91-22-6723 1000

The Report can be downloaded below

YOUTH REPORT

 

#India – becoming the Chamber State ? #politics #Election2014


Jitender Gupta
Rahul Gandhi addressing the CII AGM, Apr 4, Delhi
Business & Politics

The FICCI-CII rallies have replaced grassroots ones. Is politics becoming a corporate playfield?
Sunit Arora, Arindam Mukherjee

Why Corporate Involvement In Politics Is A Problem

Neither Modi nor Rahul are designated leaders of the BJP and Congress, NDA or UPA. What if a different, unheard-of leader emerges from their flock or outside?
The projection of this man or that, this policy or that, runs counter to federal impulses in a large, multi-lingual, multi-interest country where regional parties are booming.
Are business and media houses merely providing the stage for differing views and personalities, or are they openly setting the political agenda in troubled times?
Head-to-head debates may work in homogeneous America. Soapbox oratorical tests are unsuited for heterogeneous India, which is why politicians have spurned it.
In a parliamentary democracy, elected MPs, not business bodies, choose the prime minister. Usurping that role to thrust candidates is an affront to the voter.
Sans deep questioning, all we get is a sales pitch. Bite-sized ad slogans (“India First”) and aphorisms (“Beehive”) end up as wisdom. Result: noise, not nuance.
Real issues around development like food, health, housing and poverty are rarely discussed at business forums.

***

The consultant-about-town takes a quick look around before launching the pitch. You see, there are three corporate clients—all in their early 60s and owners of Rs 1,000-crore plus companies—who are keen on fighting the next general election. If they can deal with the hurly-burly of politics (which includes egos shattering in slow motion, waiting for days to meet a party president), there is a chance to enter Parliament—the most exclusive club for a nat­ion of 1.2 billion people. The consultant nods when asked if these three clients attended any of the big corporate jamborees at industry bodies CII and ficci last week. “That’s where all the action is,” he smiles.

“It shows us their mindset and, as in this case, focuses their thoughts on issues of importance to us.”Naina Lal Kidwai, FICCI president/HSBC

Amazingly, and unsurprisingly, the “action” being talked about was the news last week. India’s top business chambers gave two prominent politicians—the BJP’s Narendra Modi (three back-to-back events, with the ficci Ladies Organisation, Network 18’s ThinkIndia and the three Calcutta chambers of commerce) and the Congress’s Rahul Gandhi (who spent over an hour talking to the CII in Delhi)—a platform to chest-thump their deeds and outline their political roadmap to a collection of their member companies. The media gave it enormous oxygen, and Twitter took it to another level of absurdity thanks to an online spat between #Feku (a sobriquet for Modi) and #PappuCII (for Rahul Gandhi) that raised disturbing questions about our society today.

What gives corporate India the power to serve up a gladiatorial contest between two individuals (who are yet to get their party’s nod as candidates for the top post) within sniffing distance of national elections? Under the guise of “getting to know” the duo’s plans for an economy that’s seen better days, why is corporate India pushing their candidature in a US-style, presidential-type of debate? It appears far removed from reality, given how Indian politics is no longer dominated by the two national political parties. “Outside Delhi, nobody believes in the two-horse race,” argues economist Narendar Pani of Bangalore-based NIAs. “All this has an air of India Shining, it’s completely disconnected from reality.” It also lays bare corporate India’s greatest fear—dealing with a Third Front government or even the allies of the two major combines.

 

Big vibes Modi addressing industry leaders in Calcutta, Apr 9. (Photograph by Sandipan Chatterjee)

“India is increasingly becoming like the US, with business controlling the political agenda. It isn’t good.”Vivek Chibber, New York University

Many industry observers say it’s shocking—given that corporate India itself has been plagued by scams—that top business houses are trying to shape India’s political agenda by throwing money power to project who should lead India. For isn’t corporate India at the heart of the massive scams and scandals that have afflicted the UPA government, right from Satyam to 2G and CWG to the Radia tapes, mining scams and money-laundering? Banks like hsbc have been under investigation worldwide and in India for fuelling money- laundering. More recently, a Cobrapost investigation showed laundering faultlines at HDFC Bank, ICICI and Axis. It’s reached such a level that Business Standard’s T.N. Ninan proclaimed in a recent signed article: “In every case, the original problem was created by business, which now complains of the fallout. The old ways of doing business cannot go on if India is to do better.”

There’s also a historical context to how politicians have played the industry bodies to push their cause. This tack is evident when you look at the legitimisation of Modi (a polarising politician by any stretch) after the 2002 Gujarat riots. The very next year, in 2003, he launched Vibrant Gujarat in partnership with FICCI to showcase the state’s economic prowess. And with each passing edition, he’s got the cream of Indian industry (from Ratan Tata and Ambanis downwards) to sing his praises. This corporate identification with Modi has rea­ched such a level that a particular favourite of his, the Adani Group, even cancelled its sponsorship of a Wharton event after the organisers withdrew their invitation to the Gujarat CM. So, it’s hardly surprising that Modi is attending a FICCI event, evident from this tweet from the BJP parliamentary panel member Smriti Z. Irani: “Biggest difference between FICCI n CII event, FICCI FLO begins wid d National Anthem putting INDIA 1st, way 2 go Ladies :-).”

“Leaders from well-developed states are called here. You don’t see Akhilesh, Nitish being invited.”Milind Kamble, DICCI

Indeed, the CII has traditionally been closer to the Congress (remember how former CII head Tarun Das had to apologise to Modi after some of its members made noises about the Gujarat riots when he came to attend its function?). Like Modi and the BJP played off FICCI against CII to his advantage, the UPA carves up its ministries between the industry lobby bodies. So if infrastructure and roads and highways “goes” to CII, information & broadcasting and textiles “interact” with FICCI. Industrialists find it difficult to interact with government as an individual company. Becoming a part of a chamber’s committee, say, on infrastructure, gives a fig leaf of respectability while pushing a company’s case.

The charitable view, of course, is that industry has a reason to invite top politicians—chambers do so every year—given that elections are approaching and that the economy is not in the pink of health. But it’s evident that the engagement has seen a massive spike compared to previous pre-election years. This is also mirrored in the vocal reactions to speeches. Many industry leaders, though enamoured by Rahul Gandhi’s presence and body language, were annoyed that he did not address issues like inflation and GDP growth. “Both the leaders had an entire nation to address, but they chose only one class of people to speak to,” says farmers’ activist Devinder Sharma.

“Corporates are part of India. They are the ones shaping the economy by hard work…or the lack of it.”Cho Ramaswamy, Editor, Tughlaq

It does appear that a large part of the success of business’s role in politics has been fuelled by the media which has routinely played into their hands. Of course, this happens because a predominant part of the media is today owned and contro­lled by business. For example, in CII there were dozens of discussions, but only the session with Rahul Gandhi was aired live to TV audiences. Prof Vivek Chibber, associate professor of sociology, New York University, and author of Locked in Place, which takes a detailed look at business-politics links, says, “The media in India should be seen as a part of the corporate community and it serves their interest. It is drunk with the view of the business community. Unfor­tunately, the debate in the Indian media today is so narrow and so favourable towards business.”

It is a symbiotic corporate-media relationship: like Mukesh Ambani who has made a tidy investment in Network 18, which kickstarted the ThinkIndia dialogue series with Modi last week. Or consider the India Today Conclave (the Aditya Birla Group has invested in Living Media, which owns India Today, a competitor of Outlook) which invited Modi for its leadership summit a few months ago. In Calcutta last week, Modi met a leading daily’s owner for over two hours. Business houses are also big advertisers and eyeballs mean good business. It’s evident that the politician’s messages are amplified by the media.

“It’s a new generation of MPs who have corporate links. They have no parliamentary experience.”Manikrao Gavit, Former Union minister

More often than not, the encounters are also scripted to avoid criticism. Ever catch an industrialist questioning Modi or Rahul Gandhi about 2002 or 1984, respectively? “The boardrooms set the agenda, not the newsrooms. In Andhra Pradesh, for instance, channels owned by corporate houses have a single-point agenda—improve business. So it is with channels in Delhi with footprints in the rest of the country,” says Madabhushi Sridhar, professor at the Centre for Media Law and Public Policy, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad.

Most experts agree that the media is not questioning this corporate-led development credo and binary view about politics. Indeed, you are bombarded with a whole lot of spin: ThinkIndia’s first panel discussion was on whether the “natural rhythm” of Indian society is liberal and right-of-centre—an amazing generalisation for a country of such immense complexity. Or consider the massive lobbying (notably in BCCL’s Times of India) against proposals to tax the rich.

As expected, despite all the criticism, the industry justifies this interference with the political system. “Industry is a vital stakeholder in nation-building and growth. So it has an important role to play in policy formulation too,” says CII D-G Chandrajit Banerjee. Current FICCI president Naina Lal Kidwai’s reply is also on similar grounds: “The presence of political leaders allows us to understand their mindset. And, as in this case, it focuses their thoughts on issues of importance to us.” The subtext is that the industry has huge financial exposure with political parties for, as elections approach, they are being pushed to ‘contribute’ to the ever-expanding kitties of political parties. From their point of view, there is no better time to put pressure to mould policies to suit their interests.

“By the media hype, it appears we don’t need elections. Just count TRPs, elect the two on the spot.”Devinder Sharma, Farmers’ activist

Experts insist that this will not end at election time. Like in the US, you’ll find business controlling the political agenda in the future. “This will lead to inequalities because business will always look at its own interests and maximised profits when deciding political agenda and policy,” warns Professor Chibber. The key question is whether Indian business, with all that’s gone on in the past few years, has the moral right to influence India’s policymaking and laws anymore?

The number of cases where corporate India is complicit goes on increasing—diversion of slum redevelopment land for commercial use; diversion of irrigation water for industries (as witnessed in drought-hit Maharashtra); helping industries acquire land without paying due compensation; and finally the next big scam in the making, pressing ahead with privatisation of resources in the guise of public-private-partnership (PPPs) without any safeguards. In many cases, political proximity helps corporates wriggle out of tricky situations—like being over-leveraged—and getting state bailouts.

Earlier this month, India’s largest banking entity, the SBI, embarked on a long overdue exercise to publicise wilful loan defaults ranging from a few lakhs to several thousand cro­res. The bank found many had even disposed of the collateral without informing it and have not repaid des­pite having the capacity to do so. “Unless citizens form groups, political action committees, participate in political activity, India is going to be ruled by a small group of political and business leaders,” warns T.V. Mohandas Pai, chairman, Manipal Global Education.

“Both were looking for a platform for longer term play. And these are non-partisan with high visibility.”Dilip Cherian, Image guru

What is indicative of this trend is the rush of people from business entering politics. Industrialists like Vijay Mallya of Kingfisher, Naveen Jindal of Jindal Group, Praful Patel, Raj­kumar Dhoot of Videocon and L. Rajagopal of Lanco are currently MPs; others like Anil Ambani, Shobhana Bhartiya and Anu Aga have been MPs before. Many industrialists are also pushing their people in the upper and lower houses. Why, Subrata Roy of the in-the-news Sahara took out advertisements in the papers to inform everyone that 175 MPs and 120 senior bureaucrats attended the “rice-eating” ceremony of his granddaughter. Says ex-Union minister Manikrao Gavit, who was a member of the Lok Sabha ethics committee, “The new generation which is coming into Parliament has corporate links. They have no experience of the parliamentary system. We have recommended rules to make them more aware of how the system should function and allow for debate.”

The figures are quite striking. According to the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), 60 per cent of MPs in the last Lok Sabha were crorepatis. Candidates with Rs 5 crore or more in assets had 30 per cent more chance of getting elected while those with Rs 1 lakh or less had less than 0.5 per cent probability of getting into the Lok Sabha. Says Anil Bairwal of ADR, “In a democracy, we must engage with the government. But who is engaging more? In the last 5-10 years, the influence of money on politics and government has increased at a rapid pace. It is working to the detriment of democracy.”

It’s clear there are fewer voices speaking for the aam aadmi as the lines between politics and business blur. India yet lacks a strong and moneyed social sector which can be an effective counter to business interests. As for the forthcoming elections, recent history is a pointer. Who would have thought India Shining would have come a cropper in 2004? Why did many fail to anticipate the extent of UPA’s return to power in 2009? Given the multi-varied and often mysterious ways of the Indian voter, it makes sense to be a little humble before laying out a menu before her.

Source- Outlook- By Sunit Arora and Arindam Mukherjee with Lola Nayar, Anuradha Raman and Pragya Singh

 

#India – Locals oppose steel plant expansion plan


By Express News Service – JAIPUR

13th April 2013 08:52 AM

Many locals including PRI members present at a public hearing on Friday objected to proposed expansion of Mideast Integrated Steels Limited (MISL) at Kalinga Nagar industrial complex area in the district.

The villagers raised objection to organising the public hearing, convened by the Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB), without prior information to them.

They alleged that it was a ploy by the company officials to ensure that villagers cannot attend it.Though around 200 people had congregated at the venue of Danagadi Bhawan under Danagadi block, only 22 of them participated in the hearing. Out of them, 17 participants opposed its expansion.

“The company has already polluted the entire area. As the nearby Gandanal, used by thousands of people, has been polluted, people residing around the plant are suffering from tuberculosis and various skin diseases. The company never provides any medical assistance to us and has never cared to improve our standard of living,” said vice-chairman of Danagadi block Sudhakar Bhanj at the meeting.

Bidyadhar Mohanty, another participant, alleged that MISL has been providing work for only six months to its workers in a year. If the company remains closed for half of the year, why should it be allowed for expansion.

Regional Officer of OSPCB Santosh Kumar Panda admitted that only 22 persons participated in the hearing.

 

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