Friday, March 31, 2006

why armed struggles?

A question that indirectly or directly comes up during discussions etc. is, "Why do people take to armed struggle?" In a democratic country like India, there is the voting process, the law and the police to implement it, and a judiciary system to mete out justice. Also, armed struggles implicitly lead to violence, deaths, greater restriants, brutalities and are "morally" delegetimizing the cause itself in some sense. Then why do poeple resort to such desperate measures? I do not exactly know the answer (and believe in non-violent means).

Do cases similar to this, have to do anything to do with it?
On Sunday, after nine days on a peaceful satyagraha outside the Shram Shakti Bhawan in Delhi, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar and 350 villagers from MP, Gujarat and Maharastra, were attacked by the police, dragged, manhandled, and arrested. They were only arguing that if the Sardar Sarovar Dam’s height is increased, another 35,000 families’ home and land will be submerged this June. And isn’t this a violation of the Supreme Court order which says rehabilitate the people before you build the dam?
Why were they suddenly attacked and arrested by the police the next day? Has the Narmada Bachao Andolan committed one act of violence in its two-decade long history of satyagraha? The last straw happened on Tuesday. The Bhopal gas victims were dragged, beaten up and arrested.

Reminds me of what Arundhati Roy said in one of her talks:
If governments do not do all they can to honor nonviolent resistance, then by default they privilege those who turn to violence. No government's condemnation of terrorism is credible if it cannot show itself to be open to change by to nonviolent dissent.

The question to ask then, Is the government really for the people and not pushing them into armed struggles to take back what is rightfully theirs---land, water, life, freedom?

Book Review--'Oil Crisis'

Ashwin reviews the book 'Oil Crisis' by Colin J. Campbell. A previous post on Peak Oil is here.

Energy is the very basis of life on earth. Industrialization and modern lifestyles have been made possible only due of the vast increases in primary energy use of which Oil and Natural Gas combined presently contribute roughly 60% of world requirements.
High crude oil prices, the Iraq war, global warming, the growing energy needs of India and China and questions regarding sustainability have all contributed to getting Oil back in the headlines lately. While the majority of the experts agree that oil is finite in nature, there seems to be no agreement over the ultimate recoverable quantity. This has led to highly polarized views where in one side suggests that the oil crisis is already here while the other side suggests that we have enough time to make a shift to a renewable and sustainable energy future.
Hence the question, Is the world really running out of oil? The simple answer according to Dr. Colin Campbell, author of the new book 'Oil Crisis',” is yes. There is only so much oil in the earth and we started running out of oil from the very day we pumped out the first barrel of oil. Dr Campbell is a former oil exploration geologist with nearly 40 years of oil industry experience behind him, so when he speaks people take notice. He is also the president of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO). '“Oil Crisis' is the revised version of Campbell'’s earlier book, 'The Coming Oil Crisis' published in 1997. The two titles aptly catch the author'’s views. The world is facing an imminent OIL CRISIS and this time it is here to stay for good.
In his book he explains that the above question is the wrong way of looking at the problem itself. The more important question, according to him, is: When is world oil production going to peak? That is the point of maximum world oil production beyond which oil production goes into terminal decline and the gap between supply and demand becomes a runaway train. That event, rather the time when we use our last drop of oil should be of prime significance to society and energy policy planners.
His book delves deep into the question of peak oil and leaves no doubt in my mind that unless we de-addict ourselves of oil we are in for big trouble ahead. The central message of 'Oil Crisis'” is that world oil production is soon set to peak (Due to its finite nature and the rate at which we have been extracting it and not due to conspiracies by Governments or oil companies) and that we are not going to run out of oil any time soon but the era of cheap oil is over.
The book starts like an autobiography with Campbell's sharing his own early experiences and then goes on to explain the science behind oil formation and the history of the oil industry. It details oil discovery and production with the help of many graphs and tables and the glossary of technical terms associated with oil reserves given in chapter 6 explains why there is no consensus over the world oil reserves.
According to the books data, Oil discovery peaked in 60'’s, while consumption exceeded discovery in 1981. Every year since then we have been using more oil than we are finding. But the fact that over 93% of the oil that will ever be found has already been found really sends home the message of '“Oil Crisis'”. Due to its high energy density, ease of storage and pumping, oil is the world's choicest source of energy. According to Dr Campbell, oil will be practically impossible to replace on account of its above characteristics and secondly due to the scale of the problem. The world currently uses a massive 30 billion barrels of oil a year.
The interviews of various oil experts included in the book makes it a pleasure to read. In the final chapters Dr Campbell suggests an Oil depletion protocol which could help reduce world oil consumption in a planned manner. He also stresses the need to reduce energy use and switch over to renewables wherever possible.
The book'’s conclusions lead to some extremely serious implications for countries like India whose oil needs are growing at an unprecedented rate and energy policy planners would do the country a great service in heeding the advise of Dr Campbell. There is a lot to learn from the history of oil discovery and production, the most important lesson being that oil is a finite resource and the faster we wean ourselves off it the easier will it be for us to make the inevitable transition to sustainable lifestyles.

12 Myths About Hunger

Why so much hunger?
What can we do about it?
To answer these questions we must unlearn much of what we have been taught. Only by freeing ourselves from the grip of widely held myths can we grasp the roots of hunger and see what we can do to end it.

12 Myths About Hunger from Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy. Dated 1998, but still worth a lot of thought. Link has more details.
     1. Not Enough Food to Go Around
     2. Nature's to Blame for Famine
     3. Too Many People
     4. The Environment vs. More Food?
     5. The Green Revolution is the Answer
     6. We Need Large Farms
     7. The Free Market Can End Hunger
     8. Free Trade is the Answer
     9. Too Hungry to Fight for Their Rights
     10. More U.S. Aid Will Help the Hungry
     11. We Benefit From Their Poverty
     12. Curtail Freedom to End Hunger?

Any others or comments?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Net kiosks to bridge digital divide

A report in Economic Times about Internet kiosks planned for rural India by 2007 to bridge the digital divide.
The biggest benefit, which is largely un-quantified, goes to villagers for whom a kiosk is a one-stop shop for their information needs ranging from agriculture prices, health, matrimonial and astrology. However, a kiosk is not merely a cyber cafi of rural India.
Apart from providing data driven services, it also imparts computer education and functions as a digital photo studio. Subscription-based information services are, an integral part of the kiosk. For this, kiosk agencies generally tie up with companies to provide insurance policies, health queries, agri data, matrimonial and astrology related queries.

Wonder what problems are being solved?---services for matrimonial and astrology queries and for digital photos!

Arundhati Roy

Link to a web-page with Roy's audio/video speeches and interviews and essays.

dam rising

Medha is on an indefinite hunger strike to protest against the approval to raise the Sardar Sarovar dam without prior rehabilitation.
V.P. Singh backs the NBA agitation (not many/any political leaders or parties have supported the NBA).

Urban Renewal = Poor Removal?

Jake Skeers reports on the "urban renewal" program of the Indian government: India’s Pro-Investor Plans For Urban Renewal
State governments and associated Urban Local Bodies wishing to draw from the 500 billion rupees ($US11.2 billion) allocated to the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) over seven years, will first need to sign an agreement to implement a list of 13 mandatory items. A central government directorate will monitor the program and withhold funds from cities not implementing it. ...
However, the JNNURM plan is not directed at ameliorating the terrible conditions facing ordinary working people, but at satisfying the long-standing demands of business. The World Bank and Asian Development Bank in particular insist that the government must make India’s cities more conducive to private capital. ...

Compulsory measures set out in the JNNURM scheme ...
  • The repeal of rent control laws
  • The repeal of Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Acts
  • The reduction of stamp duty to no more than 5 percent within seven years
  • The requirement that, within seven years, local bodies levy charges on service users to recover full costs. Users unable to pay will be refused basic services such as water
    Even if all the money were allocated to helping the poor, it would not resolve the immense social problems in Indian cities. But the purpose of the plan is to create an “investor friendly environment” and attract greater “private sector investments through PPPs”. These Public Private Partnerships are aimed at maximising profit for private investors, not providing affordable, high-quality services for the poor.

    And these articles related to the above:
    All for the builder
    Politicians agree slums must go
  • Tuesday, March 28, 2006

    Lock Kar Diya Jaye?

    Amitabh submits documents to prove that he is a farmer in U.P---being a farmer is a requirement in Maharashtra to buy agricultural land. Wonder if the state keeps a check on what happens to such land?---meaning whether it gets used for farming purpose.

    [Picture source: Satish's Sattire on Mid-Day]

    Monday, March 27, 2006

    Turning old into gold

    Chitra Balasubramaniam's article (Turning old into gold) on IndiaTogether regarding efforts of the NGO Goonj.
    The idea of recycling is not new, but setting up a distribution network to enable scale and reach the poor, is. Goonj, a New Delhi-based NGO, works through partners in 14 states through 100 agencies. ...
    Goonj recycles anything and everything for the poor and marginalised communities. So, old clothes (in wearable condition), utensils, buckets, school bags, books, computers, paper, electronic goods, cupboards - all can be part of Goonj's most wanted list.

    Anonymous Existence, Urban Farce

    The last post in the series on domestic workers by Sona Faleiro: Anonymous Existence, Urban Farce
    The entire series is a must-read, great writing and a very real look into the lives, difficulties, options of urban domestic workers.

    Friday, March 24, 2006

    Rural Media/Women's media

    Shoma Chatterji reports on IndiaTogether on women-driven efforts to use media to cover local social issues: Information as empowerment
    Conceived as an anti-poverty effort, the Navodayam project in Andhra Pradesh has grown with government support into a full-fledged media entity taking up coverage of serious local issues. Its members see themselves playing a vital role, and making a difference to the lives of lakhs of women in their districts.

    A couple of older related reports:
    Media with a message
    From women's media to rural media

    Big is not beautiful

    NBA's letter to Saif-ud-din Soz (Union Water Resources Minister) after approval was given to increase the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, from 110.64 m to 121.92 m, is here.

    Thursday, March 23, 2006

    Media has become a Monster

    This sounds interesting ...The Media has become a Monster
    "The media is meant to be the watchdog of society, not its lap dog!"
    Hindi film superstar Aamir Khan has lashed out at the media in India, saying it is a parody of what it should be. Declaring that “news reporting is a matter of national concern”. Aamir spoke exclusively to Tehelka on the state of the Indian media, the first time any influential mainstream personality has dared to do so.
    Would also be interesting to know why he is urging people to "Piyo Sar Uthake", inspite of Coke's shady and abusive operations in India and around the world?

    Customer is King

    ... and what about the rest, who are they?

    Effective advertisment or outright insensitivity?

    Related posts:
    Did you hear the joke about the poor Indian?
    The Cashless World
    The Brand Equity of Poverty

    Wednesday, March 22, 2006

    Privatisation: come hell or high water

    P. Sainath in The Hindu on water privatization: Privatisation: come hell or high water
    Converting water to a commercial good to be sold for profit invites disaster. Most of all for poor people whose already pathetic access to water will shrink swiftly.

    A glaring example of how desparately privatization or reforms are being persuaded in India, without any long-term vision (I don't think there is any short-term vision too). As Sainath reports, the MNCs are here to fulfill their corporate greed and for that they are using our corrupt politicians and will trample the poor---as the have done in many other countries. Don't our politicians/policy makers look at what happened to similar attempts in other countries in the past? or Are they same damn fascinated by imitating the Western capitalistic (unsustainable) economic model of growth and filling their own pockets, that they are not interested in developing our own model/solution to deal with problems?

    Tuesday, March 21, 2006

    Two Indias?

    1. Indian shares power past 11,000

    2. Villages and Kidneys for sale in Vidarbha

    Five Past Midnight in Bhopal

    A must-read book on the Bhopal gas tragedy (December 3rd, 1984). A few snipets from the book's epilogue---

    No one will ever know exactly how many people perished in the catastrophe. Concerned with limiting the amount of compensation that would eventually be handed out, the authorities stopped the reckoning quite arbitrarily at 1,754 deaths. ... Some groups now estimate that the gas from the beautiful plant filled as many as between sixteen and thirty thousand people. More than half a million Bhopalis suffered from the effects of the toxic cloud, in other words, three in every four inhabitants of the city. After the eyes and lungs, the organs that most affected were the brain, muscles, joints, liver, kidneys and the reproductive, nervous and immune systems.
    No court of law ever passed a judgment on Union Carbide for the crime it committed in Bhopal. Neither the India government, claiming to represent the victims, nor the American lawyers,..., managed to induce a court on the other side of the Atlantic to declare itself competent to try a catastrophe that had occurred outside the United States. ... Carbide's defense lawyers argued that an American court was not competent to assess the value of human life in the third world. "How can one determine the damage inflicted on people who live in shacks?" asked one member of the legal team. ... "An American life is worth approximately five hundred thousand dollars," wrote the Wall Street Journal. "Taking into account the fact that India's gross national product is 1.7 percent of that of the United States, the court should compensate for the decease of each India victim proportionately, that is to say with eight thousand five hundred dollars."
    The Indian government settled for $470 million in full and final compensation and no legal proceedings against the company or its chairman, without consulting the ones who suffered---This very favourable settlement from Union Carbide's perspective sent the company's stock up two dollars on Wall Street, a rise that enabled Chairman Warren Anderson to inform his shareholders that in the final analysis, the Bhopal disaster only meant "a loss of forty-three cents a share" to the company.
    In the final analysis, according to official figures, 548,519 survivors would eventually receive what was left of the money paid by Carbide; a little less than 60,000 rupees or approximately $1,400 for the death of a parent, and about half that in cases of serious personal injury.

    Media Matters

    Bob McChesney in conversation with P. Sainath on Media Matters (March 2005).
    P. Sainath, world-renown journalist, talks about the consequences of U.S.-sponsored neoliberal economic policies in India.

    Audio files: RealAudio and MP3

    Monday, March 20, 2006

    Mobility and Dignity over Survival

    Jaideep Hardikar reports about easy vehicle loan against land schemes by banks for debt-ridden Vidarbha farmers, Vidarbha farmers run over by bike loans.
    Defending the schemes, Rajeev Niwal, 40, co-partner of Parvati Automobiles in Yavatmal, says: “This is a good scheme for the welfare of farmers. A bike gives mobility to a farmer, increases efficiency in supervision of farm work and gives him dignity. Not for nothing are two-wheelers in such great demand in the villages.”

    Wonder when the easy loans for agriculture will come by?

    To fight or not to fight

    I was planning on attending a peace vigil on the 3rd aniversary of the I-rack war and asked a friend if she would join. She declined saying that she has stopped believing that civilian movements make any difference toward stopping the war, however that does not mean they shouldnt happen. Discussed this with another friend.
    We wondered. What then was the alternative available to us? If we dont go on to the streets and join another 15 people in shouting slogans against war, dont have the skill to articulate an arguement against the war to publish it somewhere, and dont have the inclination or the courage to take up arms, are we restricted to opposing the war over coffee table conversations only? that too, for the benefit of friends who already know that we oppose it?
    We decided that we disagreed with the other friend. Although, growing amount of protests havent really made a difference and the amount of troops in I-rack have increased in the last few months, we decided we believed in cilvilian movements. If civilian movements have been successful recently in other instances- when the Bolivians drove off Bechtel from Cochababmba when the people of Venuzuela organized to bring Hugo Chavez back to power, why wouldnt they make an illegal war end?
    Maybe this belief is too optimistic or romantic, but do we have nething else?

    tarbooz snooze

    [from the Mid Day photo gallery]

    ... summer is around the corner!

    Sunday, March 19, 2006

    on dowry

    Kalpana Sharma write on Why dowry will not die.
    Dowry is a symptom of a deeper disease that relates to how our society values women ...

    121.92 metres

    NBA continues its relentless struggle against the R&R atrocities resulting from the Narmada dams: Gujarat raising dam height surreptitiously, says Medha Patkar

    Saturday, March 18, 2006

    Age of innonence, burdened lives

    Next in Sonia Faleiro's series on lives of demostic workers: Age of innonence, burdened lives
    A hard-hitting post related to child domestic workers.
    The previous day, Kale visited a hospital in Bhayander where Nidhi, 12, was recuperating from burn marks from heated coconut husks. Her mistake? She worked too slowly. Nidhi’s services had been purchased from her father, a farmer in Kolkatta, for Rs 1,000. She hadn’t received her monthly salary of Rs 200 for eight months, and was abused until a neighbour called the police. Despite what is acknowledged as a growing problem, according to Kale, only six cases of physical abuse against child domestic workers have been registered in the past year.
    Child domestic workers—90 per cent of whom are girls—, who are forced into work by poverty ...
    Their parent’s relationship is but one aspect of the girl’s lives, poisoned by poverty. Their fathers are alcoholics, spending Rs 22 on a half quarter of country liquor daily. They beat their wives and children. So Naina and Nagina are slapped at home, and slapped, sometime fondled at work. They’re hungry at home, famished at work. One constant? Work.
    They understand the concepts of opportunity and deprivation. If you give Nagina a Bengali storybook, her eyes will light up. But if you ask her what she wants to become when she grows up, she will respond without rancor: “What will I become? I’m a servant.”

    Friday, March 17, 2006

    Peak Oil

    Peak oil is the point in time when extraction of oil from the earth reaches its highest point and then begins to decline. The demand for oil will keep increasing as the population keeps increasing irrespective of this decline---each day will have less oil than the previous day---resulting in a catastrophe. It is difficult to say with certainty when peak oil will be reached until after the fact. Many experts say we have already reached the peak. Others say not yet, but within the next few years. US peaked its oil production in 1971---30 years after its oil exploration peaked, and so is that of many Euorpean countries. The world oil exxploration peaked in the early 70s! Our modern day lifestyle is almost completely dependent on oil. (Pesticides, plastics, vehicles, medicines, roads, toys, clothes---you name it and most likely it will be dependent on oil). Sustaining such an oil-based lifestyle will be impossible after peak oil.

    The energy usage curve of history! (x-axis is year)

    A few links (Google "peak oil" for more):
    Community Solution (includes a few presentations)
    Life After the Oil Crash,, Energy Bulletin

    What is India doing about Peak Oil? (Many countries are thinking about it aand are already acting on it, most notably the European countries). In India, the vehicle manufacturing sector is expanding and the number of vehicles(of all types) is exploding---put this in perspective with Peak Oil. Further, the much touted 10% economic growth is oil dependent. Shouldn't we working towards efficient public/shared modes of transport/renewable energy/sustainable growth and minimize our oil dependence as much as possible? Unfortunately the mainstream media coverage in India for this issue is near zero!
    More importantly, are we doing anything about Peak Oil in our individual capacity? I have read, attended seminars, watched documentaries and spent a lot of time thinking and discussing it, but have not done anything about it---other than consciously trying to use the bus and ride my bicycle---but hopefully soon I will. Will you?

    Related link: World Institute of Sustainable Energy

    Thursday, March 16, 2006

    Govt. help = Bribe ?

    P. Sainath reports about the case of a farmer in Mahbubnagar, A.P., who tried to use the government helpline to secure a loan, was aked to pay a bribe and ended up trying to commit suicide and in jail.
    Farm suicides: look to helpline, land in jail
    Mr. Madhiletti's brush with the helpline — which saw a revenue inspector harass him for a bribe — convinced him that suicide was the only way out. The indebted farmer tried killing himself right at the Collectorate in Mahbubnagar. He failed and wound up paying thousands of rupees in hospital costs. And the man who had gone to the helpline for aid, languished in jail on the charge of attempted suicide until his hard-up village took out a collection and raised bail for him.
    "All I wanted from the Government was help with a bank loan. My family has 12 acres, after all, and surely we should get a loan against that land? But we could not."
    The villagers, though, have drawn a bleak lesson from this saga of a little farmer and the mighty apparatus of state. "From their point of view," says a local journalist, "none of this would have happened if he had paid that bribe of Rs.2,000. He would have had no problem." But Mr. Madhiletti has little time for reflection. He has to fulfil his contract with an unsparing seed company.

    The government is talking about financial help, irrigation facilities etc. to help farmers, given all that is happening (which has its own caveats), what about the implementation of these policies? There might be a government helpline, but if getting help is not easy, is it of any help?

    Wednesday, March 15, 2006

    241-mile march

    March 12th was the 76th anniversary of the Salt Satyagraha (400 kms march from Ahmedabad to Dandi) undertaken by Gandhi and thousands of ordinary Indians.

    A similar 241-mile march began on the same day this year, undertaken by Pablo Paredes and several others, for peace and to raise the Latino voice against the war in Iraq. Pablo, a hispanic navy sailor, refused to be deployed and announced his opposition to war in general, to the Iraq war in particular, and to being a party to death and destruction by transporting Marines to the war.

    Related sites:
    March in Freedom - Pablo Paredes
    Gandhi in California

    A/C travel

    Clicked this picture, about a year ago, on Karnataka State Highway #12. SH 12 runs through Jeratgi, my ancestral village.

    Any guesses for how many in/on the jeep?

    Unsafe Milk and Chemical Bananas

    Two articles reporting the use of banned chemicals, one to make buffaloes produce more milk and increase flow of milk and the other to ripen bananas quickly.
    Mother Dairy denies sourcing milk from NDRI
    Buffaloes are regularly injected with oxytocin, a potent artificial hormone which is given to women and animals to hasten delivery. The hormone increases contractions in the womb and causes milk to flow faster. But it does so by causing immense pain to the animals which undergo labour pains twice a day. ...
    "Dairy people inject the animals in the belief that it increases milk. This is a misconception as it only lets the milk down faster. "The milk definitely causes damage and harm to humans as well as the cattle in which it is injected," said Dr Vinod Sharma, Chief Veterinary Surgeon, JeevAshram.

    Banned chemicals used to ripen bananas
    At the Byculla wholesale market, which supplies bananas to fruit vendors all over the city, Mumbai Mirror discovered workers using the chemicals with abandon to hasten the ripening process.
    According to nutritionists, when such fruit is ingested, the toxins multiply in the body resulting in a plethora of diseases.

    Monday, March 13, 2006

    Suicide in a distant land

    Another article by Jaideep Hardikar on IndiaTogether regarding the Vidarbha suicides: Suicide in a distant land. The case where farmers migrate to lease farms for cultivation and end up in debts. They not only have to pay money to lease farms and bear the input costs, but are also left with no land to fall back on in case losses due to failed crops or fluctutating market prices.
    ... Venkanna Ramayya Rayee's suicide has an unusual edge. A farmer from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, his name won't figure as an entry in the suicide ledger in either state.
    "Every farmer is in trouble, and chilly grower is no different," Tiwari says sarcastically. The issue of pricing is central, he adds. And until that is addressed, the government won't be able to bail them out of debt-trap.

    Venkanna was only 21 years old ...

    Saturday, March 11, 2006

    some more links ...

    Jaideep Hardikar reports on IndiaTogether about the contining suicides in Vidarbha, the government apathy and the falling prices and the marketing season comes to an end: 350, and counting…
    Inexplicably, Maharashtra's bosses have gone into hiding after announcing a "bailout package" for Vidarbha's beleaguered farmers. Not a single pie has been distributed yet, two months after the chief minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh, announced it.
    "We don't need to make aware the farmers any more. We've to make the heartless government aware of the grass-root situation. The need is not of shetkari atmavishwas jagruti abhiyaan, but sarkar jagruti abhiyaan!" So far, the government's approach to tackling such a serious issue has been appalling.

    * * * * * * *

    Sonia Faleiro's fourth article in "The Other Half" series on Tehelka: Driven by Dreams. Fighting the Odds
    Education was a luxury they couldn’t afford, earning a living a forced choice. Now, although they have joined the better-off among domestic workers, nothing has changed for them.

    * * * * * * *

    Advani's (W)rath Yatra For National (Dis)integration
    Lal Krishna Advani is back to what he has been an 'expert' for the past 15 years. After the bomb blasts at the Sankat Mochan temple in Varanasi, he hurriedly organized a press meet and informed the hungry journalists that he along with Rajnath Singh would embark on 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' (India integration Yatra) against the policies of the United Progressive Alliance government which have resulted in the blast at Varanasi. Advani says that the blasts were the outcome of 'minorityism' being shamelessly played by the UPA government.

    Friday, March 10, 2006

    some links ...

    from The Progressive Magazine ...

    Cindy Sheehan Interview by David Barsamian.

    A few articles by Amitabh Pal:
    India, U.S. engage in cynical nuclear bargain
    Kristof’s India analysis is way off
    older ones ...
    India should not take lessons from the U.S. on nuclear weapons
    Bush Ignores India's Pogrom


    The height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river keeps rising,
    Narmada authority clears increase in dam height (from the present 110.64 metres to 121.92 metres)
    Mr. Modi said the NCA had cleared the further construction at its meeting in Delhi on Wednesday night and as soon as it was communicated to the State government, construction work was resumed on the dam immediately.

    ... how we hope that all government tasks started happening immediately!

    A NBA press release posted on Friends of River Narmada, before the NCA clearance, points out several reasons why this should not have happened.
    The Prime Minister had directed on November 22, 2004 that the Minister of Water Resources must visit the Narmada Valley and check on the claims of rehabilitation before the height is raised any further. This visit, while must awaited by us, has still not taken place. The state leaders have cheated and bluffed the Water Resources Minister by giving him incorrect briefing about the completion of rehabilitation works in the valley. Hence, we really urge the Minister, Shri Soz, to visit the region and see the situation for himself.
    In addition, it is startling to note that the R&R Sub-Group, which is charged with the monitoring of rehabilitation measures, has not visited the submergence area since November 2000! Hence, clearances have been given to raise the dam height merely by paperwork, most of it FALSE, done sitting in Bhopal, Mumbai, Gandhinagar and Delhi, without any checking being done on the ground. It is no wonder then that grave injustice is being done to the people of the valley.

    Radioactive Fruits

    Close on the heels of the historic, media-hyped nuclear deal between India-US comes this worrying story in Mumbai Mirror: Radioactive Fruits, Anyone? Next time you buy fruits, remember not only to check the fruits, but also the basket they are in!

    Also, with regards to the nuclear deal itself, it was sold by the administration and media as the best thing to happen to India and as a major boost to solve its energy requirements and maintain the 8-10% economic growth. While the validity of the deal itself can be argued, what about the several other questions that need to be answered,
  • What is the cost of building the nuclear reactors? is it worth it?
  • Since centralized generation plants suffer more transmission losses, why aren't we exploring large scale distributed generation solution? (nuclear energy generation is centralized)
  • What about radioactive waste? what is our plan? (I don't think we have located a waste dumping site yet)
  • What is our stand on alternative energy sources?---Wind/Solar/Micr-Hydro and how do they compare against nuclear?
  • Wouldn't our reliance on foreign fuel increase our reliance on US?
  • Why is US opening its nuclear doors now? does it have any vested interest?
  • ...

    I am sure some of these have been answered in some form or some may be slighlty off-topic. But wouldn't it be beneficial to see more reports/articles questioning and discussing the several important issues tied to nuclear energy and not just bombastic praise and history-potential of the deal?

    A related article on Countercurrents: Indo-US Nuclear Deal-Some Unexplored Angles
  • Thursday, March 09, 2006

    Raging Grannies

    A bunch of us went to Greenfied Town Center to participate in a rally organized on the occasion of Women's day to protest against the war and the voilence against wowen. A enthusiastic crowd of about 25-30 gathered around 4pm and for about one and half hour held banners, shouted slogans, sang and even made and listened to short speeches. There were several banners and a few that I managed to scribble down were:
         No to violence again women
         Work for peace
         No war on Iraq, No war on women
         Spend on child care not warfare
         Sisterhood is powerful
         No to militarism
         US out of Iraq
         No Blood for Oil
         No to militarism, capatilism, nationalism
         End racism and poverty
         Justice for all detainees
         Another world is possible
         Health care for all
         Stop wasting my tax $ on war
         The more force we use the less influence we have
         Listen to mothers, no more lies, no more killing

    The most fascinating part of the rally was a group of old ladies called the Raging Grannies, who write and sing anti-war and songs related to social causes. The only criteria to join the granny gang is that you have to be more than 45 years old. The grannies sang, shouted and held their banners throughout the rally. The irony was, on one side there were these old ladies believing in making there voice heard for a cause and on the other people who were/are indifferent to the war, women & social issues. Hopefully the determination and rage of the grannies is infectious enough to motivate people out of their apathy and make them ponder about social issues and register their protest in whatever means they can---way to go raging grannies, the world needs more of your kind.

    Wednesday, March 08, 2006

    women's day

    today is International Women's Day

    a few related links ...

    Carnival of Feminists has several interesting posts on women's lives.

    Blank Noise Project has a blog-a-thon on sexual harassment and eve teasing.

    The Socialist (Women's day issue). The Socialist is a magazine of the Socialist Party of USA.

    Kaala Colas

    Maharashtra government is considering banning soft drinks from schools. A report on this is here.

    Recently, Coke's contract was not renewed by University of Michigan and there are several other schools that have terminated Coke's contract based on its track record in the Latin American countries and India. While it is great that there is lot of student activism and rural activism (in India, whose water inputs have been affected), am not sure if similar student initiatives exist in India. These student led initiatives can question Coke's practices and policies and force the management to consider them while making contract decisions etc. I maybe wrong, but I get the feeling that soft drinks are unquestionably welcome on most campuses in India. How many people think while drinking Coke/Pepsi that these companies might be encroaching on water which belongs to villages in Kerala/Rajasthan. Initially it was almost a status symbol to drink Coke/Pepsi and now it is a common place phenomenon with Aamir Khan urging on "Piyo Sar Uthake".

    Here are a few links on Coke's water issues in India:
    Rain or no rain, water for Coke
    No water? Drink Coke!
    Dissent at home, as abroad, for Colas
    From saree weaver to leader

    Here are links about the pesticide levels in soft-drinks:
    Indian Coke, Pepsi Laced with Pesticides, Says NGO
    Soft drinks, hard realities
    The CSE analyzed samples from 12 major soft drink manufacturers that are sold in and around the capital at its laboratories and found that all of them contained residues of four extremely toxic pesticides and insecticides--lindane, DDT, malathion and chlorpyrifos.
    The level of chlorpyrifos was 42 times higher than EEC norms, their study showed. Malathion residues were 87 times higher and lindane--recently banned in the United States--21 times higher, CSE scientists said.

    India Resource Center and Killer Coke have active anti-Coca Cola campaigns.

    So, next time you reach out for the bottle full of chemicals, remember you are not only potentially harming yourself but also supporting immoral and illegal actions of these companies including land encroachment, disproportionate water use, sale of waste sludge as fertilizers to farmers, environmental pollution due to improper waste disposal, violation of human rights and several others.

    Tuesday, March 07, 2006


    Several metrics of "progress" exist and are widely/interchangebly used as indicators of "progress" or state of a nation/country. Here are definitions of a few metrics (mostly from Wikipedia):

  • GDP: Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the total value of final goods and services produced within a country's borders in a year.
        GDP = private consumption + government expenditure + investment + net exports

  • GNP: Gross National Product (GNP) is the total value of final goods and services produced in a year by a country's nationals (including profits from capital held abroad)

  • HDI: The UN Human Development Index (HDI) is a comparative measure of poverty, literacy, education, life expectancy, childbirth, and other factors for countries worldwide. The index was developed in 1990 by the Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq, and has been used since 1993 by the United Nations Development Programme in its annual report. The HDI measures the average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions of human development:
        * A long and healthy life, as measured by life expectancy at birth.
        * Knowledge, as measured by the adult literacy rate (with two-thirds weight) and the combined primary, secondary, and tertiary gross enrolment ratio (with one-third weight).
        * A decent standard of living, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita at purchasing power parity (PPP) in USD.

  • Gini Index: The Gini coefficient is a measure of inequality developed by the Italian statistician Corrado Gini and published in his 1912 paper "Variabilit√† e mutabilit√†". It is usually used to measure income inequality, but can be used to measure any form of uneven distribution. The Gini coefficient is a number between 0 and 1, where 0 corresponds with perfect equality (where everyone has the same income) and 1 corresponds with perfect inequality (where one person has all the income, and everyone else has zero income). The Gini index is the Gini coefficient expressed in percentage form, and is equal to the Gini coefficient multiplied by 100.

  • PQLI: The physical quality-of-life index (PQLI) is an attempt to measure the quality of life or well-being of a country. The value is a single number derived from basic literacy rate, infant mortality, and life expectancy at age one, all equally weighted on a 0 to 100 scale.
  • Sunday, March 05, 2006

    India Inequality

    Sudhirendar Sharma's article on the economic growth (GDP) centered Budget: India Together: GDP planning: number crunching won't do
    Underlying these figures is the familiar divide between India shining and Bharat in darkness, also seen in the Economic Survey. While the growth rate may have shown steady progress, food grain availability has declined to an all time low of 438 grams per day. The prices of essential foodgrains are going up -- wheat is up by 10.7 per cent, and pulses up by 19 per cent. Markets may have performed beyond expectations but the unemployment rate in rural and urban areas has reached an all time high of 9 and 9.3 per cent respectively. Earlier, unemployment increased to an unprecedented high of 7.2 per cent, the National Sample Survey had reported. The skewed development affects no less than two-thirds of the country's population, an estimated 72 crore people.

    Agriculture, that contributes to one-fourth of country's GDP and has around 410 million people in total relying on it, continues to stagnate at 2 per cent. Low farm productivity and lack of investment in farming has led to the inevitable decline in growth from an impressive 3.8 per cent during the recent past. With over 17,000 farmers' suicides in the past few years, the future of 60 per cent of India's population remains uncertain.

    Saturday, March 04, 2006

    Banerjee Committee report on Godhra

    The Justice UC Banerjee Committee has rejected the Narendra Modi
    government's theory of a conspiracy behind the fire in the Sabarmati
    Express on February 27, 2002, which sparked widespread riots in
    Gujarat. The committee has concluded that the fire was an accident.

    Related reports are here and here.

    Thursday, March 02, 2006

    five past midnight in bhopal

    Related website: The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal.

    A snippet from the book ...
    In their reinforced concrete tomb, the three tanks, two yards high and thirteen long, looked like enormous sarcophagi left behind by some pharaoh. They lay, half buried, side by side, at the foot of metal structures on view to Dilip and Padmini's wedding guests. They had no names on them, only numbers: 610, 611, 619. These tanks were masterpieces of the most advanced metallurgy. No acid, liquid or corrosive gas could eat into their shells, which were made of SS14 stainless steel. At least, that was the theory: methyl isocynate had not yet revealed all of its secrets. A complex network of pipes, stopcocks and valves linked the tanks to each other and to reactors that produced the MIC and Sevin. To prevent any accidental leakage of their contents into the atmosphere, each tank was connected to three specific safety systems. The first was a network of fine piping contained in the tank's lining. When freon gas flowed through it, the MIC would be constantly refrigerated to a temperature close to 0 degree centigrade. The second was a monumental cylindrical tank called the "decontamination tower". It contained caustic soda to absorb and neutralize any escaping gas. The third was a 120-foot-high flare. Its role was to burn off any effluents that might have escaped the barrage of caustic soda.

    That December 2, 10984, there were sixty-three tons of methyl isocynate in the tanks---a real "time atomic bomb right in the middle of the plant" as the German chemist from Bayer had described Eduardo Munoz---and not one of the three safety systems were operational. The refrigeration had been off for a month and a half and the MIC was being kept at the ambient temperature about 20 degrees centigrade in a winter month. The alarm that was supposed to go off in case of any abnormal rise in temperature in the tanks had been disconnected. As for the decontamination tower and the flare to incinerate the gases, several of their components had been dismantled the preceding week for maintenance.

    on domestic workers ...

    A series on Tehelka by Sonia Faleiro ...

    Flaming hope, dreams in dust
    Between Alcohol and Soap, A Rebellion
    Sole Provider, Lonely Warrior