Saturday, 12 December 2015

Desperate Japanese PM Shinzo Abe visiting Delhi

----- Anuj Wankhede

Narendra Modi should relax. It is Shinzo Abe and Japan who need India – not the other way round.


Seeking to strike various deals with India, primarily the big ticket nuclear and the Bullet Train deals, Shinzo Abe will visit the national and economic capitals of India. 

Most people feel that India will receive generous aid, scientific technology and knowhow from Japan and that Indians should be grateful for these favors coming as they are from a “technologically developed” nation. 
Nothing could be further from the truth. Perish those thoughts of sleek bullet trains and sleek cars which could only belong to Japan. Most of the world has moved on and possess the technology, ability, money and workforce needed for building any of these infrastructures which was once almost a Japanese monopoly. 

People who have not followed developments in Japan are awestruck by the absurdly cheap interest rates at which Japanese banks offer soft loans to Indian government and companies. Interest rates in Japan have been below 1% for well over 20 years now and are frequently as low as 0.1%. Even at zero interest rate, companies in Japan are not borrowing from banks to generate new capital and assets. 

Japan is today a pale shadow of what it was during the second half of the twentieth century. It is economically, technologically, strategically, geo-politically nowhere near where it once ranked

The Japanese decline started in the 1990’s and by the time the global financial crisis of 2008 came along; Japan had already been too battered and bruised to offer any semblance of a fight. Conspicuous consumption, cheap loans by banks for buying houses, cars and other assets led to a huge speculative home and stock market bubble that eventually burst in the 1990’s. The Japanese government eventually bailed out most financial institutions (just as the west would do post 2008) but could never regain the previous glory they had enjoyed. 

All this has cost the Japanese people and its economy dearly. While earlier, people were assured of permanent jobs, now over one third of the workforce is temporary - or worse still, manufacturing is outsourced to other countries. Salaries and wages are stagnant. 

Like India, Japan too has a fiscal deficit in its budget. While the Indian fiscal debt to GDP is in single digits, Japans fiscal deficit of over 240% of its GDP is the highest in the world and is a cause of huge concern. It clearly shows that the Japanese government is hugely overspending on financial bailouts; soft loans below borrowing costs, govt. salaries etc. and have alarm bells ringing across the globe. 

From being a world leader in the 1990’s, Japan has lost out on all economic counts – low growth, low labor output/efficiency, high fiscal deficit, low disposable incomes due to stagnant wages, etc. 
The Japan of today ranks among the “also-ran” club. Abe and his brand of Abenomics are trying to correct the course, but too much damage has been done and those halcyon days will forever remain memories in the Japanese people’s minds.

Economic indicators apart, a quick look at some iconic Japanese names shows the true picture. 

Names such as Sony, Sharp, JVC, Nikon, Olympus, NEC, Panasonic, Toshiba, Nintendo, Casio, Fuji, were once marquee names in the consumer and/or industrial electronics market. Their advantage was in R&D investments which resulted in miniaturization of devices by using semi-conductors. 

Sony - with its pocket transistor and the Walkman - or Olympus cameras, Casio calculators were legendary names. They are no longer iconic products. The companies have lost their competitive advantage and at times even used unfair trade practices like dumping excess stocks in the US markets to stifle competition. Sony is no longer the leader in televisions or in music players. The LG/Samsung duo lead in the consumer electronics space and Apple’s iPod, iPhone and iPad were too big an innovation for Japanese companies to reverse engineer and counter attack. Besides, software has never been the strength of Japanese companies who relied on economies of scale by building huge factories for the hardware. The top Japanese companies in this list bleed billions of dollar losses per year even as S. Korean Samsung and LG churn out profits. Chinese and Taiwanese companies are far more innovative and offer greater value for the price paid. 
Technology is now available off the shelf or is easily reverse engineered, products are customized, massive contracting firms such as Foxconn reduce assembling costs to a fraction given huge economies of scale, and a strong Yen have together taken manufacturing of electronic and computer goods totally out of the Japanese domain. 
Similarly, the shipbuilding industry is no longer dominated by Japan. The Chinese and the Koreans lead the pack here for commercial ships while the military and advanced ship market is dominated by the US and other countries. The other major industries of a nation such as pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, food processing, military hardware do not figure in any way at the top global rankings. 

Military goals:

In 2014, Japan lifted a ban on export of arms equipment much to the opposition of the local population. 
Ever since the close of World War II, Japan has not had any full-fledged military except for the Self-Defense Force (SDF) whose mandate was only self-protection and peacekeeping activities. With its air force dismantled after WWII, no real-world experience in fighting wars and being heavily dependent on the US for its own security, the Japanese arms manufacturers are a lightweight in the global market. 
Their own technology is limited to whatever has been either licensed by the US or what little R&D Japan did when the co-operation with the US over manufacturing aircrafts turned sour. 
Although its industrial giants like Mitsubishi are now getting into military and arms hardware manufacturing, they are far less competitive as compared to the Americans due to lack of economies of scale. Besides, the technology available with the Japanese is largely out-dated as they only have  licenses to manufacture items which the US no longer uses. In such a scenario, these industrial giants will need huge financial incentives from the government to invest in R&D, build manufacturing plants, etc. Abe’s goal is to make Japan into a giant military-industrial complex al la the West. However, the more expensive Japanese military hardware may not find many buyers from this new-comer.

To create a global name and to have some semblance of a customer list, Abe is looking to sell India the US-2 amphibious aircraft. 
India meanwhile can take its own military laundry list to any of the well-known and established defense manufacturers around the world and have a red carpet rolled out to them. In such a scenario, why should India explore expensive, outdated hardware from a country has no expertise in either technology transfer or logistical support? 

Japan is in dire need to strengthen its own military in face of the aggression from North Korea and China. This is one reason Abe lifted the self-imposed ban on taking a proactive combat role in attacking another country even if Tokyo is not threatened. This aggressive U-turn by a relatively pacifist country is only going to increase tensions in the South Asian region and will result in more arms purchases by countries there.  It is this self-created arms market which Japan is salivating about. Having India and Australia as stars on its customer list will make it easier to open doors and tap other smaller nations.

The Abe government is also pushing for a historic high defense spending of US$ 40 billion for the 2016 fiscal. What Japan is doing is opening the doors to a horrendous arms race in an already nuclear armed and tense region – all this to benefit its own struggling domestic industries. 

Abe and Japan should remember that it was this sort of imperialist designs which brought atom bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This time too, they are playing with fire in a flashpoint region which has four well established nuclear weapons countries which are willing to use them at will. In such a scenario, Japan can scarcely expect to be bailed out by the US without suffering collateral damage at the very least.

Against this backdrop, we have the visit by Shinzo Abe to India in December 2015. Abe comes to India offering nuclear deals with India. Make no mistake; this is only to sweeten his military designs which seek to bailout his ailing major industrial conglomerates including Mitsubishi, Kawasaki, Hitachi and Toshiba. 
Hitachi is a partner with GE of the US in the nuclear energy space while Toshiba owns Westinghouse which is again American. Mitsubishi too is an old player in the nuclear energy market. 

Saving the zaibatsu:

The huge - almost unmanageable – industrial conglomerates are known as “zaibatsu” in Japan.  For Japan, these zaibatsu are akin to Lehman Brothers or Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan’s of the west. They are simply “too big to fail.” If these zaibatsu fail, they will bring down the entire economy of Japan and even have serious ramifications around the globe.  

Hitachi and Toshiba zaibatsu have completely failed in their consumer electronics businesses as detailed earlier and are incurring huge losses in that business. Their only hope is to get massive contracts to build new power plants using their own or their partners’ expertise. 

Japanese are by and large known to be cordial and ethical people showing deep respect to others. However, the heads of the zaibatsu do not belong to this tribe and have been exposed to be serial (if not pathological) liars. Let us see the report card of some of these zaibatsu which tell the extent of lies and show that Japan Inc.’s house of soaring profits is built on nothing more than fabricated and outright criminally corrupt foundations:

The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) last month imposed penalties on Hitachi following a three-year probe into allegations of “sanctionable practices” in a power station boiler works contract. The penalties follow a September Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charge against Hitachi by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), of the US, for inaccurately recording “improper payments to South Africa’s ruling political party in connection with contracts to build two multi-billion dollar power plants”. Hitachi agreed to pay $19-million to settle the SEC charges. 
The AfDB investigation was carried out against two Hitachi subsidiaries: Hitachi Power Europe (HPE), based in Germany, and Hitachi Power Africa (HPA). HPA was controversially associated with the African National Congress’s Chancellor House and disappeared in early 2014 when Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Africa was formally launched, following the merger of the thermal power units of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Hitachi.

Earlier this year Toshiba the 140 year old electronics conglomerate manufacturing laptops, electronic chips to nuclear reactors and a "pillar of Japan Inc." – was found to have inflated profits by a stunning $1.2 billion for a whopping 7 years, with fabricated figures amounting to 30% of the company's "profits" since 2008. Toshiba's CEO Hisao Tanaka, together with five members of his senior staff had to resign. Apparently, the only reason Mr. Tanaka apologized and resigned is not because he was actually cooking books for an unprecedented 7 years - a period during which the CEO received tens if not hundreds of millions in equity and profit-linked compensation, but because he was caught. The only action he did was bow down and offered a 15 second apology.

To this illustrious list one can add Olympus Corp. which used fraudulent takeovers to hide $1.7 billion in losses over 13 years, starting in the 1990s. Its former chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa and two other executives pleaded guilty in September 2012 for covering up losses.

IHI Corp., Japan’s third-largest maker of heavy machinery, corrected earnings for the year ended March 31, 2007, to a loss of 4.6 billion yen, from a previously reported 15.8 billion yen profit. Chairman Ito had to step down to take responsibility and the company paid a 1.6 billion yen fine.

Hitachi, Toshiba, Mitsubishi, Olympus, IHI are just some of the names who have come out for their outright immoral, unethical and corrupt business practices.

It gets worse with nuclear power companies in Japan.

Sample these examples:

The Japanese government in 1997 filed a criminal complaint against its own nuclear development agency Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation -- Donen in Japanese -- for filing a false report about a fire at a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant. The organization specialized in special Breeder reactors and the Advanced Thermal Reactor. It also owned a nuclear reprocessing facility and its activities included uranium exploration in Australia and disposal of high level waste.
The then Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said that he was "disgusted" with Denon and promised to "investigate them thoroughly and beat them into shape." After various accidents associated with the Tokaimura site, Monju plant and another asphalt processing plant; Denon was eventually disbanded in 1998 to be restructured as Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute which in turn became part of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency in 2005.

In what is billed as the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl; in 1999 three reprocessing workers at the Tokaimura plant inadvertently created a critical mass of uranium, severely irradiating themselves and triggering chain reactions that continued for several hours. International safety experts were shocked to learn that the workers were pouring a solution of uranium oxide in nitric acid into a sedimentation tank -- by hand and using buckets. 

In 2002 reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) dating from the 1990s described safety precautions at Japanese nuclear reactors as dangerously weak. IAEA inspectors visited four reactors in 1992 and 1995, finding 90 deficiencies in safety procedures. Four companies – TEPCO, Chubu Electric Power, Japan Atomic Power and Tohoku Electric Power – confessed that they concealed flaws in their reactors from government regulators.

Three reactors at the world’s largest nuclear plant, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, shut down after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake in 2007 and fire broke out in one of the units. TEPCO initially said that the quake caused no radiation leaks, but days later admitted that 1200 litres of radioactive water had washed into the sea and several drums containing nuclear waste lost after their lids fell over.

Fukushima of course exposed all the lies told by TEPCO. 
They were not only blatant lies which tried to brush off earlier acts of severe omissions and commissions but TEPCO continued to lie with a straight face all throw-out the unfolding disaster.  
All that TEPCO did was this statement from its President:  "I regret the fact we are inconveniencing all these people, I want to take this opportunity to apologize."
Just another apology and TEPCO was scot free.
Abe and his government have done nothing about TEPCO and have in fact bailed out the bankrupt company besides releasing thousands of tons of toxic radioactive waste and water into the Pacific ocean. There is no clear direction on how and when the radioactive debris will be cleared or how long decontamination and decommissioning work will take or how many trillions it will cost the Japanese taxpayers.  

Abe is too busy with his disastrous Abenomics, getting the Olympic games to Tokyo besides inciting South Asia towards a military race which have nuclear war implications. He is now willing to even forget  that until very recently, Japan was not only reluctant but was adamant that it will not have ANY nuclear deal – including technology transfer – with India until India signs the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). 

While India has consistently maintained that its nuclear program is purely civilian, most of the world (and tacitly, India too) admits that the Indian nuclear program is quasi civil and military. In such a scenario, Japan is giving India a thumbs-up to go ahead with its program to build more nuclear arms. This is not only unethical, but also goes against the wishes of all peace loving Japanese people who have been clamoring for a halt of all nuclear arsenals around the world. Abe and his government are back stabbing its own citizenry by agreeing to a nuclear deal with India in whatever form it finally emerges. 

The lying by the Japanese government is so brazen that they not only lie to their own citizens, but also to their own brother-in-arms and ally the United States. 

Following the Fukushima disaster of 2011, the Japanese government and TEPCO lied to the US military about pollution from Fukushima that US ships sailed to the most polluted waters and air to help Japan. Eight crew members of the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan sued the Tokyo Electric Power Co. in Federal Court. They claim the utility company TEPCO, “a wholly owned public benefit subsidiary of the government of Japan,” misrepresented radiation levels to lull the U.S. Navy “into a false sense of security.” 

What better can you expect from a bunch of pathological liars?


All the above examples prove that Japan is a spent force economically as well as technologically. It’s famed “ethical business practices” and “attention to detail” is as hollow as are their claims to have any cutting edge research to offer. All that they are doing is offering soft loans to other countries and extolling them to set up Japanese built infrastructure. Building and operating these projects will bring enormous profits to the Japanese companies. Besides, even at zero interest rate, no Japanese company is taking the money, so they might as well give it to India at sub 1% and make a small profit there too. 

India should not fall into this trap and sign any nuclear deals with Japan as these deals have a very long time frame and will give Japanese government leverage to push India into making more infrastructure and defense purchases from Japan. 

Email: benchmark.anuj@gmail.com

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

India, don't let down your nuclear whistle blowers. They are being harassed and tortured for speaking out the truth

India, don't let down your nuclear whistle blowers. 
They are being harassed and tortured for speaking out the truth

Kramer v/s Kramer won most of the Oscar awards in 1980 – it was an epic  fight between two Kramers. 

Robert Ludlum has written chillingly real page turners about the manner in which governments work and manipulate at the highest levels. 

John Grisham has written equally high voltage thrillers of coutroom battles between ordinary people fighting  against the might of wealthy corporates and their lawyers.

India is seeing some such epibattles – between it’s  own nuclear scientists and their  superiors in high places.

The news of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) trying to brush off reports of scientists from the premier Indian nuclear institute – Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) is not just a flash in the pan. It is an alarm bell for all that is wrong with the nuclear establishment in India. 
The report (here) by the New Indian Express dated Aug 16, 2015 clearly lists out what is wrong. It also has details of the people who have been victimized by the DAE – which incidentally falls under the direct purview of the Prime Minister -

The Sunday Standard has reviewed the complaints, including a letter from Dr D N Yadav, a scientist in the Nuclear Recycle Group of BARC, to Modi on February 4. In his letter, Yadav cited harassment cases of at least six scientists, alleging that they were subjected to management pressure and retaliation by seniors. The issue ranges from manipulation in annual performance reports to irregularities in execution and operation of plants. Yadav’s over 100-page note to the PM—that includes separate complaints filed by individual scientists with the Director and Supervisors of BARC—raises serious questions over functioning of the premier nuclear research organisation. The scientists’ representations have sought a thorough probe into BARC’s affairs.”

So far, this could have been classified as some administrative dispute regarding promotions and it could probably have been brushed aside. 
But now, look at the more serious allegations which emerge:

Kant, an IIT BHU graduate who joined BARC in 1983, is known for his expertise in nuclear fuel reprocessing. Kant has alleged that he was mentally tortured for being upright and brilliant in his job. Harassment started when he tried to access the performance report copies through RTI. Kant was transferred to Kalpakkam, prompting him to move Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), Mumbai bench, which stayed BARC’s decision. In his appeal, Kant produced Shah’s letter, putting the BARC in the dock. Kant, whose hearing is scheduled for August 21, has claimed that on the pretext of confidentiality, he was not allowed to publish his work, which was subsequently claimed by superiors and favoured colleagues, and his promotions were delayed.

But then, it is not all an administrative affair, there are glaring technical problems plaguing the DAE too:

A scientist has claimed that harassment affected his family life. B N Singh has accused supervisor P K Wattal of carrying on with his tirade against brilliant scientists after availing extensions following his retirement. Singh alleged that Wattal directed the scientists to discharge the effluent to sea with available dilution, which was much higher than the permissible limit. “This action would have led to serious violation of plant technical specifications... if some NGOs come to know through periodical sampling of the sea water... it will be very difficult for BARC to face the consequences late,” Singh wrote, adding that Wattal had procured sub-standard equipment's that has not been used till date.
Singh said he was transferred after exposing the irregularities. What is startling from the complaints and documents sent to the PM is the claims made by BARC scientists that senior officials took the advantage of ‘secrecy’ and ‘sensitive nature of work’ to allegedly harass and deny them their dues.”

And these are NOT the singular allegations against BARC or DAE for that matter. This has been brewing up for many years now in this hallowed and secret world of nuclear energy/weapons world of India. This report shows that as far back as 2010, the DAE had revealed that 197 employees belonging to a number of nuclear establishments and related institutes in India had  committed suicide and 1,733 scientists and employees belonging to these centres have died of illnesses like multiple organ failure, lung cancer, cirrhosis of liver etc, as per a report compiled by Chetan Kothari - a Mumbai-based RTI activist. 

This author himself has frequently been denied information under the Right to Information (RTI Act 2005) regarding nuclear energy plants in India by citing “National security reasons” or that “This department does not fall under the purview of RTI.” 
And all that I had asked for was information about the so-called “peaceful civilian nuclear energy” program!!! That itself shows that there is much more than meets the eye.

There is much more. 
In one of my earlier articles on Independence day a couple of years back, I had spoken about the plight of scientific officer and nuclear engineer R. K. Gupta.  This is his letter he  showed  us:



Homi Bhabha convinced Nehru to invest in Atomic Energy because "it would in future be too cheap even to meter it"....a failed promise as usual....
R.K. Gupta has been left crippled and in a bad shape at an age when the establishment which employed him should have been caring for him. 

R.K. Gupta developed psoriasis,and also got a hip injury while working at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai. He was diligent at work and hence never complained about the working conditions at the Plutonium extraction facility where he served for 35 long years -Silently.  He joined BARC and he retired from it believing in the Homi Bhabha dream of making India into a nuclear super-power.

Yet, today he has many serious health problems; he has written to the government about them, but what is worse is that nobody has even acknowledged his issues. As he says, when he was seriously ill, the officials and hospital authorities manipulated his seriousness of health and he had no recourse to claim any compensations or to go to court for any kind of assistance.

R.K. Gupta worked in the plutonium extraction division with BARC which makes the raw material for the Indian Atomic (nuclear) weapons that are supposed to be a “national pride”. And yet this man has been left practically on the streets by the very organization he worked with for decades!!!

He has been denied benefits accruing to him out of retirement and service for the many decades he served in that hazardous job at the Nuclear Fuel Extraction facility at BARC and now he has been tossed out like a vegetable.”

This rot did not start yesterday. Nor can only Mr Narendra Modi be singled out as responsible for this. It started when Nehru was so enamored with Homi Bhabha’s promises and the three stage nuclear fuel cycle (a till date failed experiment) that he took personal responsibility of the DAE and assured that it was very well funded - even outside the budget. It has remained this way (mostly under Congress rule, but also supported by the BJP when in power) Since the past sixty years it functions with little with no  accountability and remains shrouded in secrecy. 
Everything remains “classified information” under the Official Secrets Act. 
Information on weapons and military affairs may well be classified information, but what has an “Atoms for Peace” like purely civilian nuclear program have anything to do with any official secrets?

But Kant, Gupta et al are not the only ones. 
This story tells a lot about how life becomes hell when one takes on the DAE:
Manoj Mishra was an employee of the Nulear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) based at the Kakrapar Atomic Power Plant (KAPP) in Gujarat, India. On the days and night of 15-16 June 1994, there was heavy rain and the station was flooded.
Workers had to wade through neck deep water to reach the plant. The electricity grid had collapsed and the only way to keep it going was diesel generators. The plant had been shut down, but a lot of radioactive nuclear waste cans floated away and were probably never located (NPCIL has never come out clearly on what actually happened to them.)
Moreover, the outlet gates for the coolant water to escape were not maintained and did not open. Meanwhile, dam gates upstream had been opened due to the excessive rains which resulted in the flooding of the entire KAPS site with the computer and control systems either washed away or completely submerged. There was reportedly 25 feet water in the plant.
It was sheer providence that saved the country from a huge nuclear disaster.
Mishra wrote about this in the newspapers as a vigilant person and alerted people of the dangers there since the district administration had completely failed to address the issue. 

What he did was in good faith and for public good.

What happened after that is shocking.

For this revelation, Mishra was suspended and, after an internal inquiry, removed from service in March 1996. Since then, Mishra fought the nuclear establishment in courts—and kept losing. This process of fighting in the courts took him to the Gujarat High Court, which, in 2007 which dismissed his case. Mishra then appealed to the Supreme Court, and in April 2013, the SC too dismissed his appeal. 
The Honorable Court had this to say
“It will be apposite to notice the growing acceptance of the phenomenon of whistleblower. A whistleblower is a person who raises a concern about the wrongdoing occurring in an organisation or body of people. Usually this person would be from that same organisation. The revealed misconduct may beclassified in many ways; for example, a violation of a law, rule, regulation and/or a direct threat to public interest, such as fraud, health/safety violations and corruption. Whistleblowers may make their allegations internally (for example, to other people within the accused organisation) or externally (to regulators, law enforcement agencies, to the media or to groups concerned with the issues)… “In our view, a person like the respondent can appropriately be described as a whistleblower for the system who has tried to highlight the malfunctioning of an important institution established for dealing with cases involving revenue of the State and there is no reason to silence such a person by invoking Articles 129 or 215 of the Constitution or the provisions of the Act”

And then adds:
“In our opinion, the aforesaid observations are of no avail to the appellant…the appellant is educated only upto 12th standard. He is neither an engineer, nor an expert on the functioning of the Atomic Energy Plants. Apart from being an insider, the appellant did not fulfill the criteria for being granted the status of a whistle blower. One of the basic requirements of a person being accepted as a whistle blower is that his primary motive for the activity should be in furtherance of public good. In other words, the activity has to be undertaken in public interest, exposing illegal activities of a public organization or authority. The conduct of the appellant, in our opinion, does not fall within the high moral and ethical standard that would be required of a bona fide whistle blower.” 

(Read the whole SC order here – I assure that it is more fascinating than any John Grisham thriller)
All through, it was alleged that Mishra was merely a 12th passed tradesman and a Union Leader at the plant site (He was immensely popular and in fact was the General Secretary of the workers union then)  
So, since when did the educational qualification of a person become a criteria to blow the lid off a scam or something systemically rotten? Or why should a person working for employee benefits be victimized? Is it for acting in public interests?

Do the nuclear whistle blowers deserve to be treated as second class citizens in this country? 
As Senior Counsel for the plaintiff, Advocate Prashant Bhushan said to the Supreme Court in the Manoj Mishra case : “instead of being punished, the appellant ought to have been rewarded for doing his duty as an enlightened citizen of this country.”

Rather, they should be respected and honored with medals on Independence Day. I will await for that day; maybe forever…..

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Et Tu Brutus??? Mr. Narayan Murthy, stop misguiding youth.

Dear Mr. Narayan Murthy,

As the co-founder of one of the biggest and (once) most respected IT giant companies, it is with great distress that I have to dissent with you. Mind you, I had great respect for you until I read these news articles (and this) about your statements made to impressionable college students at St. Xavier’s college in Mumbai about the benefits of nuclear energy. 
It is even more shameful that YOU as a guiding symbol of youth chose the days and month of the deadly Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings to make such statements. We know from past experiences that the timings of such statements and “seminars” are usually fixed by the Department of Atomic Energy/NPCIL etc to deflect public attention from core issues related to nuclear. And apparently you have willy-nilly fallen into that trap – lock stock and barrel.
I was shattered that you as a person with so much knowledge, deep understanding of business consulting, outsourcing and technology among many other skills can actually go around town with such juvenile, rash and factually incorrect statements.

I must say that I have lost all that respect for you Sir!


You were supposed to be a role model for students; not be a champion of ASSOCHAM or for FICCI or for foreign companies (which may give business contracts to Infosys) or to butter up to the government and bag more contracts by your public utterances (you already have the Padma Vibhushan and Padma Shree award, so these do not matter - so the Presidents post is probably what you are aiming for?)

Seriously, Sir, it sullies your image to get into such issues of national and international significance with zero knowledge. 

To top it all, you are also a member of the advisory boards and councils of several educational and philanthropic institutions, including Cornell UniversityINSEAD,ESSECFord Foundation, the UN Foundation, the Indo-British Partnership, Asian Institute of Management, a trustee of the Infosys Prize, and a trustee of the Rhodes Trust, Chairman of the Governing board of Public Health Foundation of India and serve on the Asia Pacific Advisory Board of British Telecommunications
Ironically, you are also the author of the book “A Better India, A Better World” (it rings a bell about the BJP promise of Acche Din)

Frankly, it would have been quite easy to dismiss such statements you have made had they came from some ignorant or an illiterate politician. But from you - coming from such an impressive pedigree and with an impressive background of engineering degrees (including that from the prestigious IIT, Kanpur) and being a business tycoon as well CEO, Chairman of Board and Chief Mentor at Infosys!! Speechless.

Notwithstanding all the above, it is with great pain that I will have to take apart your statements – bit by bit.
  1. "As long as we're diligent and strive for excellence, there is nothing wrong in using nuclear technology for peaceful energy"
--- The key part of this statement is “As long as we are diligent.” As long as nuclear industry exists Mr. Murthy, it will remain opaque otherwise, or else its dark underbelly will be exposed. The nuclear industry is notorious for its means of doing business. Costs are under-reported when taking orders, the nuclear plants take forever long to be commissioned, cost overruns of even 100% are common place in the industry, the nuclear industry frequently cuts corners on safety and then puts up its hands saying that whatever happened is a ‘Beyond Design Basis Accident’ (BDBA).” When the industry itself claims that it is not free from possible accidents (plus given the massive corruption involved in these deals) can you – as a businessman – seriously imagine that corners are not being cut? If you think so, then you certainly are (or pretend to be) an extremely na├»ve person indeed!!

     2.  "Citing detractors who quote disasters like Fukushima and Chernobyl, Murthy said the number of people affected in these tragedies are far less than those who die in car accidents."

---- Sir, what is the source of your information? Various surveys by reputed international NGO’s (who are not aligned to the UN) have reported over a million excessive deaths related to the Chernobyl disaster. These include cancer, thyroid problems, acute and severe depression besides heart and organ failures and birth defects.  
If it is the WHO which is your “source”, then please read the WHO-IAEA deal about reporting nuclear accident statistics which was signed about fifty years ago. (IIT should have provided you with that much knowledge?)  
“In 1959, the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) and World Health Organization(WHO) entered into an working agreement which is out-of-date and conflicts with the research of the WHO to determine the effects of ionizing radiation exposure on human health. We are concerned that the language of this agreement (WHA 12.40 approved by the 12th World Health Assembly on 28 May 1959) mingles promotion of nuclear technology, including nuclear power, with the WHO’s mandate to undertake international health research work on people exposed to ionizing radiation-a product of this same nuclear technology. Specifically the WHO, as stated in its Constitution, has a mandate to “promote and protect the health of all peoples.” Health is defined as “not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” but “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health.” This highest attainable standard “is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.” (Link to some PDF’s and sites here or here )
Your statement is shocking as it comes from a person who is the Chairman of the Governing board of Public Health Foundation of India. It is my honest suggestion that you link up with some genuine medical experts who have spent over four decades studying the effects of radiation. (You can begin with Dr. Helen Caldicott here)    
Besides, a car accident victim may die, but the future generations do not suffer from cancer and other illnesses. Here, we are talking about medcine and not about the engineering of cars and roads Sir.



3. "France draws 85% of its power from nuclear sources."
Sir, please first read news and then give your "expert" comments. The nuclear share of energy generated in France for 2014 was 77% and not 85% as you claim. (Year wise and country wise generation data from the very champion of the nuclear industry – World Nuclear Association is here Link)  
Besides, France has committed to drastically scale down its nuclear energy targets over the next decade to 50% (even as it sells it's failed technology to India via Areva)
You may be shocked to read this in the venerable Scientific American (June 29 2015 – here)
The host nation (France) for this year’s climate talk (the UNFCCC - COP21), is pumping the brakes on one of its most successful ways of controlling carbon.”
Look at the REAL facts: 
Areva of France (a majority owned – over 80%- held company by the French government till recently) has deep problems regarding its reactor designs. From Olkilouto in Finland, to Hinkley Point in UK and to Flaminvilla in France itself, its EPR reactor other reactors are faring very poorly.  Massive cost over-runs, problems with reactor designs and control panel problems have showed how this industry really works.
As a CEO of a large global organization; would you lead, respect or champion for an organization like Areva which is planning on setting up N-plants in Jaitpur? A company which has not made any profits since 2010 (it's latest figures quote some 4.8 billion dollars loss for 2014).
Or championing for the corrupt Russian companies which delivered faulty valves for the Kudankulam nuclear plant?
Or championing for US-Japan General Electric (GE) which supplied the Fukushima reactors, and which has now thrown its hands up for the accidents claiming that they were “Beyond Design Accidents”?
It is indeed surprising that a person of your stature does not know about these facts before speaking to gullible students!! I would rather call it as deliberate suppression of material facts. Or, probably hidden agends.

34. “There is nothing which is risk-free and hence, it is important to look at the trade-offs”

Sir, kindly leave your risk appetite for your corporate interests and do not mix them with public health issues. I would suggest that you don’t look with blinkered eyes at the bottom line every time you have to make a statement – sometimes; it is wiser to think of the overall good of people in the long term; not about short term quarterly profit figures on the balance sheet.

4

    5.   "Nuclear plant generates far less carbon than a thermal power station."

-

-- Again, as a businessman, you should know very well about the total lifecycle cost of any asset. You may relate better to the computer parlance term which we call as TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) Please get some of your so called super intelligent engineers to come back and report to you with what are the REAL carbon emission figures for a nu
clear power plant over its lifetime.
Begin with the humongous environmental costs of uranium mining, its milling, processing, transport and fabrication into fuel rods. Then, I suggest that you look at the amount of cement and concrete used for setting up these reactors. These are massively polluting industries. And, so is steel, which is used in huge numbers. Besides that, think about all the vehicles deployed to carry all this raw material used for set up these reactors spewing massive amounts of diesel. And then finally, let’s talk about decommissioning of these plants; the cost of which can easily be as much as the cost of building them in the first place and which will again use many tonnes of cement/concrete. A study of 103 nuclear plant’s metadata as compared to renewable energy has shown that during its typical lifecycle, a N-power plant generates 66g/kWh of CO2 as compared to 9.5-38g/kWh. This makes renewable energy 7 to 16 times more effective in fighting climate change. (PDF here) Hopefully this will make you more aware of the reality, Sir!!



Mr, Narayan Murthy, it has been proven beyond a shadow of doubt that nuclear energy is not the solution to climate change.

Look at renewables and energy efficiency. Think out of the box and society Sir, as you once thought for Infosys. Please get the bigger picture clear about energy and climate issues cleared in your own mind first before rushing into such debates.

And finally Sir, if you can come up with a credible solution to the radioactive nuclear waste issue, you might even get a Nobel Prize. And while you may ponder about that, please also figure out a way so that nuclear proliferation and weapons are not deployed using these reactors as a front.


Until then...

Warm Regards,

Yours (once) faithful,

ANUJ WANKHEDE 


(The author can be reached on benchmark.anuj@gmail.com)

Thursday, 4 September 2014

URANIUM EXPORTS TO INDIA: AUSTRALIA NOT PLAYING CRICKET WITH A STRAIGHT BAT

-- Anuj Wankhede



Tony Abbott
There has been talk for the past many years about Australia which has the world’s largest known uranium deposits - about 28% - lifting its ban on exporting uranium to India. The visit by the Australian PM Tony Abbott to India and specifically to Delhi on September 5th 2014 is expected to seal a deal which will probably end the 30 year ban on uranium exports to India by Australia.

Australia did not take kindly to the fact that India was not a signatory to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which aimed to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and atomic testing and hence put a ban on export of uranium to India While the NPT in itself is not without its own flaws, it still remains the single largest multi-lateral treaty which has kept a leash on nuclear weaponization and proliferation to some extent. India has ratified the treaty but has refused to sign it citing various problems in the treaty and claimed a right to nuclear weapons just as the UN permanent council member countries have. 

Due to this, Australia (and many other countries) suspended nuclear trade with India thus forcing India to look for indigenous development of civil and military nuclear options. Things changed after the Indo-US nuclear deal was signed in 2008 which paved the way for India to do business albeit on a small scale with some countries. Not being a part of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) had also hurt the Indian nuclear dream and India was literally a pariah after its Pokhran II atomic tests in 1998.

It is pertinent to note that the Pokhran II tests were conducted while the BJP was in power and were supposed to serve as a warning to Pakistan and China to not take India lightly. 

It was sheer jingoism at work. 

By coincidence or by design, it is again the BJP which is playing this nuclear game. The difference is that this time around, the BJP has a commanding majority in the lower house of the Parliament enabling it to muscle through legislation with virtually no opposition. Also, the Indian PM Narendra Modi is a known right wing
Narendra Modi at World Economic Forum
hardliner and however many clean chits he gets, the bogey of the Godhra Hindu Muslim riots sits on his back like a monkey. His hardline views towards Muslims in general and Pakistan in particular are a matter of public knowledge. He is also a pro-industry votary and has rolled out the red carpet to foreign investors in practically all key sectors within three months of his anointment as PM. This has stirred tremendous foreign interest in India given its huge population and thus enormous profit potential and a virtual assurance that this will remain a stable government for five years. Modi is cleverly using this prospect of profits to leverage nuclear deals with various countries and appears to be in a hurry to seal as many nuclear deals as possible. As we will see later, the beleaguered Australian uranium mining industry could not have asked for a better Indian PM. It is literally a marriage made in heaven – whatever the future implications may be.

After the BJP lost the elections post Pokhran II in 2004, it was the turn of the Congress led rag tag coalition of UPA 1 and then UPA 2 to rule the country for a decade. They too followed the time tested tactic of claiming that India’s nuclear program was peaceful, purely civilian and India had no intentions of military use of the same. The world at large saw through this hollow and outright blatant lie and continued to impose sanctions on India especially where it hurt India the most – uranium fuel. India has very little domestic uranium and whatever exists; it is of extremely low grade. This makes it almost impossible to use the domestic uranium to fuel its nuclear energy program AND to enrich it to weapons grade for manufacturing bombs. Perforce, India needs to depend on imported uranium from either Canada or Australia or Kazakhstan to keep its nuclear reactors going.

Knowing this reality, the Manmohan Singh led Congress government made all efforts – politically and diplomatically – to have access to nuclear technology and fuel and get into the elite NSG. The efforts paid off
George Bush and Manmohan Singh 2008
and the landmark Indo-US 123 agreement was signed amid ruckus in the Indian parliament; cash for vote’s bribery scams and stiff opposition in March 2008. Under this agreement, India would open up its civilian nuclear facilities to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and delineate its civil and military facilities.
In return, the US would offer full co-operation in the civil nuclear arena to India (read, US companies would get preferential treatment on deals in the growing Indian nuclear energy market.)
It also paved the way for India to be part of the NSG and carry out nuclear related business with other countries despite being a non-NPT signatory AND a nuclear weapons nation.
It was basically a huge "you scratch my back, and I will scratch your" deal between India and the West (particularly the US)

However just a couple of years later, India also passed the Civil Liability for Nuclear Disaster (CLND) Act in 2010 which held foreign nuclear suppliers liable in case of accidents and this cast a pall of gloom over all the countries which had been eagerly looking to get a foothold in India. Despite the UPA governments’ best efforts to dilute the stringent law; it was not successful in doing so. Hence, apart from the partial commissioning of the Koodankulam nuclear power plant with Russian assistance, no other deals were being signed formally even after being announced. And the US was getting jittery and impatient with the UPA.

Nuclear is a long term business and both India and the foreign supplier were playing the waiting game knowing that there will be cracks sooner rather than later given that India has a huge shortfall of power and is keen on nuclear energy which makes up for barely 2% of it’s energy basket (despite spending billions on it.) Knowing that nuclear technology is dual use i.e. civil (energy) as well as military (weapons) it took a lot of diplomatic cajoling for India to be admitted to the NSG and get access to technology and fuel. Two things have still hampered the foreign companies from rushing into India – the stringent CLND Act and India not being a signatory to the NPT. 

Amid a largely successful Japan state visit by PM Modi in 2014 - which saw significant investment commitments by Japan to India, Japan refused to sign any nuclear deal with India and Modi had to return home empty handed without getting hands on the latest Japanese nuclear technology (sic) Japan had made it amply clear that it is not happy with either the CLND Act or with the Indian stand on NPT and that basically it does not trust India enough to enter into any nuclear commitment. 

Australia had all along taken the line that since India was not a signatory to the NPT, it would not supply uranium to India (the CLND Act makes no material difference to Australian uranium exports.) 

However, ever since it became evident to Australia that the developed world was slowly but surely turning away from nuclear energy, it began to look at developing countries to sell uranium – and India happened to be the perfect choice given its size and nuclear ambitions. The Fukushima disaster had been the final nail in the coffin (pun unintended) for nuclear energy and the price of uranium in the global markets plummeted to almost half of what it was pre March 11, 2011 when the earthquake and tsunami ravaged Japan and exposed the world once again to the dangers and costs of nuclear energy.

Germany took the lead and made a firm commitment to shun nuclear energy and close down its reactors. Many US and European reactors were shutting down or close to shutting down. Countries scaled back on their nuclear reactor plans and did a re-think about the wisdom of depending on nuclear energy. Things had gone horribly wrong for the Australian uranium mining industry and new strategies and markets needed to be explored urgently for the industry to survive and recoup the huge investments it had made. The bets were big enough, the stakes were high and the miners knew how to play the game – politically, diplomatically, geo-politically and economically.
Suddenly, Australia began to look overlook at the fact that India was not a party to the NPT and changed its stance. Industry leaders as well as politicians in the previous Gillard government made statements that since a large part of the Indian population was without electricity, it was the “moral duty” and “humanitarian responsibility” of Australia to supply nuclear fuel (uranium) to India. The logic was that since India was into a high growth phase its energy demands would keep rising and hence it needed to add more capacity NOW.

Like a (rather bad) salesman, the uranium mining industry lobbied hard to lift the ban on uranium exports claiming that solar and wind would never match nuclear energy’s base-load capability all the while mindless of the fact that the world was slowly embracing smart power grid distribution networks, renewable energy, that building new nuclear reactors typically takes about a decade or even longer and that India was already a nuclear weapons nation bordering with two other hostile nuclear nations – Pakistan and China. 

Uncle Sam
It is well known fact that the USA dictates most of the Australian government policies – particularly foreign policy. 

With the US nuclear industry in decline and neck deep in trouble plus no domestic and foreign orders forthcoming, it was imperative for the US government to save giant companies like GE and Westinghouse which had already chalked out big Indian plans. But for these plans to fructify, more nuclear fuel i.e. uranium would be the need of the hour. Given this background, it is entirely conceivable that the US exerted suitable pressure to facilitate lifting the uranium export ban as soon as possible and before Modi makes his maiden state visit to the US. 

The Americans know well that given the BJP’s parliamentary majority, Modi's pro industry leanings and fondness for the so-called “nuclear deterrent”; suitable deals could be struck by selectively interpreting the CLND Act and US companies can sign the contracts to build new reactors in India. 
(Manmohan Singh - during the UPA II’s last gasp - did precisely this during his last US visit by getting an ambiguous interpretation of the CLND from the Attorney General of India.) 
In short, it becomes a win-win-win situation for three parties – the US companies, the Australian mining companies and the Indian establishment/businesses.

Also, as far as nuclear energy and weapons go, the two major political parties in India are brothers in arms having the same agenda. And why not? Nuclear deals are big ticket business and even 2-5% of the deal counts for a lot for the venal, short sighted politicians who rule India. Unfortunately, there is a lack of any leader who can be called a genuine statesman and who can halt this march towards certain doom.

Same policy by ex PM, current PM and the President - perhaps for same reasons

Perhaps, and with almost certainty, one can say that the Australians are pretty much aware of the implications of supplying uranium to India and are willing to turn a blind eye towards its dangers. 

Senator Scott Ludlam of the Greens Party and a known vocal opponent of the export has this to say:
Scott Ludlam 

“They (the mining companies) see India as an industrializing nation with a growing power sector, they see the dollar signs but they quite clearly don't seem to be interested in the risks."   

He goes on to further add: 

"India is a nuclear weapons state and they're on the record saying they're trying to buy foreign sources of uranium so they can lock up their domestic reserves for a nuclear arms race with Pakistan. So it's a very volatile and dangerous security situation into which to be selling uranium."


Despite this plain truth being espoused in public, Rakesh Ahuja former Australian High Commissioner to India and now an energy strategist has this to his credit:
"Any uranium we sell to India must be used for civilian purposes.”
When questioned whether this doesn't that just free up domestic uranium, for military purposes? He answers “Yes, ah yes, that has always been the case, yes, I mean we sell to China, and it frees up their domestic (uranium) for military use, yes, it's a fact of life.”

Pakistan is also a non signatory to the NPT but has entered into bilateral treaty with China for nuclear technology, equipment and installation. It is this kind of a bi-lateral deal that Tony Abbott has in mind when he claimed that “sufficient safeguards” have been put in place to ensure that Australian uranium is not diverted for military use.

What Abbott fails to – rather chooses not to – understand is that India has not placed all its nuclear facilities under IAEA supervision and its indigenously developed reactors are out of bounds of the IAEA and hence there is opacity about the use of nuclear technology and fuel in India and no “safeguards” can take care of this. If a gigantic Malaysian Airliner can disappear into thin air without a trace, it is very much plausible for a few containers of yellow cake to go missing in India and end up in a secret military location for enrichment. This is not fanciful – just a week ago a container carrying highly radioactive Cesium 132 has gone missing without a trace in Kazakhstan. 

The export of uranium to India will eventually trigger off a nuclear arms race between the three neighboring countries. This fact is known AND accepted by the Australians at the highest level. There is strong domestic resistance to export of uranium by Australia especially after it became evident that the fuel used in the Fukushima reactors had its origins in Australia. But The Tony Abbott government has turned a blind eye to its own people, people of India and many others across the globe and is behaving in a spineless manner for pure commercial and geo-political gains for itself and its masters. Obviously, the eye is not only on the export revenue which would accrue because uranium makes for less than a billion dollars out of the over hundred billion dollar total mineral export and may touch one billion in 2018 if this deal is signed, sealed and delivered. So, economically, it is of almost negligible consequence when compared to iron ore, coal, copper, nickel etc which have a far greater share of export earnings. It is sheer politics that is driving this deal.

In this context it is safe to say that Australia is behaving in a unethical, immoral, reckless, dangerous, negligent and wanton manner and is thus willfully pushing Asia, nay the whole world, towards disaster and destruction. Australia is just not playing the gentleman's game of cricket straight.

Contact the Author on benchmark.anuj@gmail.com