Sunday, 14 July 2013

A Big Thank You to the government for NIMHANS

-- By Anuj Wankhede

The Central government outsourced the task of checking and influencing the mental health of Anti-Nuclear protesters to the Bangalore based National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Studies (NIMHANS) details here and here.

(First published on May 22, 2012 and updated July 14, 2013)

Protesting groups should warmly welcome this news for at least two reasons:

1) The Government admits that “real people,” (and not morons,) are protesting and that these people have been adversely affected by its brain washing. In short, it indirectly admits that these people actually DO “have” some brains.

2) That this premier institute can do a job that has not yet been accomplished with state torment, state terror and unilateralism and all the states previous dirty tactics have failed to make any discernible difference to the mental resolve of the Indian people.

One wonders whether the Indian government is trying to emulate Alexander the Great, Hitler or the Chinese militia by getting into PSYOPS,  - Psychological operations used to induce or reinforce behavior favorable to state objectives. But, then you need to be a master of the game and be successful for this. 

The problem is that the Indian government does not learn from other countries’ experience. 
They prefer to take bites of something from somewhere and then apply that little knowledge in bits and pieces with an objective of making a masterpiece. In this process, they fail so miserably that you almost pity for this Government. They look like a bunch of jokers suddenly discovering that the joke is on them and very embarrassing for themselves and the country.

Well, these are such grim times economically, with the country reeling under hyper inflation, and a good dose of government induced comedy would certainly be welcomed by all. Humor definitely takes the stress out of daily life. That much we know for sure by experience!!

It is interesting to take a look at the Indian government’s expensive and repeated efforts in shaping public opinion.
They forced people to watch pathetic “documentaries” in cinema theatres.
So utterly pathetic were these documentary films that a whole organization – Films Division – is now practically closed down after spending decades of efforts and tons of cash upon it.

Another white elephant of the government is the DAVP (Department of Audio Video Publicity). Their production quality of print and radio advertisements is so horrible that even second grade kids make better posters at a drawing exhibitions.

The Indian Government’s efforts to dominate television have also yielded equally pathetic returns. Its flagship Doordarshan – with its “basket” of channels -is fondly termed as
Dukhdarshan (sad viewing).

The programming, presentation and anchors all seem to be in a time warp.

Sensible people prefer to watch umpteen reruns of 1970s M*A*S*H than any current program on these government owned channels. The Doordarshan channels are Free to Air unlike most other private say channels. Even this carrot of “free” does not entice viewers, a fact borne out the TRP numbers. To claim that the channel is doing “public service” programming is ridiculous when you consider that there is NO public watching it! Even when they get opportunities to telecast live sports, they make a hash of things with unbearable commentary and advertising that extends into the “Live” action! The moment the sporting event is over, this forced audience makes a dash for the remote for changing channels.

Now that the government has decided to sort out the mental health of Indians, it could probably extend the services of NIMHANS to some of its own party people and partners.
For long people have been questioning the mental health of senior party leaders who talk absolute rubbish on national television without even realizing that they are actually buffoons personified. And when these politicians see things on the Internet which 'hurt' them, then they think that they can take down the whole World Wide Web with censorship. These Central Ministers have no clue about the ways and means of getting around its censorship. If they would spend some time with their children at home, they would learn tons of lessons from their own kids on proxies and bypassing firewalls and getting information.

The government’s mortal fear of knowledgeable and informed citizens is well known to all. What these mentally challenged senior ministers don’t realize is that the world order has changed.

Information has empowered people. People don’t fall for propaganda like they did in the times of Alexander and Hitler when there was a single source of (dis)information.

Now, people check, cross check, verify, watch videos, interact online with experts around the world and network together. Then and only then do people make decisions and these decisions are deeply “informed.”

The government opens its mouth only to put its foot into it. So frequently does it end up issuing ‘clarifications,’ ‘denials,’ ‘quoted out of context,’ ‘lack of communication,’ ‘misunderstood’ and other sundry excuses to backtrack its own official statements that people no longer believe “anything” which the government officially states.

Their attempts at using social media for public information (read as propaganda) are a joke in itself what with late, inaccurate and inane flashes of news. An unofficial parody Twitter account of the PM’s office does a hugely better job than the official ones by the Congress.

The Indian government is patting its own back claiming success in Kashmir and thinking they won back the locals and extremists with “communication” (and a healthy dose of repression).

My theory is quite the reverse. It is very much possible the people of Kashmir got proper information of their neighboring Pakistan’s real state of affairs through the internet. And when they looked at the sorry state of affairs in that country, they decided that India is a less evil place than it - because a known devil is better than an unknown one.

To claim that Indian North Eastern militancy is down is another figment of this government’s imagination. What has been communicated to the youth there? Allowing Irom Sharmila to fast for ELEVEN YEARS is the sign of great mental health? It is a sign of delusion and a complete lack of ground level understanding. This shows how much the government of India depends on mental torture.

People these days also read much more and follow news in real time. 
They don’t have the inclination to be taken in by this “paid” media. 
Rather, they seek information from special interest groups, blogs and websites run by industry veterans. Insiders who once worked for governments are talking openly. Industries too are raising informed debates after realizing their earlier mistakes. People get their information from multiple and independent sources. These online sources cannot spread misinformation because then the retribution comes almost immediately from the readers – so they do not spread falsehoods. Hence, any attempts to use these PSYOPs by the government are bound to be still-born because such tactics have always banked on slanted facts, partial truth or upon pure lies. None of these have a place in the digital age.

People can simply calculate the costs of various forms of energy per unit, check the safety claims of the government, check cost over runs, compare the time to set up nuclear projects vs renewable projects, see the continuing horrors at reactors 1-4 at Fukushima, witness the miseries of those who have been evacuated, contemplate Chernobyl’s ‘dead zone’ condition even after over 25 years and THEN decide what they want.

If after all this, someone still makes a pro-nuclear case, his/her mental health definitely needs the expertise of NIMHANS. 
Anyway, the Congress government and its leaders don’t not rely too much on their own institutions and prefer to go abroad for treating their own secret illnesses and simultaneously conducting business there, why will they go to NIMHANS? Sonia Gandhi's mysterious treatment costs Rs 1,880 cr: Swamy

The NIMHANS experiment will accomplish what the anti-nuclear groups have not yet been able to achieve.

This involvement of government will immediately force skeptics and fence sitters to verify what the official statements really means and the hidden agenda of this government. And once people check things out, they will become committed anti-nuclear advocates.

While at this experiment, the mental health doctors at NIMHANS could also study the reasons for increased suicide rates, dangerously high levels of depression, divorce and assaults among the Indian population. They should search for correlations between these reasons and the income inequality in society post “liberalization” of the Indian economy since the 1990's by their fond leader Dr. Man’moan’ Singh.

They could also search the brain of another civil servant who goes by the name of Montek Singh Ahulwalia who challenges the nation’s tolerance with his ridiculous poverty levels that go lower and lower each year even as inflation gallops. It is not that the latter is mad; he is after all just changing the goal post to make the poor disappear from government stats. But his crass and inhuman manner of doing this noble (sic) task deserves investigation by mental health experts.

Indeed, it would be apropos if the government’s own mind undergoes a thorough ‘routine’ checkup at NIMHANS. Because this government expects citizens to believe that a nuclear bomb makes India a safe place.

What safety? You can bomb your neighbor but then you yourself too will be under a radiation cloud.Is that safety? 

That surely speaks volumes about the mental health of these career bureaucrats and illiterate politicians. To own a nuke bomb is very easy. But who will have the guts to use it? Does either India or Pakistan have the guts? 

Hell, they don’t even have the guts to hang a terrorist caught on camera killing hundreds of innocent citizens for years and neither any other terror suspect. What guts does the nation have?

To this, these wily people will say that nuclear weapons are a “deterrent.” 

That is another blatant lie which is exposed by the fact that almost immediately after the last nuclear test, Pakistan launched the Kargil war that resulted in huge casualties for India and even then, the armed forces coffin scam occurred - abetted by these same government controlled bureaucrats.  

So whose mental health needs a checkup?

This Government wants to promote nuclear power because of increased because of its perceived demand supply mismatch. Meanwhile the dimwits in its ministry take extremely minuscule steps to minimize electricity wastage or to disconnect power of defaulting industries which are resulting in power shortages for the ordinary citizens.

Everyone knows that when you don’t have money in the pocket, you should cut down on your demands and not to increase demands because that does not fill your pocket. But whether it is electricity or government spending, the establishment takes these curiously insane decisions of over spending and yet calling others crazy when they point out the truth.

So be it. 

Such PSYOP's will certainly benefit the anti-nuclear lobby more and will hurt the government.

Thank God for small mercies.

 (First published on May 22, 2012) and updated July 14, 2013)

A Viable Alternative at Koodankulam

he Koodankulam nuclear power project (KNPP) has become the face of the anti-nuclear movement of not only India, but of the whole world.
(Originally published June 22, 2012 and updated)                                                                                  -- By Anuj Wankhede

The plant operator - Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) has steadfastly refused to budge from its stand and continued to withhold vital site, safety and environmental details which lead many to believe that the government is trying to hide critical and embarrassing dangerous information especially related to reactor design which is believed to have compromised due to last minute changes.

Be that as it may, the NPCIL (government owned, funded and controlled) has set up the plant under almost military style security. It claims that all safety drills have been completed (disputed and proven incorrect) and is ready to load fuel rods to commence operation within months – if not weeks.

In the face of such advanced preparations for the first reactor to commence, the government excuse is that thousands of crores have already been invested in the project and not commissioning the reactor will mean a national waste. That argument in itself is quite absurd when one compares the figures for the alleged 2G or Coal scams which run into several hundred thousand crores.

But this money need not be considered a waste or be written off. It would be extremely interesting to see what can be done for resolving the issue amicably and with minimum waste.
The KNPP is not the first instance of nuclear projects stalled because of resentment from the local populace. The US has witnessed this in the famous Shoreham reactor which was run for ONE DAY before closing down. The William H. Zimmer nuclear powerplant in Ohio was converted to fuel combustion when it was 97% completed. The Midland Cogeneration Facility at Michigan and at Seabrooke, New Hampshire which were abandoned at very advanced stages of over 85% completion for reasons varying from delays, cost over runs, technical and anti nuclear sentiments – sometimes a combination of all these ensured the not one unit of nuclear power was produced.

In fact, of the 253 nuclear power reactors originally ordered in the United States from 1953 to 2008, 48 percent were canceled while 11 percent were prematurely shut down! That is a startling statistic in a country which invented the technology in the first place.
One could argue the US being a rich, developed country can afford this luxury of sunk cost, so let us turn to a country similar to India – Philippines

Bataan Nuclear Power Station (BNPP)

BNPP was built and ready before it was abandoned following a change of political leadership following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster besides stiff opposition to the project from the citizens. Over $2 billion had been spent on the project, nuclear fuel had been transported to the site when it was abandoned.
Today, it has been made into a tourist attraction primarily to recover the cost of  $40 million needed to maintain the idled reactor and the complex.

Built nearly three decades ago but never used, the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in the Philippines is now being promoted by its parent company, the National Power Corporation, as a new ecotourism site. Visitors can tour the plant and stay the night at an adjacent beach, which is home to a turtle sanctuary. (More)

Some of the canceled nuclear projects in the US were attempted to be run on alternative fuel  - with mixed results. It is important to bear in mind that most of these attempts happened during the 1970's and 80's and this includes the Philippines reactor.
The BNPP revival plans included the option to convert it into a thermal power plant run either on coal or natural gas. Detailed studies were carried out on both  the plans but were shelved as nonviable. What made them nonviable? And in such a situation, how can KNPP be honorably salvaged?

The option of converting BNPP into a coal fired plant was discarded primarily because of non availability of quality coal and environmental pollution. In case of KNPP, the adverse environmental impact of coal based plants means that it cannot be considered viable although Tamil Nadu has good coal reserves especially at Neyveli from where lignite coal is transported over a thousand kilometers to run thermal power plants in North India.

The natural gas fired power plant is therefore the default choice and was examined in detail at BNPP. The two reasons attributed for non viability  were that firstly, the upgradation cost was prohibitive and secondly, the amount of natural gas available in Philippines is very limited. In case of KNPP, the technology used is quite contemporary – unlike BNPP which was built in the late 70's and evaluated for upgrade in the late 1990's. KNPP retrofitting costs are not likely to be very high or require massive engineering modifications.

Coming to the next question of natural gas, it is agreed that even in India, there is a shortage of gas and hence many private gas power plants are affected.However, state owned Gas Authority of India Ltd. (GAIL) is successfully operating gas based projects in western India.

One reason Philippines abandoned the idea was because it did not have adequate transportation infrastructure to make gas available to BNPP.

However, the scenario in India is quite different. There is an extensive network of gas pipeline and which can be extended to feed the KNPP. GAIL and other companies are building additional pipeline network in South India and  these are progressing rapidly. The presence of significant amount of gas on the East coast presents a significant advantage. The Cauvery and Krishna Godavari (KG) basins are already operational and many other explorations are currently in progress. Neighbouring Kerala has significant gas reserves and which are operational.

Even if gas needs to be imported, the location of KNPP offers an advantage being on the seashore. It would not be impossible to conceive a full fledged port for importing LNG. There are other ports in the region which have world class LNG terminals – Kochi, Chennai, Ennore for example are not too far and pipelines can be extended to the project.
Imported LNG can be brought to these ports plus, regrassification facilities at these landing ports are available and can be upgraded too.

The cost of imported LNG for running a gas based plant at Koodankulam would be lower than that of many other private operators situated inland. Additionally, there is abundant gas supply to the East in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Bhutan. India already imports LNG from Australia which comes in to the Kochi terminal.

It should be noted that nuclear power plants involve a very substantial subsidy from the government. Right from the building of the power plant (Cost of Work in Progress – CWIC) to the actual running of the plant involves subsidies running into thousands of crores of rupees. This money incidentally comes from the Indian tax payers and starts right from the time the project starts – in case of KNPP, Indians have already been paying for this since over twenty years and will continue to pay for at least the next 30-40 years, probably more.
A large number of gas based ultra mega power plants (UMPP) set up by the private sector are in doldrums because of the (DELIBERATE) high cost of gas by Reliance Industries (RIL) and ONGC. The government can definitely avoid the huge nuclear subsidy and instead offer part of it for KNPP gas. The hidden cost of decommissioning a nuclear reactor is not considered by most people. This cost is 70-100% of the cost of setting up the reactors. One reason BNPP was made into a tourist attraction was the huge cost involved in taking down the plant.

From a purely financial point of view, the gas conversion of KNPP makes a lot of sense. If we look at the available inventory, it makes even more practical sense. The land and building along with support facilities are ready. The turbines can be used to run on gas instead of nuclear fuel with modifications.

The switchgear is in place as is the control and monitoring system. Given that NPCIL is talking of commissioning the plant soon, it can be assumed that grid connectivity is also in place. With this entire infrastructure existing, it would take a mere 2 years to operationalize a gas fired project. The modifications can largely be carried out by Indian companies which have enough engineering expertise in setting up gas based UMPP’s.

At a plant load factor of 80%, the gas based project can deliver electricity at the same cost as nuclear power and if it operates at 100% (TATA Power manages even 102% in Maharashtra) the cost of the gas based plant power can be lower than that of nuclear power without the attendant risks of meltdown, danger to thousands of lives, radioactive contamination and possibilities of rendering huge tracts of fertile land barren and displacement of significant number of people. The marginal pollution caused by a gas power project is far more tolerable when compared to the ridiculous “acceptable” risk of a nuclear accident.

Another factor which can work in favor of KNPP is that there exists a sterile or exclusion zone about 3 km around the plant. Since this land is already acquired, it can be used for setting up a solar farm using concentrated solar cells and generating substantial power. Apart from solar, wind farms can be considered in this zone. Tamil Nadu is known for its wind farms and has a number of commercially operating farms. The location of the plant gives the opportunity to explore near-shore wind potential which give better output compared to inshore farms. Being grid connected means these projects can be set up in no time, probably as soon as three months!

The government has been lucky that all the advantages are stacked in its favor and canceling the nuclear part of the project is only a minor hurdle. In the case of BNPP, Philippines challenged the payments due to its American suppliers but lost the case in court and eventually paid up. Add to this the idling cost of $40 million per annum for about 30 years shows that if the government is keen and willing to listen to its citizens, no cost is too high.

NPCIL will obviously throw a fit and put many spanners in the work. That is to be expected. However, as human beings first, the NPCIL should look at this as a testimony that they have built the framework on which a new plant rests. There is no question of any job losses, only the loss of control over the project for the NPCIL brass. Even here, it is not unconceivable that NPCIL take up equity in the new venture and profit from it.

It is now up to the government to be pragmatic and not allow this to become an ego issue.  It is honorable to accept the peoples mandate (which the government talks about at every election) than to have blood on its hands in case of any eventuality.

(Originally published June 22, 2012 and updated)
Anuj is a Masters in Management Studies, an avid environmentalist who believes that bigger the problem, bigger the opportunity.
He can be reached at benchmark.anuj (at) and +919757475875