Kudankulam power output to start by April-end


Nuclear Power Corp of India Ltd (NPCIL) has denied allegation by a Sri Lankan interest group that the Kudankulam plant in Tamil Nadu was leaking radiation, and said the phase 1 of the project would be ready soon and power production would start by April-end.

The Sri Lankan group, the People’s Movement Against Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, on Saturday alleged that the plant had been leaking radiation since February 27. “There has not been any radiation leakage from the Kudankulam project. Already, the Indian high commission in Sri Lanka as well as the ministry of external affairs have denied the allegation,” R S Sundar, Kudankulam project site director, told Business Standard.

He added the project, which is facing strong opposition from local residents as well, was nearing completion. “We are carrying out a series of integration tests in the presence of a high-level team of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). Village panchayat chiefs and representatives of local governments are also invited during such critical tests in a bid to take them into confidence.”

Some more integration tests will begin from this week. The AERB team has been camping at the project site since last one and a half months and all the tests are being carried out in their presence.

“Nearly 4,000 personnel are currently working at the project site for the commissioning of the 1,000-megawatt (Mw) phase I unit. We expect criticality to be achieved by April and the commencement of power generation by end of April,” Sundar said. The work on the second phase unit of 1,000 Mw is also under way, he added.

The project was born out of an inter-governmental agreement between India and Russia in 1988 and construction of the plant began in 1997.

But the project ran into rough weather after anti-nuclear activists stalled progress last year when the first unit was nearing commissioning. Work eventually resumed and AERB last year gave the go-ahead for uranium fuel loading.

Moreover, NPCIL has stepped up its efforts to reach out to the people from the neighbourhood in a bid to make them aware of the nature of the Kudankulam project and its safety applications. “In fact, the response is quite overwhelming,” Sundar said.

 

#Vedanta vs the government: Just a lovers’ tiff? #tribalrights


by  Dec 19, 2012

 

Earlier this month Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL) announced it was closing its Lanjigarh refinery in Odisha.

VAL’s chief executive officer told the Hindustan Times, “Despite out concerted efforts over the past three months to ensure sustainable supplies of bauxite for our refinery in Lanjigarh, we have not been able to find any solution.”

The company said in a press release that the closure would affect 7,000 people directly or indirectly. Vedanta says the state government is not keeping its promise to provide bauxite linkage to the refinery.

“The bogey of job losses is meant to blackmail the central and state government and influence the court,” social activist Prafulla Samantara told HT. According to Business Standard,  the state government has started the process of identifying prospective alternative bauxite deposits for Vedanta now that  Niyamgiri is out of bounds.

Does that mean Vedanta, whose mining practices have long been the target of activists, is in big trouble? Or that the activists have won?

Not so fast. An Open Magazine article (worth reading in its entirety here) says the government versus Vedanta case is a lot murkier than it would seem from the tit-for-tat press releases and official statements.

In nine cases out of 10, Big Business gets its way. And the perception is that when it does not, it’s not because the government was on its toes, but because it was embarrassed into doing its job.

The Ministry of Environment and Forest did withdraw its clearance for bauxite mining in Niyamgiri after an international campaign against it. The ministry also came down on Vedanta for violating ecological norms and expanding the refinery without an environmental clearance.

But, says Open, “no explanation was offered for the ease with which the MoEF let the project go ahead in the first place.”

That story is the real story that gets people up in arms about how much a Walmart spends lobbying India to get into the market. It’s not that the lobbying is illegal but the sense is that the company-politician nexus is a juggernaut that will ride roughshod over everything else. A Vedanta setback is just a temporary blip. In nine cases out of 10, Big Business gets its way. And the perception is that when it does not, it’s not because the government was on its toes, but because it was embarrassed into doing its job.

So it’s a little hard to take at face value the current scuffle between Vedanta and the Odisha state government as anything but a lovers’ tiff. Odisha is demanding that Sterlite Energy Ltd (SEL), a Vedanta company, deposit its contribution to the Odisha Environment Management Fund immediately, writes Business Standard. Meanwhile Vedanta is applying the screws on the Odisha government for not paying Rs 744 crore dues for power supply from SEL.

Despite all the bad press, Vedanta is happy to play the good Samaritan. On World AIDS day on 1 December, it kicked off an AIDS awareness campaign at Jharsuguda. At Lanjigarh itself it held a free camp for cleft lip and palate surgery. “This is a noble initiative,” Dr Mukesh Kumar, the president and COO of VAL, said. “Vedanta hospital will continue to serve the people of the region.” The Vedanta Foundation and the Odisha state government just signed an MoU for an e-Shiksha project that will help students in tribal areas get LED Pico projectors with memory and backup.

But Open Magazine says that’s not enough. Its reporter found  that the company has tried to build consensus through blank pieces of paper. It claims 3,000 villagers have supported their project. Open found a video that showed residents of the village being asked to put their thumb impressions on blank sheets of paper at a meeting organised by the local Block Development Officer, the village Sarpanch, Tehsildar and Vedanta’s law officer.

In a situation where the state politicians and police are in bed with the company (and the centre is acting partly because an opposition party is in power in Odisha) anyone who speaks out does so very much at his own peril. The local journalist who took that video says he fears every day he will be branded a Maoist and thrown into jail. People fighting for compensation or refusing to give up their land have had dacoity charges slapped on them already.

That’s easy to imagine happening because as Arundhati Roy explained in Outlook, the collusion between a company like Vedanta and powers that be is deep and entrenched.  P Chidambaram was a non-executive director of Vedanta till he became the finance minister in 2004.

What are we to make of the fact that, when activists from Orissa filed a case against Vedanta in the Supreme Court, citing its violations of government guidelines and pointing out that the Norwegian Pension Fund had withdrawn its investment from the company alleging gross environmental damage and human rights violations committed by the company, Justice Kapadia suggested that Vedanta be substituted with Sterlite, a sister company of the same group? He then blithely announced in an open court that he too had shares in Sterlite.

This is not just a jholawallah critique from the Arundhati Roys of the world. Even Ratan Tatais speaking out about crony capitalism. As Gurcharan Das points out in his new book India Grows At Night:

Indubitably the 1991 reforms have unleased business enterprise and this has done a lot of good in lifting the millions out of poverty and into the middle class. But it has also given greater freedom to ‘robber barons’, as it did in the United States at the turn of the nineteenth century… Because many sectors of the economy have not yet been reformed India has increasingly moved to a disturbing situation where large business groups enjoy excessive power.”

Vedanta complains the media is biased against it and never presents its side of the story.  The story of Vedanta deserves attention not because it’s about tribal lands or that the Dongria Kondh people regard the hills as their living gods.  It’s because when the state is weak and corruptible, every company just assumes that it pays to be a robber baron.

In a video obtained by Open when asked by an engineer if they had taken permission to raise the heights of certain embankments, a company rep airily says the company rarely does that. Work is done first and permission taken later.

That about sums it all up.

 

#Vedanta to restart Odisha refinery from Monday #badnews


 
Plant was shut since last week on bauxite unavailability
Jayajit Dash / Bhubaneswar Oct 20, 2012, 18:33 IST

 
A week after going for a temporary shutdown of its alumina refinery at Lanjigarh (Odisha), Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL) is gearing up to restart the plant from Monday, buoyed by bauxite supplies to the tune of around 40,000 tonne from Bharat Aluminum Company’s (Balco) Kawardah mines in Chhattisgarh.

As bauxite availability dried up, VAL was forced to shut down the refinery last Saturday.

 

“Nearly 40,000 tonne of bauxite have reached our refinery premises. We have sourced the raw material from Balco’s Kawardah mines. The bauxite stock will be enough to run our plant for 5-6 days if we operate it at 60-70% capacity, which represents the minimum threshold value of the plant”, a company source told Business Standard.
Balco has two captive bauxite mines in Chhattisgarh- Kawardah and Mainpat, with a combined production capacity of 1.9 million tonne per annum. The Mainpat mine is currently closed.

VAL needed 10,000 tonne of bauxite every day to run the plant at full capacity.

VAL will first start its captive co-generating plant (CPP) to generate steam, necessary for running the refinery. It may be noted that along with shut down of the refinery, VAL had also closed its CPP last Saturday as there was no consumption of steam.

Meanwhile, VAL is eyeing bauxite supplies from Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation (GMDC) after bagging the contract from the state PSU.

“The first bauxite shipment has been loaded by GMDC. We hope to get it within a few days. In all, we will get 90,000 tonne of bauxite from GMDC”, said the source.

The company is also in talks with private firms of Gujarat and Maharashtra that are currently engaged in bauxite exports.

VAL had approached both Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (Fimi) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (Ficci), seeking ban on bauxite exports. While VAL was struggling to keep its refinery operations afloat for want of bauxite, the raw material continued to be exported by private miners in Gujarat and Maharashtra due to better price realisations.

VAL has not been alloted any mining lease in Odisha and fully depends on externally sourced bauxite to run its refinery. It had entered into a pact with state controlled miner Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) for supply of bauxite from Niyamgiri hills.

However, attempts to mine bauxite at the ecologically sensitive hills were red flagged by the Union environment ministry that had scrapped the Stage-II forest clearance on August 24, 2010.

Around 6,500 people, including 550 employed directly, 5,000 engaged indirectly and 1,000 self-employed in and around the plant depended on VAL refinery for their livelihood. The company claimed to have spent Rs 150 crore on the development of the local area and community.

 

Dr. Srinivasan, Half Truths Can Never Tell the Real Story


FROM- WWW.DIANUKE.ORG

Anuj Wankhede

A concerned, educated Indian who does not take paintings at face value.

In a recent Business Standard article, Mr. M.R. Srinivasan – former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission makes a case for nuclear power in India.

I dare him to a debate.

Half truths cannot ever tell the real story.

The fact of the matter is that, what when you talk of a 1000MW project, all nuclear plants in India operate at average 60% capacity utilization (mostly 40%).

To create that sort of combined wind and solar project, it will not take more than two years. Gujrat did it recently and there is no reason other states cannot. Note that this year itself wind energy contribution in Tamil Nadu is at a historic high.

To state that wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine is an argument unbecoming of a scientist. Obviously he knows better, because the sun does not shine at night and life goes on because of ‘stored’ energy!

Mr. Srinivasan says it it not impossible to transport coal, it is only difficult. Why are we only looking for easy answers? Is that become our psyche that we can no longer think of alternatives, just because they are difficult?

Transporting coal from Neyveli in Tamil Nadu to U.P. for power generation is not cheap – it is correct only because politics deems it to be. Have you considered the Transmission and Distribution (T&D) losses and ways to plug these criminal wastages? Or are they too difficult.

For every solution given to the Atomic Energy Board, things are either too difficult or politically inconvenient.

The only convenient thing is to put thousands of innocent lives at risk.

There are many other facts that can be discussed, Mr.Scientist.

And even I – as a layman – will counter them.

I dare you to a debate, Sir.

CONTACT- benchmark.anuj@gmail.com

Aadhaar card has little relevance while investing, buying policies


200 px

Image via Wikipedia

Neha Pandey Deoras / Mumbai March 09, 2012,  Business Standard

Nagpur-based lecturer Bhagyashree Khote was more than happy to receive her Aadhaar number. She had lost her Permanent Account Number (PAN card) some time before and had to make an investment at the earliest to avail of deductions under Section 80C.

However, Khote was asked to produce additional documents like driving licence or passport if she wanted to invest more than Rs 5,000. Unfortunately, she had neither. “When I had enquired over the phone, the mutual fund advisor had agreed to accept Aadhaar. But, later he backed out,” she narrates.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) allows investing in mutual funds without a PAN but only up to Rs 50,000 per year through the Systematic Investment Plan (SIP) route. Investments per month should be less than Rs 5,000.

When contacted, two mutual fund advisors and stock brokers said they accept the Aadhaar card only as a photo identity document. “Irrespective of the amount, we ask for another address proof and birth proof to be sure about the customer, as fund houses demand it and Sebi is also very stringent these days,” said a Mumbai-based mutual fund advisor.

Khote is not an isolated case. Former member of the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) Sukumar Mukhopadhyay told Business Standard, “The card is a proof of identity and not of citizenship. It has only my year of birth. Thus, it will not serve as proof of my birth date, which could have easily been added, since I had mentioned it in the enrolment form. So, for this purpose, I would have to continue relying on my passport.”

Aadhaar is a 12-digit identification number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) on behalf of the Government of India. It displays an individual’s full name, gender, year of birth, photograph and full address.

The card states that it will help avail government and non-government services. But, this will require each organisation to separately notify that it accepts Aadhar, say experts. It is not clear if banks will accept the card for opening accounts. An official from a private sector bank says, “Not all banking services can be provided on the basis of Aadhaar though RBI has agreed to it. As of now, we are allowing only no-frills services on it and that, too, to those who cannot provide any other valid document.” Agrees a foreign banker, adding more clarity is required.

It gets worse when you approach an insurance company, as the card doesn’t mention your date of birth. “The card can help us determine your approximate age but it poses a loss for us if you are on the higher side of an age block. For instance, say, you were born in 1982, which means you should turn 30 this year. But how do I determine if you have turned 30 or not. Pricing such policies becomes difficult,” says the chief executive of a private life insurance company. Hence, they prefer PAN. But, if you are shopping for a smaller cover (Rs 1 lakh and less), you may find takers for Aadhaar.

Aadhaar cannot be an alternative to PAN. It does not serve any extra purpose and those who have a PAN card can do without it.

R S Sharma, director general of UIDAI, says Aadhaar has little relevance for individuals who have all essential documents like PAN. It is primarily for those who do not have any of the important documents. However, if you’ve been transferred to a new city, you will find it easy to get LPG and telephone connections using Aadhaar.

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