Posts Tagged ‘ Manmohan Singh ’

Mango People in a Banana Republic

When Robert Vadra Gandhi (should I use Gandhi… I wouldn’t be surprised if Robert Vadra takes the Surname of his wife’s family (Feroz Khan family) adopted), put up his status message in Facebook saying “Mango People in a Banana Republic” he was completely right.

“Mango People” as we are “Aam Admi” (in Hindi) and I am not disputing this, because I believe of the estimated population of 1.22 billion, 800 Members of Parliament (approximately 550 in Lok Sabha and 250 in Rajya Sabha) and their kin, the Congress Party President and her stooges put together could add up to 2000-3000 people who can be called ‘privileged’ and can be bracketed as “Non-Mango People”.

Once that is clarified the Aam Admi is indignant and fuming about the “Banana Republic” part of the comment. Arvind Kejriwal, the new messiah of Aam Admi, is adding fuel to the fire. But in my opinion Robert Vadra is correct in his observation.

“Banana Republic” is a country operated as a commercial enterprise for private profit, effected by the collusion between state and favoured monopolies. Whereby, the profits derived from private exploitation of public lands as private property, and the debts incurred are public responsibility. An imbalanced economy reduces the national currency to devalued paper-money, hence, the country is ineligible for international development-credit, and remains limited by the uneven economic development of the country.

We Indians live in this big myth that the learned Dr. Manmohan Singh rules the country. The BJP would have us believe that Sonia Gandhi rules the country in proxy. But fact is that this country is a money making enterprise of Ottavio Quattrocchi, the Italian Businessman of Bofors fame. And this country is being operated as a commercial enterprise for the private profit of Ottavio Quattrocchi. Dr. Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram (who is the kajanji of the Feroz Khan Gandhi family) are indeed working really hard to bring the country to that status “Banana Republic”.

Kudos Mr. Robert Vadra Gandhi for the most insightful observation.  Thank You.

Picture Courtesy : hindustantimes.com

Politics of Lok Pal Bill

It is a pity that the corruption debate in ‘Incredible India’ has been hijacked by competitive politics in the country. We are indeed ‘incredible’. We have worked really hard to prove Sir Winston Churchill, right, about his observations, when the matter of the independence of the Indian Subcontinent came up in the British Parliament. 

Churchill as Leader of Opposition in House of Commons of the British Parliament was visibly upset about the demand for Independent India, and the reasons for that are given in this extract of his speech – “Power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues, freebooters; all Indian leaders will be of low caliber and men of straw. They are Brahmins who mouth and patter principles of Western Liberalism. They will have sweet tongues and silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power and India will be lost in political squabbles. A day would come when even air and water would be taxed in India”.

These words from 1947 in hindsight, are prophetic. While Indian politicians and the rich have stashed away black money, estimated anything between $500 billion to $1.5 trillion, outside the country, successive governments have been bundling to pass the Lok Pal Bill – an ombudsman organisation, an independent body similar to the Election Commission of India, envisaged 42 years back. The fact remains that the manipulative self seeking politicians and bureaucrats have not only failed to pass meaningful laws against corruption and have made the ones that are passed, virtually ineffective.

But when the plundering reached benchmark levels, we have had middle class messiahs, who declared ‘war against corruption’. Remember T N Seshan, the garrulous Chief Election Commissioner whose inspired fear among the politicians and awe among the middle classes in the mid-1990s. Seshan’s efforts did see a reduction in overt election expenses, but within a few months of retiring as CEC, he attempted to beat the netas by joining them. In 1997, he lost the Presidential Elections as a Shiv Sena candidate while in 1999; he lost by over 1.8 lakh votes as the Congress-backed candidate against L K Advani in Gandhingar. Twice hurt, Seshan eventually retired to a quieter life in Chennai, embraced by Rotary Clubs but forgotten by the vast multitude of his countrymen.

And today we have Anna Hazare, the Gandhian who has lead a lot of non violent protests against corruption in Maharastra, Padma Bhushan awardee of 1992 for his efforts in establishing Ralegan Siddhi as a model self sufficient village and now leading the movement to enact a strong anti-corruption act – the Jan Lok Pal Bill. On 5 April 2011 when Anna decided to exert pressure on the Government of India and go on a fast unto death at Jantar Mantar, it became a ‘made for television’ moment, artfully choreographed between the World Cup and IPL so as to gain maximum eyeballs. But unlike the 1990 Seshan moment, when there was no ‘round the clock television’, the Anna Hazare movement instantly had the legitimacy from the television addicted cheering middle classes.

The middle class anger had been ignited further by the sudden exposure of a rush of mega corruption scandals from the 2G spectrum to the Commonwealth Games. The nation was stunned by the realization that strutting VIPs were in fact plunderers. And perhaps murderers were not far behind if the unfolding drama of the ‘suicide’ of Bacha, Raja’s aide, is any indication.

With people’s disgust with corruption now out in the open, the well-accented television appearances by Congress leaders, was not helping. The principal opposition party, the BJP, grouping in the dark after being routed in 2009 General Elections tried to prop up Yoga guru Baba Ramdev in order to hijack the Jan Lok Pal movement.

But not drawing inspiration from the public mood or taking reformative action, the UPA Government unleashed a systematic campaign to counter the growing popularity of Anna Hazare, employing everything from high-decibel propaganda to clandestine investigations by intelligence agencies. Baba Ramdev backed out and retreated to his ashram in Haridwar. The Government also lined up the Brahmins, the suave Kapil Sibal and the cynically suave P. Chidambaram, to discredit the people’s movement.

Every well meaning Government would have taken the opportunity to take inspiration from the candlelight marches and social media networks campaigns but the UPA Government and the so called ‘Mr. Clean’ PM Manmohan Singh let that historic opportunity of engaging the middle class with public life, slip bye.

Every learned Indian citizen acknowledges that the Lok Pal Bill drafted by the Government and the Anna Hazare team has flaws. The UPA Government initially shied away from a public debate. The debate became further trivialized on inclusion of Prime Ministers Office/ Judiciary under Lok Pal or not. Then the impatience and distrust with each other ultimately turned the debate into an ‘all or nothing’ debate between the Government and the civil society group.

An omnibus Jan Lok Pal as envisaged by Anna Hazare group for sure is not going to end corruption, neither is the farcical Lok Pal Bill passed by the Union Cabinet, yesterday. The Lok Pal Bill is just a defensive feint enough to get by the public anger. The UPA Government sure will now hurry the Lok Pal Bill through in both houses of Parliament, flouting all rules of propriety and transparency, without engaging in a debate or even perhaps voted unanimously by politicians of all hues.

But by passing the Lok Pal Bill, under the compulsions of narrow party politics and to protect the mighty and powerful, the bull-headed Government may have snubbed the civil society out of the way (or so they believe) but the fact remains that in their attempt to defend against ‘outsiders’ trespassing into the law-making prerogatives of an elected Parliament, the lawmakers of the country have further alienated the middle class and ensured that they remain ‘outsiders’.

But there is still hope. Hope comes from relatively toothless Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde could do to the powerful Karnataka CM B.S. Yeddyurappa. 

Middle class activism in India is yet to mature to develop the momentum and self-belief to go beyond constantly searching for messiahs /demi-gods, who will slay the political demons of our time. The rage may be real, the desire for change may be well-intentioned, but am still not sure if it can really transform society unless it goes beyond the clever sound bite, or the ‘mera neta chor hai’ slogan. The Government of the day and the once to come, am sure will realise that hope and aspiration of youth energy, blocked by inertia and curruption, will lead to revolt. If not now, at a later date.

Video: Copyright with YouTube &

Interesting Snipets : Courtesy Wikipedia

The first Lok Pal Bill was introduced in the Indian Parliament by Shanti Bhushan in 1968 and passed in the 4th Lok Sabha in 1969 but could not get through in the Rajya Sabha. Subsequently, Lok Pal Bills were introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and in 2008, yet they were never passed.

The current version is a diluted version drafted by Pranab Mukherjee (Finance Minister), P. Chidambaram (Minister of Home Affairs), Veerappa Moily (Minister of Corporate Affairs), Kapil Sibal (Minister for Communications and Information Technology) and Salman Khursid (Minister of Minority Affairs). It allows for setting up of a Lok Pal and frees it up to investigate and prosecute MPs and higher bueaucracy without being shackled by official sanctions, but it doesn’t give it complete autonomy either in selection process or its administrative and finiancial control. It excludes the PM from its purview and just hives off all the rest no protection to whistelblowers, no state Lokayuktas, no mechanism of checking corruption in judiciary and midle bureacracy, and a seriorly ill thought out grievance redressal mechanism.

The Jan Lok Pal Bill was drafted by Justice Santosh Hegde (former Supreme Court Judge and present Lokayukta of Karnataka), Prashant Bhushan (Supreme Court Lawyer) and Arvind Kejriwal (RTI activist) along with the members of the India Against Corruption Movement. The draft Bill envisages a system where a corrupt person found guilty would go to jail within 2 years of the complaint being made and his ill-gotten wealth being confiscated. It also seeks power to the Jan Lok Pal to prosecute politicians and bureaucrats without government permission. It wants to protect whistleblowers. It wants to create a super-structure of high-integrity individuals to curb and prosecute corruption among MPs, highrer bureacracy, lower bureacracy, clerks, peons, police, every government department and project, the judiciary and the PM. 

Foot Note : Not that I agree with Churchill. India has produced more strong and calibered leaders than the whole Western world put together. But I just would urge every Indian to remember the statement by Churchill in the British Parliament when you go to exercise your franchise the next time. That is, if you do 🙂

India misses Pipeline of Prosperity

After fourteen years of delayed negotiations over what started as the Iran – Pakistan – India (IPI) cross boarder gas pipeline project, Pakistan and Iran have finally signed a $ 7.6 billion agreement in Tehran on May 20, 2010. The project termed as the ‘peace pipeline’ by officials of both countries, has been signed in presence of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of the tripartite summit on Afghanistan Security in Tehran. The gas pipeline once operational, is expected to take care of as much as 20 per cent of Pakistan’s energy needs.

According to the initial plan, the 2700 kilometer long pipelines would cover around 1100 kilometers in Iran, 1000 kilometers in Pakistan and around 600 kilometers in India, and the size of the pipeline was estimated to be 56 inches in diameter. The estimated project completion time was estimated to be 5 years. The pipeline will deliver 750 million cubic feet of natural gas a day to Pakistan within four years. The pipeline will connect Iran’s giant South Pars gas fields with the troubled Pakistani provinces of Baluchistan and Sindh.

The IPI project was conceived in 1995 and after almost 13 years India finally decided to quit the project in 2008 despite severe energy crisis in the country. Security consideration and inability to come to an understanding with Pakistan over transmission charges saw India waver time and again over joining the project amid speculation that New Delhi is coming under Washington pressure not to do business with Tehran. Delhi has been reluctant to join the project because of its long-running distrust of Islamabad, having fought three wars since independence in 1947.

News paper reports say Pakistan too was facing severe criticism from the US over any kind of economic deal with Iran. The deal was speculated to be not welcomed by the US – because of Tehran’s suspected ambitions to build nuclear weapons. But the sudden change of stance from Pakistani government is seen as softening of stance by the US. This is perhaps the greatest diplomatic coup d’état Pakistan has pulled off in the recent past.

In the aftermath of signing the landmark civilian nuclear deal between President George Bush Junior and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2008, Pakistan too argued that it too should make a similar deal with US, but Washington had not shown much enthusiasm. But now Pakistan has cheaper source of power compared to India’s investments in civilian nuclear reactors to help fulfill its increasing energy demand.

Photo : Copyright with BBC

Opposition ‘Nu’ Cleared : Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill

On 6th July 2010 in the wake of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy verdict many a articles were written across newspapers on how the compensation was inadequate and how it was calculated at 5,000 deaths and 20,000 injured as against 25,000 deaths and maiming another 5,00,000 in the study commissioned by ICMR in 1994 (10 years after the accident).

The same day I had written in this blog an article Bhopal Tragedy & Civil Liability.

I quote few lines from the article. “For the UPA Government trying to push the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill on capping civil nuclear liability in order to pave the way for the American transnational companies to export their nuclear reactors to India without having to bear the full liability on account of an accident, is a non issue. The Bill, which was introduced twice and hastily  withdrawn, states that the total liability for a nuclear incident shall not exceed 300 million Special Drawing Rights (Approximately Rs 2100 crore at current exchange rates). Within this amount, the liability of the supplier shall be Rs 500 crore. The liability of Rs. 500 crore is the same liability UCIL negotiated in 1989. The price for the worst Industrial disaster in the World. The price for 25,000 dead Indians. 

Now here is the icing, if the liability in case of a Nuclear accident exceeds Rs 500 crore, the Union Government of India shall be liable for the amount exceeding Rs 500 crore. If damage is caused in a nuclear installation owned by the central government, the government will be solely liable.

We have seen how the political leadership, the Indian Judiciary and Bureaucracy has dealt with the worst industrial disaster in the World, which killed and maimed thousands of people. In the intervening 25 years, the Congress Party ruled Madhya Pradesh for 15 years and the BJP 10 years, so no one is above board. As tragic as the tragedy itself, these tyrants of the modern day India, through political manipulation have ensured that on an average each victims of Bhopal gas tragedy got, just Rs. 12,412 as compensation. Let us not play ball to the powers-to-be, to manipulate us any more at the insistence of the American Corporations and the US Government.” Un quote.

Today the Government announced that the Standing Committee report on the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill is likely to be tabled in Parliament tomorrow. With the intension to pass the Bill before US President Barack Obama‘s visit in November 2010, the Government has got the BJP support on the Bill. The passage of the Bill will open up India’s $150 billion nuclear power sector.

Chairman for the Standing Committee on the Bill, Subbirami Reddy said that all the contentious issues have been addressed in the Bill. Compensation cap will be increased from Rs 500 to Rs 1,500 crore and the zero liability clause has been amended, which was a key demand by the BJP and Left Front. The Bill will now sure be passed by the Parliament even though the CPI-M has given a dissent note demanding that the compensation cap be increased to Rs 10,000 crore.

The proposed compensation cap of Rs. 1500 crore in current exchange rate would mean US$32 millions. A look at Wikipedia on Nuclear accidents gives a list of 14 nuclear power plant accidents with more than US$100 million in property damage, upto 2007. Reporducing the same for you:

Date Location Description Cost
(in millions
2006 $)
February 22, 1977 Jaslovske Bohunice, Czechoslovakia Severe corrosion of reactor and release of radioactivity into the plant area, necessitating total decommission US$1,700
March 28, 1979 Middletown, Pennsylvania, US Loss of coolant and partial core meltdown, see Three Mile Island accident and Three Mile Island accident health effects US$2,400
September 15, 1984 Athens, Alabama, US Safety violations, operator error, and design problems force six year outage at Browns Ferry Unit 2 US$110
March 9, 1985 Athens, Alabama, US Instrumentation systems malfunction during startup, which led to suspension of operations at all three Browns Ferry Units US$1,830
April 11, 1986 Plymouth, Massachusetts, US Recurring equipment problems force emergency shutdown of Boston Edison’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant US$1,001
April 26, 1986 Kiev, Ukraine Steam explosion and meltdown with 4,056 deaths (see Chernobyl disaster) necessitating the evacuation of 300,000 people from Kiev and dispersing radioactive material across Europe (see Chernobyl disaster effects) US$6,700
November 24, 1989 Greifswald, East Germany Electrical error causes fire in the main trough that destroys control lines and five main coolant pumps UD$443
May 4, 1986 Hamm-Uentrop, Germany Experimental reactor releases excessive radiation to four square kilometers surrounding the facility US$267
March 31, 1987 Delta, Pennsylvania, US Peach Bottom units 2 and 3 shutdown due to cooling malfunctions and unexplained equipment problems US$400
December 19, 1987 Lycoming, New York, US Malfunctions force Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation to shut down Nine Mile Point Unit 1 US$150
March 17, 1989 Lusby, Maryland, US Inspections at Calvert Cliff Units 1 and 2 reveal cracks at pressurized heater sleeves, forcing extended shutdowns US$120
February 20, 1996 Waterford, Connecticut, US Leaking valve forces shutdown Millstone Nuclear Power Plant Units 1 and 2, multiple equipment failures found US$254
September 2, 1996 Crystal River, Florida, US Balance-of-plant equipment malfunction forces shutdown and extensive repairs at Crystal River Unit 3 US$384
February 16, 2002 Oak Harbor, Ohio, US Severe corrosion of control rod forces 24-month outage of Davis-Besse reactor US$143

In 2008 President George Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed and sealed a civil nuclear agreement which ended New Delhi’s isolation in global atomic commerce and opened up its state-controlled nuclear power market to American transnational companies. And when this agreement got the endorsement of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (46 member group of countries) other countries could also have nuclear trade with New Delhi. But it is common knowledge that nuclear trade is primarily driven by seven member countries – US, UK, Canada, Japan, Germany, France and Russia.

The Indo-US Nuclear deal could not be implemented until India put in place a compensation regime that limited the liability of private companies, especially those from the United States, in the event of an industrial accident. So, India framed the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill 2010 which stipulates the compensation burden on the state-run reactor operator, the liability of the Union Government and the responsibility of private suppliers and contractors.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill is important for the private American companies whose liabilities are not underwritten by the US governments as is done by the governments of Russia and France. Compensation claims from one nuclear accident could be enough to bankrupt a private company. These companies are reluctant to enter the Indian market despite its size ($150 billion), until there is some clarity on compensation in case of an accident. The US Administration and Obama has been pushing this with the Indian Government.

 The Prime Minister sure is in a hurry to remove all the hurdles for Nuclear trade with the US before the proposed visit by President Obama to India in November, but little thought is put in by the Indian Government and Bureaucracy inspite of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.  With the passage of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill in both the houses of Parliament, we will create more Bhopal’s in our backyard and still be able to sell India cheap. And dead Indian’s cheaper.

Suggested Reading : http://wp.me/pV9Cw-5z

Statistics Copyright : Nuclear Accidents – Wikipedia

India turns 64 today : Indian Independence Day

Today India turned 64. In the morning heard the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s address to the nation on the 63rd Independence Day Celebration from the ramparts of the magnificent Red Fort, which was under a heavy presence of gun-totting security men and felt that the Prime Minister still doesn’t feel that he is Head of the Government. He spoke more like a ‘Consultant to the Government of India’. 

Not inspired by the ‘first servant of India’ speech of the Prime Minister, I really wished we could borrow President Barack Obama for a day or at the very least his speech writer.

Looking for more inspiration and tired of watching the same line up of movies on TV channels, I accompanied a friend for the movie ‘Peepli Live’. Not being a Hindi movie buff, I had my apprehensions when I went for the movie, but it turned out to be the ‘icing in the cake’. I am no sure how many of the people in the audience loved the movie, but for me it was on of the best watch on Independence Day. The movie was not the 5 Star elitist show which Hindi Cinema is famous for. The movie had no major star cast other than Raghbir Yadav of the hit television comedy show Mungerilal Ke Haseen Sapne fame.

The movie threw up the contradictions in this great country called India. It was a scathing satire on the country’s apathy towards its farmers and the hypocrisy of the urban elitist media. The movie is a simplistic yet engaging potrayal of a sad reality in the country ‘farmers suicide’.

The protagonist Natha (Omkar Das Manikpuri), a poor farmer and a father of 3 who lives in an obscure village called Peepli. Burdened by enormous debts and land mortgage to pay off his loans, Natha is manipulated by his elder brother Budhia (Raghbir Yadav) to commit suicide in the hope that the Government will give compensation. Once the press gets whiff of the story, media frenzy unfolds in front of Natha’s house. Every journalist obcessed with ‘live coverage’ wants to cash in on this ‘live suicide’. With election round the corner, politicians jump into the fray to play one-up-man-ship, from the Corporator to the Union Agriculture Minister. Overall the movie employed a comic tone to tell a very serious story. 

It also gave a sneek peek into the Indian system of governance – ignorance of the vast majority of the rural population, the rich poor divide, the implementation of the government schemes, the co-ordination between Union and State Governments on the subject of agriculture, hypocrisy and insensitivity of the Indian media and manipulation by the politicians and bureaucracy.

Really feel enriched by writer director Anusha Rizvi and producer Amir Khan’s simplistic yet engaging movie of a sad reality ‘Peepli Live’

Photo : Copyright with DNA for Peepli Live and Reuters for the PM Manmohan Singh addressing nation.

Bhopal Tragedy & Civil Liability

After a trial lasting quarter of a century, the judgement on Bhopal Gas tragedy, the world’s worst industrial disaster which killed and maimed thousands of people, has been pronounced today and it makes me wonder if greatest industrial catastrophe has been lost in the collective consciousness of the world.

 The travesty of the whole the pronouncement of judgement by the Chief Judicial Magistrate Mohan P Tiwari after a 26-year-long trial in the toxic leak case from the now defunct Union Carbide factory on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984, is the intend of the justice delivery system to ‘delay’ in order to ‘deny‘ justice to the suffering people of Bhopal.  

Early morning hours of December 3, 1984, a pesticide plant owned and operated by Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) in capital city of Madhya Pradesh released methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and other toxins, resulting in the exposure of over 500,000 people. Given our corrupt officialdom estimates vary on the death toll. The Indian Government immediately put the death toll at 2,259 and the government of Madhya Pradesh has confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release within first 3 days. The Indian Council of Medical Research put the estimate to 8,000-10,000 deaths. In another study commissioned by ICMR in 1994, the estimates were revised to 25,000 deaths, from gas-related diseases.

But the victims of the biggest industrial accident have not received any succour even after 26 years. After the initial human catastrophe in a continuing health hazard, some 390 tons of toxic chemicals abandoned at the UCIL plant continue to leak and pollute the groundwater in the region and affect thousands of Bhopal residents who depend on it.

During the trial, a total of 178 prosecution witnesses were examined and 3008 documents were produced while eight defence witnesses deposed in the Indian Court. The Chairman of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) of USA Warren Anderson was declared absconder, so doesn’t even face trial. But on hearing about the gas leak, the US-based Anderson had flown down on December 4 and was arrested in Bhopal. He was, however, soon granted bail and flew back on December 7, never to be seen in India again!

The other two accused Union Carbide Corporation, USA and Union Carbide Eastern, Hong Kong – escaped the trial with no officials appearing in Indian Courts for some weird reason known only to the CBI and the CJM.

Only Indians officials of UCIL were found culpable. Out of the eight accused tried for the offences, R B Roy Choudhary, the then former Assistant Works Manager UCIL, Mumbai, died during the trial. The remaining seven accused in the case are Keshub Mahendra, the then UCIL Chairman, Vijay Gokhle, the then Managing Director, Kishore Kamdar, the then Vice President, J Mukund, the then Works Manager, S P Choudhary, the then Production Manager, K V Shetty, the then Plant Superintendent, S I Quershi and the then Production Assistant has been found guilty.  But all of them were relaesed on bail after paying a fine of Rs. 25,000 each.

The First Information Report in the tragedy was filed on December 3, 1984 and the case was transferred to CBI on December 6, 1984. The CBI filed the charge sheet after investigation on December 1, 1987. Subsequently, the CJM framed charges against the accused under section 304 Part (II) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), section 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means) and other relevant sections of IPC. Rajiv Gandhi had just become Prime Minister only weeks before the Bhopal tragedy following Indira Gandhi’s assassination, Narasimha Rao was the Union Home Minister and Arjun Singh was the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh then. 

But, in March 1989, the UCC setteled all liabilities related to the accident, including cleaning up the site, with a $470 million out-of-court settlement with the Union Government. Then as if in a hurry the government immediately decided to drop criminal charges, without taking the victims into confidence and much before the VP Singh Government is sworn in. After the accused in the case moved the Apex Court, it amended the charges on September 13, 1996 to 304 (A) (causing death by negligence), 336 (acts endangering life or personal safety of others, 337 (causing hurt by endangering life or personal safety of others) and other sections of IPC. Now hold your breath, the offense under 304 (A) carries a maximum punishment of up to two years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 25,000 as against death penality under 304 Part (II).

Sadly the poison gas that poured out of the Union Carbide factory has still not woken up the Indian Corporate World, the Indian Government, the Bureaucracy or the Honerable Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. With the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill we will create more Bhopal’s in our backyard and still be able to sell India cheap. And dead Indian’s cheaper.

For the UPA Government trying to push the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill on capping civil nuclear liability in order to pave the way for the American transnational companies to export their nuclear reactors to India without having to bear the full liability on account of an accident, is a non issue. The Bill, which was introduced twice and hastily  withdrawn, states that the total liability for a nuclear incident shall not exceed 300 million Special Drawing Rights (Approximately Rs 2100 crore at current exchange rates). Within this amount, the liability of the supplier shall be Rs 500 crore. The liability of Rs. 500 crore is the same liability UCIL negotiated in 1989. The price for the worst Industrial disaster in the World. The price for 25000 dead Indians. 

Now here is the icing, if the liability in case of a Nuclear accident exceeds Rs 500 crore, the Union Government of India shall be liable for the amount exceeding Rs 500 crore. If damage is caused in a nuclear installation owned by the central government, the government will be solely liable.

We have seen how the political leadership, the Indian Judiciary  and Bureaucracy has dealt with the worst industrial disaster in the World, which killed and maimed thousands of people. In the intervening 25 years, the Congress Party ruled Madhya Pradesh for 15 years and the BJP 10 years, so no one is above board. As tragic as the tragedy itself, these tyrants of the modern day India, through political manipulation have ensured that on an average each victims of Bhopal gas tragedy got, just Rs. 12,412 as compensation. Let us not play ball to the powers-to-be, to manipulate us any more at the insistence of the American Corporations and the US Government. And if you believe ignorance is bliss, watch the videos of the human tragedy, once again. 

Video: The Bhopal Gas tragedy photographs compliled on YouTube. Copyright with photojournalist Pablo Bartholomew.

The Smelly 2G Spectrum Scam

It will be a pity if Telecom Minister A Raja gets off the hook on technicalities. That’s what he is trying to do. When questioned about the resounding success of the public auction of the 3G spectrum compared the pathetic revenue generation during the 2G spectrum sale, the minister went to great length explaining the technicalities of the auctions by using the analogy of ‘Basamati rice’ and ‘PDS rice’.

 So let us make an attempt to understand the difference between basmati and public distribution system rice. The auction for ‘Basmati’ 3G mobile license, through a transparent auction, ended with RCom, Bharti and Aircel bagging 13 circles each, and left the Government of India with a Rs. 67,710 crore revenue windfall. The revenue amount exceeded the wildly optimistic expectations of Raja at Rs. 40,000 crore and even Finance Minister Pranab Mukerjee’s estimate of Rs. 35,000 crore. And if you compare the all India average price of the ‘PDS’ 2G and ‘Basmati’ 3G, the difference was a staggering 900 per cent or 9 times.

Exactly an year back, when the ‘PDS’ 2G spectrum was auctioned under the guidance of Raja, using a contentious ‘first-come-first-served’ system, in the way movie tickets are sold. Raja selectively interpreted recommendations of the TRAI to favour a privileged few for whom the rules of the game were changed. Under the influence of the corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, some non serious players like Unitech, S Tel, Swan Telecom, Loop Telecom (BPL having exited business once),  Sistema Shyam TeleServices (MTS), Allianz Infratech, Datacom (Videocon) and Spice, won an ‘all-India’ mobile telephone licence with bundled spectrum for just Rs 1,651 crore.

But soon after the ‘PDS’ 2G licence sale, the public distribution rice suddenly turned to gold.  Within days of getting the licences, the new entrants who had no telecom assets but for a ‘paper licence’, gifted by Raja, sold part of their stake at huge premium. To get a clearer perspective, in Sep 2008 Swan Telecom sold 45% stake to UAE’s Etisalat for around Rs. 4,200 crore. A month later Unitech offloaded 60% to Norway’s Telenor for Rs. 6,200 crore. Then in Jan 2008, Tata Teleservices sold 26% stake to Japan’s DoCoMo for 13,230 crores. The ownership and ownership transfer deals of Shyam and Russia’s Sistema and Siva Ventures and Bahrain’s Batelco are shuddered in secrecy. Some of the companies like Allianz Infratech and Datacom are yet to launch or struggling to launch services and the licence of Spice has been cancelled.

India is a lucrative 300 million mobile user market which adds about a 100 million mobile users every year. The smelly PDS license distribution was Raja’s strategy to bring in foreign telecom players like Sistema, Batelco, Telenor, Etisalat, DoCoMo,  etc to come into  India’s lucrative market, through the backdoor, unmindful of the loss to the Indian exchequer, using the faulty methodology and government iron hand. Much of this corruption which allegedly borders Rs. 1 lakh crores, took place under the nose of our most honorable PM Manmohan Singh.

On Nov 2 2007, PM wrote to Raja and asked him to ensure the 2G spectrum was allocated in a fair, efficient and transparent manner and to ensure that the licence fees are appropriately revised. A brazen and defiant Raja, did absolutely nothing to adhere to the PM’s directions and granted 2G license for just Rs 1,651 crore. And technically, since there was no auction we can only estimate the government losses in 2G spectrum licence to Rs 40-60,000 crores.

Our country has a long history of dubious characters getting off the hook on one technicality or another. Raja claims that all his decisions had been taken ‘in consultation’ with the PM. The DMK and Karunanidhi claims that Raja is being targeted because he is a ‘Dalit’. Not too long ago, during the formation of UPA II, the Dravidian Patriarch Karunandidhi had to forgo the claims of his own daughter Kanimozhi and nephew Dayanidhi Maran to promote Raja as the Telecom Minister for a second term. Why did Karunanidhi have to promote Raja more than his dear family? Is Raja is conduit for the dirty money for Karunanidhi?

Thanks to the political compulsions of the UPA, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Central Vigilance Commission and Central Bureau of Investigation probe might not nail this new found Dalit messiah of DMK. The STel case in the Delhi High Court, sure gives a glimmer of hope, because we Indians still have some ‘trust’ in our judiciary.

No technicality can hide facts that stare everyone in the face – that spectrum sale was a money game before the last General Election while the exchequer lost at least the same amount of money that we gained from the 3G sale because we positioned 2G as the ‘smelly PDS rice’. That obscenely huge amounts changed hands which makes me wonder if the  DMK today stands for ‘Delhi Money for Karunanidhi’.  And thanks to the lobbying and murky deals that flourished in the culture he singlehandedly promoted in the Telecom Ministry, this 47 year old MP from Nilgiris, Andimuthu Raja, has shown that the great Indian telecom revolution has a rather murky underbelly.

Photo: Copyright Hindustan Times.