Saturday, 14 December 2013

Uruguay's president José Mujica: No palace, No motorcade, No frills sustainable environmentalist

José Mujica

Lauded for a speech at the UN's Rio+20 global sustainability conference in which he calls for a fight against the hyper-consumption that is destroying the environment. 
"The cause is the model of civilization that we have created. And the thing we have to re-examine is our way of life."
If anyone could claim to be leading by example in an age of austerity, it is José Mujica, Uruguay's president, who has forsworn a state palace in favour of a farmhouse, donates the vast bulk of his salary to social projects, flies economy class and drives an old Volkswagen Beetle.
But the former guerrilla fighter is clearly disgruntled by those who tag him "the world's poorest president" and – much as he would like others to adopt a more sober lifestyle – the 78-year-old has been in politics long enough to recognise the folly of claiming to be a model for anyone.
"If I asked people to live as I live, they would kill me," Mujica said during an interview in his small but cosy one-bedroom home set amid chrysanthemum fields outside Montevideo.
The president is a former member of the Tupamaros guerrilla group, which was notorious in the early 1970s for bank robberies, kidnappings and distributing stolen food and money among the poor. He was shot by police six times and spent 14 years in a military prison, much of it in dungeon-like conditions.
Since becoming leader of Uruguay in 2010, however, he has won plaudits worldwide for living within his means, decrying excessive consumption and pushing ahead with policies on same-sex marriage, abortion and cannabis legalisation that have reaffirmed Uruguay as the most socially liberal country in Latin America.
Praise has rolled in from all sides of the political spectrum. Mujica may be the only leftwing leader on the planet to win the favour of the Daily Mail, which lauded him as a trustworthy and charismatic figurehead in an article headlined: "Finally, A politician who DOESN'T fiddle his expenses."
But the man who is best known as Pepe says those who consider him poor fail to understand the meaning of wealth. "I'm not the poorest president. The poorest is the one who needs a lot to live," he said. "My lifestyle is a consequence of my wounds. I'm the son of my history. There have been years when I would have been happy just to have a mattress."
He shares the home with his wife, Lucía Topolansky, a leading member of Congress who has also served as acting president.
As I near the home of Uruguay's first couple, the only security detail is two guards parked on the approach road, and Mujica's three-legged dog, Manuela.
Mujica cuts an impressively unpolished figure. Wearing lived-in clothes and well-used footwear, the bushy-browed farmer who strolls out from the porch resembles an elderly Bilbo Baggins emerging from his Hobbit hole to scold an intrusive neighbour.
In conversation, he exudes a mix of warmth and cantankerousness, idealism about humanity's potential and a weariness with the modern world – at least outside the eminently sensible shire in which he lives.
He is proud of his homeland – one of the safest and least corrupt in the region – and describes Uruguay as "an island of refugees in a world of crazy people".
The country is proud of its social traditions. The government sets prices for essential commodities such as milk and provides free computers and education for every child.
Key energy and telecommunications industries are nationalised. Under Mujica's predecessor, Uruguay led the world in moves to restrict tobacco consumption. Earlier this week, it passed the world's most sweeping marijuana regulation law, which will give the state a major role in the legal production, distribution and sale of the drug.
Such actions have won praise and – along with progressive policies on abortion and gay marriage – strengthened Uruguay's reputation as a liberal country. But Mujica is almost as reluctant to accept this tag as he is to agree with the "poorest president" label.
"My country is not particularly open. These measures are logical," he said. "With marijuana, this is not about being more liberal. We want to take users away from clandestine dealers. But we will also restrict their right to smoke if they exceed sensible amounts of consumption. It is like alcohol. If you drink a bottle of whisky a day, then you should be treated as a sick person."
Uruguay's options to improve society are limited, he believes, by the power of global capital.
"I'm just sick of the way things are. We're in an age in which we can't live without accepting the logic of the market," he said. "Contemporary politics is all about short-term pragmatism. We have abandoned religion and philosophy … What we have left is the automatisation of doing what the market tells us."
The president lives within his means and promotes the use of renewable energy and recycling in his government's policies. At the United Nations' Rio+20 conference on sustainable development last year, he railed against the "blind obsession" to achieve growth through greater consumption. But, with Uruguay's economy ticking along at a growth rate of more than 3%, Mujica – somewhat grudgingly, it seems – accepts he must deliver material expansion. "I'm president. I'm fighting for more work and more investment because people ask for more and more," he said. "I am trying to expand consumption but to diminish unnecessary consumption … I'm opposed to waste – of energy, or resources, or time. We need to build things that last. That's an ideal, but it may not be realistic because we live in an age of accumulation."
Asked for a solution to this contradiction, the president admits he doesn't have the answers, but the former Marxist said the search for a solution must be political. "We can almost recycle everything now. If we lived within our means – by being prudent – the 7 billion people in the world could have everything they needed. Global politics should be moving in that direction," he said. "But we think as people and countries, not as a species."
Mujica and his wife chat fondly about meetings with Che Guevara, and the president guesses he is probably the last leader in power to have met Mao Zedong, but he has mixed feelings about the recent revolts and protests in Brazil, Turkey, Egypt and elsewhere. "The world will always need revolution. That doesn't mean shooting and violence. A revolution is when you change your thinking. Confucianism and Christianity were both revolutionary," he said.
But he is cynical about demonstrations organised by social networks that quickly dissolve before they have a capacity to build anything lasting. "The protesters will probably finish up working for multinationals and dying of modern diseases. I hope that I am wrong about that."

Life history
Shot, arrested, jailed and elected

1969 Active in the Tupamaros revolutionary group, which earned a reputation as the "Robin Hood guerrillas" by robbing delivery trucks and banks and distributing the food and money among the poor.
1970 Arrested for the first of four times. Mujica escapes Punta Carretas prison in a daring jailbreak. Shot and wounded numerous times in conflicts with security forces.
1972 Imprisoned again. Remains in jail for more than a decade, including two years' solitary confinement at the bottom of a well, where he speaks to frogs and insects to maintain his sanity.
1985 Constitutional democracy is restored in Uruguay and Mujica is released under an amnesty law.
1994 Elected deputy and arrives at the parliament building on a Vespa scooter. A surprised parking attendant asks: "Are you going to be here long?" Mujica replies: "I certainly hope so."
2009 Wins presidential election. Only words to the media that day: "Despite all this lip service, the world is not going to change." Adopts a ruling style closer to centre-left administrations of Lula in Brazil and Bachelet in Chile, rather than harder-left leaders such as Hugo Chávez.
2012 Lauded for a speech at the UN's Rio+20 global sustainability conference in which he calls for a fight against the hyper-consumption that is destroying the environment. "The cause is the model of civilization that we have created. And the thing we have to re-examine is our way of life."
2012 Announces that the presidential palace would be included among the state shelters for the homeless. Meanwhile, Mujica continues to live in his small farmhouse outside Montevideo.
2013 Mujica's government pushes the world's most progressive cannabis legalisation bill through Congress. "This is not about being free and open. It's a logical step. We want to take users away from clandestine business," he says.

Friday, 22 November 2013


The Prime Minister of India trots around the globe and proudly signs contracts for uranium supplies to India He himself visits or calls upon delegations from various continents and nations like Australia, Canada, France, USA, Kazakhstan etc. to discuss uranium related issues. Sadly, he is turning a blind eye to illegalities and gross human rights violations happening right under his nose and in his own country. 

Is it because the original landowners (the adivasis) are less human than white skinned foreigners? 

Read on.....

Five Injured,Hospitalized after police brutality – Workers on indefinite hunger fast

Turamdi, Nr. Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, India

The atrocities perpetuated by the Uranium Corporation of India (UCIL) management against hapless and displaced indigenous people in Jharkhand continue unabated. 
Behaving in a roughshod manner, mindless of any concept of natural justice and is behaving in a completely illegal manner with the people around the mining areas which is tantamount to Human Rights violations and the Acts on Atrocities against Adivasis.

After acquiring land and causing untold havoc with the lives, medical and social fabric of locals since 1960’s in Jadugoda, UCIL trained its eyes on the Turamdi mines area which is about 20kms away from Jadugoda and a mere 5kms from the bustling industrial city of Jamshedpur (Tatanagar).
The Turamdi open cast mine
UCIL acquired vast stretches of land for building the Turamdi and Bandohurang mines besides building a huge tailing pond, a milling and a uranium processing plant since the 1990’s

Gross irregularities have occurred during the land acquisition process. Many adivasis (indigenous) people are still not adequately compensated nor have they received the promised “permanent” jobs at UCIL. In fact, people who did not belong to the Project Affected People (PAP) category have got jobs reserved for these PAP families.

At the Turamdi mines, there was an original promise of hundreds of permanent jobs mentioned in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Detailed Project report. However, only a few permanent jobs were created when the mines were operationalized and the balance jobs were offered on a contract basis to the displaced people.

After going through two changes in the contracts lasting over the last eight odd years, now these experienced contract workers are being rendered jobless by UCIL which has negotiated a new contract with another company from Gujarat. The new contractor claims that it will neither hire the original workers nor will it need as many workers as were hired before.

To add insult to injury, now,UCIL is offering these contractual jobs to people who have no experience of working in uranium mines nor do these people belong to the project affected areas thereby causing one to wonder if UCIL is working in the interests of the contractors rather than the workers. Hiving off complete mining activities to an outsourced contractor – especially in hazardous industries – is also tantamount to negligence and an open invitation to potential disaster.

The contract workers have been made to work for years in core production areas of the mining business and to summarily discharge from duty is against the labor laws of the country. Prima facie, these workers are eligible for permanent job status with ALL attendant facilities. Now they are being thrown out of their only source of livelihood.

Ever since news of job losses was conveyed to the contract workers earlier this year, they have been on a silent sit-in demonstration at the mines and have been trying to negotiate with the UCIL management and the newly appointed contractor.None of their pleas have been heard by either party who have adamantly stuck to their stand of not allowing the earlier workers back to work. 

Displaced and jobless families on a silent sit-in (Oct 2013)

Upon seeing that their jobs were being offered to people having no relationship with any PAP (some even hail from neighbouring states) the desperate and aggrieved workers approached for help from the district administration, labour office. They even met the Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren a few days back who asked his officers to intervene in this matter for an early and amicable solution. Even this did not move the District Collector who maintained that this is an issue between UCIL management and the workers and he would not intervene!

Left to fend for themselves and nobody to listen to their pleas, the workers then moved their agitation to the gates of the project and continued their peaceful and silent sit-in protest. Perhaps as retribution to their actions, the UCIL summarily dismissed a few permanent workers from its staff on vague charges creating complete unrest at the mining site. If the UCIL management imagined that dismissing its permanent workers would create a rift between them and the contract workers, it was grossly mistake. It in fact, brought them together to fight for the legitimate rights of the workers.

But the workers were not prepared for the sudden and brutal police action against them on the morning of November 21st 2013 when police at the behest of the state administration/UCIL management began to beat them up with lathis (batons) in the process injuring 5 workers so grievously that they had to be hospitalized.

Protest in Ranchi (21st Nov 2013)
Hunger fast - Ranchi 22 Nov 2013
The local workers in association with JMACC (Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee) held a protest march on the same day in the capital city of Ranchi. With no respite from any quarters, the workers have now started an indefinite fast outside the Jharkhand Governors official residence in the hope that they will finally get back their jobs and livelihood. 

Their grievances and issues were also studied and found genuine by an independent Fact Finding Team in 2008. They have already lost their lands for no fault of theirs and now they have lost their jobs too - again for no fault. And yet, they have to fight again and again and again for what was and still is their legitimate right.  

The Government of India, the Prime Minister’s Office (to which UCIL reports) the State & District administration, local police and of course, the top management at UCIL are all equally culpable for this injustice perpetrated on the adivasis who are already dying a slow death due to the radiation from the mining activities.

You can also read my earlier article “A Nightmare Called Jadugoda” at:

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Police harassment of PMANE leaders continues in Koodankulam

 -- Anuj Wankhede.

Detailed Letter by the PMANE (Peoples Movement Against Nuclear Energy) 
S. P. Udayakumar, M. Pushparayan, M. P. Jesuraj, R. S. Mugilan, V. Rajalingam - 
regarding the false and motivated cases filed against them. PMANE has been leading a long and completely non-violent struggle against the Koodankulam Nuclear power project. Their struggle has been highly appreciated for its length and non-violence all across the globe. 
This is a national disgrace in a country that routinely calls itself "the world's biggest democracy." If this is how respected non-violent Gandhians are treated despite media attention, then one can imagine the situation elsewhere in India. Time to stop this national shame or to declare that India is a fascist country.

The government of India and the State government of Tamil Nadu unleashed massive police repression against these innocent protestors who want their right to safety and livelihood. A look at some of the file pictures of these atrocities.

The letter written by the PMANE leaders is reproduced below:

Requesting you to take action against Koodankulam Police Inspector and Valliyoor
DSP for their personal vendetta against us and vindictive behavior.

September 28, 2013

S. P. Udayakumar, M. Pushparayan, M. P. Jesuraj, R. S. Mugilan, V. Rajalingam
c/o Parish Priest
Idinthakarai 627 104
Tirunelveli District

The Director General of Police
Dr. Radhakrishnan Salai
Chennai 600 004

Dear Sir:

Sub.: Requesting you to take action against Koodankulam Police Inspector and Valliyoor
DSP for their personal vendetta against us and vindictive behavior.

Greetings! We write to complain formally against Mr. I. Rajapal, Inspector of Koodankulam police station, and Mr. Stanley Jones, Valliyoor Deputy Superintendent of Police, who have been harassing us for a long time with personal enmity, vendetta and hidden agenda. These two officers have been instrumental and personally involved in filing some 340 criminal cases against us and a total of some 2,27,000 peaceful and nonviolent anti-Koodankulam nuclear power project protestors.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013


MithivirdiIt’s more than what meets the eye

Analysing behind the scene REAL reasons for the controversy in India

- By Anuj Wankhede

VINAASH KALE, VIPREET BUDDHI - This ancient saying literally means that during the time of our destruction, we go against our intelligence and perform self-destructive actions.

What else can explain the actions of the current Congress government led by the ’shadow’ Prime Minister Manmohan Singh? A ‘Shadow’ PM because by now it has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt and based on all available empirical evidence that he is a puppet propped up by the Gandhi family and reacts to their beck and call.

Does the current PM have any understanding of science or technology – leave alone the complicated workings of the nuclear energy industry. After all, he is a trained Economist - a career bureaucrat - and has made it up through the ranks to have become the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India at the pinnacle of his illustrious career. It may not be incorrect to infer that Dr. Singh understands the color of money best. Beyond that, he has shown himself either incapable, inept or mostly unwilling/unable to grasp issues beyond this limited grasp.  

But what is the real truth? 

Is the Congress party, Manmohan Singh, all the IAS officers, the Gandhi family, the US government establishment and the collective corporates all over the globe so crazy to be pushing for the nuclear agenda despite huge opposition to the dilution of the CLND Act in India? What is the agenda?

Just a couple of days back (Sept 21st 2013), Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh laid the foundation stone for building the World’s Largest Solar Power Project near Jaipur in Rajasthan, Western India. The first phase will generate 1000MW electricity and hold your breath, it will be commissioned in THREE years’ time. 
Compare this with the construction time for building a 1000MW Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) which takes TEN years on an average globally. The lesser said about the delays and huge cost-over runs in India the better. Koodankulam was conceived in 1988 and even after 25 odd years, it is still to deliver a single MW of electricity to the grid. This, despite the thousands of crores pumped into it, court cases, lies and half-truths, military actions, curfews and all methods of repressing the local people by the State and Central governments. 
So, it is well established from the above fact that the Indian government and MMS are well aware of the benefits of renewable energy and the scope for quickly ramping up India’s electricity generation compared to nuclear energy. 
Then why this urgency by the Congress party to amend existing Nuclear Liability Laws to suit the Americans?


MMS in happier times
When Manmohan Singh was crowned as the Prime Minister of India in the mid 1990’s, he was at the peak of his career having just finished a distinguished career as an economist which led to the Governorship of the Reserve Bank of India – the highest position possible in India. Besides this, he was being widely being acclaimed as the hero of the India by the industry and capitalists (just as they are rooting for Narendra Modi now). Whatever he did was correct and for the long-term good of the nation. “Singh is King” was the cry then.

Among all this, MMS had a pet project – Nuclear energy (and probably weapons) - he is still an extremely pro nukes person. India had been an international pariah since the 1998 Pokhran underground nuclear tests and desperately needed fuel for its existing reactors plus technology and spares to complete its existing plans. This despite the strident cries from NPCIL, DAE and BARC that India has its own indigenous technology and is not dependent on foreign suppliers. This was patently untrue, and this drew Manmohan Singh to signing the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Agreement deal in 2008.

The deal allowed US firms to supply technology (reactors), spares and fuel to India and would pave the way for India to be removed from the nuclear blacklisted nations category. The value of the nuclear deal was put at US$ 150 billion in business for the American corporation in addition to huge number of jobs created in US.

The deal was vehemently opposed by the Indian opposition parties in the parliament and outside. Eventually when there was a parliamentary vote of confidence prior to this, it was revealed that huge sums of money had been given to opposing Members of the Parliament to vote in favor of the deal. In this manner, the Indo-US accord was somehow sealed and rammed down the throats of unwilling Indians who saw it as an abject sellout to the US.

On India’s part, it had successfully bargained to continue with its dual-use technology program (nuclear energy + nuclear weapons) India would only selectively allow independent IAEA inspections at sites of its choice (keeping the military use sites out of bounds for such international supervisions), India would not ratify the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and would become a member country within the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) thus gaining access to uranium fuel among other benefits.

Obviously, all this did not come cheap. The Americans drove a hard bargain by getting India to commit part of its huge nuclear potential to US corporations – notably GE and Westinghouse. Besides making all the above concessions, reportedly the Americans had a hand (or were at least aware of) the huge “cash for vote” scandal which rocked the Parliament during the vote according to the Wikileaks tapes expose in 2011.

Manmohan Singh has always looked at the Indo US nuclear deal as the crowning glory of his career and has said so many times - publicly and during interviews.

However, in his second stint as the Prime Minister of India, things went downhill rapidly. The crony capitalists, industrialists, foreign companies, politicians and bureaucrats had formed a well-oiled system of brazen bribery for their own pernicious gains running into thousands of crores of rupees. Everything in the country was up for grabs provided the bribe was right. 
Scams and scandals involving everything from underground mines to over-ground forests to airwaves erupted one after another and the needle of suspicion was increasing pointing toward the Prime Minister. Whether he himself accepted part of the bribe is unknown, but the fact that all this happened under his nose, on his guard and by people who were close to him sullied his image badly. He seemed incapable of decision making and increasingly it became an accepted fact that the Congress High Command members led by the Gandhi family were calling the shots from behind the scenes. 

Words such as “puppy”, “poodle” and “puppet” became metaphors to describe Manmohan Singh who was once supremely confident and strong.
His position and influence rapidly went downhill in the government as well as in governance.

MMS - Recent file pic
VINAASH KALE, VIPREET BUDDHI i.e. during the time of our destruction, we go against our intelligence.

Scams after scams were uncovered and skeletons tumbled out of cupboards, the courts repeatedly rapped the government for its inaction and shielding the guilty. Yet, Manmohan doggedly supported his close colleagues who were charged with serious economic offences at times even openly defending the outright guilty or somehow managing to get confidential files and evidence mysteriously disappear.


Let us analyze the sudden urgency demonstrated by both sides in the backdrop of the above situation in which Manmohan Singh - and by extension the Congress party and India are trapped into now. 
Manmohan Singh is literally caught between a rock and a hard place with little room to maneuver. He made a commitment in 2008 when the 123 agreement was signed by offering the 150 billion dollar carrot to the US. Swayed by this huge deal, the US administration and politicians - in a rare show of unity - passed the Hyde Act with a huge majority in the US Senate. 

After all, the deal was tilted in the favor of the US. India was already a nuclear weapons state and by not admitting to this fact meant that US corporations would lose billions in profits besides the “loss” of jobs for local Americans. Ethics are damned in such deals as long a money talks and so the US amended its laws by making an exception for India.

So far, so good. However, things turned sour when India passed the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages (CLND) Act in 2010 owing to pressure from opposition, environmental groups and public at large.
To the horror of the Americans, they found that they had been literally taken for a ride. The CLND Act proposed making the foreign suppliers liable for any accident resulting from faults and failures of equipment by the suppliers. As this damage can be unlimited, nuclear suppliers – despite making huge profits – cannot get access to third party insurance. The Indian Act makes them open to bankruptcy if things fail as the consequential damages would be too large to be covered. 
The Russians took cover under an Inter Government Treaty (IGT) signed for the Koodankulam project in 1988 by claiming that the IGT was signed prior to CLND and hence was not applicable for them. The French are throwing intermittent tantrums about the “stringency” of CLND and also keeping hopes alive by remarking that “they will respect Indian Laws”.

But for the Americans, this was a huge loss for its top nuclear companies – a virtual back stab. Incidentally, GE and Westinghouse are two of the largest contributors to both - the Democrats as well as the Republicans - for their campaign funds. These funds run into hundreds of millions and go into lobbying (read “buying”) support of these Congressmen and Senate members to vote in favor for these companies. Without access to this corporate funding, it will be impossible for US politicians to win elections in a country where even state level elections cost a bomb to win. In fact it is said that Big Tobacco, Big Oil, Big Pharma and Big Defense (including nuclear) can make or break the Presidential elections in the US because these corporations have the financial muscle to change policy at the highest level.

Under pressure from the US government (which in turn was under pressure by the private US nuclear lobby), the Congress government in India tried to push in amendments to the 2010 CLND Act by formulating new Rules in 2011 which virtually made the original Act toothless and gave a backdoor entry to foreign suppliers by capping the limits and tenure of any liability.
Civil society, lawyers and environmental groups were justifiably and immediately up in arms against this sleight of hand and soon the principal opposition parties also seized on this opportunity to stall the passage of the Bill in parliament. In the end, the Bill was referred to the lower house of an all-party parliamentary Standing Committee for scrutiny which after deliberations rejected the Bill unanimously. 

Chastened by the people, environmentalists, civil rights groups and opposition parties, the going was getting tougher for the ruling Congress party. The situation on the ground was getting worse each week with scams and scandals running in hundreds of thousands of crores being routinely exposed in media or by whistle blowers. The media scanner, Supreme Court strictures, Activism by civil society members who were making full use of the Right to Information (RTI) led to a virtual paralysis in the policy making of the UPA-2 regime. Decisions were kept on indefinite hold for fear of being pulled up for impropriety years after retirement, the fear of the Supreme court hauling them to Tihar jail meant that new project approvals or expansion plans went into indefinite cold storage. The Indian economy which had been chugging along at close to double digit growth started slowing down to less than 5% accompanied by hyperinflation which has been officially ruling at about 10% over the past year but is unofficially in the range of 25-30% making the incumbent government unpopular among the middle class masses.

Crony capitalism meanwhile had meant that over the “golden” initial years of the UPA, a select set of people (along with their close aides and partners) had learnt the ropes of bagging lucrative contracts using political contacts and bribes. To make good these “expenses”, these industrialists were allowed to loot and plunder the natural resources (water, forests, agriculture, rivers etc.) as well as exploit the tribals and the poor while the government and administration turned a blind eye to all the illegalities.

Resentment towards the Congress has reached such a level that the body languages of the party leaders (and various polls) show that the Congress will lose the elections slated for early 2014. 

For the Americans, this means that they would have to deal with the next party which wins the elections. While theoretically, the principal opposition party (the right wing BJP) or a Left led Third Front can come to power; in all probability, the BJP has a very strong chance of winning at the hustings.
Kerry delivers the ultimatum
The US and the foreign companies would like to extract their pound of flesh from the Congress for the 2008 commitments made by India before the elections are announced somewhere by late 2013. In fact John Kerry on his India visit in June 2013 practically gave a ultimatum to the Indian government to sort out the Liability issue by September. The timing of this ultimatum cannot be missed given the fact that once the Elections are announced, the Indian Election Commission's Code of Conduct sets in after which the government cannot make any major or even minor policy changes. 
While there is no question of ethics among politicians (more so among the Indian lot), the US will find it far easier to turn the screws on Manmohan Singhs government which is tottering at this point of time rather than a rejuvenated BJP. 

The US administration does not have any love lost for the BJP. It has consistently denied a US visa to Narendra Modi (who is the official BJP candidate for Prime Minister ship if the party wins in 2014) due to his alleged complicity in the 2002 Gujarat communal violence. Given his hard line aggressive behavior Modi would surely use any tactics to shame the US in the same manner in which he felt insulted by the visa denials and seek revenge by not signing any deals with them– at least for a while.

Westinghouse-Toshiba building Mithivirdee N-plant
The BJP publicly portrays an anti-liability dilution stand, but privately they are very much pro nuke - especially on the weapons and energy agenda. There are reports that the BJP is working closely with NPCIL to acquire farmers land for the Westinghouse-Toshiba nuclear park at Mithi Virdi in Gujarat. Drumming up anti Pakistan support has already begun and the jingoistic language will only continue in the run up to elections. For the BJP, the “Bomb” is a symbol of Indian Nationalism and that was displayed by its public outpouring after the 1998 Pokhran tests by the BJP government. Nuclear weapons need Plutonium and Plutonium can come from the civil nuclear reactors which have been kept outside of international inspections under the Undo-US accord. A rough estimate shows that using only these 8 out of the 20 reactors in India, the country  can manufacture over 2000 nuclear weapons in a reasonably quick time. This is the reason why India wants to rapidly ramp up its civil nuclear energy. For the jingoists in the military-industrial complex this is a huge opportunity for making even more money and to wield more power.

As they say, ‘A known devil is always better than an unknown angel’ and ‘It is easy to kick a man who is already down.’ That is called as real politick and all the parties involved here are intensely aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. 
The Congress - struggling with all its problems - knows well enough that if the US turns the screws on India, the Indian economy can (and will) collapse in a jiffy. While the US may have had its own set of economic problems; it is still strong enough to easily upset and destabilize the Indian economy for a short to medium period of time. 
The Indian economy is hugely dependent on Foreign Institutional Investors (FII) funds running into billions and trillions of dollars - commonly referred to as “hot money” as it can be suddenly withdrawn from a foreign country. If the US does so, the Indian Stock market will collapse taking along with it the already beleaguered manufacturing and services industries which are already tottering at 4-5% growth rates. Jobs will vanish due to the slowdown and the rupee will be under immense pressure. The Indian Current Account Deficit (CAD) is already too high, international scenarios are changing on an almost daily basis resulting in huge fluctuations in the crude oil prices – the single biggest factor influencing the rupee and inflation in India.
In fact, one wonders if the sudden fall in the Indian Rupee recently was a trailer which the US showed the Manmohan Singh government about what can happen if India does not toe the American line. The BIGGEST impact of all this will be on the public sentiment which will turn negative towards the ruling Congress regime resulting in an anti-incumbency vote while the fence sitters will hitch onto the “pro industry” BJP-Modi bandwagon ditching the Congress. 

All said and done, it is extremely easy to pull the rug from beneath the Congresses’ feet. On the other hand, if the Congress does indeed offer a backdoor entry to the US nuclear club, then the US can further sweeten the deal by offering some carrots to India. 

One such carrot was the rumored supply of extremely cheap US natural gas to India at very favorable terms. The shale gas boom in the US has resulted in unimaginable low prices of natural gas which is now available in excess for the US domestic consumption. This deal will immediately reduce the pressure on the rupee as well on inflation as India’s oil bill will drop substantially. A drop in oil prices will lead to lower transport costs and lower inflation which will be a huge “feel-good” factor within the economy. 
That is a good enough deal since public memory is quite fickle and this whole “sell-out” to the US will be a largely forgotten story by the time voting happens for the general elections in India around March-April 2014. People tend to look at current street prices, political sops, stability and strength of the government while voting rather than what happened six months ago. Besides this, honestly speaking, the nuclear liability issue is of little consequence for the vast majority of Indians who might in fact welcome such a deal as they believe that this would apparently give them more electricity!  A large section of even the well-educated Indians still looks at Nuclear energy as a clean, safe and cheap form of electricity despite Fukushima. The BJP and Left may shout from the rooftops about the abject surrender to the US, but eventually at the hustings, that will make only a marginal difference – that too even at best.

Another carrot which can be dangled to the Congress is that the US will support India for a Permanent Seat in the UN Security Council (UNSC). It is well known that this is a huge prestige and emotive issue for most Indians and any government which can (even falsely) promise that they will secure the UNSC seat will bag the popular votes.  In fact, the BJP may well be willing to dilute the Nuclear Liability clause for this carrot if it has a clear majority. 

In any case, the US knows quite well that the BJP is not such a bad enemy as it shows publicly. The US has a long and chequered history of supporting even the worst dictators and mass murderers for its own strategic and economic gains. 

The BJP is a sworn anti-Pakistan/anti-China party and hence if it comes to power, the Indian defense budget will at worst remain stable and at best will grow further. This offers huge opportunities for the US in high tech defense sales. 

Modi is known pro industry
Apart from this, the BJP – for all its public posturing – is a pro industry, trader based party. Quite like the US, they are willing to talk business if the quid-pro-quo is right. They are certainly not in the leftist/socialist mode as the “development” model of Gujarat has shown over the past decade. The US knows that its trade interests will be taken care by the BJP if the right carrots are dangled to it – the sweetest being the permanent seat at the UNSC.

Helping get BJP into power is also beneficial to the US in another way. If the UNSC carrot is accepted by the BJP and it agrees to dilute the CLND Act for the Americans, the Congress party in India would have no leg to stand on in the Parliament as they have themselves attempted to do the same.  In short, the US is in the supreme position to call the shots while the Congress squirms uncomfortably, The Congress knows fully well that if the BJP wins close to an absolute majority in 2014 - on the back of US pulling the rug - the BJP can well last for one or even two terms. Already marginalized and with no charismatic leaders in sight, the Congress can ill afford this political wilderness.

It is perhaps this fear that is making leaders in the ruling party take this self-destructive path of diluting the nuclear liability. With its back to the wall, the Congress can only make a deal with the US and live to fight another day. Else, it is curtains for Congress circa 2014.

For the Americans, it is a classic case of “Heads I win, Tails you lose.”

Friday, 6 September 2013

Cotton in the ears and sawdust in the skull - Shinzo Abe

Shinzo Abe – A PM without conscience, wisdom or compassion.
                                                                                  -- By Anuj Wankhede

Does this not sound unreal? 

Maybe even surreal.

Even as the situation at the crippled Fukushima-Daichi Nuclear power plant rapidly goes out of control, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems to have his goal set on winning the bid to host the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo!

Abe plans to travel to Buenos Aires where the International Olympic Committee members will vote on Saturday (7th September) to choose a host city for the games.

Sure, we do not expect a modicum of intelligence from our world leaders today. If it is Abe in Japan, then it is the likes of Manmohan Singh in India or Obama in the US who behave like absolute fools when it comes to taking wise decisions. We, the citizens have learnt to have as little or possibly no expectations from these “world leaders.”

But has it also become a pre-requisite to have cotton in your ears and sawdust in your skull to become the Prime Minister of a nation?

That’s because the actions of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seem to indicate that this is exactly the case with him. He probably has blindfolded eyes too (besides the cotton and sawdust) because he cannot see what’s beyond his nose (probably, not even that much)

The March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami shattered a major part of Japan and left it in shambles within minutes - causing enormous damage to life and property. Given the propensity for natural disasters - particularly by earthquakes – Japan was in a better emergency preparedness mode than any other country in the world. While this massive earthquake would have made many a skyscrapers collapse elsewhere and flattened cities, the good construction and planning in Japan saved further human and economic losses.

But among all these brilliant planners and designers were nuclear scientists who consider that whatever they say is gospel and Holy Grail. They claim to know the best because at some point they managed to add a “nuclear” tag to themselves and were instantly teleported from being ordinary human beings into pantomaths (persons who have reached the pinnacle of knowledge and know everything.)

At Fukushima (about 150 miles off Tokyo) on the Pacific seashore, THEY built was a huge nuclear plant with 4 gigantic reactors, none of which were able to take the brunt of the quake and tsunami onslaught and are now literally at an angle worse than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. “THEY” in this case is the Japanese government, prodded by the USA government and greedy corporates and which have now been mothballed by the utility that ran and is 'apparently' still running operations there however shoddily called TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

Much has been said, written, photographed and videos have shown about the current state of the reactors. The world knows the results of the commission of inquiry setup to go into the facts of the case and how TEPCO was exposed – nay, hauled over the coals - in that report and was shown as a greedy utility operator which cut corners to save money even after repeated warnings about plant safety. The world also knows how the governments’ regulatory agency worked in collusion with TEPCO and overlooked all these discrepancies. The world is also aware of how the government of Japan overtly and covertly tried to do a (shoddy) cover up job about the actual damage to the Fukushima Daichi nuclear complex and indulged in complete lies, half-truths and shameless cover ups to claim that everything at Fukushima is under control.

One could have forgiven all these and either condoned them or punished the guilty later had it not been for the fact that despite over two and a half years passing by, the situation at Fukushima has become far more serious than want it was in 2011. Instead of improving, things are rapidly going downhill and spiraling out of control.

And yet, the government of Japan - led by the cotton and sawdust PM Abe - seems be in a complete denial about the severity and the criticality of the situation at Fukushima just outside Tokyo city (and hence the point of him also being blindfolded.)

Let’s look at the material facts which Abe should surely be aware of:

1)TEPCO simply cannot be trusted – neither in its words, nor its promises, nor its abilities to handle the situation.

2) The reactor buildings are in an extremely precarious condition and another earthquake may result in a collapse of the whole structure.

   3) Heavy machinery used at the plant was damaged by the 2011 events and there is limited machinery to do any meaningful work immediately until replacements are built.
   4) Hundreds of tons of highly radioactive spent coolant water are leaking from make-shift drums lying in the open daily and radiation levels have risen to a level of 2200millSelverts – levels enough to kill within hours.
   5)The situation is so critical that thousands of fuel rods have to be removed from the reactors in an extremely delicate manner or else they will set off an atomic chain reaction which will go out of control and cause havoc.

  6)Over 150000 people have been evacuated (displaced) to temporary shelters with no clue about when (if ever) they will return to their homes.

Amidst all this, our friend Abe has this to say:

“I want to explain [to IOC delegates] that in 2020 this will not be a problem at all” 

False Bravado!

And yet, TEPCO itself has admitted that the decommissioning process for the plant has been forecast to take about 40 years and cost at least $11 billion. Independent experts say this is an optimistic assessment and the actual time frame and costs will be far higher.

But the bid for hosting the 2020 Olympics is not the first cardinal mistake/sin that Abe has made and is continuing to make.

He has been in a tearing rush to push Japanese NUCLEAR supplies and “technology” to developing countries!! Had it been a matter of Toshiba exporting laptops & televisions or Mitsubishi selling motorcycles or Hitachi selling cranes & train locos, one could have completely understood it. But for JAPAN which was nuked twice and is still limping somehow with critically failed nuclear power plants to export NUCLEAR??? Unreal. Surreal.

What can be more shameful than sitting a few miles away from the world’s worst nuclear disaster and yet sell the very cause of this damage to others simply to salvage your own private companies! Hell, these companies such as Hitachi, Toshiba, Mitsubishi Heavy etc are supposed to operate under the capitalist market driven forces. They are not doing any charity. Let them fend for themselves in bad times. It is not as if they have shared anything meaningful during their good times (unless it benefited them in some manner.)

Any other person of reasonable intelligence would have counseled his colleague from another country to give up on the nuclear energy dream and would have also pointed out to the shut 50 nuclear reactors around Japan and how the country still manages without them. Hell, even the Indian Prime Minister -with his near sub zero IQ - would have grasped that logic had Abe explained it to him patiently and with his hand on his heart.

But NO, sawdust does not give people intelligence. Intelligence requires brains while counseling others and for genuine caring, one needs a heart - both of which Abe has shown that he does not possess by his repeated crass actions.

How else do you explain the aggressive bidding and lobbying by Abe and his government for building Turkey’s nuclear reactors and winning the bid recently? This, even after knowing that seismic hazard is very high in Turkey – a country that has a history of massive earthquakes measuring about 7 and above on the Richter scale every 5 years causing huge damage.

Is this responsible or ethical behavior by a world leader?

I believe that this is crass, repulsive, unethical and unprincipled behavior by the Prime Minister of a country whose country has not yet come to grips with its own disastrous situation.

But now Abe seems to be going even one step further. He has his eyes firmly set on winning the 2020 Olympics and is being goaded along by vested interests from the West who have a huge economic stakes in Japan, the value of the Yen and the levels of Nikkei.

Their only concern is to have a dog and pony show for the global audiences and pretend that all-is-well in Tokyo and hence to come and do business with Japan. A showpiece to show that it's "business as usual."

Unfortunately, like everything else, what Abe and company miss out is this:

a)  Fukushima and Japan's problems are not going to get over just yet, certainly not in the next 7 years.
b)  An event like the Olympics will put extreme pressure on resources – both financial as well as human resources.
c)   It will shift focus away from the tasks at hand and will force the best planners to work towards the Olympics rather than finding creative and immediate solutions to defusing the Fukushima crisis.

Hundreds of thousands are still coming to grips of the events which occurred on 3.11.2011 and are going through extreme emotional (not to speak of financial) trauma. In such a situation, the PM should in fact have declined any offer to host the 2020 event even if it had been made proactively by the IOC.

Abe's attitude towards attaining cheap political and economic mileage smacks of heartlessness and places him right next to Queen Marie Antoinotte for complete callousness towards his own people.

All that the 2020 Olympics will do is to divert the nation’s attention from the impending doom and create a fake temporary feel good atmosphere.

Unfortunately, if the Japanese government does not accord the priority deserved to tackling Fukushima, then Japan as we know may well not exist to host the 2020 Olympics.

Are you listening Mr. Shinzo Abe?

Oh I am so sorry, I forgot about the cotton in the ears…..