Kudankulam N-plant: Safety norms gains primacy over commissioning deadline


, TNN | May 16, 2013

Kudankulam N-plant: Safety norms gains primacy over commissioning deadline
Last week, the Supreme Court cleared the power plant, paving the way for early commissioning. Originally, the plant was scheduled to be commissioned in 2007.
NEW DELHI: Regardless of the recent promise made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Durban about the early commissioning of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant (KKNPP), the government has instructed theAtomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) that safety reviews of KKNPP should be run with a “fine-toothed comb” without being pressured by commissioning deadline. In fact, the government had recently invited the Operational Safety Review Team of the IAEA to do an independent safety assessment of other Indian reactors, particularly RAPS (in Rajasthan).Last week, the Supreme Court cleared the power plant, paving the way for early commissioning. Originally, the plant was scheduled to be commissioned in 2007.A whole new set of safety checks were conducted by the AERB after four valves that came from a Russian supplier were found to be “deficient”.Stung by a series of popular protests about safety issues in Kudankulam, which has inspired protests by a large number of NGOs, the government is keen that no stone is left unturned. If this means the Russians are less than pleased, sources said, so be it. They added that some of the supplies from Russian companies have been found to be below par.

NPCIL has that the commissioning of KKNPP would now happen only in June, after another set of checks are carried out. The company said the physical progress of the plant was 99.6% complete.

This week a group of 60 leading scientists wrote a letter to the PM, and chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala asking for more stringent safety checks of the KKNPP. They have sought “renewed study” of safety issues by an independent panel of experts. The scientists — most of them serving in state-run institutions — have expressed doubts, “particularly with reference to possible sub-standard components” used in the plant.

These are not scientists advocating against nuclear energy, but concerned about safety issues. “These safety concerns are compounded by the fact that Russian authorities arrested Sergei Shutov, procurement director of Zio-Podolsk, on corruption charges for having sourced cheaper sub-standard steel for manufacturing components that were used in Russian nuclear installations in Bulgaria, Iran, China and India,” they wrote in the letter, The arrest of Shutov, they cited, led to several complaints of sub-standard components and follow-up investigations in both Bulgaria and China.

While the AERB gave an in-principle clearance for fuel loading of the plant in April, hopes that it would be commissioned by May were dashed after faulty valves made news. In an effort to quell the protests and spiralling negative perception about the power plant, the government has been on an information overdrive to educate and be transparent. This week, minister of state V Narayanasamy said, “All nuclear power projects undergo an elaborate in-depth safety review during the consenting stages, like siting, construction, commissioning, etc. After satisfactory review during project stage, AERB issues operating licence to an NPP for a period of up to five years.”

Last week, responding to a question in Parliament, government assured that components supplied to KKNPP are “tested in an integrated manner during commissioning to verify their performance in accordance to design performance criteria. Any shortfall noticed in performance is addressed/corrected as a part of the commissioning programme”

 

Let’s stop pretending there’s ” NO RACISM ” in India


YENGKHOM JILANGAMBA, The Hindu

INSENSITIVE MAINLAND: Students from the north-east protesting instances of discrimination. Photo: V.V. Krishnan
INSENSITIVE MAINLAND: Students from the north-east protesting instances of discrimination. Photo: V.V. Krishnan

Most Indians think racism exists only in the West and see themselves as victims. It’s time they examined their own attitudes towards people from the country’s North-East

The mysterious death of Loitam Richard in Bangalore, the murder of Ramchanphy Hongray in New Delhi, the suicide by Dana Sangma and other such incidents serve as reminders of the insecure conditions under which people, particularly the young, from the north-east of India have to live with in the metros of this country. What these deaths have in common is that the three individuals were all from a certain part of the country, had a “particular” physical appearance, and were seen as outsiders in the places they died. These incidents have been read as a symptom of the pervasive racial discrimination that people from the region face in metropolitan India.

An institutionalised form

Quite expectedly, such an assertion about the existence of racism in India will not be taken seriously; the response will be to either remain silent and refuse to acknowledge this form of racism or, fiercely, to reject it. Ironically, most Indians see racism as a phenomenon that exists in other countries, particularly in the West, and without fail, see themselves as victims. They do not see themselves harbouring (potentially) racist attitudes and behaviour towards others whom they see as inferior.

But time and again, various groups of people, particularly from the north-east have experienced forms of racial discrimination and highlighted the practice of racism in India. In fact, institutionalised racism has been as much on the rise as cases of everyday racism in society.

In a case of racial profiling, the University of Hyderabad chose to launch its 2011 “initiative” to curb drinking and drug use on campus by working with students from the north-east. In 2007, the Delhi Police decided to solve the problems of security faced by the north-easterners in Delhi, particularly women, by coming up with a booklet entitled Security Tips for North East Students asking north-eastern women not to wear “revealing dresses” and gave kitchen tips on preparing bamboo shoot, akhuni, and “other smelly dishes” without “creating ruckus in neighbourhood.”

BRICS summit

Very recently, in the run-up to the BRICS summit in New Delhi, the Delhi Police’s motto of “citizens first” was on full display, when they arrested or put under preventive detention the non-citizens — the Tibetan refugees. But the real problem for the security personnel cropped up when they had to identity Tibetans on the streets of Delhi. This problem for the state forces was compounded by the fact that Delhi now has a substantial migrant population from the north-east whose physical features could be quite similar to those of Tibetans. So, the forces went about raiding random places in Delhi, questioning and detaining people from the region. North-eastern individuals travelling in vehicles, public transport, others at their workplaces, and so on all became suspects.

Many were asked to produce their passports or other documents to prove that, indeed, they were Indian citizens and not refugee Tibetans. In some cases, “authentic” Indians had to intervene in order to endorse and become guarantors of the authenticity of the nationality of these north-easterners. The situation became farcical and caught the attention of the judiciary reportedly after two lawyers from the region were interrogated and harassed. The Delhi High Court directed the Delhi police not to harass people from the north-east and Ladakh. How much easier it would have been for the Delhi Police, if only citizenship and physiognomy matched perfectly.

But should one expect otherwise from these state and public institutions, given the fact that racism is rampant at the level of societal everyday experiences? For north-easterners who look in a particular manner, everyday living in Indian cities can be a gruelling experience. Be it the mundane overcharging of fares by autoricksaw-wallahs, shopkeepers and landlords, the verbal abuse on the streets and the snide remarks of colleagues, friends, teachers, or the more extreme experiences of physical and sexual assaults. It is often a never-ending nightmare, a chronicle of repetitive experience.

One also wonders if racial attitudes, if not outright racism, influence many more aspects of life than one imagines. For instance, whether there is any racial profiling of employment opportunities, given the concentration of jobs for north-easterners mostly in the hospitality sector, young women in beauty salons, restaurants and as shop assistants.

Visible and unseen

Of course, racism is difficult to prove — whether in the death of Richard or in the case of harassment of a woman from the north-east. And it should not surprise us if racism cannot be clearly established in either of these cases because that’s how racism works — both the visible, explicit manifestations as well as the insidious, unseen machinations. Quite often, one can’t even recount exactly what was wrong about the way in which a co-passenger behaved, difficult to articulate a sneer, a tone of voice that threatened or taunted, the cultural connotations that can infuriate.

How does one prove that when an autorickshaw driver asks a north-easterner on the streets of Delhi if he or she is going to Majnu ka Tila, a Tibetan refugee colony, that the former is reproducing a common practice of racial profiling? This remark could be doubly interpreted if made to a woman from the region — both racial and gendered. How do I prove racism when a young co-passenger on the Delhi Metro plays “Chinese” sounding music on his mobile, telling his friend that he is providing, “background music,” sneering and laughing in my direction? And what one cannot retell in the language of evidence, becomes difficult to prove. Racism is most often felt, perceived, like an invisible wound, difficult to articulate or recall in the language of the law or evidence. In that sense, everyday forms of racism are more experiential rather than an objectively identifiable situation.

Of course, every once in a while, there will be an incident of extreme, outrageous violence that is transparently racial in nature and we will rally around and voice our anger but it is these insidious, everyday forms of racial discrimination that bruise the body and the mind, build up anger and frustration. Fighting these everyday humiliations exhausts our attempts at expression.

If one is serious about fighting racial discrimination, this is where rules must change — by proving to us that in Richard’s death there was no element of racism. Given the pervasiveness of racism in everyday life, why should we listen when we are told that those who fought with him over a TV remote were immune to it?

To recognise that racism exists in this country and that many unintended actions might emanate from racism can be a good place to start fighting the problem. To be oblivious of these issues or to deny its existence is to be complicit in the discriminatory regime. Also, the reason for fighting against racism is not because it is practised against “our” own citizens but because it is wrong regardless of whether the victims of racism are citizens of the country or not. One way to be critical of racism is to recognise and make visible the presence of racism rather than merely resorting to legalistic means to curb this discrimination.

(Yengkhom Jilangamba is a Visiting Associate Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi.)

Indian Govt to ensure security of NE students: Chidambaram


May 04, 2012, Rediff.com

Rejecting the contention that students from North East are subjected to discrimination and racial profiling, Home Minister P ChidambaramImages ] on Friday said the government will take every step to ensure their security and asked states to do the same.

“The government of India [ Images ] will take every step to ensure their security and I am confident that all state governments will discharge their constitutional responsibilities to ensure the safety and security of all people residing within that state,” Chidambaram said in Rajya Sabha.

He was responding to a calling attention notice by Leader of the Opposition Arun JaitleyImages ] in the wake of deaths of two students from North East in Gurgaon, Haryana and BengaluruImages ].

Jaitley said, “I call the attention of home minister towards issues of racial profiling and discrimination towards students of North East, who go to different parts.”

Replying to it, Chidambaram said the state governments were primarily responsible for the prevention of crimes arising out of discrimination, adding, the Centre accorded “highest importance to development of North Eastern region as well as prevention of atrocities against Schedule Tribe and will not countenance discrimination in any form.”

Referring to the recent death of Dana Sangma in Gurgaon near DelhiImages ] and of Richard Loitum in Bengaluru besides allegations of racial profiling against Tibetans during the recent BRICS summit, he said these have caused disquiet and agitation among the community, specially students from the region.

He said the police is investigating the deaths of both Sangma and Loitam after registering cases and conducting post mortems.

Stressing that students from the region have right to security and peace and they are “free to travel and reside in any part of the country,” Chidambaram said it was not correct that the students from the North Eastern states in Delhi were more vulnerable as compared to students from other regions.

“In 2010, 8 cases of offences against women from the North Eastern state were registered and, in 2011, 7 such cases were reported. All cases were investigated and further proceedings are underway,” he said.

Admitting that during BRICS summit on March 29, the Delhi Police did detain some Tibetans and their supporters as there was an apprehension that the Tibetan groups would disrupt the summit, Chidambaram stressed that the police have “categorically stated that there was no racial profiling.”

“During the checking process some Indians, including a few from the North-Eastern States were also detained for a short while and let off as soon as their identities were confirmed,” he said.

He said while the exact number students from North East was not available a number of them resided in metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai [ Images ], Kolkata [ Images ] and Pune to take advantage of the vast opportunities available in other parts of the country and “it is their right to do so.”

Elaborating the steps to address the problems faced by students from North East, Chidambaram said DCP-level officers have designated as nodal officers to specifically address their problems.

“Besides, a North East Connect Cell, headed by a joint secretary-level officer has been formed…to serve as a coordination point with resident commissioners of 8 North Eastern States,” he added

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