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…..

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Why the Fishermen around Jaitapur are Angry

-- By Vaishali Patil 

Convener, Konkan Vinashkari Prakalap Virodhi Samiti

The plan by NPCIL to establish 9900 MW nuclear project was first publicly announced in Sept 2005. The Jaitapur project is planned to be the biggest nuclear power station in the world. This project is to be spread over 968 hectors of land of five villages- Madban, Niveli, Karel, Mithgavane & Varliwada. However to fight against forcible land acquisition, the locals had formed “Janhit Seva Samiti”, under this banner all protests were organized.

Mr. Pravin Gawankar was the President of this Samiti. He is a “Khot” i.e. a big landlord of Madban. Another office bearer Dr. Milind Desai too is a big farmer whose family owned more than 150 acres of land in Mithgavane. There were a number of unregistered & unrecorded tenants on his land.

Fisherfolk in Sakhri Nate protesting against Areva's project
Fisherfolk in Sakhri Nate protesting against Areva's project
On Friday 30th Aug 2013 Janhit Seva Samiti’s president Mr. Gavankar and Dr. Milind Desai had a meeting with Maharashtra industries minister Mr Narayan Rane, along with 25 farmers. In this meeting where he submitted a memorandum of 25 demands on behalf of their organization. Wide publicity was given to this event. The event and the subsequent publicity raise many questions in the minds of activists and the antinuclear movement of India.

The actual facts and the reality of protests in the project area and against the nuclear power project was revealed by the local Sakhari- Nate fisher folks and Mithgavane, Madban Panchkroshi Samiti by their fisher folk leader Mr. Amajad Borkar, Mr. Mansur Solkar and others on 31st Aug 2013.

A fisherman looks into the sea off Nate
Although on paper only 2375 farmers were project affected as they actually owned the land in this area - but even though the fisher folks too are project affected they do not own any land. The fisherfolk have been in the forefront of these protests. From 2009, the anti-nuclear movement became very strong and the subsequent government repression was condemned all over India. Leaders like Justice Kolse Patil, Justice P. B. Sawant & activist Vaishali Patil were banned from entering Jaitapur area. Earlier, a youth lost his life in police firing. This aggravated the protests. At about this time many prominent local leaders were harassed by police by issuing externment process and falsely implicating them in acts of violence and disturbing peace.

Sakhari-Nate, a village of 10,000 population which is just going to be 5-10 k.m. away from the reactor, is the most affected and has been in the forefront of protests. They have organised a press conference and have condemned the decision of Mr. Gavankar to negotiate with the government and take back the protests. The fight against nuclear project is going to continue as many feel let down by Mr Gavankar. With or without Gavankar, the protests are going to continue.

(Update: In a meeting and Press Conference held in Mumbai on September 2nd, 2013, the local activists pledged to continue their fight against the project despite the "leaders" letting them down. Read here)

The author can be reached on

Video: Protests in Sakhri Nate, January 2013

(This is an edited / updated version of the article which appeared on 02/09/2013 on

Why the Indo Japanese Nuclear deal is a bad idea

- By P K Sundaram  

Because Japan shouldn't compensate for its Fukushima losses by exporting nuclear technology to other countries. Because the Indian govt is violently imposing reactor projects on its people who are up in protest against the unsafe, uneconomic and undesirable nuclear expansion. Because going for nuclear reactors after Fukushima doesn't make sense at all.

The agreement

Having secured majority in both the houses of the Japanese parliament in the July elections, the LDP government has decided to re-start the negotiations with India for a nuclear agreement. This time Prime Minister Abe seems more confident of sailing through the internal opposition to opening doors for nuclear supplies to India. Last time, despite positive noises on both sides on the eve of the Indian PM's visit to Tokyo, the final joint statement did not even mention the word nuclear.

Abenomics at the cost of other countries
While Japan seeks to compensate for the huge economic losses incurred due to the ongoing nuclear accident in Fukushima, for India the agreement with Japan has pivotal importance for two reasons. Firstly, an accord with Japan is a requisite for the planned imported reactor projects in Mithi Virdi, Kovvada and Jaitapur as Japanese manufacturers supply some crucial components used in the American and French reactors. Also, the US nuclear corporates GE and Westinghouse are now owened by Japanese companies Hitachi and Toshiba and this necessitates a formal agreement with Japan for the US-imported reactor projects to take off in India.

Secondly, the agreement with Japan would be an important diplomatic achievement for the Indian government as it would mark the final end of nuclear embargo that India's has been facing ever since its 1974 nuclear test, which it conducted by diverting nuclear material that it acquired from other countries under peaceful rubric. When the US engineered India's re-entry into international nuclear commerce in 2008 by pushing the Nuclear Suppliers Group to exempt India, the atomic bomb survivors from Nagasaki wrote a protest letter saying it would be a bad precedent to effectively reward India, while the world is grappling with new and potential proliferators like North Korea and Iran. But to ensure India's diplomatic bandwagoning and rehabilitate the nuclear corporates who have been facing terminal crisis in the West, the US changed the global nuclear regime to India's favour.

The agreement is so important for India that in August it deployed Ashwini Kumar, an ex-minister who had to resign after the coal block scam, as the Prime Minister's special envoy to Tokyo. The Japanese PM Mr. Shinzo Abe will be visiting India in October and Japan's royal couple's visit in November-end will follow shortly. The two countries would try hard to finalise the nuclear agreement in this season of diplomatic parlays.

Voices of protest

Both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Peace Declarations this year on the anniversary of the nuclear bombings in Japan mentioned the India-Japan agreement as a departure from japan's long standing policy to respect NPT and promote nculear disarmament internationally. The Nagasaki Declaration said "Japan’s cooperation with India would also provide North Korea, which withdrew from the NPT and is committed to nuclear development, with an excuse to justify its actions, hindering efforts toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." Echoing similar concerns, Hiroshima's mayor said in his statement that the India-Japan agreement is likely to hinder nuclear weapons abolition.

Manmohan Singh with PM Abe in Japan
Earlier this year, in May during the Indian PM's visit to Tokyo, several groups registered strong protests jointly and independently. 335 civil groups in Japan issued a statement saying "We are international appeal against the nuclear agreement was signed by more than 2000 people from nearly 50 countries, urged that "the governments of both countries must refrain from promoting nuclear commerce, jeopardising the health and safety of their people and environments."
 outraged that...the governments of Japan and India are forging ahead with negotiations for a nuclear cooperation agreement. We who experienced the Fukushima nuclear accident are reminded daily of what a nuclear disaster does to people’s lives and to the environment."

And in a forwarded letter to the Prime Ministers of India and Japan on the occasion, eminent Indian social activist Lalita Ramdas suggested the two countries to strengthen their bilateral relations by together using the lessons of Fukushima and promoting sustainable energy solutions. She wrote:

we want you to use this opportunity to welcome the assistance and collaboration with our Japanese friends in finding practical solutions and making the investments so necessary in renewable energy – especially solar and wind. Recent press reports speak of the Green Phoenix rising from the Ashes. Their aim is to be totally self sufficient from renewable sources alone in Fukushima Prefecture by 2040. Imagine that India, China and Japan could together transform the global energy scenario into a safer, cleaner and certainly greener future. This could be a wonderful moment for Asia and one on which there is need for powerful, independent and collective leadership!”

The agreement will further nuclear insanity in India

MithiVirdee Protests Apr 2013
The nuclear agreement with Japan will provide a boost to the Indian government's anachronistic nuclear power ambitions that it is following in complete denial of Fukushima. Huge, expensive and untested reactors projects are being implemented at places like Jaitapur, Koodankulam, Mithi Virdi, Kovvada, Gorakhpur, Mahi Banswada, and Chutka where local residents have been peacefully protesting for last several years. These projects are being pushed undemocratically and violently on the people whose safety and livelihoods are at stake. The government has violated its own safety rules and reactor siting norms in order to placate the western nuclear suppliers whom it has promised huge orders.

In August when Fukushima took a turn for the worse and the news about massive leaks of highly radioactive water broke out, the Indian nuclear establishment was busy promising a workaround for the liability norms for the domestic and foreign suppliers in a meeting of industry chambers
Fukushima Workers struggle to locate sources of new leaks (Pic. Aug/13)

The Department of Atomic Energy has officially sought an exemption from the Right to Information Act recently, which would mean complete removal of public scrutiny for it. Emboldened by its treacherous conquest of Koodankulam, the government will push these projects more vigorously if the Japan-India nuclear agreement culminates.
While the world is still grappling with the implications of the Fukushima meltdowns, completion of the Japan-India nuclear agreement would be anachronistic. It would strengthen the insanity of India's imposing nuclear reactors on its people against their will. It would further fuel the nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan and would provide the ultimate legitimacy for India's nuclear tests. The agreement would destabilize the Asian continent by promoting the ill-conceived strategy of India and Japan encircling China.