#India- Grassland fodder for development in Karnataka #WTFnews


Karnataka’s cattle farmers protest the allotment of 12,000 acres of traditional grazing land for defence, nuclear and other projects. Imran Khan reports

Imran Khan

June 28, 2013

Lifeline The Amrit Mahal Kavals are critical to the livelihood of the local pastoral communityLifeline The Amrit Mahal Kavals are critical to the livelihood of the local pastoral community Photo: Vivek Muthuramalingam

Since the time of our forefathers, our cattle have been  in these grasslands. But now a high wall prevents us from going there,” laments Ranganna, a 58-year-old cattle farmer in south . “Where do they expect us to go in search of fodder?”

Ranganna belongs to one of the nearly 40,000 families from 73 villages in  district (250 km from state capital Bengaluru) that rear livestock for a living. About 12,000 acres of bio-diverse grassland in Challakere taluka of this district has been diverted to make way for a host of defence, , industrial and .

Known for supporting the Amrit Mahal breed of hardy indigenous cattle, these grasslands — called the Amrit Mahal Kavals — have traditionally served as common grazing land for the local pastoral community.

According to the Karnataka Forest Rules, 1969, this grassland ecosystem is designated as ‘forest’. Yet, over a period of three years since 2008, the lands were handed over to the Defence Research and Development Organisation () for a project to build and test unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre () for an uranium enrichment facility, the Indian Institute of Science (IISC) to host a synchrotron (for advanced scientific research), the Indian Space Research Organisation () for a satellite centre, besides other industrial and infrastructure projects. Many small and ancillary industrial units linked to the defence production sector are also expected to come up in the region. Under threat is the livelihood system of the local pastoral community that breeds a variety of livestock in this arid region as its primary economic activity.

According to the state animal husbandry department, Chitradurga district supports 3.16 lakh non-descriptive cattle, 24,000 crossbred cattle, 3.68 lakh goats and 9.31 lakh sheep. The Amrit Mahal Kavals form a support system for this intense practice of animal husbandry and the Challakere Kavals are critical to the livelihood of people across more than 70 villages. Ecologists claim the Amrit Mahal Kavals are the largest contiguous stretch of arid grasslands still existing in Karnataka, and perhaps, all of south India.

Wildlife surveys indicate that the Challakere Kavals are a biodiversity hot spot and habitat of the highly threatened Blackbuck. Some recent records suggest that the critically endangered  is also found in this area.

Against the common perception that villagers are a threat to wildlife, the grazing practices here help prevent the land from being excessively overgrown with grass, creating niches where the wild species can forage for food.

However, these concerns seem to have been set aside when the Karnataka government gave away the ecologically precious land to the projects at a pittance — Rs 30,000-Rs 35,000 per acre. All the projects are expected to have significant environmental and social impact. Elected representatives, institutions of local governance and the residents of the area were kept completely in the dark when the land transfer took place. In fact, the locals came to know of this only when the organisations to which land had been allotted began building boundary walls.

According to Bengaluru-based ngo Environment Support Group (), despite statutory notices from the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board against violation of environmental laws, issued over two years ago, not one of the project proponents has complied with any of the mandatory environmental and forest clearance norms and standards. The DRDO, for instance, has built a 28-km wall in violation of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification of 2006, and has even tested its weaponised drones without any civilian or military clearances.

According to documents accessed by TEHELKA, BARC is conducting advanced research on the nuclear fuel cycle, for developing nuclear fission reactors, atomic energy applications in agriculture and nuclear medicine. Meanwhile, DRDO is building a runway for testing the indigenous drones Lakshya and Nishant.

The DRDO project was initially planned to come up 40 km away in a neighbouring taluka. In 2007, however, the then MP from Chitradurga constituency, NY Hanumanthappa, wrote to Defence Minister AK Antony asking for the project to be shifted to its present location in Challakere. In his letter, Hanumanthappa assured the minister that at the new location there was “no question of acquisition of land and payment of compensation”.

The locals are agitated because no one sought their views on these decisions that were to affect their lives so significantly. “How is it reasonable for the government to allot the land to various agencies without involving its real custodians?” asks Karianna, a local villager and Chitradurga district president of the All India Kisan Sabha (), a peasants’ organisation affiliated with the CPM.

That the locals have been “custodians” of the Amrit Mahal Kaval lands is also acknowledged in a June 2011 report of the iisc, A Precious Heritage: Rapid Bio-diversity of the Khudapura Campus. According to the report, “The land for these campuses has recently been taken over from the local people, for whom this was a grazing commons, and the healthy state of the ecosystem shows that the local grazers and farmers have been wise custodians of this landscape.”

Today, a huge concrete wall prevents these “custodians” from accessing their pastoral lands. Activists allege that by allowing this 28-km wall to come up, the government has undermined the locals’ right to life, given their dependence on the grazing commons. The region has also been severely hit by repeated droughts that have further worsened the condition of the local pastoral community.

Even as pastoral activities are becoming less viable, the other major source of livelihood — blanket weaving — is also under threat. Challakere is famous for the kambali (woollen blankets) woven by the local Kuruba community. “The kambali industry has already been hit due to dwindling supplies of wool. Loss of grazing land is making it worse,” says R Girish of the Woollen Handloom Weavers Production and Sales Cooperative Society in Doddalluthi village.

Unable to maintain their livestock, people are resorting to distress sales and migrating to other places. TEHELKA visited a local cattle fair and found that cattle were being sold to butchers at throwaway prices. “We are selling the cattle as fodder has become unaffordable,” says Kenchalingappa, a 48-year-old cattle herder. “We may have to move from here and seek work as labourers in Bengaluru.”

The AIKS mobilised the local villagers to petition the Karnataka High Court against the transfer of their grazing land. The ESG, too, has raised the matter of environmental violations and ecological impact with the South Zone Bench of the National Green Tribunal in Chennai. Following ESG’s petition, the tribunal has formed a two-member expert committee to hold public consultations and review the environmental and ecological consequences of the diversion of land to the projects. The tribunal is expected to arrive at a decision in July, based on the committee’s report.

“People in these areas have been living in sub-standard conditions. There are no proper schools and no toilets,” says HS Jagadeesh, IISC’s special officer for the Challakere project. “With the coming up of the projects, the quality of life in general will improve. There will be ample employment opportunities. Also, a scientific city will emerge in a backward district.”

At its core, the conflict is between the promise of a technologically advanced society pitted against the traditional livelihoods of pastoral communities. There is also the question of whether the wild species on the verge of extinction, such as the Great Indian Bustard, can survive the drone testing, the nuclear fuel enrichment facilities, and the intense urbanisation and industrialisation that will follow

Jagadeesh says, “Development will come at some cost.” However, the people of Challakere ask why they should be the ones to pay the price.

imran@tehelka.com

 

#India – Why Narendra Modi behaves like larger-than-life Rambo


This Pic is by Amir Rizvi

This Pic is by Amir Rizvi

Economic Times, Kigshuk Nag, 28 Jun, 2013
Narendra Modi hasn’t formally studied economics or sociology, but he sure has intimate knowledge about the theory of expectations.

In essence, the theory suggests that a person will decide to act in a way that will lead to the fulfilment of what he expects to happen.

So, Modi knows that if electors can be convinced to believe that he will win in 2014, they will actually vote for him. Thus, his whole effort now is to convince theelector that he alone will be the victor.

Though given to talking big for a long time – lately earning him the epithet of feku – this is the real reason for Modi for projecting himself as a Rambo who rescued 15,000 Gujarati pilgrims from Uttarakhand in a day.

The logic works like this: if a particular elector believes that electors in general are convinced that Modi is a Rambo, he will expect them to vote for the Gujarat chief minister and make him the winner.

This, in turn, will induce this particular voter to be in tune with the general mood and plump for Modi (unless he has specific reservations).

Expand this particular voter to the universe of all voters and it is easy to figure out how a general expectation that Modi will win can lead to his actual victory.

Of course, the reverse is also true. A general belief that he cannot win will induce non-committed voters to cast their franchise for someone else. Modi is also using the expectation theory when he warns CBI officers that the government could change in the near future. Read this as, proceed gingerly in the Ishrat Jahan case and do not cross me because tomorrow I willbe your boss.

As a matter of strategy, Modi is also using the theory of expectations along with the public mood in the country that is for “change”. The mood for change first became clear from the massive support garnered by Anna Hazare in 2010-11. Hazare’s enormous popularity was because people saw him as the change agent. But this was short-lived because people soon realised that Hazare could not deliver on the change that they wanted. Actually, the people also do not know the “change” that they seek.

Modi is cognisant of this and is offering himself as the change agent.

The task of Modi’s spin doctors will be to build more attributes for the man, so that they tend to align with the change that the people want. Some changes that people want are fairly clear: they want an honest, transparent regime.

That such a revolution cannot take place in India through our defective electoral system – where loads of moolah is needed – may be known to analysts but not to the common man.

Thus, Modi’s men will project him as clear-as-a-crystal leader who delivers on his promises without fear and prejudice. At the same time, they will de-emphasise some of the attributes that have stuck to Modi.

The most obvious of them is his being anti-minority. To counter this, BJP proposes to produce a vision document for minorities.

Slowly, Modi is also being seen as a handmaiden of big business. As evidence of this, last week, a huge crowd of farmers rode into Ahmedabad in trucks, tractors and trailers protesting the Modi government move to forcibly acquire 50,887 hectares of farm land for a special investment region. Expect Modi nowto become pro-farmer.

Modi’s biggest apprehension, however, is that the 2014 elections becoming a referendum on him. This is in spite of Modi revelling in being perpetually in public gaze and nothing can be a bigger ego-booster than a national election exclusively focused on him. A poll where Modi is pitted against Rahul Gandhi or Manmohan Singh is less difficult for him to manage considering the Congress’ two-term anti-incumbency effect.

But a battle that becomes a choice, want Modi or don’t want him, can become an almost insurmountable obstacle for Modi to cross.

This is because many who prefer Modi to Rahul will pause and evaluate carefully whether they want Modi at all. Many who will give the thumbs down to Rahul will not approve of Modi in isolation because they know he is a feku, projecting a larger-than-life image of himself.

The writer is resident editor, Hyderabad, The Times of India

 

Press Release- #Uttarakhand- We cannot ignore the climate crisis anymore!


INDIA CLIMATE JUSTICE

 

STATEMENT ON THE UTTARAKHAND CATASTROPHE

We cannot ignore the climate crisis anymore!

 

 

25 June 2013

 

The India Climate Justice collective notes with deep anguish the devastating loss of life, livelihoods, and homes in Uttarakhand and beyond. The death toll is likely in the thousands, way beyond current official figures. We extend our deep condolences to the families and friends of those killed, and our support to those still fighting for survival, and to local populations whose livelihoods will take years to rebuild.

 

This tragedy was triggered by extreme unseasonal rains in North India, 2-3 weeks in advance of what is normal for this region. The Director of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), Dehradun, said that 340 mm fell in a single day at Dehradun, a record not seen for five decades. Such extreme and unseasonal rainfall seems to us to indicate a global warming induced climate change phenomenon. Warmer air due to global warming has the capacity to hold more moisture, leading to more intense bursts of rainfall. The natural monsoon cycle in India has already been badly disrupted, and a new cycle of extreme rainfall events and prolonged droughts have been reported from all over the country in the recent past. Thus, contrary to statements by senior politicians, the Uttarakhand disaster is not natural: it is no less man-made than the other contributors to the tragedy. And if it is indeed induced by global warming, similar catastrophes could recur with increasing frequency and intensity anywhere in the country in the coming years.

 

In Uttarakhand, a chaotic process of ‘development’ that goes back many years exacerbated the effects of this extreme rain. Extensive deforestation of mountain tracts, by the state and more recently due to ‘development’ projects, led to soil erosion and water run-off, thus destabilizing mountain slopes and contributing to more intense and frequent landslides and floods. Unchecked hill tourism has resulted in the huge growth of vehicular traffic, spread of roads not suitable to this mountainous terrain, and the construction of poorly designed and unregulated hotels and structures, many near rivers. Sand mining along river banks has intensified water flows into rivers.

 

Most of all, the construction and planning of hundreds of small, medium and large dams across the Himalayan states from Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand in the northern Himalayas to Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the east, have destabilized an already fragile ecosystem and threatened biodiversity. A staggering 680 dams are in various stages of planning, or construction in Uttarakhand alone! These dams have a direct connection with the extent of the damage that can be caused in such flooding events, in that the tunnelling and excavation in the so-called run-of-the-river projects cause huge and unregulated dumping of excavated debris into river basins, leading to increased siltation, and in turn aggravating the flood situation. The electrical power generated by these dams will be consumed by urban elites elsewhere. It is ironic that these dam projects, while adversely impacting people’s access to their river commons, claim to be climate change solutions in the guise of renewable and green energy, and have already made huge profits by fraudulently claiming CDM (clean development mechanism) status. In 2009, the CAG had warned the government of Uttarakhand that the “potential cumulative effect of multiple run-of-the-river projects can turn out to be environmentally damaging”. Like many other warnings by environmentalists and local community groups in the past, this was also ignored. And now we are facing one of the biggest disasters that the country has seen in decades.

 

The central government of India and various state governments, including the govt of Uttarakhand, have prepared action plans for combating climate change. Any such plan ought to include the establishment of a disaster-prediction and warning mechanism. The Uttarakhand government has taken no measures to prepare for this kind of eventuality, though it has paid lip service to climate action plans over the last three years.  In the present case, the IMD issued inadequate warning, which was disregarded by the state government. An urgent prior warning could have ensured that pilgrims don’t move forward and retreat to relative safety, that locals reduce their exposure to risk to the extent possible. Thousands of pilgrims from different states, locals, workers in hotels and dharamshalas, and transport animals have been killed. Cars with people inside them were washed away. Those who have survived had to go without food for several days. Thousands are still stranded at different points, or in forests, and we are still counting the dead.

 

There has also been extensive devastation of local lives and the regional economy. Serious devastation has been reported from over 200 villages, so far. Innumerable locals, including agricultural workers, drowned in the raging waters or were submerged under mud and debris. Houses have collapsed or been washed away. Tourism and the local employment it generates have been hit indefinitely at the peak of the tourist season. Floods, landslides and debris have devastated agriculture along the rivers. Irrespective of whether these extreme rains are due to climate change or not, this is what a climate change world in the Himalayas looks like. This devastation is a glimpse into a climate uncertain future.

 

We see this tragedy as a result of cumulative and widespread injustice and wrongdoing: not only against the Himalayan environment, but also against mountain communities whose survival depends on that environment. This tragedy is also a crime, because our policy makers and administrators are also part of the larger climate injustice at a global scale that threatens, displaces and kills the marginal and the poor everywhere. On another plane, they simply let it happen. We believe that adaptation to disasters does not just mean desperate rescue work during and after the event, but also reducing vulnerability and risk before. Effective adaptation involves a series of measures that need to be adopted on a war footing. The sustainable development of a hill economy, and equity – not profit for a few – should be at its core.

 

India Climate Justice demands:

 

·         That the governments at the central and state level retreat to a low carbon pathway of development that has equity, decent employment, and sustainability at its core.

 

·         That the planning and construction of dams in the entire Indian Himalayas be reviewed, and all construction be halted until such a review is carried out.

 

·         That the use of explosives in all such infrastructure development works is completely stopped.

 

·         That, given the likelihood of extreme rainfall events and other climate extremes in the future, extensive and sub-regional warning systems are put in place urgently across all the Himalayan states, the coastal areas and beyond.

 

·         That a proper assessment of the carrying capacity of specific ecosystems is carried out.

 

·         That the eco-sensitive zone measures be implemented from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi and eco-sensitive zones be established in other river valleys.

 

·         That a river regulation zone be enforced such that no permanent structures are allowed to be constructed within 100 metres of any river.

 

·         That the residents and their organizations are thoroughly consulted in a democratic plan on climate change, in the revival of the local hill economy, and the generation of decent employment.

 

·         That all working people be compensated for the loss of life and livelihood, and that urgent plans are put in place for the revival of local livelihoods and agriculture.

 

·         That the central government learn from the Uttarakhand catastrophe to put in place prior adaptation measures not just for the mountainous regions but beyond, for coastal and the drought-prone interiors as well.

 

 

 

(INDIA CLIMATE JUSTICE)

 

 

Endorsing Organizations

All India Forum of Forest Movements; Pairvi; Beyond Copenhagen; South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers and People; National Alliance of People’s Movements; Himalaya Niti Abhiyan; New Trade Union Initiative; All-India Union of Forest Working People; Chintan; Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha; Toxics Watch Alliance; Nadi Ghati Morcha, Chhattisgarh; Rural Volunteers Centre, Assam; Vettiver Collective, Chennai; Himal Prakriti, Uttarakhand; Maati, Uttarakhand; Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti; River Basin Friends (NE); India Youth Climate Network; Intercultural Resources; Kabani, Kerala; Human Rights Forum, Andhra Pradesh; National Cyclists Union, India; Equations; Posco Pratirodh Solidarity, Delhi; Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives; Science for Society, Bihar; Nagarik Mancha; SADED; JJBA, Jharkhand; BIRSA; Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee; Adivasi Mulvasi Astitva Raksha Manch; National Adivasi Alliance; Bank Information Centre; Focus on the Global South; Jatiyo Sramik Jote, Dhaka; Jharkhand Jungle Bachao Andolan; People’s Union for Democratic Rights; All India Students Association; All India Progressive Women’s Association

 

Individuals

Badri Raina, Kamal Mahendroo, Benny Kuruvilla, Subrat Sahu, Arun Bidani, Saurav Shome, Amitava Guha

 

India Climate Justice is a collective comprising social movements, trade unions, other organizations and individuals. It was formed in 2009 to respond to the growing climate crisis, from a perspective of justice and equity.

Emailindiaclimatejustice@gmail.com

Tel:  09434761915, 09717771255, 09910476553

 

#India – #Uttarakhand Undone by rampant mining, illegal buildings


Author(s):
Issue Date:
2013-6-24

Uttarakhand government has made no attempt to enforce mining and building regulations in the state, which exacerbated flood’s impacts

imagePhotograph: Sowmik Mukherjee

In the decade that followed grant of statehood to Uttarakhand in 2000, the state’s development priorities changed. Infrastructure and real estate development, triggered by the cash flow from tourism, have led to indiscriminate mining of river beds for construction material, altering the fragile Himalayan environment. This human activity has exacerbated the effects of the flash floods that have badly affected the state.

The number of tourists visiting Uttarakhand since 2000 has increased by 155 per cent, according to data with the Uttarakhand tourism department. When floods struck on June 17, close to 28 million people were visiting the state; the state’s population is half this number.

Tourism stress

While the Association of Hotels and Restaurants of Uttarakhand, a private body of hospitality entrepreneurs, estimate that over 100 small hotels, mostly on the banks of rivers, have been swept away in the recent floods, accommodation for tourists remains a concern. A working paper of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations published in 2008 on the economy of the state in 2006 illustrates this shortage. A survey conducted by the authors of the paper on development strategy for the hill districts of Uttarakhand stated that annually the state has only 8.4 tourist rent houses per million tourists, 102.5 hotels and guest houses per million tourists, and 337 beds available for every million tourists. The shortage of dwelling units to meet the ever-increasing numbers of tourists visiting the state led to the mushrooming of illegal structures, some of which were constructed right on the river banks at the risk of being swept away by seasonal flash floods.

Land in Uttarakhand currently being diverted for mining
Name of the district Area in hectares Name of the river Area in hectares
Uttarkashi 141.84 Bhagirathi 104.17
Yamuna 25.22
Kamal Nadi 12.45
Chamoli 115.81 Alaknanda 59.95 + 1.3(Tehri) + 18 (Pauri Garhwal)
Pindar 26.65
Birhi 19.71
Dhauli Ganga 9.5
Rudraprayag 51.38 Mandakini 31.58
Madhu Ganga 19.8
Dehradun 63.51 Tons 9.42
Aamlava 54.09
Tehri 29.56 Dayagad 3.44
Chandrabhaga 9.82
Song 10
Bal Ganga and Dharam Ganga 5
Pauri Garhwal 67.91 Kolhu Nadi 4.02
Mandal Nadi 30
Silgarh Nadi 10.89
Ganga 5
Champawat 182.8 Sharda 100.31
Saryu Ramganga 6.21
Ram Ganga 2.5 + 14.778 (Almora) + 1.255 (Pithoragarh)
Ladhya 73.78
Almora 59.62 Swal 2.64
Binsar 3.41
Nanha Kosi 3.55
    Kosi 4.97
    Panar 7.35
    Saryu 4.9 + 3.57 (Pithoragarh) + 8.825 (Bagheswar)
    Gagas 5.01
    Binod 7.76
    Devta 5.25
Pithoragarh 34.08 Gori Ganga 1.28
    Kali Ganga 21.84
    Gori 5.61
    Dholi Ganga 0.52
Udham Singh Nagar 724.69 Bour 100.02
    Feeka 42.99
    Bahela 6
    Dhaila 30
    Koshi 304.2 + 26.085 (Nainital)
    Gaini 10
    Dabka 15
    Kailash 198.8
    Goula 12.68
    Huddi 5
Bageshwar 13.87 Dhandhali 1.19
    Gomati 3.85
Nainital 123.83 Gola 89.75
    Khaima 6.60
    Nihal 1.39
Total 1,608.9    

A public interest litigation filed in the Uttarakhand High Court by Roorkee resident, Dinesh Bhardwaj, shows there was scant regard for a notification passed by the state government in 2000, prohibiting any construction within 200 metre of a riverbank. Bhardwaj could not provide a count of the number of structures in his petition, but in February 2013 the bench comprising of chief justice Barin Ghose and justice Alok Singh ordered the state government to demolish all structures along the banks of rivers. Several structures were identified along the banks of the rivers Ganga, Song, Bhagirathi, Alaknanda and Mandakini. No action was taken; only notices were issued, says a disgruntled Bhardwaj. “Had the state government taken an action against these illegal encroachments, people dealing with these structures would not have to face such a loss,” he adds.

River bed mined, forestland diverted

Experts say the main indicator of the thriving real estate business in Uttarakhand is the way river beds are mined for boulders, pebbles, sand and gravel. On June 13, 2011, Swami Nigamanand who had been fasting for 68 days in protest against the indiscriminate and illegal mininghttp://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/swami-and-sand-mafia [2] on the Ganga river bed by a local quarrying and sand mining company, died. Subsequently, former Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh wrote to the then chief minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal, to end indiscriminate mining of the river bed. Data accessed from the state forest department show that from 2000 till 2010, 3,903.24 hectares (ha) of forestland in the state have been diverted for different mining projects.

In 2011 the state formulated a new policy on mining. It proposed auctioning of various sites identified by the mining department. Forest officials at the meeting said that the state government would be able to realise a profit of Rs 300 -350 crore if these sites could be auctioned and favoured the passage of the new policy. Tenders were floated for mining sites at the end of 2012, which proposed an additional diversion of 1,608 ha of land for mining across all the districts (see table). The policy states that the first right of quarrying up to 5 ha of land would rest with the owner. Incidentally, most of the mining happens on river banks or on unmeasured land known as be naap zameen, which used to be under the gram panchayats. Until last year, about 400,000 hectare of be naap zameen was under forest department. However, with the new mining policy in place, these land parcels were transferred to the revenue department. Locals opposing mining fear that the state might divert these land parcels for commercial purposes. Mining department officials, however, have been arguing that the transfer was undertaken to prevent indiscriminate and illegal mining.

But officials of the state mining department fail to explain why mining was stopped at Tailihat village of Garur Block in Bageshwar district of the Kumaon region weeks ahead of last year’s elections, only to be resumed after a few weeks, when the election results were declared. As Tailihat’s case was documented by Charkha Trust, a non-profit working with youth in the region, it turns out most of local youth were involved in the illegal mining on the Gomati river bed. This caused deep resentment among residents who were struggling to continue their farming activities amidst hundreds of trucks and dumpers taking out sand from pits 25 feet deep. A 40 kilogram of sand bag was sold for Rs 20 in the area.

Professor R Shankar of IIT-Roorkee’s environment engineering and planning division warns that unscientific mining of sand, boulders and gravel from the river bed will cause more devastation if it is not checked. “Himalayan rivers carry not only silt but large boulders and pebbles. Sometimes during the monsoon the river spills over or spreads because of the presence of large amounts of silt. Therefore, it (the silt) needs to be removed. However, one needs to understand the course of each and every river to its specifics; only then can such an activity be undertaken,” adds Shankar.

 

source- down to earth

 

#India – Activist, PMRD fellow, being victimised in Gadchiroli mining row #TISS #WTFnews


Gadchiroli, June 25, 2013

Pavan Dahat, The Hindu 

The mining row, which saw a senior executive of a company and two others being killed by the Naxals last week, has taken a new twist with the police now targeting an activist and a Prime Minister Rural Development Fellow (PMRDF) for alleged links with the Naxals.

A team of the Gadchiroli police’s special anti-Naxal unit — C-60 — claimed to have raided a village, Kovunwarsi, in Etapalli tehsil of the district on June 20 and arrested Sunil Yeshu Hichami (27) and Paika Majhi Pungati (45) over the allegation of collecting funds for the Naxals.

Police also claimed that Mahesh Raut, a PMRDF, and Harshali Potdar, an activist from Mumbai, were present in the village when they arrested the Naxals.

A leading English newspaper on Sunday reported that Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut had been booked under Sections 13, 39 and 40 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

But Aheri Additional Superintendent of Police Rahul Shreerame said that both of them were just questioned for some time and let off. Mr. Shreerame denied having registered any offence against Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut.

Contrastingly, Superintendent of Police (SP) Suvez Haque said the police had, in fact, booked them under various offences “because they were found in the same village from where other two Naxals were arrested.”

However, Gadchiroli police PRO Dharmendra Joshi told The Hindu that both Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut had been let off after some “preliminary questioning.”

A top district official of Gadchiroli told The Hindu on the condition of anonymity that the police had not registered any offence as reported by the English newspaper and as claimed by the SP.

This district official also questioned as to why both Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut had not been taken into custody if the police booked them for such serious offences.

But Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut (both alumni of Tata Institute of Social Sciences) and the villagers of Kowanwarsi had an entire different chain of events to narrate.

“As a PMRD Fellow, I often visit these interior areas. On June 20 also, I went to visit these villages one by one. Harshali, who is studying the environmental threat caused by the proposed mining projects in this area, also accompanied me to these villages. At around 9.00 a.m., we reached Kovunwarsi and decided to take a nap at the house of the village Patil. At 10.00 a.m., a team of C-60 came to the village and arrested some people. They asked for our identity cards and told us to proceed with our work,” Mr. Raut told The Hindu .

“When we were returning to Allapalli in the evening, the police stopped us and took us to the Pranhita Police Headquarters where they questioned us for more than 30 hours,” he added.

Police alleged that Ms. Potdar and Mr. Rauthad gone to Kovunwarsi village to meet senior Naxal leader Narmada Akka.

But Ms. Potdar, Mr. Raut and the villagers have denied these claims.

“They came to inspect village infrastructure. They were sleeping in my house when the police arrested some Naxals from another house,” said Joga Buklu Hedau, the village Patil.

Even the District Collector of Gadchiroli, Abhishekh Krishna, said that Mr. Raut often visited interior areas in the Aheri division for his work.

“His work has been the best among all other PMRD fellows who work under me,” said Mr. Krishna.

According to Amol Marakwar, a Zila Parishad member of Gadchiroli, Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut were being targeted for their “visible opposition” to the proposed mining projects in Surajagad Gatta range.

“Harshali had very strongly raised objections to these projects in a public hearing in Allapalli last month. Now she has been harassed for publicly opposing it” said Mr. Marakwar.

Mr. Haque did question Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut’s open opposition to the proposed mining projects in this area.

“How can they oppose the government’s projects despite being a part of the government?” asked the SP.

Ms. Potdar confirmed that the majority of questions addressed to her were related to mining.

“They even asked me why we had two CDs of Kabira Kala Manch and why I saved some of the contacts in my mobile phone as ‘Comrades’. They even had problem with some people greeting me with Lal Salam and Jai Bhim . They searched our house and our laptop is with them now,” said Ms. Potdar.

Presently, the police at Aheri headquarters calls the duo for questioning on a regular basis. Some times Ms. Potdar is asked to come to the police station even after 6.00 p.m.

The duo has not been told if they have been booked or not.

“They asked us to sign on a blank paper, but we refused” said Mr. Raut.

Mr. Marakwar called the police exercise “an attempt to destroy roadblocks against the proposed mining projects in the area” and a “blatant violation of Human Rights.”

 

What’s going on at Kudankulam?


M. RAMESH, The Hindu

It’s going to take some more time for Kudankulam to get started.
It’s going to take some more time for Kudankulam to get started.
 

What’s holding up the commissioning? Is it a problem with the valves and cables? Or something more?

The Site Director at the Kudankulam nuclear power project, R.S. Sundar, is a man apparently wizened by experience.

When Business Line asked him if the project would really start producing power in July (the latest revised deadline), his response was as honest as it was terse: “We hope.”

One cannot fault Sundar for his lack of conviction. A man no less than the Prime Minister of the country assured his Russian counterpart in December 2011 that the project would be commissioned in “two weeks” and said exactly the same thing again to the same individual three months ago.

The project was originally scheduled to be commissioned in December 2007. We Indians have learned to live with such timeline misses; frustration over project delays does not manifest itself in much more than puckered lips. Given the issues, such as faulty valves and cabling, it looks like there is no way the plant will be commissioned any time soon.

What’s happening?

But more frustrating than the five-and-half-year delay in the Kudankulam project is the lack of transparency in matters around the project.

Technical people in responsible positions engaged in the construction of the project have been telling this correspondent for well over a year that everything is ready for commissioning and they did not know what was causing the delay.

Their conjecture — which could be erroneous — has been that the entire establishment is awaiting word from the Prime Minister’s office to yank the lever.

It is well over a month since the Supreme Court gave its clearance for the project. Ask Sundar, he will tell you that “preparations and review process are going on”.

The project has already suffered a cost overrun of Rs 4,000 crore. In December 2011, when protestors had stopped work at the project, his predecessor, Kasinath Balaji, famously lamented that each day of delay cost a revenue loss of Rs 3 crore. But now there is a resounding silence.

Valves and cables

Something is happening inside that black box called Kudankulam. Nobody says what.

In this information vacuum, the most contextually credible perspective provided by down-the-line engineering staff and technically knowledgeable observers is that the delay is due to the valves scare.

It goes like this: some valves supplied by the Russian company Zio Podolsk have been found to be sub-standard and who knows how many other valves are defective?

Some of these other valves are inside the sealed reactor and cannot be easily removed. They are probably safe enough, but the shrillness of the anti-nuclear, anti-Kudankulam protests has reached such a crescendo that even a minor safety incident would inevitably result in a flare-up.

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) would not want to end up with egg on its face by giving clearance for the commissioning.

So, they are going into the manufacturing log books of the Russians, component by component, to make sure things are alright. But the problem with this approach is, it is still not fool-proof. And everybody knows that.

What is not helping matters is the manner in which information was withheld when news about the faulty valves broke out.

When it was a matter of public record that a Special Secretary in the Department of Atomic Energy, A.P. Joshi, visited Zio Podolsk in July 2012, five months after the arrest of Sergei Shutov, the Procurement Director of the company, for fraud and corruption and supply of shoddy products to reactors, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India came up with the claim in February 2013 that “no information regarding any investigation against Zio Podolsk is available to NPCIL.”

And now there is talk of faulty cabling. In an article, A. Gopalakrishnan, a former Chairman of AERB, has said that large tracts of cabling would need to be re-done and this could take several months.

Could these faulty valves and cables (and God knows what else) set the project commissioning further behind? Nobody knows.

Misinformation thrives in this information-gap. One fails to understand why the nuclear establishment does not come clean and tell people what exactly is happening.

It apparently does not want to. S.P. Udaykumar, who is leading the protests against the nuclear plant, says that despite an order of the Central Information Commissioner, NPCIL has refused to share the ‘safety analysis report’ and the ‘site evaluation report’.

Incidentally, the Commission in its order tellingly noted thus: the Commission repeatedly asked the PIO to identify and explain the specific interest which might be affected….he gave no reasons whatsoever for claiming that the security, strategic and scientific interests of the State would be prejudicially affected if the Reports were disclosed.

Udaykumar has consequently filed a case with the Delhi High Court asking for the reports.

Why the silence?

Elsewhere in the world, reports such as these are freely shared with the public.

In one of his articles, Gopalakrishnan noted that “the contrast between how nuclear regulators in the best of democracies openly interact with their peoples and how the DAE and the AERB shrink from the public is quite apparent to all and this is increasing the disaffection and distrust of the Indian public for all nuclear operations and their safety.”

At a time when the country is suffering from an unprecedented power crisis — worst experienced by Tamil Nadu which is the chief beneficiary of the project — the monstrous delay in the project is going unexplained.

People ought to be told what exactly the issue is, whether there are faulty components and if so, the seriousness of the problem and the remedies available.

Those responsible for the delay, be it individuals or companies of Indian or foreign origin, should be brought to account.

Repeating Enron in Jaitapur- Miscalculations of the cost of energy from Jaitapur will cost #India


English: Internationally recognized symbol. De...

 

Suvrat Raju, Hindu 

 

The tariff of Rs. 4 per unit of electricity is unrealistic unless the government subsidises the cost of the first two Areva reactors by Rs. 22,000 crore

More than a decade after Enron’s collapse, its legacy continues to haunt Maharashtra. In 2006, the Dabhol power project was restructured into the Ratnagiri power project with public subsidies that, by some estimates, amounted to Rs. 10,000 crore. The project has led a troubled existence and in March this year it announced that it may have to stop servicing its outstanding debt of Rs. 9,000 crore because of a problem with its fuel supply. In spite of this reminder of the continuing long-term costs of sweetheart deals to attract foreign investment in the power sector, a team from the Indian atomic energy establishment left for France last week to repeat the same mistakes.

Problem with design

The French company Areva, just like Enron, has been promised a contract for six European Pressurized Reactors (EPRs) by executive fiat, bypassing a competitive bidding process. The reactors will be set up in Jaitapur, which is also in Ratnagiri. No one knows the exact extent of this give-way, because no EPR has been commissioned anywhere in the world. Areva started construction on its first EPR in Finland in 2005, with a promise to complete the reactor by 2009, at a price of just over €3 billion. After eight years, the reactor is still incomplete but cost estimates have ballooned to €8.5 billion —almost thrice the original figure. Areva has various excuses, but similar delays and cost increases in the second EPR under construction in its own country point to a more fundamental problem with the EPR design.

There is little public data about the EPRs being built in China, but these prices are consistent with those proposed for EPRs in Britain and indicate that each Indian reactor may cost as much as Rs. 60,000 crore. So, the price of the two reactors that the government hopes to commence in the Twelfth Plan period will equal the total plan outlay on science and technology including the departments of Space, Science and Technology, Biotechnology, and research labs throughout the country.

What does this imply for consumers? In 2010, the then CEO of Areva, Anne Lauvergeon, told this newspaper that the tariff would be “below the Rs. 4 figure.” More recently, Areva suggested that this “tariff holds true,” except for small escalations because of the delay in operationalising the project.

Both Areva and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) have doggedly refused to explain the origins of this number. In the same 2010 interview, Lauvergeon said that “I am not going to give you the details … it is not for me to give the price if the customer does not want to give it.” The government has also refused to divulge information in meetings with local activists or even in response to parliamentary questions, where it has fallen back on the story that the final price is still under negotiation.

However, it is possible to independently estimate the cost of electricity using a study on the economics of imported reactors that the government produced in preparation for the India-U.S. nuclear deal. This was later updated and published by NPCIL.

When M.V. Ramana and I applied this framework to the Jaitapur reactors, in a paper for theEconomic and Political Weekly, we concluded that the true cost of electricity is likely to be almost four times as high as what the government claims. The figure of Rs. 4 per unit comes from a combination of unrealistic assumptions and a revenue model that provides massive public subsidies to the project.

The single most important factor in determining the tariff is the capital cost of the reactor. The government claims that the Indian EPRs will be cheaper because construction forms “about 40 per cent of the total cost.” Estimates suggest that construction costs in India are about 60 per cent lower than Europe. So, under best case conditions, the government could hope for about a 25 per cent reduction in the total cost.

However, the capital cost assumed in the government’s study is not 25 per cent lower, but literally 25 per cent of the figure for European reactors! It is this assumption of an unrealistic capital cost that underpins the Rs. 4 figure.

The study also reveals how the government plans to set out an exceedingly generous revenue model for the project. For example, it assumes that the project will have access to long-term debt at an interest rate of only 6 per cent. This is inconsistent with the serious concerns about the project’s viability. Moreover, since the yield on 10-year Indian Government bonds has been consistently higher than 7 per cent, even the full backing of the government will not bring the rate down to this level in the open market. So, the government will have to arm-twist public sector banks or itself provide a long-term loan to the project at this throwaway rate.

Another subsidy is built into the government’s plan to inject equity during the first few years of construction. In the government’s revenue model, this money will sit idle for more than a decade until the reactor becomes operational. Assuming, optimistically, that the EPRs are constructed as fast as the Kudankulam reactors, this delay will bring the government’s return on equity down from the advertised rate of 14 per cent to an effective rate of only 7.7 per cent. Further delays, which are likely, will reduce this further.

When these parameters are corrected, and combined with a realistic estimate of the cost of fuel, the government’s own methodology leads to a first year tariff of Rs.15 per unit, even without including transmission and distribution costs. Obviously, this cannot be passed on to consumers, and so the state will have to subsidise the electricity. To bring the tariff down to Rs. 4 will require a subsidy of Rs. 22,000 crore each year for the first two reactors. This “Areva-subsidy” is a quarter of India’s entire food subsidy bill.

There are other serious questions about the project. For example, Areva’s reluctance to accept even a small amount of liability is in sharp contrast to its unscientific claims that it has precisely computed the probability of a serious accident in an EPR, and found it to be once in 1.6 million years.

But the economics of this project are so appalling that it is possible to separate these issues and even the broader question of the role of nuclear energy in India. Even the nuclear establishment accepts, as WikiLeaks revealed, that the “NPCIL [has] paid a ‘high’ price”. The justification for the project cannot be Maharashtra’s electricity shortage either since at this price it is possible to find several alternative solutions to that problem.

Jairam Ramesh admitted that for the government, the “venture is significant not just from an energy generation but also from a strategic point of view.” Anil Kakodkar, former chairperson of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission, explained that India had to “nurture” French “business interests” because France helped India when it wanted access to international nuclear markets.

Back-room deal

This is an admission of an unsavoury back-room deal. However, a moment’s reflection also brings out the circularity of this argument. France supported India’s efforts because it wanted to sell reactors to India. Why should the country return this self-centred help by paying through its nose?

There is a simple but significant political aspect to this entire issue. It is clear that this deal and the concomitant negotiations to purchase reactors from American companies are being driven by pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office. The reason that negotiations with Areva have taken on an urgent note is because the government’s prospects in the next elections are uncertain. If the next dispensation does not have the same ideological commitment to imported nuclear reactors, these deals may flounder.

Our system concentrates enormous financial powers in the hands of the executive. However, just because the government has the power does not mean that it has the right to rush into a deal that could bleed the country for years to come.

— SUVRAT RAJU

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/repeating-enron-in-jaitapur/article4834435.ece

 

 

 

One woman in three , worldwide suffer domestic violence: WHO #Vaw #Womenrights


VAW

Agence France-Presse | Updated: June 20, 2013 20:55 IST

Geneva: More than one woman in three around the globe is a victim of domestic violence, with those in Asia and the Middle East most-affected by the scourge, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.


In what it billed as the first-ever systematic study of global data on the prevalence of violence against women and its health impact, the UN agency said 30 percent worldwide faced such abuse at the hands of their partners.

“These to me are shocking statistics,” said Flavia Bustreo, head of the WHO’s family, women’s and children’s health division.
“It’s also shocking that this phenomenon cuts across the entire world,” she told reporters.

The WHO blamed taboos that prevent victims from coming forward, failings in medical and justice systems, and norms that mean men and women may see violence as acceptable.
The findings were extrapolated from figures provided by 81 countries which maintain data, and did not single out individual nations.

The scale of abuse was highest in Asia, where data from Bangladesh, East Timor, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand showed that 37.7 percent of women were affected.
Next was the Middle East, where prevalence averaged at 37 percent. Sub-Saharan Africa followed, with 36.6 percent.

An average of 23.2 percent were affected in a group of high-income countries including North America, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
“These data really show the tremendous toll violence has on the health of women,” said Claudia Garcia-Moren, a WHO specialist on gender, reproductive rights, sexual health and adolescence.

Underlining the impact of such abuse, the WHO said that globally, 38 percent of female murder victims were killed by their partners.
In addition, it said, violence also leaves scars long after bruises disappear and broken bones heal.

Women with a violent partner were twice as likely to suffer from depression and develop an alcohol problem, compared to women who did not experience abuse.
Victims of violence were also found to be far more likely to contract a range of sexually-transmitted diseases, from syphilis to HIV.

The study also flagged the higher likelihood of abused women having an unwanted pregnancy, an abortion, or an underweight baby — and their children were more likely to become abusers or victims in adulthood.

 

#India – The Naxal, the Tribal, and the Doctor


naxalarea

June 19, 2013 ,

 Recent news reports state that the Chhattisgarh government has asked International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to suspend its operations in the Bijapur district where it had operated for the past two and a half years. ICRC had been providing medical help to violence hit people in the tribal dominated area. This order of suspension raises important questions about (a) the duty and ability of the state to provide medical services to the tribal population in that area, and (b) the willingness of the state to allow medical services to affected people in an area affected by Maoist violence.

 

Bastar district is a predominantly tribal area, with more than two-thirds of the population belonging to the Scheduled Tribes category. Ninety percent of the population is rural, more than 87% of the population is employed only seasonally, and literacy levels are among the lowest in Chhattisgarh. Two thirds of the Village Reports, or Jan Rapats prepared by the villagers themselves (Jan Rapats are prepared by all villages in Chhattisgarh, and reflect the needs and views of the villagers) state that health facilities in these areas are very poor.

“Most villages emphasise that the availability of medicines, appointment of health personnel, improvement in the quality of health care, Government aid, and the availability of clean drinking water are areas that require attention.”

 

Though 6.25% of Chhattisgarh’s population is based in the Bastar district, the area had 3 hospitals, no dispensaries, and 57 Primary Health Care centres as of 2001. Forty percent of the population had no access to toilet facilities, safe drinking water, and electricity as of 2001.

(Human Development Report Chhattisgarh, 2005. Available here.)

 

Bastar has also been in the news recently owing to the naxal attack on Congress’ Parivartan Yatra convoy on May 25, 2013, during which senior Chhattisgarh Congress functionaries and security personnel were killed.

ICRC first expressed its willingness to enter Naxal affected areas in Chhattisgarh in 2008, and was welcomed by Chief Minister Raman Singh (Sourced from here):

“Certainly, ICRC plays a vital role in mitigating the sufferings of people in conflict zones across the globe. With the kind of resources and expertise ICRC has at its command, its presence will benefit the poor tribals of the region where a huge population is suffering and hundreds of children have been orphaned in the conflict…”

Interestingly, he went on to say,

“We have no problem even if such organisations provide medical assistance to Naxalites injured in encounters with security forces…We also do the same thing. Whenever Naxalites are injured, they are hospitalised so that they can be punished by a court of law for their crimes.”

 

Since 2010, ICRC has run a Primary Health Care centre, mobile clinics, and a hand-pump rehabilitation programme to ensure safe drinking water for the tribal population. According to another Times of India story, international agencies have helped play a crucial role in providing essential health care facilities in the region:

“Last year, when a diarrhoea epidemic broke out in South Bastar, killing nearly 100 people, Bijapur administration had enlisted the support of MSF and UNICEF, apart from calling doctors from other districts. But in Dantewada, in the absence of such an intervention, and in the face of an acute shortage of doctors, a large unknown number of people died without medical support.”

Then why the order of suspension?

The order of suspension has ostensibly been given by the district administration because “…ICRC is yet to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the state government” regarding its work in the region. State government sources have said that since ICRC is an international organization, it needs “certain clearances from the centre” for carrying out its operations.

If ICRC has operated in Bastar since 2010, how was it able to function without obtaining clearances from the central and state governments for almost three years? How was it able to bring in medical equipment, and (presumably) foreign personnel into a security sensitive area, and operate without the required permissions for all this time? Does the state and district administration seriously expect people to believe that they allowed ICRC to work in a Naxal dominated area for close to three years without the proper paperwork?

 

News reports indicate that other reasons may also be at play here. In 2011, the police in south Bastar and Dantewada had alleged that ICRC, along with MSF (Doctors Without Borders) which had been operating there since before ICRC started working there, was facilitating the treatment of Maoist rebels. Two Maoist rebels who had been arrested claimed that they were being treated by ICRC and MSF.

“These two organisations are deliberately going to Maoist camps and spending weeks. The foreign doctors should know what they are doing. I am from an enforcement agency and can’t welcome them having extra love for Maoists, but not for people injured in Maoist brutalities.” – Senior Superintendent of Police, Dantewada (Sourced from here)

 

According to him, people from the two organisations could be prosecuted under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act that prohibits direct or indirect contact with Maoists.

 

The recent order of suspension, coming soon after the Maoist attack on May 25 can then also be seen through the lens of an overzealous state and district administration irked by the fact that ICRC is treating Maoist rebels. If in fact this is the case, several questions beg to be asked: What prevents doctors from treating Maoist rebels injured in conflict, especially after the Chief Minister himself expressly stated that he would be fine with such treatment? Does the duty of a doctor to treat injured people depend on whether a person is suspected of being an insurgent or terrorist? Does such treatment in itself make a doctor an accomplice in the crimes the injured is suspected of having committed? If yes, should lawyers representing suspected terrorists also be made accomplices to crimes committed by their clients?

 

The central government has repeatedly touted its plan of combining development with improving law and order as a solution to Naxalism in these regions. ICRC is one of the most reputed health care agencies operating in Bastar, an area with a clearly documented lack of health care facilities. The administration at all levels clearly needs to reconcile its twin goals of development and security enforcement in a transparent, and rational way. Essential health care for tribals in a conflict-ridden area, and the work of doctors cannot be left to the alternating prioritization of security enforcement and development. This is especially so when the Jan Rapats reveal how miserably the state has failed in meeting the expectations of the local population.

SOURCE- http://polityinindia.wordpress.com/

 

 

#India – Chhattisgarh Diagnostics Privatisation Cancelled #goodnews #healthcare


The plan for privatisation of diagnostics services in Chhattisgarh has been cancelled. The RFP and tenders which had come in are no longer valid. This is a victory for  Jan Swasthya Abhiyan in Chattisgarh , The most heartening part of the struggle was the overwhelming support that this issue got from varied quarters.
indiahealth

Chhattisgarh diagnostic project on hold

SUVOJIT BAGCHI, The HINDU

State government says the policy requires a “fresh look”

The Chhattisgarh and Union governments have decided to halt the prestigious public-private partnership (PPP) project in diagnostic services in the State.

While Chhattisgarh’s Principal Health Secretary M.K. Raut said privatisation of diagnostic services was rolled back “for the time being,” the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) refused to partially fund the outsourcing of diagnostic services. Last February, the State government invited private players to “set up shops” in the health facilities sector. Defending the programme on the government’s behalf, the Health Department’s technical assistance body, the State Health Resource Centre (SHRC), said that “outsourcing of health services” to private laboratories would enhance efficiency and facilitate delivery of services.

Mr. Raut, however, denounced the flagship privatisation project, which required a “fresh look.”

“In [the] near future we will take a fresh look at the project and decide a course of action,” he told The Hindu . A “revised PPP model” would be in place “in the coming months.”

Chhattisgarh has 154 community health centres (CHC) and 756 primary health centres (PHC). The government, Mr. Raut said, may consider implementing the PPP model in “a few” remote CHC and PHCs. “It would depend on whether it is possible for us to reach those areas or not. The PPP in diagnostic services will not be implemented in the district hospitals or 5,211 sub health centres.”

The government had issued request for proposals (RFP) from private health service providers to set up diagnostic services at public hospitals and health facilities, paid for by the taxpayer. The proposal was severely criticised by health activists and Mr. Raut said the “RFP and the floated tenders are closed chapters now.”

Explaining what compelled the government to retract a project floated only few months back, he said the “gaps need more scrutiny.” “We have to figure out a mechanism to monitor private players in remote areas.”

The Health Department is also not sure how the private players can be regulated. “A diagnostic chain may use government premises to market its services to the outpatients. We need to ask, why the government should provide incentive to a private player to do business using public facility,” said Mr Raut. He clarified that the government would not dismantle its “existing infrastructure and retrench staffs” to create space for the private players.

Owing to inadequate and chaotic public health care services in India, patients turn to private facilities, which are mostly unregulated and where quality is a concern. With the Union Health Ministry’s growing focus on more privatisation in health care, it was clear decades back that the health budget would not get the necessary boost. Rather, in view of the growing flow of private finance in health sector a National Health Policy was formulated in 2002 and the PPP model was suggested.

Chhattisgarh, known for abysmal health care in remote regions, has followed that model as it could not fill the post of 965 radiographers and laboratory technicians over the last several years. To fill those vacancies and provide necessary equipment to the health centres, the State health budget needed an additional funding of at least Rs. 30 crores, which was not available. Besides, trained technicians are generally reluctant to work in remote areas. In this context, the government opted for the PPP model.

However, in a span of four months the policy changed and Mr. Raut said the government had a “new PPP policy” in place and the “diagnostic sector policy has to fall in line with the new one.”

The NRHM has also refused to partially fund the present model and asked the State to “revise the proposal based on the Government of India recommendation” and submit a supplementary programme implementation plan.


  • Private players were invited to “set up shops” in the health facilities sector last February.
  • The Chhattisgarh Government has put the scheme on hold pending a “fresh look”.

 

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