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Archives for : Koodankulam

Indian Gov’t on Collision Course With Civil Society

Police accost women protesting against the Kudankulam nuclear plant in India. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS.Police accost women protesting against the Kudankulam nuclear plant in India. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS.

NEW DELHI, May 23 2013 (IPS) – For years India’s pro-liberalisation, Congress party-led coalition government chafed at civil society groups getting in the way of grand plans to boost growth through the setting up of mega nuclear power parks, opening up the vast mineral-rich tribal lands to foreign investment and selling off public assets.

Now, at the end of its tether, the Interior Ministry has cracked the whip on hundreds of non-governmental organisations engaged in activities that “prejudicially affect the public interest.”

 

“…The government is trying to promote globalisation while cracking down on the globalisation of dissent.” — Achin Vanaik

On Apr. 30 several NGOs were informed that the bank accounts through which they receive foreign funding had been frozen. 

“It is shocking what the government has done – but not surprising given the increasingly authoritarian, undemocratic and repressive measures being directed…against anyone who is seen to challenge or disagree with their positions and decisions,” Lalita Ramdas, anti-nuclear campaigner and board chair of Greenpeace International, told IPS.

Ramdas said NGOs concerned with nuclear power, human rights, environment and ecology – areas where corporate and industrial interests were likely to be questioned – appeared to be particular targets of the government order.

Among the worst affected is the Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), a network of more than 700 NGOs that is currently challenging, in the Supreme Court, the government’s restrictions on foreign funding reaching groups that engage in activities that can be described as “political” in nature.

In its court petition INSAF described itself as an organisation that believes that “the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India need to be safeguarded against blatant and rampant violations by the State and private corporations.”

INSAF said it has “actively campaigned against land grabs by corporations, ecological disaster by mining companies, water privatisation, genetically modified foods, hazardous nuclear power (and) anti-people policies of international financial institutions like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.”

INSAF declared in court that it “firmly believes in a secular and peaceful social order and opposes communalism and the targeted attacks on the lives and rights of people including religious minorities, and regularly organises campaigns, workshops, conventions, fact-findings, people’s tribunals, solidarity actions for people’s movements and educational publications.”

“With that kind of a profile we were expecting this crackdown,” Anil Chaudhary, coordinator of INSAF, told IPS. “Still, the government could have waited for the Supreme Court verdict.”

“At this rate,” he said, “organisations working against discrimination of women and (advocating) for their empowerment through participation in local bodies could be termed “political”, as (well as) organisations working for farmers’ rights.

“The same arbitrariness can be applied to green NGOs trying to protect the environment against mindless industrialisation.”

Chaudhary thinks it unfair that NGOs critical of government policies are being singled out. “Instead of selectively freezing the funding of groups under INSAF, the government should order a blanket ban on all foreign funding.”

Among INSAF’s many campaigns is an intiative to bring international financial institutions like the World Bank under legislative scrutiny for their activities in India.

It cannot have escaped the government’s attention that INSAF’s campaigns have run parallel to powerful movements for transparency and clean governance led by social activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal, founder of the Aam Admi Party (Common Man’s Party) that plans to contest general elections due in 2014.

 

Kejriwal, whose social activity led to the passage of the 2005 Right to Information Act, has also been closely associated with transparency campaigns led by Anna Hazare, who mounted a Gandhian-style fast against corruption in April 2011 that rallied over 100,000 ordinary people.

Street protests demanding good governance have since been a thorn in the side of the government.  When they peaked in December 2012, following the gang rape of a young woman in a bus in the national capital, police took to beating protestors.

The government, starting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has also been frustrated by NGOs’ efforts to stall work on a string of mega nuclear parks along peninsular India’s long coastline, especially at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, Mithi Virdi in Gujarat and Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.

In February, the government froze the accounts of two leading Tamil Nadu-based NGOs allegedly associated with the protests at the site of the Kudankulam plant, signalling a new and tough stance against civil society groups fighting the displacement of farmers and fishermen by mega development projects.

The two NGOs, the Tuticorin Diocesan Association and the Tamil Nadu Social Service Society, received four million and eight million dollars respectively over a five-year period that ended in 2011, according to declarations they made to the government.

With strong backing from the Church, the groups continue to operate despite the freeze on their assets.

During the same five-year period a total of about 22,000 NGOs across India received roughly two billion dollars in foreign contributions, going by government records.

Unexpected protests have surfaced from among the Congress party’s partners in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Devi Prasad Tripathi, general secretary of the Nationalist Congress Party and member of parliament, reminded Interior Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde that the UPA is “committed to protecting and promoting secular, democratic and progressive forces in the country.”

“Effectively, the government is trying to promote globalisation while cracking down on the globalisation of dissent,” commented Achin Vanaik, professor of political science at the Delhi University.

The government’s move stands in stark contrast to promises made not two years ago at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid and Development Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, where 159 governments and member organisations honoured the vital role played by the non-profit sector by pledging to foster an “empowering” climate for civil society.

In his most recent report to the United Nations General Assembly, Maina Kiai, special rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, noted with grave concern that India has repressed “peaceful protestors advocating economic, social and cultural rights, such as…local residents denouncing the health impact of nuclear power plants.

 

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Kalpakkam must be made a case study: Medha Patkar

24 May

  • Addressing the people, social activist Medha Patkar said, “Going to the seashore was once tourism and an entertainment. But now, the ‘man-made tsunami’ has changed that pleasure. (File/PTI)
    Addressing the people, social activist Medha Patkar said, “Going to the seashore was once tourism and an entertainment. But now, the ‘man-made tsunami’ has changed that pleasure. (File/PTI)

On the second day of her visit to the State, social activist Medha Patkar visited Kalpakkam. While she was interacting with the people from the fishing community, she said, “More and more scientific data over the effects of radiation must be coming from Kalpakkam, and thereby, it should be made a ‘case study’ for other nuclear reactors.”

Addressing the people, she said, “Going to the seashore was once tourism and an entertainment. But now, the ‘man-made tsunami’ has changed that pleasure. The struggle of the fishing community against nuclear plants either in Kalpakkam or in Koodankulam, has turned a service to the environment and to the whole of mankind.”

“During the Narmada Valley protests, we had said it was in the quake-prone zone. But officials denied it. Later, there was a quake at Latur, where the place has been pointed as not in the quake-prone zone. It clearly shows that we cannot estimate the possibility of a quake at any given region. When there are scientific reports that showcases Kalpakkam is under such a hazard, why should we want to take the risk?,” she asked. She further said, “In the past, there were judges like V R Krishna Iyer and P N Bhagwati who ordered investigation committees to go to the ground and inspect. Such practices are not followed in today’s judiciary.”

Meet cancelled

Meanwhile, the proposed meeting with Chief Secretary Sheela Balakrishnan IAS by social activist Medha Patkar was cancelled on Thursday evening.

According to members of NAPM, Medha Patkar had written to the Chief Secretary and got an appointment for around 5.30 pm on Thursday. But due to work exigencies, it is said the chief secretary cancelled the meeting.

 

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PRESS RELEASE – The Koodankulam Mystery : Russian Officials’ Anxiety

People’s Movemenmt Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)

Idinthakarai 627 104
Tirunelveli District
Mobile: 9842154073, 9865683735
Email: [email protected]                                                      For Immediate Release
May 24, 2013
The Koodankulam Mystery : Russian Officials’ Anxiety
The periodic interventions of the Russian diplomats in India in defense of the Indian nuclear authorities are very intriguing and puzzling. Lauding the Tamil Nadu government’s decision on the Koodankulam nuclear power project (KKNPP) as “correct” but “long overdue,” the Russian Ambassador to India, Mr. Alexander M. Kadakin, said in March 2012: “From October to March, it is not Russia, it was India which was losing $1 million a day. Can we welcome the loss of the money that Indian people had put aside for construction?”
But the Russian ambassador did not explain how that loss exactly happened, or what his involvement in the Koodankulam transaction was, or how he calculated that $1 million loss per day. Most importantly, who was he to do the calculation? Though Mr. Kadakin was in close touch with the Indian government on the KKNPP issue, he said in February 2012 that he had not contacted the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu saying “It may look a bit odd. I don’t like to bypass the Centre.”
Throwing all the diplomatic norms and values to the wind, Mr. Kadakin has been interfering in the internal affairs of our country. He commented in an interview in March 2012: “We have been suspecting it all along, and, I was openly saying this, because it was very strange. Six months after the Fukushima tragedy, all those protesters raise their voices. They were sleeping for six months, and then, all of sudden, they raise their voices against the most secure, the best and the safest (nuclear power) station in the world.” He added further: “We were perplexed, but now we stand vindicated.” Without directly naming the United States, Mr. Kadakin said some strategic friends of India who were not doing anything for its energy sector, did not like the idea of India becoming strong, and therefore, were stalling the Kudankulam project through proxies (Business Line, March 26, 2012).
A year later in February 2013, Mr. Kadakin said, “I think these (protests) are sponsored. They work in such a way that when money ends they stop and when they get another portion of money they resume their protests.” He asserted: “Yes, there are NGOs from outside who are feeding these protest organisation. India is a democratic country, people are free to protest if they feel some danger is coming.”
In May 2013, the Russian Ambassador accused anti-nuclear protesters of “playing games” as India moves to launch the country’s biggest nuclear power project. He said: “The unit number one is almost ready and second one will be ready within six months. But as regards pressure from protesters and from other people, these are all gimmicks and games. The games by those who don’t want to see India strong, who don’t want India and Tamil Nadu to have really much (needed) power.”
Mr. Kadakin had said “[Koodankulam] is the safest nuclear unit in the world which has been recognised by specialists and scientists in the West and the East.” If it is indeed the safest plant, why aren’t the Russians willing to offer any liability whatsoever? In December 2012, however, Mr.Kadakin said that negotiations on issues relating to civil nuclear liability law were still going on and stressed that if India insisted on liability, the price of Kudankulam units III and IV would go up. According to him, the two units were “grandsons of the original agreement” on Kudankulam units I and II which came into effect much before the civil nuclear liability law.
Joining the fray with his Ambassador, Mr. Nikolay Listopadov, the Russian Consul General in south India, has assured full commitment to all the Koodankulam units and said “the ties in this regard between the two nations…were guided by mutual interest” (The New Indian Express, May 19, 2013). What indeed is the “mutual interest” that tends to work up the Russian officials in India? Why are the Russian officials nervous about the Koodankulam project and want an immediate commissioning? What are they trying to hide? Who are they trying to protect? The inter-governmental skeletons will start tumbling out of the Koodankulam closet one by one soon.
The Struggle Committee
PMANE

 

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The Supreme Quash Court of India

Dianuke.org

Dr. Surendra Gadekar

Surendra Gadekar

A well-known Indian anti-nuclear activist and physicist, Gadekar lives in the remote tribal village of Vedchhi near the Kakrapar atomic power plant in the western Indian state of Gujarat. There, with his wife, a physician, he runs a Gandhian school for young activists and monitors the Indian nuclear industry, conducting surveys of power plants, uranium mines, and nuclear-testing facilities to determine the effect on the public’s health.

In 1987, he founded Anumukti, a journal devoted to establishing a non-nuclear India.

He can be contacted at[email protected]
Old issues of Anumukti can be downloaded HERE.

Many people in India have a deep faith in the legal system. They believe that the courts provide justice. Very often, whenever some new nuclear project is in the works, the first thing one hears is, “Let us go to the courts.” Though invariably these attempts have ended in disappointments, the faith abides. Sordid tales of corruption amongst the judiciary have shaken it somewhat, but deep down most feel that in the Supreme Court at least, their concerns will get a fair hearing and once the truth is known, justice shall prevail. Satyameva Jayate.

I have somehow never shared this faith in the judicial process. Maybe it is the anarchist in me but I have always been sceptical of the wisdom of the judges. Two recent judgements of the Supreme Court in cases related to nuclear matters have only reinforced this scepticism. I have seriously begun to doubt, if the honourable judges do read and understand their own judgements. To illustrate my point let us consider the judgement in the case of G. Sundarrajan vs The Union of India & others (The Koodankulam case)

At the very beginning of the judgement itself the honourable judges write;

We are in these appeals concerned with an issue of considerable national and international importance, pertaining to the setting up of a nuclear power plant in the South-Eastern tip of India, at Kudankulam in the State of Tamil Nadu. The incidents occurred in Three Miles Island Power Plant USA, Chernobyl, Ukraine, USSR, Fukoshima, Japan, Union Carbide, Bhopal might be haunting the memory of the people living in and around Kudankulam, leading to large-scale agitation and emotional reaction to the setting up of the Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) and its commissioning.

The nature of potential adverse effect of ionizing radiation, adds to fears and unrest which might not have even thought of by Enrico Fermi a noble laureate in physics in 1938, who was responsible for the setting up of the first Nuclear reactor in a Doubles quash Court at Slagg Field, at the Chicago University, USA.”

Let me first of all clarify that my role while quoting the judgement is purely that of a cut-paste artist. I have not added or subtracted even a comma or corrected the spellings. So those amongst you, dear readers, who have any problems with the English in the text, should take up the matter directly with the authors themselves. I shall only direct your attention to a portion of the last sentence, in fact, towards the Doubles quash Court at the Slagg Field at Chicago University, USA. A minor detail first: It is the University of Chicago and not Chicago University. Second, there is no Slagg Field there. A quick glance at wikipedia confirms it to be Stagg Field. But what takes the cake, is the “Doubles quash Court”. It is of course well known that Fermi built the first atomic pile underneath the squash court at the University of Chicago and that squash is a ball game like tennis played inside a room either by two (singles) or by four(doubles) players. It was previously known as racquets. Pakistanis have been world beaters at this sport with Jehangir Khan being a real legend. But what is quash? Specially Doubles quash. A look at the dictionary comes up with three possibilities:

1. to subdue forcefully and completely; put down; suppress

2. to annul or make void (a law, decision, etc.)

3. (Law) to reject (an indictment, writ, etc.) as invalid

Alas, nothing at all on Doubles quash. Maybe the two (doubles?) learned judges through this Freudian slip are giving an early indication of what they intend to do with people’s aspirations for justice.

I can sense a certain remonstration amongst you, dear readers at all this. Why make such a song and dance about something that might actually be just a typo. So, let it pass although I do think that three mistakes in just half a sentence in the opening paragraph itself in a judgement on an issue of international importance, is something unworthy of what one expects of the Supreme Court of India.

Going further on page 9 and 10 we have,

As a sequel to that national policy, the Central Government, with the active cooperation of AEC, BARC, NPCIL, AERB etc., have already set up about twenty operating power reactors in the country with installed nuclear capacity of 4780 MWe, which have been commissioned over the last four decades from the year 1969 to 2011.

Over and above, India has now set up two PHWRs of VVER based NPPs (2 X 1000 MWe) at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu with the co-operation of Russian Federation which is the subject matter of this litigation.”

It is entirely understandable if a novice gets confused in this alphabet soup. But since the learned judges themselves call it as “the subject matter of this litigation,” one would at least expect that they would know that PHWR and VVER refer to two entirely different reactor types and calling PHWR of VVER based NPP is just absurd. PHWR stands for Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor while VVER are the initials in Russian of what might be translated as Water-water Energised Reactor. A pressurized heavy water reactor is better known as CANDU standing for Canadian Deuterium Uranium reactor. As the name implies, it uses natural uranium as fuel and heavy water both as a moderator as well as the coolant. VVER on the other hand uses enriched uranium as fuel and ordinary natural water as both moderator and coolant. Most Indian reactors till now except for the first two at Tarapur are CANDU types. The Indian atomic energy establishment does not like the name CANDU since it refers to the Canadian origin of the design and rather prefers PHWR of Indian design.

During the entire text of the judgement, the judges place an extraordinary reliance on the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) a toothless lapdog regulatory body. Although it would be wrong to say that every page refers to AERB, the total number of references 126 in a 247 page report (more than once in two pages), does illustrate the dependence of the judges on this fig-leaf of a regulator. Even the Government of India having realized following Fukushima the uselessness of AERB as a regulator has decided to constitute a new regulatory body but the faith of the judges in the effectiveness of AERB as a regulator remains strong. However, AERB has no previous experience of regulating a VVER reactor. More relevant is the fact that DAE and NPCIL care two hoots for what ever the AERB manuals may contain.

On pages 14 and 15, the judges are very particular to point out that it is not their province to decide on the correctness of a policy. That is strictly for the parliament to decide. They quote many other legal luminaries to bolster this argument.

It is not for Courts to determine whether a particular policy or a particular decision taken in fulfillment of a policy, is fair. Reason is obvious, it is not the province of a court to scan the wisdom or reasonableness of the policy behind the Statute.

Lord Macnaughten in Vacher & Sons v. London Society of Compositors, (1913)AC107(118)HL has stated:

Some people think the policy of the Act unwise and even dangerous to the community……But a Judicial tribunal has nothing to do with the policy of any Act which it may be called upon to interpret. That may be a matter for private judgment. The duty of the Court, and its only duty is to expand the language of the Act in accordance with the settled rules of construction.”

12. In CCSU v. Min. (1984) 3 All ER 935 (954) HL, it was held that it is not for the Courts to determine whether a particular policy or particular decision taken in fulfillment of that policy

are fair. They are concerned only with the manner in which those decisions have been taken, if that manner is unfair, the decision will be tainted with that Lord Diplock labels as ‘procedural impropriety’.

13. This Court in M.P. Oil Extraction and Anr. v. State of M.P. and Ors., (1997 )7SCC 592 held that unless the policy framed is absolutely capricious, unreasonable and arbitrary and based on mere ipse dixit of the executive authority or is invalid in constitutional or statutory mandate, court’s interference is not called for. Reference may also be made in the judgment of this Court in M/s. Ugar Sugar Works Ltd. v. Delhi Administration & Ors., (2001) 3 SCC 635; Dhampur Sugar

(Kashipur) Ltd. v. State of Uttranchal and Ors. (2007) 8 SCC 418 and Delhi Bar Association v. Union of India and Ors., (2008) 13 SCC 628.

We are therefore firmly of the opinion that we cannot sit in judgment over the decision taken by the Government of India, NPCIL etc. for setting up of KKNPP at Kudankulam in view of the Indo-Russia agreement. Courts also cannot stand in the way of the Union of India honouring its

Inter-Governmental Agreement entered into between India and Russia.

But if the judges really believed in this how come on page 11 one finds them waxing eloquent on the merits of nuclear energy?

One of the reasons for preferring nuclear energy as an alternative source of energy is that it is a clean, safe, reliable and competitive energy source which can replace a significant part of the fossil fuels like coal, oil, gas etc. Oil and natural gas resources might exhaust themselves.”

Does the injunction against making judgements on policy matters hold only if the policy is not to the judge’s liking? What makes this pontification all the more disgusting is the fact that each of the adjectives used to describe nuclear energy; clean, safe, reliable and competitive is not applicable to nuclear energy at all. Nuclear energy is not clean, not safe, not reliable and certainly not competitive. Even with all the corruption involved in the coalgate scandal, coal is still considerably cheaper than nuclear. The judges in exhibiting their complete ignorance of the facts concerning nuclear energy just show the enormous amount of work that still needs to be done in educating the so-called educated classes.

As early as October 2010, we have had the spectacle of the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s office, Mr Narayanswami making periodic announcements regarding early start to the Koodankulam electricity generation. That has just not happened in the last three years and the reason for the delay is not just public agitation. The fact is that there are serious deficiencies in the equipment supplied for the plant, but the judges have totally ignored this reality and chosen to rely on the worthless assurances of DAE and its lapdog regulator AERB.

In case you are still not convinced of my assertion regarding the judges being ignorant of their own judgement, there is yet another gem in the judgement. On page 192 the judges categorically declare, “Larger public interest of the community should give way to individual apprehension of violation of human rights and right to life guaranteed under Article 21. ”

Now what can be clearer than this. The judges have already by now (page 192) made absolutely clear that they consider nuclear energy to be in the larger public interest of the community. But according to the statement above, that does not matter. Thousands of individuals have expressed and continue to express their apprehensions of violations of their human rights and the right to life guaranteed under article 21 and whatever invisible public good there might be in nuclear energy, that has to give way according to the learned judges to these apprehensions.

Yet, just a page later on page 194, the judges sing an entirely different tune.

Apprehension, however, legitimate it may be, cannot override the justification of the project. Nobody on this earth can predict what would happen in future and to a larger extent we have to leave it to the destiny. But once the justification test is satisfied, the apprehension test is bound to fail. Apprehension is something we anticipate with anxiety or fear, a fearful anticipation, which may vary from person to person.

The learned judges have by this u-turn completely lost me and I suspect anybody who reads the judgement seriously. While the project has to give way to people’s apprehensions, the apprehensions cannot override the project. I suppose I shall have plenty of time to ponder on this dilemma and on the wisdom of the judges of the Supreme doubles quash Court when I don’t give way to a truck and the truck overrides me.

 

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Activists bristle as India cracks down on foreign funding of NGOs

By , Monday, May 20, 7:14 AM E-mail the writer, WP

NEW DELHI — Amid an intensifying crackdown on nongovernmental groups that receive foreign funding, Indian activists are accusing the government of stifling their right to dissent in the world’s largest democracy.India has tightened the rules on nongovernmental organizations over the past two years, following protests that delayed several important industrial projects. About a dozen NGOs that the government said engaged in activities that harm the public interest have seen their permission to receive foreign donations revoked, as have nearly 4,000 small NGOs for what officials said was inadequate compliance with reporting requirements.
The government stepped up its campaign this month, suspending the permission that Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), a network of more than 700 NGOs across India, had to receive foreign funds. Groups in the network campaign for indigenous peoples’ rights over their mineral-rich land and against nuclear energy, human rights violations and religious fundamentalism; nearly 90 percent of the network’s funding comes from overseas.“The government’s action is aimed at curbing our democratic right to dissent and disagree,” Anil Chaudhary, who heads an NGO that trains activists and is part of the INSAF network, said Tuesday. “We dared to challenge the government’s new foreign donation rules in the court. We opposed nuclear energy, we campaigned against genetically modified food. We have spoiled the sleep of our prime minister.”In its letter to INSAF, the Home Ministry said the group’s bank accounts were frozen and foreign funding approval suspended because it was likely to “prejudicially affect the public interest.”

A government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said the government is not against criticism. But when an NGO uses foreign donations to criticize Indian policies, “things get complicated, and you never know what the plot is,” the official said, adding that NGOs should use foreign donations to do development work instead.

The United States is the top donor nation to Indian NGOs, followed by Britain and Germany, according to figures compiled by the Indian government, with Indian NGOs receiving funds from both the U.S. government and private U.S. institutions. In the year ending in March 2011, the most recent period for which data are available, about 22,000 NGOs received a total of more than $2 billion from abroad, of which $650 million came from the United States.

Government bars groups that oppose nuclear energy, human rights abuses from accepting overseas donations.

U.S. officials, including Peter Burleigh, the American ambassador at the time, quickly moved to assure Indian officials that the U.S. government supports India’s civil nuclear power program. And Victoria Nuland, then the State Department spokeswoman, said the United States does not provide support for nonprofit groups to protest nuclear power plants. “Our NGO support goes for development, and it goes for democracy programs,” Nuland said.
Although Singh was widely criticized for his fears, the government froze the accounts of several NGOs in southern India within weeks.“All our work has come to a stop,” said Henri Tiphagne, head of a human rights group called People’s Watch. “I had visited [the] Koodankulam protest site once. Is that a banned territory?”

But the government’s action appears to have had its desired effect. “NGOs are too scared to visit Koodankulam or associate with us now,” said anti-nuclear activist S. P. Udayakumar.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said many NGOs are afraid to speak up about the suspension of their foreign funding approval, which is “being used to intimidate organizations and activists.”

Analysts say the government’s way of dealing with dissent is a throwback to an earlier era. But Indian authorities have been particularly squeamish about criticism of late. As citizens have protested corruption and sexual assaults on women and demanded greater accountability from public officials, authorities have often reacted clumsily — including beating up peaceful protesters and cracking down on satirical cartoons, Facebook posts and Twitter accounts.

Donors look elsewhere

Officials say NGOs are free to use Indian money for their protests. But activists say Indian money is hard to find, with many Indians preferring to donate to charities.

A recent report by Bain & Co. said that about two-thirds of Indian donors surveyed said that NGOs have room to improve the impact they are making in the lives of beneficiaries. It said that a quarter of donors are holding back on increased donations until they perceive evidence that their donations are having an effect.

“They give blankets to the homeless, sponsor poor children or support cow shelters,” said Wilfred Dcosta, coordinator of INSAF. “They do not want to support causes where you question the state, demand environmental justice or fight for the land rights of tribal people pitted against mighty mining companies.”

INSAF, whose acronym means “justice” in Urdu, has seen its portion of foreign funding increase significantly during the past 15 years. Now it receives funds from many international groups, including the American Jewish World Service and Global Greengrants Fund in the United States, and groups in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

The top American donors to Indian NGOs include Colorado-based Compassion International, District-based Population Services International and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“It is not a question about money, it is a fight for our right to dissent,” said Chaudhary. “I don’t need dollars to block a road.”

Asked last week about the Indian government’s moves against foreign-funded NGOs, a U.S. State Department spokesman said the department was not aware of any U.S. government involvement in the cases. The spokesman said such civil society groups around the world “are among the essential building blocks of any healthy democracy.”

The situation in India is not unlike the problems that similar groups face in Russia, where a law passed last year requires foreign-funded NGOs that engage in loosely defined political activities to register as “foreign agents.”

 

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KNPP Commissioning Postponed

English: Construction site of the Koodankulam ...

English: Construction site of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant Deutsch: Baustelle des Kernkraftwerks Kudankulam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

CHENNAI | MAY 15, 2013

 

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd has postponed the expected date of commissioning of the first unit of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant to next month.

With a physical progress completed upto 99.66 per cent, the 1,000 MW first unit is expected to be commissioned next month, NPCIL website said.

Earlier, NPCIL expected it to be commissioned by this month.

NPCIL is building two 1,000 MW VVER nuclear power units with Russian collaboration at Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu.

The Supreme Court had on May 6 cleared hurdles in commissioning of the controversial plant, saying that the safety and security requirements have been taken care of and the project would benefit larger public interest.

The project has missed several deadlines since December last year following protests by locals over safety concerns.

 

 

 

 

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Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant – From Supreme Court to People’s Court?

M.G.Devasahayam

M G DevasahayamShri M. G. Devasahayam is a former IAS and Managing Trustee, Citizens Alliance for Sustainable Living, Chennai

He is the Convener of the PMANE Expert Group on Koodankulam.

Shri Devasahayam can be reached at[email protected]

Supreme Court Judgment–The Essence

On 6th May 2013, Supreme Court delivered the much awaited judgment on the Koodunkulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) arising out of SLP (C) 27335/2012 that had been reserved since first week of December 2012. The penultimate para (229) of the judgment reads thus: “Before proceeding to issue certain directions, it is required to be stated that the appellant, by this Public Interest Litigation, has, in a way, invoked and aroused the conscience/concern of the court to such an issue. True it is, the prayer is for the total closure of the plant and the Court has not acceded to the said prayer but his noble effort is appreciated to put forth the grievance of the local people and the necessity of adequate safety measures as is perceived. When such cause comes up before this Court, it is the bounden duty to remind the authorities “Be alert, remain always alert and duty calls you to nurture constant and sustained vigilance and nation warns you not to be complacent and get into a mild slumber”. The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) as the regulatory authority and the MoEF are obliged to perform their duty that safety measures are adequately taken before the plant commences its operation. That is the trust of the people in the authorities which they can ill afford to betray, and it shall not be an exaggeration to state that safety in a case of this nature in any one’s hand has to be placed on the pedestal of “Constitutional Trust”.

After placing public safety on the pedestal of “Constitutional Trust”, Supreme Court has issued 15 directions for compliance by nuclear establishment and other regulators for strict compliance before commissioning of the plant. From the language, tone and tenor these conditions appear to be non-negotiable.

Response from Nuclear Establishment

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) response to the judgment was typical of the nuclear establishment’s vulgar hurry to impose the unsafe KKNPP on the struggling people: “With the Supreme Court giving the green signal, the first reactor of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project is likely to go critical anytime between May 13 and 20. Top sources in the NPCIL told ‘The Hindu’ that a team of Automic Energy Regulatory Board experts are going through the results of the test conducted a few days ago and holding discussions on the results with the NPCIL technocrats. The AERB’s governing body, expected to meet before this weekend is likely to take a final decision on giving the nod for criticality immediately”

As for RK Sinha, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) it was a great relief and he said so: ‘I humbly welcome the judgment of the court, it should lay to rest all perceived doubts about the Kudankulam atomic reactor. The reactor is at an advanced stage of commissioning and criticality or the start of the nuclear chain reaction in the plant should happen soon.’

Legal Notice

It looks as if nuclear establishment had not read the judgment carefully. If they had done so their response would have been different. And they had to be reminded of it the hard way-through a legal Notice which reads as under:

“As you are aware, the Supreme Court has given several directions to be complied with before the commissioning of KKNPP including the following two directions:

1. The plant should not be made operational unless AERB, NPCIL, DAE accord final clearance for commissioning of the plant ensuring the quality of various components and systems because their reliability is of vital importance…….

15. The AERB, NPCIL, Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) would oversee each and every aspect of the matter, including the safety of the plant, impact on environment, quality of various components and systems in the plant before commissioning of the plant. A report to that effect be filed before this Court before commissioning of the plant.

The above directions of the Supreme Court are categorical. These directions need no interpretation whatsoever. As per these directions, Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project cannot be commissioned as it stands now. When clearance was granted by you (AERB) for initial fuel loading (IFL) and first approach to criticality (FAC) of Unit.I of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project on August 10, 2012 the same was challenged before the Madras High Court by my client. The said clearance was ultimately tested by the Supreme Court in Civil Appeal No. 4440 of 2013 and batch matters. Having considered all aspects of the matter, the Supreme Court has now given a direction to you (AERB & NPCIL) and the Department of Atomic Energy not to make the KKNPP operational until a fresh review of the quality of various components and systems of the KKNPP is undertaken. The Supreme Court has further given a direction to you (AERB & NPCIL) and Ministry of Environment & Forest of the Government of India and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to oversee each and every aspect of the matter, including the safety of the plant, impact on environment, quality of various components and systems in the plant and after fulfilling this task file a report in the Supreme Court before commissioning of the plant. These directions have not yet been complied with by you (AERB & NPCIL) or by the Government of India or by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.

It appears that after the judgment of the Supreme Court you have not even commenced a fresh review of the ‘quality of various components and systems in the plants’. Without even attempting to comply with the directions of the Supreme Court, NPCIL is making a statement to the press that the KKNPP is likely to go critical any time between May 13 and 20.

Kindly take notice that any such assertion on the part of NPCIL or AERB as reported in The Hindu dated 7 May 2013 would amount to contempt of the Supreme Court, since no report as directed by the Supreme Court in direction No.15 has so far been submitted to the Supreme Court.”

 

The Flaws

While this could bring some succour to the struggling farmer-fisher folk, Supreme Court judgment nevertheless suffer from several flaws:

  1. While the Special Leave Petition starts with characterising nuclear power as “the most dangerous means of producing energy with a serious potential for catastrophic accidents causing severe damage to life and property, with cost of reparation running into lakhs of crores of rupees”, the court nonchalantly and without appropriate due diligence declares that “nuclear energy…is a clean, safe, reliable and competitive energy source”. This assertion is debatable, disputable and defeats the very purpose for which the petitioners appealed to the highest court of law.
  2. On the issue DGR (Deep Geologic Repository) for radioactive nuclear waste, which is a critical issue concerning public safety, the court has been very casual: “NPCIL does not seem to have a long term plan, other than, stating and hoping that in the near future, it would establish a DGR (Deep Geologic Repository)”. Its directive that “DGR has to be set up at the earliest” does not specify a date nor make it a necessary condition before NPCIL embarks on new nuclear reactor construction. This is clear pandering of the nuclear establishment.
  3. Safety concerns that remain paramount in the minds of the citizens living in the vicinity of Koodankulam have not been adequately acknowledged by the Court, which did not even see fit to mention the problems with valves that the AERB disclosed, or the news reports of corruption in supplier companies in Russia. The Court’s call to “educate the people” smacks of condescension, which is anachronistic for a democracy and inexplicable when seen in the context of this well-informed and widely-participated movement against the Koodankulam reactors.
  4. SC’s uncritical reliance on the opinions of the nuclear establishment and its complete disregard of the absence of public trust in the regulatory agency is a serious problem with the judgment. It quotes extensively from AERB documents, especially safety codes, yet overlooks the fact that AERB and NPCIL do not often follow their own safety rules. The most pertinent example is that of Koodankulam itself, when AERB allowed the loading of fuel into the reactors even though NPCIL had not complied with its safety recommendations following the Fukushima nuclear accidents.
  5. The Court did not even acknowledge, let alone examine, the questions surrounding the independence and effectiveness of the AERB, and instead claimed that the AERB has been “regulating the nuclear and radiation facilities in the country very effectively”. Last year, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) pointed out that AERB “continued to be…an authority subordinate to the central government”, putting a big question mark over its independence as a regulator. Its actions in the case of Koodankulam, unfortunately, do not enhance the credibility of the AERB. The Court claims that the AERB “has, over the years, issued a large number of codes, standards and guides”, while the CAG pointed out that the AERB had failed to prepare “a radiation safety policy even after three decades of its existence”.
  6. The court does not seem to have properly considered the prayers contained in the SLP. While the petitioner had asked for commissioning the plant after ensuring all safety & environmental requirements court has said that the petitioner wanted “total closure of the plant and we have not conceded to the said prayer”.

Not addressing corruption and sub-standard machinery issues

Another disturbing aspect of the judgment is the question as to why did SC ignore the IA filed on 23 April (two weeks before the judgment) clearly bringing to the notice of the Supreme Court the supply of sub-standard equipment and materials by ZiO Podolsk, a Russian public sector machine works company, to the Koodankulam plant, and how Unit 2 of the Leningrad nuclear power plant using similar materials supplied by the same company collapsed on 17 July 2011, leading to the arrest and prosecution of Sergei Shutov, procurement director of ZiO Podolsk, by a Federal court in Russia. All other scams/scandals like 2G Spectrum, Commonwealth Games, Coalgate etc came out and are under serious investigation because of exposures by CAG followed by activism and advocacy by civil society with legal luminaries in the forefront. Courts had not been forewarned in these scams, but when these came before the SC it took very serious notice and is pursuing these with vigour by upbraiding the government and constituting SIT etc. What happened in the Coalgate case is an apt example. But in the KKNPP case it is just the opposite. SC was forewarned about the scam, sub-standard material and corruption and criminal action in Russia against supplier company weeks before the judgment was issued and was ‘mentioned’ in open court. The least SC could have done was to ask for independent investigation in to these ‘life-threatening’ allegations and satisfied itself before issuing final orders.

On this aspect of SC judgment Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan, former Chairman, AERB has a slightly different take. This is what he has to say: “As per Directions No: 15 given in the SC Judgment, NPCIL, AERB, MoEF and TNPCB are to be jointly involved in all  aspects  of  certifying  this  reactor as safe. Of  these three  organizations (AERB, TNPCB, MoEF) are Regulatory Agencies, and NPCIL is the promoter  and  it will  have  to  serve  as  the main supplier of  inspection data and other compliance information to the other three for  review . Without  solely  resting their confidence & trust  in the  two  DAE  institutions (AERB & NPCIL) , the Supreme Court  has intentionally broadened the jury to include two additional government  regulators  who are not connected with the DAE. This I see as the impact of our last affidavit (IA on 23 April) on Zio-Podolsk corruption and supply of substandard components & equipment from  Russia. We have to make best use of this opportunity”.

This matter however has been taken care of in a complaint filed with the CBI and a writ filed in the Madras High Court for directing the CBI to conduct expeditious investigation into corruption and supply of sub-standard equipment.

Future Imperatives

Dr. EAS Sarma, former Secretary to Government of India, Ministry of Power has created a matrix for making the ‘best use’ of the 15 directions and other observations made in the SC judgment. It is presented below with some of my inputs:

 

Para Direction & Action points Compliance imperative before commissioning
230.1 The plant should not be made operational unless AERB, NPCIL, DAE accord final clearance for commissioning of the plant ensuring the quality of various components and systems because their reliability is of vital importance. Final clearance and the process adopted should be placed in the public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.2 MoEF should oversee and monitor whether the NPCIL iscomplying with the conditions laid down, while granting

clearance vide its communication dated 23.9.2008 under the provisions of EIA Notification of 2006, so also the conditions laid down in the environmental clearance granted by the MoEF vide its communication dated 31.12.2009. AERB and MoEF will see that all the conditions stipulated by them are duly complied with before the plant is made operational.

MOEF should place the monitoringreports in the public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.3 Maintaining safety is an ongoing process not only at thedesign level, but also during the operation for the nuclear

plant. Safeguarding NPP, radioactive materials, ensuring

physical security of the NSF are of paramount importance.

NPCIL, AERB, the regulatory authority, should maintain

constant vigil and make periodical inspection of the plant

at least once in three months and if any defect is noticed,

the same has to be rectified forthwith.

NPCIL, AERB should place the periodic reports in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.4 NPCIL shall send periodical reports to AERB and the AERB shall take prompt action on those reports, if any fallacy is noticed in the reports. The reports should be available for the public as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.5 SNF generated needs to be managed in a safe manner toensure protection of human health and environment from

the undue effect of ionizing radiation now and future, for

which sufficient surveillance and monitoring programme

have to be evolved and implemented.

 

Copy of the surveillance and monitoringreports should be available in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.6 AERB should periodically review the design-safety aspectsof AFR feasibly at KKNPP so that there will be no adverse

impact on the environment due to such storage which

may also allay the fears and apprehensions expressed by

the people.

The reports should be available in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.7 DGR has to be set up at the earliest so that SNF could betransported from the nuclear plant to DGR. NPCIL says

the same would be done within a period of five years.

Effective steps should be taken by the Union of India,

NPCIL, AERB, AEC, DAE etc. to have a permanent DGR at the earliest so that apprehension voiced by the people of

keeping the NSF at the site of Kudankulam NPP could be

dispelled.

The periodic progress reports should be available in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.8 NPCIL should ensure that the radioactive discharges to theenvironmental aquatic atmosphere and terrestrial route

shall not cross the limits prescribed by the Regulatory

Body.

The monitored data should be available in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.9 The Union of India, AERB and NPCIL should take steps atthe earliest to comply with rest of the seventeen

recommendations, within the time stipulated in the

affidavit filed by the NPCIL on 3.12.2012.

The Apex Court, in para 189, has cautioned AERB, NPCIL as follows.“Adequate measures have, therefore, to be taken for storage of NSF at site, and also for the physical safety of stored NSF. Of the seventeen suggested safety measures, by AERB, LWR, twelve have already been implemented and the rest, in a phased manner have to be implemented which the experts say, are meant for extra security”

The apex court, in para 228, has also emphasised as follows

 

Therefore, I am obliged to think that the delicate balance in other spheres may have some allowance but in the case of establishment of a

nuclear plant, the safety measures would not tolerate any lapse. The grammar has to be totally different. I may hasten to clarify that I have not discussed anything about the ecology and environment which has been propounded before us, but I may particularly put that the

proportionality of risk may not be “zero” regard being had to the nature’s unpredictability. All efforts are to be made to avoid any man-made disaster. Though the concept of delicate balance and the doctrine of proportionality of risk

factor gets attracted, yet the same commands the highest degree of constant alertness, for it is disaster affecting the living. The life of some cannot be sacrificed for the

purpose of the eventual larger good.”

Therefore, NPCIL is expected to lay down strict time schedules to ensure safety and the progress reports should be available in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.

230.10 SNF is not being re-processed at the site, which hasto be transported to a Re-Processing facility. Therefore,

the management and transportation of SNF be carried out

strictly by the Code of Practices laid down by the AERB,

following the norms and regulations laid down by IAEA.

The details should be placed in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.11 NPCIL, AERB and State of Tamil Nadu should takeadequate steps to implement the National Disaster

Management Guidelines, 2009 and also carry out the

periodical emergency exercises on and off site, with the

support of the concerned Ministries of the Government of

India, Officials of the State Government and local

authorities.

Hon’ble Madras High Court in W.P.No.24770 of 2011 August 2012 (Para 89) observed as follows“Even though it is stated that the said exercise was done in only one village, namely Nakkaneri village, which is stated to be nearer to the KKNPP, as we are informed that nearly 30 to 40 villages are within 30 Kms radius of KKNPP, such event must take place in all villages and more importantly, apart from the officials, as stated above, the people in the area must be made to participate and an awareness programme must be made to infuse confidence in the minds of the local people that the project is for the benefit of the country and there is no need to alarm”

Since this observation has not been modified by the apex court, it should be treated as a pre-condition to commissioning of the plant. In addition, implementation of NDMA’s guidelines should also precede commissioning.

The Apex Court’s observation in para 221 (extracted below) of the judgment has importance

“The concept of disaster management cannot be allowed to remain on paper. Its procrastination itself rings the bell of peril. The

administration has to be alive to the said situation and the awakening to manage the disaster in case of an

unfortunate incident has to be founded on scientific and

sophisticated methods. Taking care of the situation of the present alone is not the solution. All concerned with the same are required to look to the future because that elevates the real concern. The danger of the future should be seriously taken note of and should not be veiled in the guise of thought for the present”.

230.12 NPCIL, in association with the District Collector,Tiruneveli should take steps to discharge NPCIL Corporate

Social Responsibilities in accordance with DPE Guidelines

and there must be effective and proper monitoring and

supervision of the various projects undertaken under CSR

to the fullest benefit of the people who are residing in and

around KKNPP.

Progress reports with the names of beneficiaries should be placed in public domain as required under section 4 of RTI Act. A special audit should be ordered to ensure proper utilisation of the funds
230.13 NPCIL and the State of Tamil Nadu, based on thecomprehensive emergency preparedness plan should

conduct training courses on site and off site administer

personnel, including the State Government officials and

other stake holders, including police, fire service, medicos,

emergency services etc.

Progress reports with the names of trainees should be placed in public domain as required under section 4 of RTI Act. A special audit should be ordered to ensure proper utilisation of the funds
230.14 Endeavour should be made to withdraw all thecriminal cases filed against the agitators so that peace

and normalcy be restored at Kudankulam and nearby

places and steps should be taken to educate the people of

the necessity of the plant which is in the largest interest of

the nation particularly the State of Tamil Nadu.

 

This should precede commissioningction taken should be placed in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act
230.15 The AERB, NPCIL, MoEF and TNPCB would overseeeach and every aspect of the matter, including the safety

of the plant, impact on environment, quality of various

components and systems in the plant before

commissioning of the plant.A report to that effect be filed before this Court before commissioning of the plant.

The Report thus filed should be notified to the Petitioner for filing counter and if found ‘fake’ SC should order investigation of quality of various components and systems in the plant by an Independent Expert Group before issuing final orders.

Compliance requirement suggested for Direction #15 assumes all the more importance due to post-judgment revelations through a research study that the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) supplied to KKNPP, considered to be the heart of the reactor, could be obsolete and different from the originally promised one. This has humongous repercussions and if unchecked, has all the potential for a catastrophe in peninsular India and the island of Sri Lanka. Serious charges of corruption and suspicion of substandard material and obsolete RPV have arisen, but not addressed even by the highest court of law. God forbid, if some incident/accident happens during commissioning or after, besides human catastrophe it would devastate SC as an institution and extinguish whatever little faith people have in this bulwark of justice. Supreme Court monitored pre-commissioning is therefore a must because the Court has placed public safety on the pedestal of “Constitutional Trust” and hopefully would never countenance its betrayal by the nuclear establishment.

The Groundview

But the ‘soldiers on the ground’ have a different perception altogether. They are of the view that in order to free up Russia from supplier liability, charges of theft and abject project failure, the Indian nuclear establishment has begun to claim that the KKNPP is not a Russian turnkey project.

Following the Supreme Court’s verdict, nuclear establishment is announcing various dates to fake-commission the project and trying to protect their own self interests and save the Russians from all the embarrassing and serious charges. Instead of answering the component-related concerns, financial improprieties and liability commitments in an earnest manner, they are spreading irresponsible rumors and conjectures as they have been doing since 2005 about commissioning the KKNPP.

In fact, the KKNPP authorities do not even allow journalists anywhere near the reactors for fear of their smelling any of the fishy things that have been happening there. In an interview RS Sundar, the site director has claimed that they are facing difficulties with the media.

This is what the struggle leaders have to say: “The Indian government, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), and the AERB do not even want to walk the extra mile of assessing the quality and safety of the components with a team of independent scientists, engineers and journalists. No one in India knows anything about the omissions and the commissions of the KKNPP, NPCIL, AERB, DAE, AEC and their Russian counterparts and suppliers. Even the Indian courts seem to accept the establishmentarian views in spite of the fact that they have laid down fifteen directions in their recent judgment. All nuclear establishment want is commissioning of the plant even if it is a fake one! So all the thefts, untested technology, unsafe components and the overall failure could be buried in radioactive contamination and inter-governmental cover up.”

So the struggling community, all ordinary citizens of India, have decided to turn to their fellow citizens and Mother Nature to protect the interests of our country and people. They have decided to come out in the open, travel to neighboring villages and organize people all over again. They have decided to fight it out to the finish and are confident that they shall overcome.

To this determination Admiral L.Ramdas has responded to the struggle coordinator Udayakumar: “We are happy to see that the spirit of “Never say Die” prevails. I am sure our prayers and hard work and commitment will not go waste. Regards and Greater strength to your elbow”. So, it is from Supreme Court to the Court of the People.

We are a Democracy and VOX POPULI is VOX DEI–‘Voice of the People is Voice of God’. But is mere voice enough? To seek assurance, ground forces should draw on the famous clarion of Alexander Solzhenitsyn: “It is infinitely difficult to begin when mere words must remove a great block of matter. But there is no other way if none of the material strength is on your side. And a shout in the mountains has been known to cause an avalanche

Just replace ‘mountain’ with ocean and ‘avalanche’ with tsunami. BRAVO.

 

Related posts

PRESS RELEASE- Supreme Court Verdict on Koodankulam: A Travesty of Justice

PRESS RELEASE

Mumbai, May 15 , 2013

The Supreme Court’s verdict on Koodankulam rests on three hugely contested premises: the judges’ belief in the necessity of nuclear energy for India’s progress, their faith in the  nuclear establishment to perform its role, and the judges’ notion of the larger public interest and the apprehensions of small sections which should be subordinated to the estblishment’s plans. Not only have the judges given judicial sanctity to these contestable propositions, they  have also completely overlooked Koodankulam-specific brazen violations of the government’s own norms, raised by the petitioners.

It is unfortunate that the Court, far transgressing the actual prayers of the petition, has completely overlooked the brazen violations by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) of their own norms. The petitioners has highlighted serious issues such as the recent scam in Russia involving ZiO-Podolsk’s supply of sub-standard equipments to Koodankulam, violation of the AERB’s reactor-siting norms, undermining of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) clearances, flouting of the mandated  emergency preparedness and evacuation exercises, the AERB’s 17 post-Fukushima recommendations etc.

The DAE’s complete hegemony on nuclear expertise in India and its proximity to the country’s top political leadership has been misused by it to mislead the Supreme Court. Extensive citation of the AERB’s safety codes for Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors  (PHWRs) in the judgement whereas the Koodankulam reactors are Pressurised Water Reactors (PWRs) is a glaring example of this. The verdict also highlights the unfortunate extent to which our democratic institutions, including the judiciary, have come to unquestionably accept the growth-centric model of ‘development’ which is being contested by impoverished and marginalised sections who are bearing its brunt.

We demand that the NPCIL exercises maximum transparency and accountability in implementing the 15 guidelines issued by the Court. The Court’s order to withdraw police cases against the agitators vindicates our position that the government used undemocratic and brutal repression to silence the peaceful protests in Koodankulam.We demand that these fabricated charges be withdrawn at once.

 

issued by: The Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) , a  national network of various organisations along with Konkan Vinashkari Prakalp Virodhi Samiti,Madban Janhit Seva Samiti,Jaitapur Anuurja Prakalp Virodhi Samiti and various other organisations and individuals

Join us on facebook:- https://www.facebook.com/groups/109358664039/

To be updated on nuclear issues :- http://cndpindia.org/ ,  http://www.dianuke.org/,

For more information contact- Vivek Sundara (CNDP) -9821062801 /Kamayani Bali Mahabal ( CNDP)  9820749204

 

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Does the Supreme Court care about Indian lives?

The reasons behind clearing the Koodankulam nuclear plant defy logic and democratic principles
SP Udayakumar

18-05-2013, Issue 20

This week, a bench of the Supreme Court (SC) cleared the commissioning of the nuclear power plant at Koodankulam, against which the residents of the area have been protesting for the last 630 days. We find this verdict to be highly unfortunate, and feel that it doesn’t take into account the value of Indian lives.

Ten days before the judgment, our supporters Poovulagin Nanbargal (friends of the earth) filed an affidavit before the Court that ZiO-Podolsk, which has supplied much of the equipment to the plant, is a discredited and corrupt company. Sergei Shutov, the procurement director of the company, was arrested in February 2012 on charges of using substandard metal in their equipment. When we filed an RTI with Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) this January, they denied having received equipment from ZiO-Podolsk, and it was only after repeated enquiries that the NPCIL was forced to admit the truth. This is a very serious matter; if anything were to go wrong, crores of lives would be lost. Yet, the SC refuses to consider this issue while announcing its verdict.

Even accepting, for the sake of argument, that this matter came to light after the Court reserved its judgment, and thus cannot be admitted, what about waste management? The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) told the Court that the waste would be buried under the Kolar gold fields in Karnataka, but the plan was dropped after the residents protested. And that was that. The Court didn’t ask again what alternative the DAE had, and passed its judgment without settling the question. So what happens to this highly toxic waste?

As for liability, an inter-governmental agreement of 2008 holds that the Russians would not be liable in case the faulty equipment malfunctions. What a great deal! You buy whatever rubbish they give you, and you exempt them from liability. So much money has been stolen by both rich Indians and Russians, and the poor locals have to bear the brunt of the greater risk. Who is liable? Is Manmohan Singh liable? He might not be in power two months from now. Would it be the DAE? The KKNPP site director Kasinath Balaji has disappeared, and someone else is in his post. The NPCIL? SK Jain, who was the chairman, is now leading a cushy life in Tokyo as the chairman of the governing board of the World Association of Nuclear Operators. Who will be here to answer for something going wrong? We do not trust these bureaucrats and officials, and now we can’t even trust the SC. If the SC cared about Indian lives, it should have asked these questions.

But no, the Court says that a balance has to be struck between the right to life and sustainable development, that the larger public interest should prevail over minor inconveniences caused to local people. If the inconvenience is really minor, why don’t they build the plant near Parliament? The “larger public interest” it speaks of is nothing but the interests of large corporations for which poor fishermen, women and children should apparently sacrifice their lives and livelihoods.

Regardless, our struggle continues. We may not be successful in closing the plant tomorrow, or in the next few months, or few years. We are patient. We shall persevere. For we have persevered despite the government’s campaign to spread lies and libel us. They have claimed that those who oppose the Koodankulam plant are foreign stooges and that we receive money from abroad. VS Achuthanandan, the former chief minister of Kerala, opposes the plant. Did he take money from abroad? Dr A Gopalakrishnan, the former head of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, has written extensively against the plant. Does he do so for foreign money? Admiral (Retd) Ramdas opposes the plant. Medha Patkar is against it. So is Aruna Roy. Who paid them? Why, when such luminaries have stood up against the government’s anti-people stance, should nameless, faceless Udayakumar be singled out by the Americans for payments?

I don’t take the government’s vilification seriously, because I have nothing at stake. I am not trying to join politics, and I don’t need a certificate of approval from anybody. It’s not me anyone should be worried about, but the people of Idinthakarai, of Koothankuli, of other villages that will be affected, who have lost so much because they chose to take a stand. They have lost their incomes, they have been arrested, they have been attacked by the police. With the opening of the plant, things will only get worse.

But we persist, because we firmly believe that we are fighting for the good of our country, for which we have an enormous amount of love. India needs development, we agree, but in seeking that development, we must not undermine our natural resources, or the basic health of our people and our nutrition security. What are our priorities, after all? Half of our population lives under 20 a day, half of our population barely has any sanitation. We don’t have the basic necessities. People are dying for want of safe drinking water. Instead of addressing these issues, why does our government persist in its obsession with nuclear power, which only adds to the suffering of the poor? Yes, we need electricity, but there needs to be leadership in how we go about harnessing it. If a country like Germany can develop so much electricity from solar power, why can’t we? We have been vilified as fighting against the interests of our country. We have been called Luddites standing in the way of progress. But it must be made clear that we are not against electricity, only nuclear power. We are not against development that benefits Indians, but against that which benefits corrupt Russian companies. We want our people to live as human beings, in a State that does not compromise their safety or on the basic necessities of life.

The greatest challenge we have faced in the course of our protest is the power differential between the people and the State. We celebrate our country as the world’s largest democracy, but its people are hopelessly powerless. Nobody listens to the people. The Parliament wastes our time, energy and resources. Even to ask a question in Parliament, we must bribe MPs, and even when they ask the question, it is just a ritual. No serious debate takes place. This democracy we speak of is a sham. It works only to cheat the poor of their rights.

As told to Ajachi Chakrabarti

[email protected]

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 20, Dated

 

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Koodankulam:A Court in the Supreme Contempt of its People

injustice

 

The Supreme Court’s verdict on Koodankulam rests on three hugely contested premises: the judges’ belief in the necessity of the nuclear energy for India’s progress, their faith in the country’s nuclear establishment to perform its role, and the judges’ notion of the larger public interest and the apprehensions of small sections which should make way for the country’s progress. Not only have the judges given judicial sanctity to these contestable propositions, but have also completely overlooked the Koodankulam-specific brazen violations of the government’s own norms, raised by the petitioners.

injusticeThe Supreme Court’s judgement on Koodankulam would go in India’s history in line with the Narmada Dam verdict and other judicial pronouncement reflecting the inability of our post-independence democratic institutions to overcome the narrowly defined confines of ‘larger public interest’, ‘development/growth’ and ‘national conscience’.

Whose interests are larger?

While the petition filed by the Chennai-based environmentalist group Poovulagin Nanbargal presented specific concerns of safety hazards and violations of the government’s own norms in implementing the project, India’s growth and the assumed indispensability of nuclear energy for it is a recurring rationale in the Supreme Court’s final verdict. The judges have gone beyond the scope of the prayer and have extolled nuclear energy as essential for India’s growth, terming the ‘fears’ of people as misplaced. The judgement goes on to prescribe that ‘minor inconveniences’ must be tolerated in the larger interest of the nation.

DOCUMENTS:

TEXT of the Supreme Court’s Judgement on Koodankulam

Koodankulam Scam: TEXT of the Petition Filed in the Supreme Court by Adv. Prashant Bhushan

Special Leave Petition on Koodankulam filed in Supreme Court

Writ Petition on Nuclear Liability for Koodankulam Filed in the Supreme Court of India

People’s Movement is Emotional fear, Nuclear Establishment has the Expertise

The second paragraph of the judgement itself calls the people’s massive agitation in Koodankulam an “emotional reaction” to the setting up of the reactor. It almost mocks the people’s concern saying the “fears and unrest” might not have been thought of by Enrico Fermi who set up the first nuclear power plant. Since then, the judgement says, people have reacted emotionally when every new reactor is commissioned. The judgement goes on to add that the people’s concern was mooted even the constituent assembly when the Constitution was being drafted. Does this imply that nuclear energy in India should be regarded a fait accompli?

The judgement accepts the establishment’s narrative on nuclear energy in India unquestioningly.

  • The judgement extols the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) as the repository of final authority on everything nuclear and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) as a competent regulator, glossing over its dependence on the AEC for funds and human resources and its being obliged to report to the AEC whose activities it is essentially mandated to regulate.
  • The verdict also reposes complete faith in the national policy on nuclear energy and the existing framework to control and regulate all radioactivity-related activities in India.
  • Under the title ‘National Policy’ (page 9) the judges narrate the evolution of India’s 20 nuclear power stations built over last four decades producing 4780 MWs today with a rare clinical coldness, without questioning the nuclear establishment’s claims and its performances in the same period, while under the same title on page 10, it mentions that renewable sources provide “small share” of our total electricity – 15%, which is actually 6 times more than the share of nuclear energy. 
  • In its overview of the global status of nuclear energy, the rapid downward trend of the industry post-Fukushima doesn’t find a mention – France produces 74.6%, US has 104 reactors, world had 439 reactors in 2007 producing 13-14% of total energy. The reality is, nuclear power produced just 11% in In 2011 and the downward trend is expected to continue due to larger number of reactors ageing and lesser numbers being built today.
  • It doesn’t even question the NPCIL’s claims of producing 20,000 MW by the year 2020 and 63,000 MW by 2030.
  • Transgressing the scope of the petition, the judges have mentioned that “one of the reasons for preferring nuclear energy as an alternative source of energy is that it is a clean, safe, reliable and competitive energy source which can replace a significance of the fossil fuel like coal, oil, gas etc.” The judges have not bothered to see that each of these adjectives have been questioned and have led to review of national policies, including in France where a national energy transformation law is underway.

As the questions raised in the petition involved technical problems plaguing the Koodankulam project, the Court consulted the government’s experts – officials from the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). Unfortunately, no independent institutionalised expertise on nuclear issues exists in India outside the confines of the Department of Atomic Energy.  This led to a situation in which the Judges have no option than to believe the same official experts against whose refusal to acknowledge the risks was the petition filed. While this made the entire proceeding lop-sided in the first place, there was still scope for the judges to look into the glaring violations and specific risks in Koodakulam which do not fall strictly under nuclear expert issues.

The crucial issues of supply of sub-standard equipments by ZiO-Podolsk, violation of Coastal Regulatory Zone stipulations and Environmental Impact Assessment norms, lack of clarity on the crucial issue of spent fuel storage, non-compliance with proper mock evacuation drill required by the AERB norms, much larger population in the vicinity than stipulated etc. have either been glossed over or have been legalized post-facto.

Court validating a political deal?

The judgement mentions India’s civil nuclear agreement with the US in 2005 and then with France and UK in 2008 and 2010, and explains them as the govt’s effort give effect to the “National Policy for development” for which “India has entered into various bilateral treaties and arrangements with countries which have considerable expertise and experience”. It is a well known fact that the nuclear deal came from the US side and the energy justification was a later concoction to justify it. The integrated energy policy of 2006 came one year after the Indo-US nuclear deal. In fact, it was the nuclear establishment in India which was the first one to get surprised with the news of Indo-US nuclear deal in 2005. The deal was essentially about the US manoeuvring internationals institutions norms of the  NSG and the IAEA to legitimise India’s nuclear weapons and ensure its entry into global international commerce. India’s compulsory purchase of the French, American and Russian reactors was a price it paid to achieve this. Former AEC Chairman Anil kakodkar himself has admitted in the past that importing foreign reactors, with an embarrassingly low liability cap,  had to do with accommodating these countries’ interests.

 Nuclear Energy and National Policy

After enthusiastically elaborating India’s national policy on nuclear energy, the judges say, “it is not for Courts to determine whether a particular policy or a particular decision taken in fulfilment of a policy, is fair” (page 13). Precisely. The petition before the court nowhere sought to discuss the rationale or desirability of the nuclear policy, if at all India has one. The petition raised concrete questions about safety norms and their violations. Then why the judges have went on to declare nuclear energy is green, clean and essential for India’s development? The judges quote an old case in Lodon to undermine that its “only duty is to expand the language of the Act in accordance with the settled rules of construction”, and hence “we cannot sit in judgment over the decision…for setting up of KKNPP in Kudankulam in view of the Indo-Russia agreement”. Fine, but what about ensuring that the inter-governmental agreement between India and Russia is made public and the liability provisions within it be made compliant to the law of the land?

After the aforementioned introductory part, the SC verdict has two parts – the first deals with safety and security of NPP, International COnventiions and Treaties, KKNPP Project, NSF and its management and transportation, DGR, Civil Liabilities, DMA, CSA and other related issues. Part II deals with environmental issues, CRZ, desalination plant, impact of radiation on eco-system, expert opinions, etc.

In part I, the verdict seeks to find out whether the project has adequate safety measures. In doing so, it starts with elaborating the Safety Codes of the AERB (in 12 full pages), without questioning its institutional autonomy or making mention of the CAG’s report on the AERB in which it strips down the myth of AERB’s independence and its efficacy. Details of India’s international obligations and its adherence with IAEA safety norms, based on the AERB’s submission, take several pages more.

IAEA’s 2008 report emphasizing tripling of electricity supply by 2050 is highlighted by the judges. The IAEA’s contested claim of nuclear energy being a low-carbon electricity is adopted unquestioningly.

The verdict reposes its complete faith in “the safety and security code of practices laid down by the AERB, the IAEA and its supports so as to allay the fears expressed from various quarters on the safety and security of KKNPP”

The judges mention PUCL vs Union of India and others case of 2004, where the court upheld that the AEC deals with a sensitive subject. The veil of secrecy remains intact in 2013 even if the civilian and military nuclear facilities are separated as per the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Safety Issues:

Reading the Supreme Court verdict’s sections on Koodankulam’s safety is not much different than reading AERB’s or NPCIL’s stated policies on nuclear safety. Elaborate claims of safety standards and practices, but very little about whether these guidelines sufficiently address the specific questions raised by the protests, even less on how efficient and democratic these procedures are.

In the section under part-II titled “KKNPP  Project” the judges have looked into site selection procedures and site-specific vulnerabilities of Koodankulam. The judges come out convinced that Koodankulam is totally safe for the reactor project – having absolutely no potential of earthquake, Tsunami or other geological disturbances. The evidences presented by the petitioners about the area being geologically unstable and having a history of earthquakes, volcanism and karst have gone completely unheard.

Much attention has been given to the questions of safely storing Spent Nuclear Fuel (SNF) and finding a Deep Geological Repository (DGR) for KKNPP. These are generic issues plaguing nuclear reactors everywhere and globally the nuclear industry has been struggling to find the answers for several decades. Not surprisingly, there are ready-made and extremely tentative solutions: the NPCIL has agreed to find a repository to store nuclear waste and has given details of its long-term pursuits in this direction, and it has assured the court to safely story the SNF. The AERB’s code of “Management of Radioactive Waste” has been discussed at length, to be found sufficient to address the problem. Typically, Indian nuclear establishment does not acknowledge nuclear waste as waste, because it claims it will reprocess most of it for the second phase of its 3-phase  nuclear programme, to which even the judges have shown admiration. Lost of course is the fact that reprocessing leads to more harmful and long-term wastes and India’s phased nuclear program has been too far from becoming a reality. The judges note : “the experts feel that setting up of a DGR is not much of a technological challenge…but more of a socio-political issue”. The massive  disapproval of proposed waste repositories in the US and elsewhere was based on independent expert opinion is lost again. The verdict mentions a proposed DGR in the abandoned Kolar mines of Karnataka. Of course on this and other several important issues, the NPCIL retracting publicly from its position taken in affidavits filed in the SC had its own trail over last 6 months.

The judges have noted that the Koodankulam reactor has its Spent Fuel Pool inside the primary containment, with a capacity to store fuel equivalent to 7 years of full power operation of  the reactor. That the presence of SFP close to the reactor core complicated the accident in Fukushima and is a concern even today in Japan finds no mention, of course.

Fukushima never happened !

While the judges mention the post-Fukushima safety review ordered by the Prime Minister, they have failed to take into account the critiques of the whole process and the serious risks of relying on such an internal safety review without any independent supervision or assessment. On the 17 Koodankulam-specific recommendations, the court is assured by the AERB that the NPCIL will implement them satisfactorily. In the subsequent paragraphs, the verdict rhymes the nuclear establishment’s lullaby on radiation: We are exposed to radiation in our daily lives, cosmic radiation, radiation from earth’s crust, air travel, X0ray, CT-Scan, angiography, angioplasty etc etc.

In the section titled ‘Response to People’s Resistance’, the Supreme Court gives a sanitized, government version of the dialogue with people. It makes no mention of the fact that the 15-member expert committee appointed by the government did not even bother to meet the protesting people in Idinthakarai, declined from sharing essential safety-related documents with people and completely failed to address the questions raised by the movement. While this sham of a dialogue was on, the state government kept on piling false police charges, the local congress goons kept beating the protesters, the local media kept provoking against the movement leaders and none other than the PM indulged in maligning the people’s genuine struggle. The judgement quotes the government experts group’s conclusion at length and feels satisfied. It also takes no notice that the fact that the Ex-AEC Chief’s appointment as the head of expert committee constituted by the Tamil Nadu State Government subsequently reflected a seriosu conflict of interests.

Under the heading ‘Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage’, the judges in principle agree to the importance of strict liability in nuclear sector, but fail to address the Koodankulam-specific problem of opacity on liability issue. The Russian officials have been claiming they have an exemption from liability under the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA)

Discussion on Disaster Management Plan (DMP), the SC verdict elaborates about the guidelines of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on radiological emergencies and has pressed for better coordination between the NDMA, the DAE, and the state administration to ensure swift evacuation and management in case of a disaster. Much emphasis has been given on the need to spread awareness among the people about nuclear accidents, however, the brazen violation and bluffing by the NPCIL on disaster management receives no attention.

Although the Supreme Court quotes AERB’s norms on population near a reactor sites and specifically mentions that no public habitation should be there within 1.5 km radius of the reactor, it has failed to take into account the Tsunami Colony in Koodankulam where more than 2500 people reside at a distance of just 700- metres from the reactor. Also, the judges have held that the emergency preparedness plan (EPP) for KKNPP is adequate for around 24000 people in the 5 km radius called ‘sterilised zone’ while the norms stipulate not more than 20000 people. The catch here is, the even the 24000 figure used by the SC is taken from 2001 census, not the 2011 census!

The judges admit the importance of the mock-drills and off-site emergency exercises, but strangely caution that ‘such mock-drills are conducted to educate the public not to scare them away, but make them understand that the project is part of the national policy, participatory in nature, and hence we cannot remain as a nuclear-isolated nation’. This would only ensure that the nuclear establishment remains insulated from public scrutiny. The judges’ faith in the affidavit filed by the district administration on off-site emergency exercises flies in the face of reality.

In the last paragraphs of part-I, the Supreme Court judges have iterated their faith in NPCIL’s promise to fulfill its corporate social responsibility (CSR) – millions of rupees allotted for building schools, hospitals, roads and so on. From Tarapur to Rawatbhata to nearby Kalpakkam, local people have seen the realities of such promises.

The second part of the verdict, focused on environmental impacts, again starts with the need to look at environmental issues in the perspective of indispensability of nuclear power in the ‘national policy’ – nuclear energy has a unique position in the emerging economics in India, it is a viable source of energy and it is necessary to increase country’s economic growth !

The judgement in this part dwells elaborately upon the arguments presented by the both sides, but only to concur with the government that Koodankulam project does not violate environmental impact assessment guidelines as the project was notified in 1988, prior to enactment of EIA requirements in 1994! The flimsy affidavits filed by the NPCIL and the MoEF have found better audience with the Supreme Court judges. The court has elaborated upon the rather general and very lenient attempt of taking of environmental impacts in Koodankulam as per a letter written by the then Prime Minister, quotes the 1989 memorandum of the MoEF, the 1989 stipulations by the AERB for clearance, and finally with the MoEF’s letter dated 6 September 2001 in which it legalised the violations in the wake of 377.30 crores already spent on the project, feels confident that the environmental impacts have been taken care of and no violation of EIA stipulations have happened. In case of Coastal Regulatory zone (CRZ) clearance, it again validates the 1994 exemption given to the Koodankulam project.

The EIA reports for the proposed 4 other reactors in Koodankulam have used the EIA studies for Koodankulam 1 and 2 as base-line, which were prepared without a public hearing. Supreme Courts doesn’t find it worthy of objection.

Modifying the initial plan to take water from two nearby dams, construction of a desalination plant was started in 2006 in Koodankuiam. The petitioners had pointed out that the desalination unit would have its own hazardous environmental impacts and will also add to the overall pollution and hence had demanded a fresh EIA clearance. The court has said that desalination units are not listed under the 1994 EIA stipulations, so absence of such an EIA in Koodankulam is not a violation. Of course, the cumulative impacts also do not need any re-assessment then!

Similarly, the Supreme Court has brushed aside significant objections on CRZ clearance and post-factto legalization by TNPCB of the increased temperature of affluent water in Koodankulam. Under the heading ‘Sustainable Development and Impact on the Eco-System’, the verdict quotes elaborately from the Rolay Commission on Environment Pollution (UK, 1971), Stockholm Conference (1972), UNGA’s World Charter for Nature (1982), Rio Summit (1992), the UN MIllenium Declaration of 2000, UN Conference on Sustainable Development (June 2012) and so on, but only to conclude that “we have already found on facts that the KKNPP has been set up and is made functional on the touchstone of sustainable development and its impact on ecology has been taken care of following all national and international environmental principles” !

Larger Public Interests

Then the judges take it upon themselves to decide whether the claims of “smaller violations” of nearby population’s right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution should take precedence over production of energy, which is “of extreme importance for the economic growth of our country..to alleviate poverty, generate employment etc.” The judgement looks into various earlier cases of objections to ‘development’ projects on environmental and right to life grounds, and concludes that a balance between “economic scientific benefits” and “minor radiological detriments” has to be found. The pre-conceived notions of ‘development’ take over the judicial rigour and objectivity and in their hurry, the judges have done a grammatical faux pas: “Larger public interest of the community should give way to individual apprehension of violation of human rights and right to life guaranteed under Article 21″! We can over look the grammatical blunder of our judges, but what about terming the massive protests by thousands of people in Koodankulam, run for over 25 years in a thoroughly peaceful manner, as ‘individual apprehension’? Who is the ‘larger community’? Do the interests of the farmers, fishermen and poor people of India do not form the ‘larger public interest’?

The judges have gone ahead to claim that apprehensions of far reaching consequences of radioactive effects has “no basis”! The say: “Nobody on the earth can predict what would happen in future and to a larger extent we have to leave it to the destiny….Apprehension is something we anticipate with anxiety or fear, a fearful anticipation, which may vary from person to person.” The Court goes by the “expert opinions” of MoEF, EAC, TNPCB, Report of IOM, Report of Engineers India Limited, NEERI’s EIA etc and concludes that all expert bodies are unanimous that in their opinion KKNPP has fully satisfied all safety norms.

Justice Dipak Misra in his prologue emphasizes the need to “march ahead with life allaying all apprehensions with a scientific mindset accepting the nature’s unpredictability to survive on the planet earth on the bedrock of the doctrine – survival of the fittest”. He again goes on to describe how elaborate the DAE’s guidelines on nuclear safety are, and concludes that ‘all possible measures have been taken to avoid any kind of calamity’. He goes on to quote extensively from the IAEA’s 1994 Convention on Nuclear Safety and the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent FUel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management 1997, to which India is not even a signatory, to appreciate the “world wide concern for public safety”. He again quotes in extenso from the AERB’s post-Fukushima Safety Review of KKNPP. However, an unquestioned faith in the nuclear establishment about adequacy of these recommendations and the establishment’s sincerity to implement leads to plain judicial reassurances.

Justice Misra looks into proportionality of safety vis-a-vis the necessity of nuclear energy development. While accepting the need for ensuring safety for present and future generations, he holds that ‘generation of nuclear energy is a necessity in a progressive modern state’ and ‘promotion of development and protection of the environment have to be harmonized’. Besides other cases, Justice Misra cites the Narmada case and quotes that “In a democracy, welfare of the people at large, and not merely of a small section of the society, has tobe the concern of a responsible Government.”

In the final judicial directions, the judges have asked the NPCIL to file a report before the Supreme Court before the final commissioning, certifying that each and every aspect of safety including environmental impacts, have been taken care of. For the periodical safety maintenance and reviews, safety of the spent nuclear fuel during transport, radioactive discharge to the atmosphere, compliance with the 17 post-Fukushima recommendations, and adherence to the NDMA guidelines, the court has directed the NPCIL, AERB, MoEF, TNPCB and other concerned bodies ensure strict compliance, but has essentially reposed faith in their efficacy and sincerity. The Supreme Court has ordered that a Deep Geological Repository should be set up at the earliest so that SNF can be transported from the nuclear plant to the DGR.

Withdraw Criminal Cases Against Protesters: The Supreme Court has directed to withdraw al criminal cases filed against the agitators in Koodankulam and to restore normalcy and peace.

The Supreme Court’s verdict rests on three major premises: the judges’ belief in the necessity of the nuclear energy for India’s progress, their faith in the country’s nuclear establishment to perform this role, and the judges’ notion of the larger public interest and the apprehensions of small sections which should make way for the country’s progress. All three of these are immensely contested propositions. But not only have the judges given judicial sanctity to these contestable claims, but have also completely overlooked the Koodankulam-specific brazen violations of the government’s own norms, raised by the petitioners.

In retrospect, the struggling people of India would find approaching to the Supreme Court in such matters pointless, and counter-productive, as the courts themselves are part of the system which has failed to address the widening gap between the aspirations and lives of the deprived masses and the mainstream notions of ‘larger public interest’. Prayers before the judiciary on such matters ends up legitimising the same ‘experts’ and disastrous notions of progress that the people have been fighting against.

 

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