#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

 

Violence in Dalit hostel: NHRC issues notice to HRD Ministry


BS|  New Delhi  June 5, 2013

The National Human Rights Commission today issued a notice to the Union HRD Ministry over alleged caste-based discrimination and violence in a hostel of Dalit students in Patna University.

According to an NHRC statement, the Commission issued notice to the Secretary of the ministry and has given him four weeks time to respond.

The notice was issued after the rights panel took cognisance of a media report alleging fierce caste-based discrimination and violence in the PU hostel accommodating Dalit students.

The panel has also received a complaint from an NGO, Navsarjan Trust of Ahmedabad, quoting media reports that 18 Dalit students committed suicides during the last four years in premier educational institutions including IIT-Mumbai, IIScBengaluru, IIT-Kanpur, AIIMS, the statement said.

It has observed that the news report, if true, reflects widespread prevalence of discrimination towards Dalits in the educational institutions driving them to take extreme steps.

“The state has the responsibility and duty to ensure that an atmosphere is created in educational institutions wherein everyone, irrespective of caste, creed or religion, can pursue studies. The Constitution has also elaborate provisions to stop discrimination against the Dalits,” the statement said.

 

#India – Security projects ‘violate’ green laws as they start work in Karnataka


Agencies revealed the information about the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and the Defence Research and Development Organisation in the National Green Tribunal.

31 March 2013
www.dailymail.co.uk

 

Security projects ‘violate’ green laws as they start work in Karnataka

By Dinesh C Sharma UPDATED: 01:25 GMT, 30 March 2013

 

In the name of national security, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) have ‘violated’ environmental laws by starting construction work on strategic projects in an ecologically sensitive zone in Karnataka, an environmental lobby group has claimed. 

The BARC project is aimed at upgrading a classified ‘technology demonstration’ project involving the nuclear fuel cycle for both civilian and military use. 

The facility is designed to meet “future requirements of upgraded fuel for power sector as well as for other strategic purposes”, according to the nuke agency. 

The ecologically sensitive zone in Karnataka

The ecologically sensitive zone in Karnataka

The DRDO project will develop an aeronautical test range with dedicated airspace for testing of unmanned air vehicles (UAVs). 

Norms violated

No environmental and forest clearances have been granted for the two projects which are coming up in Challakere taluk of Chitradurga district. 

The area in which the two projects are coming up has been classified as grasslands and district forests. 

WHATS IN THE PIPELINE

The projects are part of a cluster of scientific projects coming up in the region. Together these projects will need around 10,000 acres of land.

The two agencies have admitted that they have already spent close to Rs 100 crore on the initial developmental work on the projects in the past two years.

BARC said: “Major construction activities will be carried out only after necessary clearance from the ministry of environment and forests and the Karnataka Pollution Control Board”. 

On the other hand, DRDO claimed that no clearance is required as the test range is not a commercial airstrip and will not have a bunkering facility.

The agencies have been forced to reveal the information about the projects in the National Green Tribunal, where the projects have been challenged by Bangalore-based Environment Support Group. 

The tribunal has not stayed work on the projects but has appointed a two-member committee to inspect the sites. “The experts will make an inspection of the land in question as also the ecological and environmental status and also the activities undertaken by the proponent and file a report, which would assist the tribunal to decide on the controversy”, the order said. 

“Nuclear and defence agencies are invoking national security to cover up violation of environmental laws. None of the project proponents have complied with any of the mandatory environmental and forest clearance norms and standards”, Leo Saldanha, petitioner in the case, said. 

He said the ecologically precious land had been given to different agencies at a cheap price of Rs 30,000 to Rs 35,000 per acre.

High value

Besides DRDO and BARC, other projects coming up in the cluster include a new campus of the Indian Institute of Science and the satellite centre of the Indian Space Research Organisation

The land allocated for the projects is the last remaining contiguous area of semi-arid grasslands ecosystem traditionally known as ‘Amrit Mahal Kaval’. 

It is critical to a variety of flora and fauna including the threatened antelope species, critically endangered birds like Great Indian Bustard and Lesser Florican. In addition, inhabitants from 60 villages in the vicinity depend on the grasslands for their livelihood. The Kaval area had been designated as ‘district forests’ for protection under the Karnataka Forest Rules, 1969. 

CONTESTED AREA

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE- National Green Tribunal constitutes Fact Finding committee for diversion of forest land to nuclear projects


National Green Tribunal constitutes Fact Finding Committee to determine ecological and environmental consequences of massive diversion of ‘Amrit Mahal Kaval’ (forest) land to Defense, Nuclear and Industrial Projects in Chitradurga, Karnataka

In a significant direction, the South Zone Bench of the National Green Tribunal comprising of Justice Mr. M. Chockalingam (Judicial Member) and Prof. Dr. R. Nagendran (Expert Member) set up a two member committee of experts to visit Challakere Taluk in Chitradurga District of Karnataka and study the ecological and environmental consequences of diversion of 10,000 acres of ‘Amrit Mahal Kaval’ (traditional pasture grassland ecosystems and District Forests) for a variety of Defense, Nuclear, Industrial and Infrastructure projects. The expert members named by the Tribunal are Dr. S. Ravichandra Reddy, Retd. Professor of Ecology, Bangalore University and Dr. K. V. Anantharaman, Deputy Director, Scientist “C” (Retd.), Central Silk Board, Bangalore.

 

The decision to constitute the expert team was taken on 21st March 2013 based on applications filed by Leo F. Saldanha and Environment Support Group before the Tribunal during February 2013. The Applicants have consistently pointed out that the Karnataka Government comprehensively violated various forest, biodiversity and environmental protection laws while diverting about 10,000 acres of ‘Amrit Mahal Kaval’ for defense, industrial and infrastructure development projects. All this has also been done, without any Statutory Public Hearings and in total secrecy, thus comprehensively violating the Principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent that forms a major basis of various environmental and human rights protection laws. Further, it has been vehemently contended that this diversion is in absolute contradiction to various policies of the Central Government that seek to protect grasslands and livelihoods of pastoralists.

 

The Applications contended that all these gross illegalities have been committed despite the widely known fact that these ecologically sensitive grassland ecosystems serve as a special and critical habitat to a variety of flora and fauna; large herds of the highly threatened antelope species such as the Black Buck (Antilope cervicapra) graze these grasslands, and the ecosystem is a typical habitat for critically endangered birds such as Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps, only 250 individuals known to survive in all of South Asia) and Lesser Florican (Sypheotides indicus). These grasslands ecosystems have for centuries supported the rearing of drought tolerant locally bred variety of Amrit Mahal Cattle, besides providing a wide range of livelihoods opportunities for communities in about 60 directly impacted villages located around the Kaval. It is in consideration of all these values that the Karnataka Government had designated such Kaval land as District Forests per the Karnataka Forest Rules, 1969 and their protection was made sacrosanct by directions of the Karnataka High Court in 2002 and subsequent orders of the State.

 

The Challakere Kaval land ranges over 12,000 acres, and constitute the last remaining large contiguous semi-arid grassland in Karnataka. The State which boasted at the time of independence of possessing about 4,00,000 acres of ‘Kaval’ grasslands, is now, per the Forest Department submissions to the Supreme Court, left with only about 45,000 acres of such habitat. Producing incontrovertible evidence before the Tribunal, the Applicants demonstrated that the beneficiaries of the illegal transfer of such ecologically precious grassland/forest land include Defense Research Development Organisation (for drone testing and development), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (uranium enrichment facility), Indian Institute of Science (Synchroton), Indian Space Research Organisation (satellite centre), Sagitaur Pvt. Ltd. (Solar Farm), Karnataka Housing Board (township), and Karnataka Small Scale Industries Association and Karnataka Udyog Mitra (for a range of private industrial and ancillary units related to the defense sector) – all of which are projects with significant or massive environmental and social impacts. All of these proponents have been provided such ecologically precious land at a pittance of a cost: Rs. 30-35,000/acre.

 

The Applicants have also produced evidence that despite statutory notices of violation of environmental laws from Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, issued about two years ago, none of the project proponents have complied with any of the mandatory environmental and forest clearance norms and standards. Instead, a variety of project activities have commenced including the building of a 30 kms long high wall by DRDO in comprehensive violation of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2006 which categorically bars commencement of any project activity until environmental and forest clearances have been granted. Such developments have blocked local pastoralists’ access to their pasture land and to lakes and streams which are critical drinking water sources for cattle. This is particularly worrying given the long periods of drought affecting the region causing extensive distress to impacted families. Besides, the massive wall has seriously constrained the movement of the highly endangered Black Buck, and could potentially isolate the population, thus weakening its genetic vitality. In addition, DRDO is on record to have conducted various bombing sorties in the grasslands, none of which appear to have been with any consent from civil and military authorities.

 

The Applications filed in February 2013 have prayed for interim relief of stay on ongoing illegal activities and for allowing access to grazing pastures for local pastoralists. In consideration of this aspect the Tribunal has repeatedly sought the response of the Karnataka Government and Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests, including even directing Karnataka’s Principal Secretary for the Environment Department to appear in person on 13th March 2013. Yet, no response has been forthcoming. Taking this situation into account, the 21st March order observes that “(i)n the considered opinion of the Tribunal, the counter of the respondents have to be taken into consideration before deciding the question whether to grant an order of interim relief or not and hence, (the case hearing) has got to be adjourned granting time till 15.04.2013 to file their counter. It is made clear that if the counter is not filed by any of the respondents, it will be taken that they have no counter to offer.”

 

The Applications and related documents are accessible on the ESG website at: www.esgindia.org and a copy of the 21st March 2013 order of the Tribunal is enclosed.

 

Leo F. Saldanha

Applicant in 6/2013 as Party in Person

leo@esgindia.org

Bhargavi S. Rao

Coordinator (Education)

bhargavi@esgindia.org

Arthur Pereira

Trustee representing ESG in Application 12/2013

arthurjpereira@gmail.com

Environment Support Group

An overview of the allocation of lands and the purpose for which Challakere’s ‘Amrit Mahal Kaval’ lands are diverted

Sl. No.

Organisation

Village Name

Sy. No.

Extent of land in acres

Purpose

A

B

C

D

E

F

1

Defence Research Development Organisation

Varavu Kaval and Khudapura

343, 47

4000 and 290 respectively (total 4290)

Advanced R&D complex, a 3.5 km runway and test centre for long-endurance ( 48-72 hours) UAVs and UCAVs

2

Indian Institute of Science

Khudapura

47

1500

Synchrotron, Energy Research Centre and Advanced Aerospace Research Centre

3

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre

Ullarti Kaval and Khudapura

1, 47

1410 and 400 respectively (toatel 1810)

Special Material Enrichment Facility (Uranium)

4

Indian Space Research Organisation

Ullarti Kaval and Khudapura

1, 47

473 and 100 respectively (total 573)

Spacecraft Technologies

5

Karnataka Small Scale Industries Development Corporation

Ullarti Kaval and Khudapura

1, 47

250 and 50 respectively (total 300)

Various industrial ancillary units

6

Sagitaur Ventures India Pvt. Ltd.

Khudapura

N.A.

1250

Integrated Solar Park Development along with Grid Connected 25 MW Solar PV Power Project

7

Karnataka Housing Board

Khudapura

47

50

Developing Housing Layout and sale of constructed villas

Total

9323 confirmed

 

-- 
Environmental, Social Justice and Governance Initiatives
Environment Support Group - Trust
1572, 36th Cross, Ring Road
Banashankari II Stage
Bangalore 560070. INDIA
Tel: 91-80-26713559~61
Voice/Fax: 91-80-26713316
Web: www.esgindia.org
Email: esg@esgindia.org

 

#Pune- Week long festival of democracy starting @Jan26 #filmfestival


Dear All,

Lokayat is organising a number of public programs in the coming 10 days. Here is a brief list:

Program 1. 

Republic Day talk on:

Constitutional Vision of Education and Neo-liberal Assault:

Undoing Dreams of Freedom Struggle

Speaker:

Dr. Anil Sadgopal

Prof. of Education (retd.), Delhi University and

Member, Presidium, All India Forum for Right to Education

Date:   Jan 26, 2013, Saturday

Time:   6 – 8.30 pm

Venue: Lokayat Hall, Opp. Sydicate Bank, Law College Road, Near Nal Stop, Pune.

Program 2:

Lokayat is hosting

International Travelling Uranium Film Festival

Dates:  Jan 27 – 31, 2013 (five-days)
Time:   6 to 10 pm everyday (out of these 4 hours, two hours will be dedicated to the Uranium Film Festival. During the remaining 2 hours, films of the Vasundhara Film Festival will be screened.)
Venue: Balgandharva Rangmandir, Jungli Maharaj Road, Pune.

ENTRY FREE.

Concept note:

The International Uranium Film Festival (http://www.uraniumfilmfestival.org/index.php/en/is dedicated to films about the Uranium atom and the possible dangers to Planet Earth’s environment and the very survival of humanity, from both its military and peaceful uses. It includes both documentary and fiction films on issues like: Uranium mining, nuclear power plants, atomic bombs, nuclear waste, radioactive risks, nuclear medicine, Hiroshima, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima. Many of these films screened during the festival are critically acclaimed international award winning documentaries. The best and most important productions receive the festival award “Yellow Oscar”.

This festival is unique as it is the only festival in the world dedicated to this vitally important global issue. Marcia Gomes de Oliveira, Brazilian social scientist and filmmaker, is the Executive Director of the festival, and Norbert G. Suchanek, the German writer and filmmaker, is the General Director of the festival.

The Uranium Film Festival starts from Rio de Janeiro and then travels to other cities around the world. This year, for the first time, the festival travels to India. Shriprakash, the National Award winning film-maker from Ranchi, is the festival coordinator in India. The festival is being organised in 8 Indian cities: New Delhi, Shillong, Ranchi, Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Trichur and Mumbai.

We will be screening a total of 16 films during these 5 days. The films are extremely rare and top-quality films by some of the world’s most famous documentary makers, and so if you are interested in the issue of atomic bombs and atomic energy, these are a must-see.

The discussion following the screenings would be coordinated by Norbert Suchanek, Marcia Gomes, Shriprakash and Neeraj Jain.

Inauguration of the festival takes place on January 27 at 6 pm at the Balgandharva Rangmandir, followed by screenings of two films, ATOMIC BOMBS ON PLANET EARTH and INTO ETERNITY. I shall be sending you the exact schedule of films in a few days.

Note: We are organising the Uranium Film Festival as a part of the Vasundhara Film Festival. We were invited to be a part of the organising committee of the Vasundhara Film Festival, and we agreed and proposed that they co-host the Uranium Film Festival, to which they agreed.

Program 3:

Seminar on:

Global Warming: Myths and Facts

Speakers:

Soumya Dutta, Scientist, Researcher and Activist, based in Delhi, National Convenor, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha; Convenor, Energy and Climate Change Group, Beyond Copenhagen Collective.

J. Srinivasana, Ph. D. from Stanford; presently Chairman of Divecha Centre for Climate Change, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; Lead Author of IPCC fourth assessment report, 2004-2007 and Review Editor of the IPCC report on Climate Change.

Date:  January 30, Tuesday

Time:  2 – 5 pm

Venue: College of Engineering, Shivaji Nagar, Pune.

(This seminar is being co-hosted with the Vasundhara Film Festival and Janeev, a social-environmental student club of COEP.)

Program 4:

Seminar on:

Sustainable Solutions to India’s Energy Crisis

Speakers:

Admiral (retd.) Laxminarayan Ramdas, Vir Chakra, Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal awardee; former Chief of Indian Naval; awarded Ramon Magsaysay Award for peace; active campaigner on environmental issues for many years.

Soumya Dutta, Scientist, Researcher and Activist, from Delhi; National Convenor, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha; Convenor of climate and energy group, Beyond Copenhagen Collective (India); member, South Asian Dialogue on Ecological Democracy.

Neeraj Jain, Electrical Engineer, Writer and Activist; associated with Lokayat, an activist group based in Pune; author of: Nuclear Energy, Technology from Hell, published by Aakar Books, New Delhi.

Date: January 31, Thursday

Time: 1.30 pm to 4.30 pm

Venue: Seminar Hall, Fourth Floor, Marathawada Mitra Mandal’s College of Engineering, Karve Road, Behind Vandevi Temple, Pune.

(This seminar is also being co-hosted with Vasundhara Film Festival.)

Entry is free to all the above-mentioned programs. 

Other Programs

Apart from the formal programs mentioned above, Lokayat continues its campaign to create awareness about the social roots of violence against women. After talks by Prof Uma Chakravorty, we have had numerous talks by Lokayat activists in various colleges of Pune on the subject, stagings of the play Mulgi Zhali Ho and also stagings of our play on female infanticide, Ek Nai Shuruaat, film screenings of women-related films, and street campaigns on the roads of Pune on the subject. We also continue to organise lectures on various other issues in various colleges, and our cultural group has also organised numerous cultural programs all over Pune, For more details of these programs, you may visit the Lokayat Website.

Do join us for some of these programs. And if you are interested in joining us actively, rather than just attending these programs, do come down to our Sunday meetings from 4 to 7 pm every Sunday at the Lokayat hall.

in solidarity,

Neeraj

 

Sparks fly at IISc over Anand Patwardhan documentary on Babri masjid razing


By Aishhwariya Subramanian | Place: Bangalore | Agency: DNA

Proving that communal tension exists even within the hallowed halls of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), a heated argument broke out at IISc on Wednesday after a documentary was screened on the campus about the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

The documentary, Ram Ke Naam, which is Anand Patwardhan’s controversial take on the 20-year-old issue, was screened by a student body that has representatives from both IISc and the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS).

When the documentary began, some students got into an argument with the organisers over its controversial content. By the time the documentary got over, the two groups erupted into a loud argument that left several members of the audience at loss for words.

Much of the problem arose from the posters used by the organisers. The posters contained a blurb from Patwardhan himself, describing Vishwa Hindu Parishad as a “militant group”.
“They plastered these posters, calling the VHP a ‘militant group’ all across the hostels in the campus. There is already some communal tension because of it and because of these posters, there are also counter posters put up in the hostels. They are just trying to cause trouble by screening this documentary, which is full of lies and does not even want to discuss the facts,” said a PHd student from IISc who did not wish to be named.

The student body group, on the other hand, said they simply wanted to screen the documentary to mark the 20th anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition.

They also noted that several students from the IISc had written to the Students’ Council prior to the screening to get it canceled. The Students’ Council, in turn, wrote to the registrar and the public relations officer of the institute. While the administration gave the group the green signal to screen the documentary, the PRO was present the entire time.

“I just want to clarify that this documentary was not screened on behalf of the IISc but by the students’ group called Concern,” he said. Overall, the public screening was attended by close to 150 people, most of whom were from the IISc.

While the scuffle between the protesters and the organisers never turned physical, one of the protesters raised the slogan ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai‘.

 

BELOW IS A REACTION FROM RAVI, WHO WAS THERE AT THE SCREENING

 

From: ravi <ra.ravishankar@gmail.com>
Date: 15 December 2012 23:34

I went for the documentary screening and find this report very
problematic, right from the way it is pitched: “communal tension” in
the “hallowed halls” of IISc! The problem wasn’t one of “communal
tension”, it was more a reaction by a small group of rabidly
pro-Hindutva students to a film they feared would expose the Hindutva
movement’s blood-stained past and give the lie to its claim to
represent all Hindus.

The report describes the documentary as Anand Patwardhan’s
“controversial” take on the Ramjanbhoomi-Babri Masjid issue, and
attributes much of the problem to the publicity posters which
described the VHP as “militant”. Is any popular anti-Hindutva work
non-controversial? Why should a work be defined by the ruckus raised
by the Hindutva forces? If an adjective was badly needed, why not
“award-winning” instead of “controversial”? As for describing the VHP
as militant, I too find it problematic since the term has a fairly
neutral meaning; “fascist” would have been more accurate.

Here is my understanding of how the events unfolded. The screening was
organised by a student group called Concern
<http://www.facebook.com/pages/Concern-IISc/142948592461127>. Once the
screening was finalized, and necessary permissions taken from the
appropriate IISc authorities, publicity posters were put up. A motley
group of rabidly pro-Hindutva IISc students swung into action, put up
misleading counter-posters, and persuaded the Students Council
President to write to the IISc public relations officer recommending
cancellation of the film. A petition was also circulated to this
effect, and it apparently got about 100 signatures. However, Concern
folks got wind of this action, and eventually managed to let the
screening go ahead with an important caveat — there was to be no
discussion after the screening, and Concern was responsible for
evacuating the audience out of the venue once the film ended. There
was considerable uncertainty about whether the event will go ahead
until the day of the screening … The pro-Hindutva students also
threatened a legal suit if the posters describing the VHP as
“militant” were not removed, but (I think) Concern didn’t budge.

About 150-200 people came for the screening. I was about five minutes
late, but heard from a friend that when the organisers attempted a
brief intro to the film, the Hindutva group (sanghis) started shouting
and the screening was started hurriedly without an intro. Not that it
kept the sanghis quiet though. They continued to shout once in a
while, either when they were particularly aggrieved (as when none of
the Hindutva supporters interviewed in the film seemed to know exactly
when Rama was born; a sanghi in the audience asserted that Rama was
born 9.5 lakh years ago, and claimed fossil evidence to this effect!)
or to express approval for Narendra Modi or an egregious character on
screen (like when Advani barked “Mandir Wahin Banayenge” — we’ll
build the temple THERE). I think the guy who set Rama’s age at 9.5
lakh years departed midway through the screening, perhaps embarrassed
at his antics and not wanting to be identified in public (much like
the anonymous sanghi quoted in the DNA report). Another one shouted
out a suggestion: invite Subramanian Swamy to know the truth about
Ayodhya!

When the film ended, the sanghis who had stayed back started shouting
immediately. Concern folks tried to get everyone out of the room
immediately, but the sanghis wanted a captive audience. It later
turned out that they haven’t been able to muster such big audiences
for their events, so wanted to have a say then and there. In the words
of one of them, paraphrased as I remember: “When we have some events
to talk about corruption or issues of national interest, no one turns
up. But for this biased documentary, so many have come.” The room was
soon cleared, and a shouting match ensued outside. The Sanghis
departed with cries of “Jai Shri Ram, Bharat Mata ki Jai, Concern is a
Naxalite group, Ban Concern” etc.  For me, this was a good taste of
sanghi thuggery when they lack numbers and don’t have the active
support of the administration. Friends told me that a similar
screening in other campuses, such as Hyderabad Central University
which has a strong ABVP unit, would be more fraught with danger.
Likewise for events outside university campuses.

All in all, this event was an interesting contrast to the previous
screening of Ram Ke Naam that we had organised several years ago at
UIUC. The sanghis at UIUC didn’t want to crawl out of the woodwork and
stand exposed for their politics, but it turns out some of the sanghis
at IISc felt no such restraint. Perhaps they expected some support
from the neutral section of the audience, and when none was
forthcoming their boorishness took over. Such hostility to a
two-decade old documentary makes one wonder how much more rabidly they
would react to an event on contemporary Hindutva, or its practice in
Gujarat.

ravi

Univ of Colorado at Boulder scientist deported from Delhi airport ,labelled as ‘scaremonger’


 Telegraph

New Delhi, Dec. 11: An American seismologist highly-rated in geological circles but labelled by some as a “scaremongerer” has said that the Indian government has, under the influence of a senior Indian scientist, banned his entry into India.

Roger Bilham, a University of Colorado geophysicist, who was sent back from New Delhi airport on May 19 this year while in transit to Bhutan, has said that he learnt again last week that he is still on a list of foreigners not permitted to enter India.

Sections of Indian scientists familiar with Bilham’s work say his research studies on earthquake hazards in the subcontinent have generated controversy in India, but said they are surprised at the government’s decision to keep him out of India.

Bilham and a collaborating Bangalore-based geophysicist Vinod Gaur had suggested that Indian authorities might have underestimated the seismic risk at the site of a proposed nuclear power station in Jaitapur, Maharashtra.

Over the past decade, Bilham has predicted that the Himalayan region is ripe for several giant earthquakes greater than magnitude 8, and cautioned that any one of these could kill more than a million people in the densely populated urbanised Gangetic plains.

“It’s unfortunate if Bilham has been barred entry because of his scientific views,” said Rangachar Narayana Iyengar, an earthquake engineering expert in Bangalore and the former director of the Central Building Research Institute in Roorkee.

“Differences of opinion in science must be allowed, indeed encouraged — that is the way science advances,” Iyengar told The Telegraph.

Bilham, who has visited India at least six times over the past decade, first learnt he was on a list of unwanted foreigners on the night of May 19 when he was sent back to the US from New Delhi airport while he was trying to fly to Bhutan for a field trip.

Bilham, who has a 10-year multiple-entry tourist visa from India, said he had written about his deportation to the US state department on May 21, which informed him on May 22 that it had learnt that he was on a list of individuals not permitted to visit India.

“They were not told why I was on the list. I enquired again last week because I was planning to visit Delhi to study historical archives,” Bilham told The Telegraph via email. “They confirmed that I was still on the prohibited list.”

Indian home ministry officials have not responded to email queries from The Telegraph, seeking information about the circumstances under which the government had decided to keep Bilham out of India.

But Indian scientists say they are intrigued by a claim made by Bilham in writing to the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore that the government appears to have been influenced by a senior Indian seismologist.

“The government decision was presumably based on recommendations made by one or more influential seismologists in India,” Bilham wrote to the IISc on October 17 this year, in a letter where he has declined to evaluate the PhD thesis of a young scholar.

The IISc had requested Bilham to assist in the evaluation of the thesis.

“It has been brought to my attention that some younger colleagues have been intimidated by a retired (Indian) seismologist who once held a position in Hyderabad, from working with me, or being associated with scientific studies, or discussions,” Bilham told the IISc.

“The intimidation takes the form of suggestions that future funding, or chances of promotion, or job security, may be placed in jeopardy if these young scientists are in any way associated with my name,” he wrote, adding that his presence on the panel of thesis examiners might turn detrimental to the future of the young scholar.

Shailesh Nayak, secretary in the Union earth sciences ministry said he had no direct information about the decision to keep Bilham out of the country. “My understanding is that it has something to do with his tourist visa,” Nayak said.

But Bilham said he has never had a problem with his visa.

In January this year, he was invited to an Indo-US bilateral workshop on intraplate seismicity at Gandhinagar, Gujarat, a meeting supported by the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum, an initiative funded by the Indian and US governments.

A senior Indian geophysicist who knows Bilham well said his research and style of making presentations in India may have irked sections of senior scientists. “I have had a good working relationship with him, but he’s regarded by some as a scaremongerer,” said Bal Krishna Rastogi, director of the Institute of Seismological Research in Gandhinagar, which hosted the workshop . “It’s not nice for scientists to come here and tell us that we’re not doing anything. Whatever might be lacking in our efforts here is because of (lack of) resources.”

Bilham’s deportation from India also featured at the American Geophysical Union meeting on December 6 where Max Wyss, a Switzerland-based seismologist, mentioned it as an example of scientists being punished for predictions.

Gaur said the decision to disallow Bilham from visiting India is “against the philosophy of science”, which, he said, demands honest, open debates. “When science gets closed to scrutiny, there is a danger that it might get done with less rigour.”

Iyengar said he’s also concerned about the impact to young scholars. “Seismic risk is a borderline area of human knowledge — disagreement about hazard risks are always present, but punishing someone who holds a contrary view might turn young people away from seismology.”

 

#INDIA-Activists, academics take out anti-Kudankulam protest in #Bangalore #nuclear


BANGALORE, October 25, 2012

Staff Reporter

Safety first:Anti-nuclear activists and members of the New Socialist Alternative protesting at the Town Hall in Bangalore on Wednesday.— Photo: K. Murali Kumar

Safety first:Anti-nuclear activists and members of the New Socialist Alternative protesting at the Town Hall in Bangalore on Wednesday.— Photo: K. Murali Kumar

Academics, activists and students gathered at the Town Hall on Wednesday evening to express solidarity with residents of Kudankulam, who have been resisting the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project.

Organised by the New Socialist Alternative, the demonstration saw participation from various anti-nuclear activist groups and organisations that have been campaigning for the rights of the Tamil-speaking population in Sri Lanka.

Protesters spoke about the repression of people in Kudankulam, and on the perils of nuclear energy and plants in the wake of the massive nuclear meltdown of reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011.

“With such nuclear plants, there is always a possibility of great accidents. We need to look at other possible alternatives such as solar energy,” said Atul Chokshi, professor from the Indian Institute of Science. Prof. Chokshi emphasised that the consent of residents should be taken before any such development plans.

Ambrose Pinto, principal of St. Josephs’ College of Arts and Sciences, said the government’s role in and response to the Kudankulam issue has been “entirely disappointing”.

“This is a very strong example of being anti-democratic. There are so many people living close to the plant. The radiation will affect them,” he said.

Condemned

The protesters singled out the former president A.P.J Abdul Kalam, and condemned his call for support for the nuclear project. They demanded that all existing and future nuclear projects be suspended.

 

Raising uneasy questions subtly


Published: Sunday, Mar 11, 2012, By DNA Correspondent | Place: Bangalore |

In a rather unusual ceremony, SK Biswas, former director of Indian Institute of Science, released four books by social activists MC Raj and Jyothi Raj in the city on Saturday.

Unlike run-of-the-mill book launching events, the discussion that followed the release was not confined to these four books alone. Larger issues that concern the society like identity politics, development, moral policing and sexuality were interestingly dealt with.

The authors are well-known for having led one of the most powerful Dalit movements in Karnataka. They are the founders of Rural Education for Development Society (REDS), a people’s movement that was started in Tumkur district, and, by now, has spread across almost 2,000 villages of Karnataka.

Shouldn’t it reflect on basic aspects of life like health and sanitation? Saying that these questions are something that he often grapples with, Raj said his novels touch upon them subtly.

Of the four books, three are novels—Blissed Out, Raachi and Yoikana. The fourth book, World Parliament of Indigenous People, is a testament co-authored by Raj and his wife Jyothi. It is based on a first-of-its-kind conference of indigenous people organised at Booshakthi Kendra in Tumkur last year.

“The big question that Raj poses in all his books is that can human beings free themselves from the multi-dimensional hierarchy of caste, class, and gender posed on individual identity by the society,” Biswas said.

India should join the renewables revolution for handsome gains


© Guerito 2005

Image via Wikipedia

Renewable Options

PRAFUL BIDWAI  writes in Frontline Magazine

Instead of imposing nuclear power upon unwilling people, India should join the renewables revolution for handsome gains.

PRIME Minister Manmohan Singh has stooped low by alleging that the large-scale protests against the Kudankulam nuclear power station in Tamil Nadu, sustained impressively for six months, are inspired and financed by American and Scandinavian non-governmental organisations. Invoking the “foreign hand” to vilify those who question official projects means denying that Indian citizens have the ability to think for themselves. This is particularly offensive coming from a leader who wants to hitch India’s energy future to imported nuclear reactors and whose own economic policy has long borne an indelible foreign imprint.

In reality, the only foreigners in Kudankulam have been the Russian engineers invited by the Nuclear Power Corporation. The people’s organisations leading the agitation are serving defamation notices upon the Ministers who levelled malicious accusations against them instead of engaging them and convincing them of the project’s safety.

Equally pernicious is the Prime Minister’s allegation that “the thinking segment of our population certainly is supportive of nuclear energy”. Recent statements by some Indian intellectuals, such as the historians Romila Thapar and Mushirul Hasan, the economists Amit Bhaduri, Jean Dreze and Deepak Nayyar, the political scientist Rajeev Bhargav, the ambassador Nirupam Sen, the artists Krishan Khanna and Vivan Sundaram, and P. Balaram, Director, Indian Institute of Science, belie this claim. In fact, after Fukushima, there is a close congruence between popular perceptions and the intelligentsia’s concerns about nuclear hazards.

The slander campaign against the Kudankulam activists is clearly a prelude to a crackdown to thrust the nuclear plant down their throats. But Manmohan Singh should know that this will not quell the growing, determined popular opposition to nuclear power in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and indeed Kudankulam itself.

Using brute force to impose nuclear power plants on an unwilling population has dire implications not just for India’s energy sector but for democracy, our greatest post-Independence achievement. It will usher in a police state, an authoritarian “nuclear state” that rides roughshod over people’s rights and promotes a dangerously callous technocracy, as writer Robert Jungk famously warned. India’s nuclear zealots seem to have no compunction in outlawing dissent in pursuit of their obsession. This is a frightening prospect, which should make Indian policymakers pause and think. If indeed they want to improve access to electricity, denied to two-fifths of the population, and equitably promote a low-carbon, safe and climate-friendly energy economy, then a historic opportunity now presents itself in the renewable energy revolution that is sweeping the globe. Renewable energy today accounts for one-fifth of the world’s power capacity and delivers 18 per cent of global electricity and primary energy supply, besides 24 per cent of heat supply.

Grid-connected solar photovoltaics (or PV, which is the direct conversion of sunlight into electricity) have been growing annually by 53 per cent and wind power by 32 per cent. Deployment of other renewables such as solar thermal, biomass, tidal and geothermal energy is also growing rapidly. The renewables revolution seems unstoppable and developing countries are playing an important role in driving it.

New investment in renewables has defied the general global investment downturn since 2008. Investment rose to $150 billion in 2009 and further jumped to $243 billion in 2010, up 134 per cent since 2007 and almost five times higher than in 2004.

By contrast, the number of nuclear reactors worldwide peaked at 444 in 2002 and is now down to under 400 (counting those shut down in Germany and Japan). Their contribution to global electricity supply, once 17 per cent, has fallen to under 13 per cent. They account for only 2 per cent of the world’s final energy consumption (less than 1 per cent in India) compared with 18 per cent for renewable energy worldwide. More than 150 nuclear reactors are set to retire in the next two decades, and only about 60 are planned to replace them.

The so-called nuclear renaissance that George W. Bush wanted to instigate has not materialised. No new reactor order has matured in the United States since 1973. Western Europe has not had a single new reactor commissioned since Chernobyl (1986).

Areva’s European Pressurised Reactors, or EPRs (also meant to be installed at Jaitapur in Maharashtra), under construction in Finland and France, have run into grave trouble with regulators. They are over four years behind schedule, 95 per cent over budget, and mired in legal disputes.

Renewable energy is growing by leaps and bounds because it is flexible, modular, and increasingly competitive, thanks to rapidly falling costs. It takes only months, often weeks, to install a PV facility or wind turbine, in contrast to 10 to 13 years for nuclear reactors. The timeline is crucial from the climate viewpoint. World emissions must peak by 2020 if global warming is not to exceed 2 C.

Not to be discounted is the abundance of renewable energy resources, enough to meet the world’s energy needs 3,000 times over. Renewable energy is amenable to decentralised and stand-alone applications as well as to grid-based systems. The first characteristic is particularly relevant to India, where tens of thousands of villages remain deprived of electricity and where home-lighting systems could transform the quality of life. Renewable energy fits in snugly with energy efficiency improvement, and the two uniquely complement each other.

In India, “new” renewable energy (wind, PV, solar thermal, small hydro, and so on) deployment, barely a decade old, is growing annually at 3,500 megawatt and already exceeds the capacity of nuclear reactors fourfold and generates twice as much energy as they do. Wind generation is in true costs already cheaper than coal-based power. The cost of PV is decreasing dramatically. At the latest 130 MW auction under the National Solar Mission, the lowest generation-cost figure quoted was Rs.7.49 a kilowatt-hour, less than half of the EPR’s power. Global costs are even lower at 12-15 U.S. cents/kWh, and falling. They are expected to halve within the next few years and become grid-competitive with fossil fuels. The opportunity this offers to sun-blessed India cannot be exaggerated.

Renewable energy sources have lower life cycle carbon dioxide emissions than not just gas and coal but also nuclear power. Although nuclear fission does not directly produce greenhouse gases, the entire nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium mining to fuel fabrication and transportation, to reactor construction, and fuel reprocessing and waste storage, has a sizeable carbon footprint.

The CO {-2} emissions of renewable energy sources range from as low as 3 to 7 grams a kWh (wind) to 8.5 gm to 11 gm (concentrated solar power), and 19 to 59 gm (PV, although these are expected to fall). The figure for nuclear power ranges from 68 gm to 180 gm.

Read Frontline article here

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