A River, A Man: The State Responds to Dr GD Agarwal's fast to save Ganga

A River, A Man: The State Responds to Dr GD Agarwal's fast to save Ganga
Dr Sanat Mohanty

In a response, the likes of which we have not seen in the last few decades, both the Government of Uttarakhand and the Government of India responded to 76 years old Dr. G. D. Agarwal's fast-unto-death. Retired professor of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur, Dr. Agarwal, was protesting planned projects on the Bhagirathi which threaten the perennial flow of the Bhagirathi and the Ganga.

Both central and the state governments have suspended work on the three projects and promise the maintenance of the perennial flow of the river under all circumstances. The central government has promised review by a high level committee before any further action.

Dr. Agarwal's fast prompted delegations by two independent groups (who could not be more unlike the other) to meet with state and central governments requesting action. The Alumni Association of IIT Kanpur and All India Associations of Sadhus met with the Central Government while representation was also presented to the Government of Uttarakhand.

The letter from the Ministry of Power, Government of India says:
"The Ministry has received the representation sent by the Alumini Association of I.I.T. Kanpur to the Hon'ble Prime Minister of 27th June 2008. This is with reference to your meeting in the Ministry with the Hon'ble Union Minister of Power, today, and on 25th June 2008, and your memorandum of the same date in respect of river Bhagirathi, and in continuation of this Ministry's D.O.No. 37/47/2008-H.II of June 26, 2008. I am directed to say that the government of India commits itself to suitably ensure perennial environmental flow in all stretches of river Bhagirathi. I have to inform you that the Chairman and Managing Director, NTPC has been directed to constitute a high level expert group, including your nominee to examine the various technical issues involved in ensuring the required flow in the river Bhagirathi to keep the river alive. The high level expert group will give its report within three months. We shall invite you for discussion as soon as the recommendations of this high-level expert group are received, in order to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution. We would request Prof. D. D. Agarwal to give up his indefinite fast. The Government assures you of the highest consideration of your concerns." [End]

A letter written in Hindi, and signed by Shatrughn Singh, Secretary of the Uttarakhand Government points out that two of the three proposed projects on the middle section of the Bhagirathi (Bhairav Ghati of 381 MW and Pala Maneri of 480 MW) are state initiatives. The third -- a 600 MW unit at Lohari Nagpala -- is a central government effort. It says that Rs 80 Crores has already been spent on the Pala Maneri Project.

It adds that the state government has decided to stop all work on the two state project with immediate effect and that the state government is committed to ensuring that the river stays unviolated and its perennial flow is maintained and will act to do so, requesting Dr. Agarwal to end his fast.

This has been a major decision by both state and central governments. Acting on this, Dr. Agarwal and his colleagues are planning future steps to raise public awareness about the eco-sensitivity of this region and the importance of maintaining the flow of all of India's rivers. The group led by Dr. Agarwal feels that local mobilization and awareness is necessary to ensure that this is achieved.

When Dr. Agarwal announced his decision to fast-unto-death to protest projects that would end Bhagirathi and Ganga as we know them, many (including this author) wondered whether this would be in vain. The success of his protest is perhaps a sign of the strength of his belief but also the strength of the technical background that was used to critique the projects and predict their impact on the river systems.

Numerous energy projects have been started or have been proposed on the Bhagirathi, Ganga and numerous other rivers that define the Gangetic plain. While energy is a real issue and must be addressed, the human, economic and environmental costs of death of these rivers far surpasses energy benefits -- any community can attest to that. While an energy crisis looms, this is not the choice that benefits anyone.

Dr. Agarwal's effort was successful -- but this is not the end of the story. Conservation of our rivers requires community involvement. Now.

Dr Sanat Mohanty

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NAPM supports the ongoing fast of Hardoi residents who are demanding land possession due since past 32 years

NAPM supports the ongoing fast of Hardoi residents who are demanding land possession due since past 32 years

107 families of gram panchayat Jajpur, Tehsil Sandila, district Hardoi, were given 'patta' of the lands allotted to them 32 years before, but till-date they haven't got the possession. Powerful landlords still occupy the land allotted to these families. 16 people of these families are fasting since 28 July 2008 in front of Vidhan Sabha in Lucknow demanding justice overdue since past 32 years.

Dr Sandeep Pandey, Ramon Magsaysay Awardee (2002) and national convener of National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) supported the fast.

Powerful landlords have been illegally occupying the land which rightfully belongs to 107 familes since past 32 years. These landlords have family members which include Shriram Singh Tomar and Advocate Nageshwar Singh, who is the gram pradhan too.

These landlords are politically connected and have been maneuvering their might to douse the people's agitation for land rights.

These landlords are also accused of forcibly taking away the crop harvest from the fields of these 107 families.

Lekhpal asks for Rs 2000 or more money, and some family members have even paid this amount to Lekhpal, despite of which they couldn't get the land possession.

Sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) met the agitators in Lucknow and assured them that police will accompany them tomorrow to give them their much-awaited right to the land. But the people have no trust on verbal assurances and have decided to continue the agitation and fast in front of vidhan sabha.

This fast is led by Rajesh, who can be contacted at: 9793271930

FAQ: Indo US Nuclear Deal - less energy, more hype

FAQ: Indo US Nuclear Deal - less energy, more hype

Will the nuclear deal provide nuclear fuel and reactors to India?

Contrary to the impression being created, the India US Civilian Cooperation Agreement is only a waiver allowing the US to trade with India on nuclear items. Any import of uranium or reactors will have to be separately negotiated with the US or other countries. The reason that this waiver is required is because after India's Pokhran I test, the US passed a law that barred the US from nuclear commerce with countries which had exploded a nuclear device and were defined as non-nuclear weapons countries in the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

How does the Hyde Act impact India?

The Hyde Act gives India a one time waiver and can be withdrawn by the US in case India does not abide the conditions of the Hyde Act. This includes any further tests and also a number of other issues not related to nuclear matters such as India aligning its polices with the US on foreign policy, working with the US on Iran, joining the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) that calls for illegal search and seizure operations in high seas. The US President has to report every year to the Congress on India's "good conduct" and if the US President or the US Congress is not happy, can either terminate or suspend nuclear trade with India. The Hyde Act also makes clear that India cannot get an uninterrupted fuel supply arrangement, cannot stockpile fuel and no other country can give better terms than the US in their nuclear trade with India. The Hyde Act also demanded that while India would not get uninterrupted fuel supply guarantees, it must put its civilian reactors under perpetual IAEA safeguards.

Since the Hyde Act is only an US Law, and the actual agreement with the US is the 123 Agreement, how is India is bound by the Hyde Act?

India is not bound by the Hyde Act, but the US is. For us, the 123 Agreement is a agreement with the US for supply of fuel and equipment. The key issue is how to bind the US as a supplier. The US officials are on record that the 123 Agreement ensures that all the Hyde Act conditions are met, the Government's contrary claims notwithstanding. "..we had to make sure that everything in this U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement, the 123 Agreement, was completely consistent with the Hyde Act and well within the bounds of the Hyde Act itself."(Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs ?Washington, DC ?July 27, 2007).

The US has built into the 123 Agreement that it can pull out whenever it wants: the termination clause makes clear that if either party feels consultation preceding termination will serve no purpose, they can cease further co-operation. In case the US terminates the 123 Agreement, all fuel supplies will stop and all equipment has to be returned to the US. And as per the Hyde Act, the termination clause can come into effect on a broad range of issues including India's continued links with Iran. Therefore, India can be held to ransom over fuel and spare parts for its imported reactors as it was earlier for the two reactors in Tarapur.

Since the issue is our ability to bind the US as a supplier to give guaranteed fuel supplies and spares, no Indian Act passed by Parliament -- as some are arguing -- will help.

Did not 123 Agreement and the IAEA Safeguards Agreement provide for uninterrupted fuel supplies?

The UPA and the PM had assured the country that though the Hyde Act made fuel supply conditional and barred stock piling of fuel except to meet immediate operational requirements, fuel supply assurances would be there in the 123 Agreement and also corrective measures in case of fuel failure would be addressed in the IAEA Agreement. The fuel supply assurances in the 123 Agreement have now been exposed as hollow. The IAEA was held out as the hope for corrective measures, in case fuel supply fails. It is now clear that though the IAEA Draft Safeguards Agreement has perpetual safeguards as per the Hyde Act, the so-called corrective measures are purely cosmetic. There are no corrective measures possible that include pulling Indian reactors out of safeguards once they are offered to IAEA.

Will the Deal not help in lifting sanctions on India for nuclear technology and dual use technology?

The Hyde Act and subsequently the 123 Agreement is clear that sanctions on only uranium fuel and reactors will be lifted. All other technology sanctions -- fuel enrichment, fuel reprocessing, heavy water production and other dual use technologies -- will remain. Dual use technologies are those that are used not only nuclear areas but also other applications such as aerospace, precision manufacturing, electronics, weather prediction, etc. Thus advanced technology for our industries, air crafts, rockets, etc., along with nuclear fuel cycle technology, will continue to be under sanctions. This is in contradiction to what the PM had assured the Indian Parliament.

The Fast breeder Reactors would be regarded as fuel enrichment or fuel reprocessing facilities and would not get access to any technology. Therefore, the mainstay of our future indigenous nuclear energy program will continue under technology sanctions.

Will importing nuclear plants solve our immediate power crisis?

There is a deliberate misinformation being created that nuclear plants will be a quick fix to our huge shortages and power cuts. Nuclear plants have to have detailed studies regarding where and how to put them up and take a long time to build. The import of reactors have to be negotiated commercially and their fuel has to be guaranteed. Typically, the entire process takes 8-10 years. So even if we finish all the steps required to complete the India US Nuclear Deal, it will take not less than 8-10 years before any electricity is produced. And this is an optimistic figure; the last plant that the US commissioned -- the Watts Bar 2 Reactor -- took 23 years to complete. So the belief that nuclear energy will provide an immediate solution to our power crisis is a deliberate fraud on the people.

As against this, the coal-fired plants can be built in 3 1/2- 4 years -- we can build coal-fired plants in about half the time it would take for nuclear plants. Gas fired plants can be put up even faster and with the new strikes of gas in the Kaveri Godaveri Basin, use of gas for producing power quickly is an attractive option.

What is the reason for the power crisis in the country?

This crisis of the power sector is the result of a systematic attempt by successive Governments to starve the sector of public funds hoping to make high-cost private power more acceptable to the people. Instead of investing in the power sector, the Government has gone in for privatisation of the power sector with higher prices of electricity. In the 7th Five Year Plan, we had put in about 21,000 MW; in each of the 8th, 9th and the 10th Plans, we have added less than what we added in the 7th Plan. The net result has been the increasing bankruptcy of State Electricity Boards and converting what was a shortage of the early 90's to a full-blown crisis today.

If we now have enough money for the power sector, we need then to think on the quickest and cheapest way to remove the current electricity shortages while keeping all our options open.

Will the India US Nuclear Deal provide energy security?

The India US Nuclear Deal is not about India's energy security. Energy security lies in using indigenous energy resources such as coal, gas, hydro, etc., and ensuring our future energy supplies from Iran and other countries in West and Central Asia. Obviously, augmenting indigenous coal production, building hydro plants, investing in oil exploration, securing gas supplies through Iran Gas Pipeline are much more important for India's energy security than buying imported reactors and importing uranium for such nuclear plants.

If we do want to build nuclear power plants, we can also build these indigenously. The original three-phase nuclear energy program was based on indigenous fuel and indigenous technology and can give us nuclear energy without making us dependent on imported uranium and imported reactors.

The Government is pushing hard for immediately importing 40,000 MW of Light Water Reactors. Such a scenario would make India completely dependent on imported uranium, which is controlled by a small international cartel. It because of this cartel that the price of uranium has gone up by five times in the last few years. The US, which controls the uranium cartel, would be therefore able to dictate its terms as it will have a stranglehold over these 40,000 MW of nuclear plants.

What are the relative costs of building nuclear plants and coal fired ones?

The nuclear plants -- if we take the cost of imported reactors -- are about three times (Rs. 10-12 crore per MW) the cost of coal-fired plants (Rs. 4 crore per MW). Simply put, with the same amount of money, we can install three coal-fired plants against one nuclear plant of the same size. If we want to install 40,000 MW by 2020 with imported nuclear plants as the Government wants to do, with the same amount of money it can build 100,000 MW of coal fired plants, that too in half the time.

The French company Areva is building a new 1600 MW nuclear plant in Finland. When the estimates were made, Areva had given estimates of $ 2,000 per KW. By the time the plant was ordered, it had gone up about $ 2,800 per KW. Currently, the costs have already shot up to a mammoth $ 6.1 billion or almost $ 4,000 per KW. This is four times the cost of coal-fired plants and also more than twice that of indigenous nuclear plants built by Nuclear Power Corporation. At these costs, even solar energy using solar thermal plants would be competitive!

What are the comparative costs of electricity from nuclear and coal-fired plants?

The cost of electricity from imported nuclear plants is high because of the high capital cost. Even without including de-commissioning costs, storage of spent fuel indefinitely, etc., the cost of electricity from imported nuclear plants will be more than Rs. 5.00 per unit as against about Rs. 2.00 to 2.50 from coal-fired plants. The cost of electricity is therefore at least twice that from coal fired plants.

For those who might remember the Enron case, would know that at that time, India was pushed to accept expensive private power only to help Enron. Once Enron started to produce power, its cost of Rs.5-7 per unit sank the Maharashtra State Electricity Board. If a 2,000 MW Enron plant sank the largest State Electricity Board in the country -- the impact of pushing high cost 40,000 MW of nuclear energy using imported reactors, as the Government wants to do, may well be imagined.

How much can nuclear energy contribute to our energy needs?

Even if we decide to invest heavily in nuclear energy, its contribution to our total energy needs is of limited importance. India has installed capacity of 143,000 MW currently and is slated to raise this to 700,000 to 800,000 MW by 2032. Coal currently meets about 66% of our electricity generation. In this nuclear energy is only 3% of current capacity electricity generating capacity and will at best reach a figure of 8% by 2032. The primary energy source for India will remain coal, which we have in adequate quantities for the next 100 years.

Is there a nuclear renaissance in the world as the Government is claiming?

Nuclear power is not the energy of choice for most advanced countries. Nuclear renaissance is a hype created by the nuclear industry in the US, Western Europe and Japan. In all these countries, the total number of nuclear plants currently being built is only 3. This is against 20 new plants being commissioned every year in the heydays of nuclear energy in these countries.

The US itself has commissioned its last reactor in 1996 and has not licensed a new reactor now for more than 27 years. Its interest in supplying India with reactors is in order to revive its own dying nuclear equipment industry, which has yet to secure a single order in the US despite the promise of billions of dollars in subsidies from the Bush Administration.

It is in order to bail out its dying nuclear industry that the US is so keen that India sign on the Nuclear Deal. Condoleezza Rice, testifying before Senate Foreign Relations Committee (April 5, 2006), pointed out the importance of the Deal for the US, "The initiative may add as many as three to 5,000 new direct jobs in the United States and about 10,000 to 15,000 indirect jobs in the United States, as the United States is able to engage in nuclear commerce and trade with India."

Is there a serious uranium shortage in the country for which we need this Nuclear Deal?

The Department of Atomic Energy has always maintained that we have enough indigenous uranium for 10,000 MW of nuclear power for 30 years. We are not yet close to that number. The present mismatch in uranium availability for operating reactors is a consequence of poor planning, and inadequate prospecting and mining. If we focus on our know uranium deposits and prospect for new ones, there will be enough uranium for a robust indigenous nuclear power programme.

It is because of a smaller availability of indigenous uranium that the 3-phase program started under Homi Bhabha, envisaged Fast Breeder Reactors. Breeder reactors can produce 50 times more energy from the same amount of uranium. This program also planned to use thorium, which we have in abundance. India is a world leader in Fast Breeder technology and is very near to commercialising it. It is not surprising that this is precisely the time that people who have put India under nuclear sanctions for the last 30 years are now talking about making India a member of the nuclear club. A simple objective is to get India to give up its quest for independence in nuclear technology and fuel.

Will nuclear energy address the issue of global warming?

The Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change, the most authoritative body on climate change has made clear that nuclear energy will have only a marginal impact on global warming. That is simply because its total contribution to the energy needs of the world would be relatively insignificant, even if we consider a very ambitious nuclear energy program. Therefore, the major thrust for reducing greenhouse gases would be greater energy efficiency, public transport, thrust for renewable energy sources and clean coal technologies.

Cynically, the US has been advancing the reduction of India's greenhouse gases as an argument for the India US Nuclear Deal. Nicholas Burns writes, "This agreement will deepen the strategic partnership, create new opportunities for U.S. businesses in India, enhance global energy security, and reduce India's carbon emissions" (Foreign Affairs, Nov/Dec 2007). It is strange that this argument is being advanced when India's per capita emissions are one twentieth that of the US, which has yet to accept a cap on its own greenhouse emissions. The US position is that if the world is endangered by greenhouse emissions, it is countries such as India and China that need to limit their emissions. For the US, no reduction of greenhouse gases is possible; George Bush senior expressed this quite clearly, "American lifestyles are not open to negotiations".

Will investing heavily in nuclear energy reduce our dependence on imported oil and therefore reduce the burden of rising oil price?

Oil and gas, in primary energy terms, are much more important than nuclear as they are already about 45% of our primary energy demand. Oil alone is about 35% of our primary energy demand of which more than 50% is in the transport sector -- cars, buses and trucks and the rest in petrochemicals and fertilizers. Nuclear energy, in contrast is only 1.5% of our primary energy demand. Only a negligible amount of oil -- less than 3% of the total oil consumption -- is used in the power plants. Nuclear energy cannot be used as a substitute for oil except for this 3%; unless the Government experts have found a new way to burn uranium directly in cars and buses!

Though nuclear energy cannot be used in transport, natural gas can -- as we can see in the large number of buses and cars that run on CNG in Delhi. It is indeed strange that the Government, faced with a huge and ever rising oil bill, should focus on the nuclear deal while ignoring the Iran Gas Pipeline project, which will partly insulate India from oil price shocks. It only makes sense if we understand that one of the objectives of the US is to de-link India from Iran through the nuclear deal. "Diversifying India's energy sector will help it to meet its ever increasing needs and more importantly, ease its reliance on hydrocarbons and unstable sources like Iran. This is good for the United States." (Condoleezza Rice, testifying before Senate Foreign Relations Committee, April 5, 2006).

About 13,000 MW of gas-fired plants are partially idling as we also have a shortage of gas in the country. If we had gone ahead with the LNG or the Iran Pipeline project, we could have removed some of the electricity shortage we have in the country today.

How is the nuclear deal related to the India US Strategic ties?

The Nuclear Deal is a part of a larger vision which seeks to subordinate India to the US's strategic vision. For the last two years, the Government has been taking a number of steps that align India to the US's strategic interests. It is known that the US strategic thinking calls for dominance in all possible theatres. In Asia, the US has been handicapped that it has only one major base -- Okinawa, Japan -- in East, South-east and South Asia. The only other base it has in this region is in the Indian Ocean in Diego Garcia. That is why the US's interest in making India as a junior partner in Asia.

One of the major steps was signing of the New Framework for India-US Defence Relationship in Washington on June 28, 2005, just prior to Bush Manmohan Singh Agreement of July 18, 2005. In the Agreement, it is stated, "U.S.-India defence relationship derives from a common belief in freedom, democracy, and the rule of law, and seeks to advance shared security interests". Considering that the Iraq invasion was justified by the US as "bringing democracy to West Asia", a reference to a shared belief in "democracy and rule of law" cannot be acceptable to the Indian people. The Defence Framework Agreement is also sweeping in its scope; it envisages a host of strategic and military relations -- joint exercises, joint planning, joint operations, and defence procurement. India has also joined in with the US, Japan and Australia (or what is called the trilateral nations) for naval exercises in the Bay of Bengal, as a part of this.

The Manmohan Singh Bush agreement was followed immediately by India's two votes against Iran in the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA). Senator Lugar in his opening remarks in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had noted, approvingly, "We have already seen strategic benefits from our improving relationship with India. India's votes at the IAEA on the Iran issue last September and this past February demonstrate that New Delhi is able and willing to adjust its traditional foreign policies and play a constructive role on international issues." Manmohan Singh's oft-repeated claims that India's foreign policy would not change due to this Deal, is not borne out by his Governments' record, especially when the US officials are busy selling the agreement to the US Congress on the strategic value of India aligning with the US as a consequence of this agreement.

Currently, the Manmohan Singh Government is negotiating a Logistics and Service Agreement. It essentially allows refuelling and complete access to Indian facilities for all US ships and aircraft. The US navy can bomb Iraq and Iran and then come to India's ports for rest, recreation and refuelling, before going back for another round of hostilities. Step by step, from a vote against Iran, we are now to become hosts to the US navy in US-Israel military misadventures in West Asia.

Launching the TecSar spy satellite for Israel, which is being used to plan military attacks on Iran and Syria, show the depth of the strategic ties that India already has developed with Israel. India is not only Israel's biggest arm-buyer, it also buys more arms from the Israeli arms industry than the Israeli defence forces.

The Logistics and Service Agreement as well as the Defence Framework Agreement have also requirements of "interoperability". This calls for both sides to have the same equipment so that military personnel of both sides can use each other's equipment and operate better together. This also means spares can be shared by the two sides. That is why such agreements invariably lead to buying of US arms, particularly expensive aircraft and missiles. Billions of dollars of aircraft and missile sales is now in the offing -- F16 Aircraft, missile systems and ships.


From politics of representation to the politics of numbers

From politics of representation to the politics of numbers
Medha Patkar

Time for the politics of people's movements to prevail

The game of numbers was never at its vulgar ebb as it is today. It is clear by now, more than ever before that electoral politics is nothing more than valueless and opportunistic arithmetic. Votes and candidates, parties and parliamentarians are being traded in the electoral bazaar of India as if politics is a game sans values. It probably is.

This is the irrefutable message that almost all the political parties have sent out this past week to the millions across India, the millions of dalits, adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, hawkers, women and others who are economically, socially and politically marginalized, yet repose trust in their elected representatives and continue to vote for them, with a trust in their promises, if not their perspectives. This trust of the vast majority of India in the political establishment, which is manifested in their manifestos (though does not translate into reality) has been shattered yet again and the hidden faces and agendas are in the open for all to witness.

What initially began with the support for or opposition to the nuclear deal, has now turned into a full-fledged political 'tamasha' with almost all the parties realigning and reformulating political associates. Though it is being claimed that the ongoing process of political realignments is not just over the nuclear power deal, a vicious attempt to push the deal, staking all values and democratic norms is top on the agenda, which we cannot afford to overlook.

Those parties that had a popular image of a certain 'ideology' are proving that ideology and people's issues are a trifle if they cannot fetch the 'numerical victory'. The hoax of nuclear energy has already been busted, but the Congress is bent on pushing it at any and all costs and its newfound 'allies' care a pittance about India's sovereignty and national interests, let alone the
hazards of nuclear energy. They are more than content with grabbing a ministerial berth or two and throwing ideology (which some of us thought, had existed) to the winds. These erratic and valueless somersaults by political parties is also a blatant transgression of the internal party democracy, as many of the cadres, obviously, do not endorse such opportunity-driven shifts.

Though the Left has taken a consistent stand on the issue of the nuclear deal, they still have not taken a clear position against nuclear energy and related concerns, which are equally grave issues.

The mammoth electoral drama that is on in the capital of India will culminate very soon, probably even tomorrow and hit the headlines any moment. Presuming the Congress would be able to tide over this crisis, the Prime Minister has already announced his ambition to go a step ahead with his pet-agenda, 'Reforms'. This time, more reforms in the Insurance, Banking and Pension sectors. In the political imbroglio, we, the people's movements, cannot afford to ignore these vital issues as well.

Amidst all this drama, the real and pressing concerns of the people, be they of spiralling price-rise, rising communalism, fascism and regionalism, corporate loot of land, water and other natural resources, or of lop-sided 'reforms' to name just a few, are not only side-tracked but are in a way actively promoted by these very same parties at various levels. These events, have however, acted as an eye-opener once again to people's movements, proving the opportunism of
those in electoral politics.

Given these fast-paced and value-sapped moves by parties, people's movements are already rethinking their strategies to combat this pattern of vulgar electoral gambles by forging strong alliances among various mass-based groups across the country.

We must continue to put forth and assert our multi-point transformative and self-reliant action agenda as against the single-point agendas of electoral parties and dependence on multilateral institutions like the World Bank and WTO, and must in fact have no engagement with these institutions. It is about time the people's movements ponder with collective earnestness of the future of popular issues and movements, and move toward empowering ourselves towards this
end. Asserting our allegiance to non-compromising values of peoples' struggles and non-negotiable positions on basic rights, we all should accord utmost priority to the real issues that country is facing and ensure the rights and dues of a vast majority of agricultural and unorganized labourers, construction workers, fish workers and other sections who are affected.

People's right to decentralized and democratic development, opposing caste and gender oppression, towards managing our resources is at the core.

The National Alliance of People's Movements expresses its deep anguish and disapproval of these happenings and reminds political parties of the promises that they have been making to the people of this country. Even as we wait and watch this game of numbers, we must also feel stronger, in the realization of the fact that a vast majority of this country's populace is neither privy to nor does it approve of such political machinations. This is a call to the diverse people's struggles and movements across India to see political parties for what they are and continue to struggle for our economic, social, political and cultural spaces and rights by concretely furthering the process of non-electoral people's politics as a mainstream and inevitable alternative.

Medha Patkar

(The author is the recipient of Right Livelihood Award for the year 1991. She received the 1999 M.A.Thomas National Human Rights Award from Vigil India Movement. She has also received numerous other awards, including the Deena Nath Mangeshkar Award, Mahatma Phule Award, Goldman Environment Prize, Green Ribbon Award for Best International Political Campaigner by BBC, and the Human Rights Defender's Award from Amnesty International. She is the national convener of National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and has led Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) for more than a decade.)

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NAPM condemns murder of its Karnataka state convenor

NAPM condemns murder of its Karnataka state convenor

[To read this posting in Hindi language, click here]

We are shocked to learn of the gruesome murder of senior activist and campaigner for prohibition of liquor, Mr. A.D. Babu, one of the state convenors of NAPM in Karnataka. This is one more instance of the continuing chain of violence targeting activists working among the poorest and downtrodden, whether they be campaigners against liquor or against corruption. And more often than not Governments not only stand as mute witnesses to such acts but are often involved either in cover ups or at least lackadaisical in investigations of such crimes. We hope the new Karnataka Government which has made various promises to the people of the state will order a thorough investigation of the murder and bring all those involved, however strong and powerful they are, to book.

The NAPM convenors meeting in Wardha today offers its most heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family and stands with it at this tragic hour.

We demand a CBI enquiry in this case as we apprehend that the state authorities may not be able to take a neutral stand.

We also propose that the governments rethink about the policy of allowing liquor sale. With the kind of revenues and vested interests involved in production and sale of liquor, anti-social elements will always continue to dominate this business and such incidents as above would continue to take place. Liquor has played havoc with the lives of poor people, especially women in the families, and is a curse on society. We demand a total ban on liquor.

Medha Patkar, P. Chennaiah, D. Gabriele, S.R. Suniti, Anand Mazgaonkar, Ulka Mahajan, Swati Desai, Mukta Srivastava, Srikanth, Sandeep Pandey

NAPM contact Numbers in Karnataka:
Sr. Celia, 09945716052; Balakrishnan: 080-23392354; David Selveraj, 09880290181

Funeral is tomorrow in Mangalore.

National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM)

PARIS 2008: Ministerial meeting on MDR-TB & XDR-TB response

Photo by Mario CarvajalPlans for a high-level ministerial meeting on responses to multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) and extensively drug resistant TB (XDR-TB) were announced during a pre-conference meeting of the 39th World Conference on Lung Health.

The meeting will be held in Beijing from 1 to 3 April 2009 and is being organized by WHO, the Ministry of Health of the People's Republic of China and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

This meeting will bring together health ministers and other stakeholders from 27 high MDR-TB burdened countries, including justice and science ministry delegations and representatives from international agencies, civil society, research communities and the corporate sector.

The 27 countries represented will be Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bulgaria, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, the Republic of Moldova, Myanmar, Nigeria, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Pakistan, South Africa, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Viet Nam.

The highest levels of MDR-TB ever recorded were reported by WHO in its 'Anti-tuberculosis Drug Resistance in the World' report in February this year with nearly half a million new MDR-TB cases emerging worldwide.

Fewer than 3% of cases are treated according to WHO recommended guidelines and cases of XDR-TB—which has a higher mortality rate and is more difficult and expensive to treat—are on the rise.

The threat of MDR-TB and XDR-TB can be halted but few of the 27 high MDR-TB burdened countries have response plans in place. Many of these countries are not even properly equipped to diagnose drug-resistant TB.

Without the right actions in place, including ensuring that basic TB controls are carried out properly, governments will face an uncontrollable and an untreatable TB epidemic.

The aims of the WHO ministerial meeting on MDR-TB and XDR-TB include:

- Strengthening political commitment and boosting engagement among affected countries and the global community.
- Using the months leading up to April 2009 to support countries to develop costed MDR-TB components of TB control within health sector plans.
- Working towards solutions in areas such as:

    * anti-TB drug quality, supply and rational use;
    * laboratory capacity and fast adoption of new and rapid diagnostic tools;
    * involvement of the private sector in MDR-TB prevention and control;
    * prevention of transmission of TB in healthcare facilities (infection control), congregate settings, prisons and communities;
    * promotion of patient and community rights and responsibilites (The Patients' Charter for Tuberculosis care);
    * research and development of new drugs and diagnostics.

Bobby Ramakant-CNS

PARIS 2008: ‘Private medical professionals an asset to anti-TB efforts’

Photo by cogdogblogMedical professionals working outside national tuberculosis (TB) control programs are an asset to the fight against the disease, not a liability, Dr RV Asokan told delegates at a pre-conference meeting of 39th World Conference on Lung Health in Paris.

Dr Asokan, the Indian Medical Association’s National TB Coordinator, was one of several speakers at the special session on engaging professional associations in TB control efforts, organized by the DOTS Expansion Working Group of the Stop TB Partnership.

The involvement of private healthcare providers is seen as crucial to effective TB control and care, particularly in high-burdened countries. In India, 75% of all anti-TB drugs given to patients are administered by the private sector.

WHO's Stop TB Strategy envisages the engagement of all care providers using public-to-private and public-to-public approaches in line with the International Standards for Tuberculosis Care and the Patients' Charter for Tuberculosis Care.

In India, national programs collaborate with the Indian Medical Association, Indian Academy of Paediatrics, Federation of family Physicians of India and several other healthcare associations.

Efforts are also being made to link these associations to groups working at a district rather than national level and training programs and continued medical education sessions are often organized to encourage doctors to become involved in TB care and control.

According to Dr Asokan, 100,000 more people could be successfully treated each year in India if just 10% of private practitioners properly treated two people with TB. But a number of barriers to improvements remain, including bureaucratic delays preventing Directly Observed Treatment Short-Course (DOTS) centres from officially registering.

Issues surrounding the transport of sputum, medical supervision and quality assurance also need to be addressed by the private sector and the National TB Control Program, Dr Asokan said.

Bobby Ramakant-CNS

PARIS 2008: Afghanistan’s DOTS coverage up from 38% to 97% in 5 years

Photo by Army.milReports of an increase in Directly Observed Treatment Short-course (DOTS) coverage in Afghanistan from 38% in 2002 to 97% in 2007 released at the 3rd Afghanistan Partners Forum 2008 during the 39th World Conference on Lung Health in Paris are impressive.

This significant increase is a considerable achievement for Afghanistan considering the financial, healthcare, access and security constraints the country faces. It is also impressive considering Afghanistan’s position as a high tuberculosis (TB)-burdened country.

Afghanistan’s health system is unique in structure and function as the delivery of health services are conducted through a variety of integrated packages including the Essential Package of Hospital Services and Basic Package of Health Services. The latter is predominantly implemented by NGOs and includes provisions for TB treatment and control.

“I have great hope of seeing more progress and success in the quality of DOTS and the execution of TB control activities readily available to the TB-affected community,” Dr Shah Wali Maroofi, Director of Afghanistan’s National TB Control Program (NTP), said earlier this year.

While there is little information available on nation-wide civil society engagement, representation and participation in national TB programs, if correct, these DOTS figures, are impressive for a country recovering from US military strikes and reeling from the onslaught of infectious diseases.

Decades of conflict, civil unrest, political uncertainty and mass displacement have made public health efforts difficult. But these figures demonstrate the strength of communities affected by these issues and their ability to respond to massive public health challenges.

In 2007, new TB and HIV initiatives were launched in the country and the NTP organized a number of TB task force meetings as well as ensuring that World Food Programme food assistance packages were reaching people in need.

The NTP also developed working plans for joint programs to fight TB and HIV and initiated projects designed to tackle multi-drug resistant TB. But between 2007 and 2008, the monitoring and evaluation of TB programs became a casualty of inadequate financial resources.

The efforts of Afghanistan towards TB care and control are commendable considering the country’s history of conflict. The development of mechanisms to promote the inclusion of civil society in the fight against the disease will further improve the quality of TB and HIV interventions.

Bobby Ramakant-CNS

Help Aamir Khan to keep promises and quit smoking

Help Aamir Khan to keep promises and quit smoking

Last week the bollywood heartthrob film-star Aamir Khan was found smoking after the launch of the latest blockbuster movie 'jaane tu … ya jaane na'. Earlier in June 2008, he was reported saying that he is back to smoking due to 'stress' related to the forthcoming release of 'jaane tu … ya jaane na' film and he will quit smoking right after the film-release. Although the film has been successfully released and is doing well at box office, the cigarettes are hard to leave… and Aamir continues to smoke.

Tobacco is addictive, and some researchers feel nicotine is as addictive as heroin. It is not impossible to quit, but not easy too, because tobacco is so powerfully addictive!

India, luckily, has a strong tobacco control policy framework today, with a national parliamentary Act (The Cigarette and other Tobacco Products Act 2003) and is a party to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) - the first global corporate accountability and public health treaty. But it is undoubtedly lagging too far behind in implementation of these tobacco control policies that are known to work.

Services to treat tobacco dependence are fully available in only nine countries with 5% of the world's population, and India is not one of them. India must establish and rapidly scale-up programmes providing low-cost, effective interventions for tobacco users who want to quit.

Scaling up tobacco cessation clinics by integrating it in present healthcare system and building upon the capacities of the existing healthcare staff to provide tobacco cessation counseling and services, is going to take much longer than we expect. Thankfully India has well-equipped and trained healthcare personnel in a very limited number of tobacco cessation clinics (TCC). These existing TCCs should function as training resource centre to other primary, secondary and tertiary levels of private-public healthcare centres, and facilitate rapid scale-up of tobacco cessation services nation-wide.

The tobacco industry has failed to warn its customers of the harms caused by its products and instead has spent millions falsely portraying tobacco use as glamorous and appealing. Film-stars have tremendous influence on young-minds and this is one big reason why India's Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss has been making repeated appeals to bollywood film-fraternity to refrain from on-screen tobacco use.

We must move rapidly to protect health by requiring picture-based health warnings on tobacco products. Despite conclusive evidence, relatively few tobacco users understand the full extent of their health risk. Graphic warnings on tobacco packaging deter tobacco use.

Chandigarh, India's first city to go smoke-free on 15 July 2007, can potentially become a good example for the rest of the country to go smoke-free - only if government officials, civil society and other stakeholders effectively synergise to enforce existing tobacco control policies with due diligence. All people have a fundamental right to breathe clean air. Smoke-free places are essential to protect non-smokers and also to encourage smokers to quit.

Partial bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, do not work because the industry merely redirects its resources to other non-regulated marketing channels. The 'Red & White' bravery awards are an example of the surrogate advertising.

Raising taxes and therefore prices, has proven to be an effective way to reduce tobacco use, and especially to discourage young people from using tobacco. Only 4 countries, representing 2% of the world's population, have tax rates greater than 75% of retail price. India did raise the taxes on non-filter cigarettes but is clearly mandated to do a lot more on raising taxes of all tobacco products significantly.

In India about a million people die needlessly each year from tobacco use. The single most preventable cause of death world wide, is tobacco use. Tobacco use has been found to kill one-third to one-half of its users. When International tobacco companies like Japan Tobacco are applying to Government of India to increase their stake in tobacco business on Indian soil, there is all the more reason to team up and strengthen tobacco control policies in India.

The paramount influence film-stars have on young minds is well-documented. Quitting tobacco use by youth icons like Aamir Khan will inspire millions of youth in India to go smoke-free. Aamir demonstrated that influence with his movie 'Taare Zameen par' which certainly increased the sensitivities of people towards dyslexia in one of the most powerful manner. Aamir should continue to be an inspiration.

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Did G8 Summit provide answers to India's Energy Crisis?

tDid G8 Summit provide answers to India's Energy Crisis?
Dr Rahul Pandey

The recently concluded G8 summit in Japan placed rising fuel and food prices, besides climate change, at the top of its agenda. While fuel crisis is enough to stoke panic, it has also partly induced the food crisis due to both high fuel cost of producing and transporting food as well vast bio-fuel cultivation in the West. With unabatedly rising price of oil and uncertainty about its reserves, energy security is today every nation's concern.

This also reflects in the desperation with which the Indian government is pushing ahead nuclear deal with the US. These
developments raise some critical questions:

- Can energy policy deliver both energy security and climate change mitigation goals?

- Is nuclear energy the main alternative to fossil fuels? How competitive can renewable energy options become?

- Can the poor have access to modern energy services?

Here I attempt to answer these questions for India in light of current and prospective international trends in technologies, investments and policy. The general arguments hold good also for other countries facing similar uncertain energy future.

We are today in a historical phase in which major global trends in economy, technology, fuel, and environment are showing an interesting convergence. New styles of businesses have made customer responsiveness very important for suppliers and service providers. This means efficient supply chain-wide delivery, rather than just a single link like production, is strategically critical. Greater investments are being pumped in development of technologies that are smaller scale and mass-assembled rather than large scale and centrally installed. Fossil fuels are becoming scarcer. The concerns of climate change globally and of domestic pollutions in developing countries have never been more severe. All these trends are reinforcing each other and driving a radical shift in economics of several industries. Let us look at what they foretell for energy. In the remaining paragraphs I will first lay out the goals of energy policy, then review global trends of energy technologies and fuels, and finally outline the desired policy for India.

The right energy policy for a nation must aim to satisfy energy needs of current and future generations of all citizens in an affordable manner without adverse impact on the environment. As explained earlier, in today's world, mere domestic availability of a particular fuel may not ensure access of modern energy services to all. A nation requires a range of resources in the entire energy supply chains -- primary energy, financial capital, material and human capabilities for development and manufacture of relevant technological systems, and logistical infrastructure for delivery -- to make available useful energy to its citizens at affordable costs over a long period of time.

Bright prospects are lurking globally for renewable energy as centralized conventional technologies are declining, natural gas faces uncertainty beyond the next 2-3 decades, and environmental concerns are intensifying. Prominent EU countries and Japan have already begun serious initiatives to transition to low-carbon society by 2050 for which the state is providing support to large scale development and commercialization of renewable energy technologies. Thanks to rapid increase in R&D investments and installed cumulative capacity globally, renewable energy systems based on wind, solar and biomass are witnessing high learning rates as reflected in progress ratios of 70-90% (implying 10-30% fall in capital costs for every doubling of capacity). As most of these systems are viable at small scale, they hold promise also for the rural and remote regions of developing countries where majority of the poor live. It is clear that the countries who are making serious investment in technological and delivery infrastructure aspects of such options now will gain distinct advantage in the future. They will be able to deliver cheaper and cleaner energy to their people.

On the other hand, conventional large-scale options based on coal, nuclear and large hydro are facing declining trends and saturating costs. For instance, over the past two decades share of coal in electricity generation markets of North America, Europe and former USSR has eroded by 20-40% in favour of natural gas and, to some extent, renewables. Similar erosion has happened to big dams as they have imposed severe costs on local communities and environment everywhere. As for the nuclear power, its poor cost competitiveness has been demonstrated in the case of Indian heavy water reactors. No new nuclear power capacity has been installed in the US for the past three decades owing mainly to unresolved problems of nuclear waste handling and high costs. This is despite the billions of dollars received as subsidy through the Price Anderson Act. Given the high capital intensity and long life of nuclear power plants, India (or any other country) will be locking itself to huge resource commitments for the future if it pushes ahead with its ongoing nuclear enthusiasm. Needless to say, these commitments will deter us from exploring superior alternatives.

Clean coal technologies are being explored as cleaner alternatives, but their high capital cost and longer term uncertainty of coal reserves make them a candidate for temporary solution alone. Same goes for natural gas based options that have low capital cost but suffer from uncertain future gas prices. Fuel cell, run on hydrogen produced from natural gas and other alternatives, is likely to emerge as a competitive option in both transport and power sectors. Like renewable energy systems, they too will be viable at small, decentralized scale.

In the final analysis, energy policy aimed at long term affordability, clean environment, sustainability and security must be centered on a wide mix of renewable energy options -- solar, wind, small-hydel, biomass and others. Wide mix of renewables is necessary to ensure reliability of supplies and avoid possible fallout of dependence on single option like biofuels.

Therefore, to begin with, India must change its energy strategy towards one that places the highest priority on renewable energy by committing huge resources for up-scaling infrastructure for manufacture and supply of technologies for production of electricity, heat and other end-use energy from solar, wind, biomass and small-hydel resources. In addition, state support must be provided to build dispersed infrastructure in rural areas for delivery and maintenance of these systems. Systems based on clean coal and natural gas, given their current domestic availability and low capital cost respectively, can play stopgap role in the transitory phase until delivery infrastructure based on renewables is put in place.

In addition to changing energy supply mix, drastic end-use and life-style changes that cut down energy use will be necessary. Examples are: new urban planning with homes closer to offices, excess public transport capacities, and promotion of local markets and local materials to avoid long distance transport. But these changes cannot come by market economics alone. Governments need to intervene now to make them economically attractive in the future.

Dr Rahul Pandey

The author is a former faculty member of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay and Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Lucknow, and is currently a member of a start up venture that develops mathematical models for planning and policy analysis. His doctoral and post-doctoral research work was related to energy and environment policy and climate change. He can be contacted at rahulanjula@gmail.com

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Indo US Nuclear Deal: Why this hurry and at what cost?

Indo US Nuclear Deal: Why this hurry and at what cost?

Dr Sandeep Pandey

Amidst protests against price rises of essential items throughout the country, the PM Manmohan Singh has again started harping on the issue of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal. The Deal has been pushed forward in India in an anti-democratic manner without approval of the Parliament - in fact in the teeth of opposition by a large majority of parliamentarians. The Deal has the potential of disturbing regional stability and further distorting India 's relationships with important neighbours like China , Pakistan and Iran.

This cannot also but severely undermine the prospects for both vertical and horizontal non-proliferation and thereby the prospects for global nuclear disarmament. This allurement also has the danger of further propelling India towards becoming a junior military ally of the US and a market to mint profits for its MNCs and also the nuclear industry of other advanced countries -- Russia and Fra
nce, in particular.

Most importantly it will be a set back to the environmentally friendly sustainable ways of meeting our energy requirements. Power from nuclear energy is a failed project in developed countries and the eagerness of the Prime Minister to clinch the Deal fails to generate any enthusiasm among the common people of India . Neither is nuclear energy a solution to global warming as some experts make it out to be. On the contrary the entire nuclear fuel cycle is fraught with danger and exposes human beings to hazardous radiation. The world is yet to find a safe way for disposal of radioactive waste, a factor which is constraining the growth of nuclear power programmes in the developed countries.

The US, UK, Canada, Germany, France, Japan all seem to be reviewing their nuclear energy programmes and commissioning of new nuclear power plants in all these countries has almost come to a stand still. Australia , the biggest supplier of Uranium in the world, is yet to initiate a nuclear power programme. Everybody has realized there is no future in nuclear energy. Advanced countries are looking for alternatives. But because of the parochial vision of our government the ruling class of this country has become obsessed with the nuclear option without any clear understanding of its implications. There seems to be a superficial feeling that this Deal is somehow going to enhance the stature of India in the community of nations. Hence it is matter of vanity and false sense of pride with possibly no concrete benefits for the people of this country.

A Planning Commission study shows that even with the best possible estimates of capacity addition in power generation after the Deal is through, the country is not going to increase its share of electricity from nuclear energy from the present 3% to more than 7-9%. And this would come at a huge cost -- financially and politically. We would be required to bring our foreign policy in line with the US policy as has been already exhibited by India being forced to vote against Iran in the IAEA meeting.

The Indo-US Nuclear Deal is meant to serve the interests of the global nuclear power industry and is a ploy to keep India away from staking claims to shrinking fossil fuel reserves in proportion to its large population so that these reserves may last for some more time for the rich countries.

The undue importance given to the Indo-US Nuclear Deal as opposed to the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, even though gas is predicted to be the major source of power globally for the next two to three decades, raises questions about the motives of the Indian government.

The most diabolical aspect of the Deal is the increasing military proximity between the US and India . Joint Indo-US military exercises have already been going on for the last seven years with the aim of building interoperability.

A Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School has been established at Vairengte in Mizoram. The US Congress has been briefed that in a war that is being predicted with China in about fifteen years from now, the US would like to see India on its side. US envisions a military base for itself on India soil soon.

The increasing militarization of the India State is also being used to stifle civil liberties and democratic movements in the country. India must learn a lesson from the history of US military involvement in various parts of the world which have been left devastated. It is dangerous to have the US as an enemy but fatal to have as a friend.

The friendship and the elusive geo-political status or possibly a seat in the Security Council, whatever the Government of India is aspiring for, is going to come at the cost of loss of sovereignty to the nation. Our status will be reduced to that of a second rate UK or Israel .

In the face of unprecedented pressure mounted by the US , the Left Front, a partner in the UPA alliance, must be congratulated for successfully stalling the Indo-US Nuclear Deal up till now. The Deal is now stuck at the stage of finalizing a India specific agreement with the IAEA. The Left party leaders have displayed foresight in foiling the US hegemonic designs in South Asia even though they have yet to take an ideological position against the nuclear power programme.

Manmohan Singh, who talked about renewable energy for the last time at NAM meeting two years ago, has directed the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy to draft an umbrella legislation for promotion and growth of renewable energy, under duress. It would make more political, economic and environmental sense for India to pursue a path of self reliant renewable energy programme for fulfilling its need rather than the elusive nuclear energy for which we'll always be at the mercy of external agencies. But then India will have to give up its own hegemonic designs of acting as a regional military super power.

Clean source of energy will have to be accompanied by clean politics. India will have to work on the agenda of regional peace, disarmament and stability rather than converting it into a region of warfare. If Manmohan Singh embarks on this twin objective programme, he would be remembered for his wisdom more than he would be if he were to finalize the Indo-US Nuclear Deal. He would favourably alter the course of history of not only this nation but also possibly the world towards a cleaner, safer and secure future.

Dr Sandeep Pandey

(The author is a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee (2002) for emergent leadership, heads the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and did his PhD from University of California, Berkeley in control theory which is applicable in missile technology. He can be contacted at: ashaashram@yahoo.com)

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What should Energy Security mean to India?

What should Energy Security mean to India?
Dr Rahul Pandey

[This is an article-series authored by Dr Rahul Pandey, and below is the first article. Watch this space for the following parts]

[To read this article in Hindi language, click here]

Energy security is a function of the ability of a nation to satisfy energy needs of current and future generations of all citizens in an affordable manner without adverse impact on the environment and sustainability.

Such an energy policy must be centered on a wide mix of renewable energy options -- solar, wind, small-hydel, biomass and others.

Given the fast declining costs of such technologies globally, diverse resource base of India to support them, and their suitability for integration with decentralized community-managed systems, they fit the bill.

Conventional large-scale options like nuclear and large hydro have failed to provide energy security almost everywhere in the world thanks to high capital costs and unresolved impacts on the local communities, environment and safety.

Systems based on clean coal and natural gas, given their current domestic availability and low capital cost respectively, can play stopgap role in the transitory phase until production and delivery infrastructure based on renewables is put in place.

Besides establishing such an infrastructure, major institutional changes will be required to replace the centralized, fuel reserve driven notion of energy security with a supply chain resources driven, people-centered and sustainable one.

Since the trend of rising international oil prices and speculations of depleting oil reserves began, the concern for energy security has been on the top of the policy agenda in most countries. This article revisits the notion of 'energy security' and assesses India's energy policy against its backdrop.

Broadly understood, energy security connotes the capacity of a nation to satisfy energy needs of the current and future generations of its citizens.

Various programmes that a government undertakes with explicit aim of making accessible useful energy carriers to all citizens in adequate quantity and quality and affordable cost over a long period of time without imposing heavy burdens of any kind can be said to enhance that nation's energy security.

It is important to emphasize accessibility to 'all citizens' for the obvious reason that a nation can be said to be energy secure only if all sections of its population are so. Thus enhancement of energy security demands an appropriate choice not just of technologies and energy carriers, but also of institutional structures and delivery systems that ensure access to even the poorest sections of population.

Another aspect that needs emphasis is that 'no heavy burdens of any kind' must be imposed. Heavy social or environmental burdens, even if they are not directly reflected in short-term costs of energy services, are likely to erode competitiveness of an energy strategy in the long run, and hence, diminish energy security.

Finally, it needs to be realized that in a world with increasing economic inter-connectedness, the factors that enhance energy security are different than those in the old world.

For instance, mere domestic availability of a particular fuel may not boost energy security. A nation requires a range of resources in the entire energy supply chains -- primary energy, financial capital, material and human capabilities for development and manufacture of relevant technological systems, and logistical infrastructure for delivery -- to make available useful energy carriers to its citizens at affordable costs over a long period of time.

In a globalizing world, being at the frontier of technological development based on energy carriers with growing markets can give a nation greater energy security than possessing vast domestic reserves of a carrier whose competitiveness is declining globally.

Dr Rahul Pandey

(The author is a former faculty member at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay and Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Lucknow, and is currently a member of a start-up venture that develops mathematical models for planning and policy analysis. His doctoral and post-doctoral research work was related to energy and environment policy and climate change. He can be contacted at: rahulanjula@gmail.com)

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Bollywood filmstars should 'beedi bujhaye le' otherwise face legal action

Bollywood filmstars should 'beedi bujhaye le' otherwise face legal action

Despite of the India's legally-binding Cigarette and Other tobacco products Act (2003) and repeated appeals of India's Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss to bollywood film-stars to refrain from on-screen smoking, there seems to be less compliance in the guise of 'creative liberty'.

On 30 June 2008, the Goa Bench of Mumbai High Court issued notice to megastar 'Big B' - Amitabh Bachchan - and others for allegedly violating the Anti-Tobacco Act. Goa-based anti-tobacco organisation, National Organisation for Tobacco Eradication (NOTE), had filed the case against Bachchan and others after billboards showing the megastar smoking a cigar were raised on the Goa highway. Indian Society Against Smoking (ISAS) had also earlier served a legal notice to Amitabh Bachchan through Manu Shresth Mishra, a High Court lawyer practicing in Lucknow, UP. The court, which heard the case on 30 June 2008, issued notice to Bachchan, Anchor Electric appliances, Keshu Ramsay and others.

Two weeks earlier in June 2008, bollywood actor and heart-throb Aamir Khan had confessed on his blog (www.aamirkhan.com) that due to stress he has once again given in to the temptation of smoking. He had said that his nephew Imraan's launch pad 'Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na' is the reason behind the stress. "I've begun smoking again, I know you guys are going to kick the shit out of me, my family is already doing that," he had written on his blog: www.aamirkhan.com .

Indian film-star Aamir Khan's explanation of 'stress' as a reason to smoke, is not a reasonable one. Enough body of evidence exists linking tobacco use with life-threatening diseases and disabilities. Moreover public statements, on websites, about smoking by Aamir Khan due to 'stress' will encourage the perception specially among children and youth to begin tobacco use to beat their 'stress'.

Earlier in May -- June 2008, the Hindustan Times had carried a front-page photograph of the 'King Khan' Shahrukh Khan, another bollywood actor, who was found smoking in full public view at the much-hyped Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket match series.

Tobacco is reported to kill more than a million people in India alone every year.

"One of the easiest ways to significantly bring down number of children and youth who get initiated to tobacco use in India, without any budgetary allocation for this public health exercise, is to remove depiction of tobacco use in films and TV", had rightly said Dr Ramadoss at the last World Conference on Tobacco or Health in USA.

One of the major influences on the uptake of teen tobacco use is the glamourisation of tobacco use in movies and on television. This has been well documented by comprehensive research studies in India and US. On-screen or smoking in public view by bollywood film-stars will influence young minds to smoke.

In an earlier study done by World Health Organization and Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 2003 it was revealed that 76% of Indian movies had tobacco use shown in them. In 1991, where 22% of top box office movie hits had lead characters using tobacco on-screen, in 2002, this escalated to 53% tobacco use depiction by lead characters in Indian movies. This study also demonstrated that 52.2% of children in India who had their first smoke were influenced by tobacco use depicted in movies.

A repeat follow-up study conducted by WHO and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India on top box office movie hits during 2004-2005 demonstrated that tobacco use depiction in movies has become more aggressive as compared to previous years. During 2004-2005, 89% of all movies analyzed contained tobacco use on screen and 75.5% movies depicted leading stars using tobacco on screen. Moreover 41% of movies screened had clear and distinct tobacco brand placement.

Dr Ramadoss says categorically that stopping depiction of tobacco use in films is an evidence based public health measure, and that is what he has been strongly advocating since May 31, 2005.

India, says Dr Ramadoss, has the world's largest film industry rolling out over 900 films per year. Through cinema theatres, these movies reach 60 million people and through cable television network, they further reach another 70 million people in India. "Influence of cinema is paramount in India" says Dr Ramadoss.

The Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act 2003 came into existence since 31 May 2003. Before the Bollywood film-stars, just like any other citizen of India, who if found violating the provisions of the anti-tobacco Act, become likely to be penalized as per the existing legal framework, it is in the interest of the public health and individual's own interests to quit tobacco use and chose health!

Exposure to tobacco use in movies is clearly linked to youth tobacco use. Simply put, more must be done to ensure that tobacco use in movies is removed from films seen by our nation's youth. We have within our power one simple and effective way to jump start the decline in youth tobacco use - delete tobacco use in films from the list of influences that rob our youth of longer and healthier lives by removing tobacco use from movies, unless they clearly depict the negative health effects.

The influence of film-stars on the youth is paramount and it will be more helpful if they debunk the misconceptions about smoking.

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Doctor's Day (1 July): Partnerships between patients and doctors will improve healthcare

Partnerships between patients and doctors will improve healthcare

Today on Doctor's Day (1 July), the doctors of Indian Medical Association (IMA) in Lucknow are advocating for safer work environment in wake of recent upping of attacks on healthcare institutions in the UP state capital and other cities in UP too.

Doctors Day came into being in 1991 when the Government of India recognised July 1, the birth as well as death anniversary of Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy.

"Fifty-seven countries, most of them in Africa and Asia, face a severe health workforce crisis. WHO estimates that at least 2,360,000 health service providers and 1,890,000 management support workers, or a total of 4,250,000 health workers, are needed to fill the gap. In India too, the shortage of health workers is palpable, and may become acute in coming years. Without prompt action, the shortage will worsen" said Professor (Dr) Rama Kant, who is an International Awardee (2005) of World Health Organization (WHO) and President-elect of Lucknow College of Surgeons (LCS).

"In general, there is a lack of adequate staff in rural areas compared to cities" said Prof Kant.

"There is a direct relationship between the ratio of health workers to population and survival of women during childbirth and children in early infancy. As the number of health workers declines, survival declines proportionately" explains Prof Kant.

Prof Kant is the former Chief Medical Superintendent of Gandhi Memorial & Associated Hospitals (GM & AH), and present Head of the Department of Surgery at Chhattrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University (CSMMU, formerly King George's Medical College).

Pressing health needs across the globe cannot be met without a well-trained, adequate and available health workforce.

The health-related millennium development goals which India has committed to achieve by 2015, aim to reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria, and ensure access to essential medicines. The health worker shortage has been a major impediment to making progress on meeting these goals.

"Moreover, sudden catastrophic events like accidents, or natural calamities like floods, can quickly overwhelm local and national health systems already suffering from staff shortages or lack of funds" said Prof Kant.

"We need more direct investment in the training and support of health workers" said Prof Kant.

Better strategies to more actively engage communities and patients in their own health care will help improve the situation. Partnerships between patients and health workers can improve the quality of care and health outcomes.

Published in

Central Chronicle, Madhya Pradesh/ Chhattisgarh

The Seoul Times, Seoul, South Korea