Hindu26sep13 npcil, Westinghouse to sign ‘early’ n-agreement

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From another perspective, this indicates a fundamental structural problem with the law: it takes away the rights of victims to directly petition the courts to punish the supplier for negligence. In Bhopal, the government first insisted on representing all the victims, and then let Union Carbide off the hook. A report in this newspaper (September 19) indicates that the government plans to repeat this strategy, by promising the Americans that the NPCIL will not exercise its “right of recourse.”
This is part of a persuasive case made in a Supreme Court petition — filed by the prominent lawyer Prashant Bhushan — that the current law impinges on the constitutional rights of Indian citizens. Ironically, if the Court takes cognisance of the recent actions of the government, which show how the law can be subverted, then this may result in U.S. companies having to face higher levels of liability.
This reluctance to accept liability is in sharp contrast with the claims of safety surrounding the reactors. Westinghouse asserts that its reactors are likely to suffer severe accidents less than once in four million years. If this were true then, given the cap on liability, it would cost only Rs.2 lakh to insure the reactor for its entire lifetime — an absurdly low number. The problem is that Westinghouse bases its claims on a method called “probabilistic safety assessment” that cannot be justified scientifically. By using a standard mathematical technique called “Bayesian analysis” to extrapolate from the observed pattern of nuclear accidents, it is easy to show that the Westinghouse figure is almost certainly wrong.
Local misgivings
Apart from these legal and technical issues, there are significant local misgivings about the reactors. A strong protest movement has come up in Mithi Virdi, where a “tractor rally” was held in anticipation of the Prime Minister’s U.S. visit. In March, thousands of people walked out of the public hearing on the environmental impact assessment. Numerous civil society groups, ranging from students to fishermen, have registered their opposition to the reactor in Kovvada.
While reassuring nuclear manufacturers on the liability law, the Prime Minister explained that “the proof of the pudding is in the eating … I hope their profits will tell the true story. If they make a lot of money, they will forget some of the concerns they have expressed.” One can only hope that in Washington, he will also spare a thought for the concerns of Indian citizens and local residents.
(The authors are physicists associated with the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace. Ramana is the author of The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India, Penguin, 2012. The views expressed are personal.)

Little reason to restrict the freedom of speech

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It is common knowledge that Article 19 (1) (a) of the Indian Constitution lays down that “all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression”; it is also common knowledge that this fundamental right is not absolute, as the immediately following Article 19 (2) says “nothing prevents the State from making any law in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State […] public order, decency or morality, or in relation to […] defamation or incitement to an offence.” What is not common knowledge is that this fundamental right has almost been eroded completely.
The extensive Constitutional amendments carried out in 1972 replaced section 153 of the Indian Penal Code with sections 153 A and 153 B. These newly added sections are so extensive that today, as the increasing court cases establish, “the right to freedom of speech and expression” has almost been nullified.
The relevant sections are 153A and 153 B of the IPC which penalise “promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc.,” and committing acts “prejudicial to maintenance of harmony”; and sections 295, 295A and 298 which deal exclusively with “religious harmony”.
Government anxiety
It is obvious these sections mirror the anxiety of the then Indian government to maintain peace and harmony in a multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-lingual nation. One can understand this anxiety considering the socio-political conditions existing in 1972: the Bangladesh war had just ended, and the nation was yet to recover from the huge refugee influx. It was also during that period that regional parties such as Shiv Sena and Asom Gana Parishad were becoming more strident, and religious-cultural organisations like the RSS and Jamat-e-Islami had become aggressive in their tone and acts. Still, there is no doubt that the Indian government over-reacted in enacting the draconian IPC sections referred to above and, later, in imposing the Emergency.
Identifying ‘intentions’
It is true that to be accused under these sections, the “intention” and “result” of the acts of the accused are crucial. But the problem is that it is almost impossible to concretely identify either “intention” or “public order” and “morality” as, at best, they can only be speculative. But what is not speculative is that scores of writers, speakers and thinkers of all castes, creed, and social positions have suffered, and are suffering, due to these “reasonable restrictions”. On most occasions, writers and speakers have been charged and arrested, causing them mental anguish and physical/ financial suffering. Apart from the well-known cases of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses , banned in India, and M.F. Hussain being forced to flee the country, there are many others not so well-known. They include writers, journalists, artists and public speakers. Here’s a list of a few of such cases, in which the provisions of IPC 153 A and B, along with those of IPC 295-296 have been invoked, leading to immediate arrests and long-drawn court-proceedings.
August, 2013: Yogesh Master (his Kannada novel Dhundhi depicts Ganesha, a non-Aryan hero as appropriated and deified by the Aryans; accused of hurting religious sentiments of the Hindu community; charged and arrested);
May, 2013: K. Senthil Mallan (his historical research work in Tamil, Meendezum Pandiyar Varalaru, attempts to trace the roots of Mallars, Dalit community; charged with ‘sedition’ and ‘prone to disturb communal harmony’; book banned);
November, 2012: Shaheen Dhada and Renu Sreenivasan (their comments in Facebook regarding Bal Thackeray’s funeral procession; charged under 295 A and IT Act 66 A, with ‘hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus’ and arrested);
February, 2009: Ravindra Kumar and Anil Sinha (editor and publisher of The Statesman ; they reprinted the article “Why Should I Respect Oppressive religions?” by Johann Hari, published in The Independent ; charged under 295 A for ‘hurting the sentiments of the Muslims’);
July, 2008: Ashish Nandi (charged with potential for ‘communal violence’ for his article “Critically Analysing the Outcome of the 2007 polls’; got anticipatory bail from Supreme Court);
December, 2008: Lenin Roy (charged and arrested in Odisha for writing “pro-Naxalite” articles);
January, 2007: R.V. Bhasin (his book Islam: A Concept of Political World Invasion by Muslims , published in 2003, was translated into Hindi in 2007; Charged with ‘hurting Muslim sentiments’ and banned);
March, 2007: B.V. Seetharam (editor of Karavali Ale and periodicals in Kannada; charged with ‘defaming Jainism and hurting Jain sentiments’; arrested);
May, 2007: Chandramohan Srimantula (a student of fine arts in Gujarat and a Lalit Kala Akademi Award winner; charged with ‘making obscene religious images and hurting Hindu sentiments’ and arrested);
April, 1993: Nancy Adajania (a 22-year-old student of Bombay university; her article “Myth and Supermyth,” published in The Illustrated Weekly of India, on April 10-16, 1993, argued that ‘new nations, in their attempts to establish an identity, create icons out of the past heroes’; she took the examples of Shivaji, Lakshmibai the queen of Jhansi and Gangadhara Rao the king, to prove her thesis. The publication led to a chain of protests throughout Maharashtra; she was charged with defaming Shivaji and hurting the sentiments of Maharashtrians, and was immediately arrested; the editor of the weekly tendered a public apology).
The list is unending. In Karnataka alone, it includes Masti Venkatesha Iyengar (accused of hurting Veerashaiva sentiments in both of his novels), Shivarama Karanth (accused of hurting the sentiments of the Vishwakarma community), K.S. Bhagawan (accused of defaming Hindu Acharya and hurting Hindu sentiments and arrested); H.S. Shivaprakash, P.V. Narayana , Banjagere Jayaprakash (all three were accused of defaming Veerashaiva saints); H.S. Nagaveni (accused of hurting sentiments of the Vishwakarma community); Bhagawan and Govinda Rao (for a public lecture), among others.
One wonders if ancient and established religions like Hinduism, Jainism, Veerashaivism, Islam and Christianity are so vulnerable as to be hurt by a book or an article!
Turning the clock backwards
In this context, the remarks of Justice M. Saldanha, in his Bombay High Court judgment on the bail-application of Nancy Adajania, are worth recalling. He began, stating that the entire episode was “[d]istressing, misguided and misdirected,” and went on to comment that while charging a person under Section 153 A, especially a writer or a journalist, the concerned officers “should carefully evaluate the matter,” and then concluded: “This is very necessary if constitutional guarantees are to be safeguarded and concepts that hold good in the dark ages are not to be allowed to turn the clock backwards” (delivered on April 23, 1993). Indian authorities do not seem to have learnt any lesson from this judgment, delivered two decades ago; if anything, things have gone from bad to worse.
The task before all the writers, journalists, and artists today is clear and cut out; it is to exert pressure, through legal means, on the Indian Parliament either to repeal or amend the existing IPC sections 153 A and B, and 295-298; or, at least to define ‘the frame of applicability’ of the phrases “public order” and “decency and morality” in Article 19 (2) of the Indian Constitution.
(C.N. Ramachandran is a retired professor of English and a well-known literary and cultural critic from Karnataka)
Governments have ritually abused the latitude granted by the Indian Penal Code and the Constitution to harass, intimidate and arrest scores of writers, journalists and artists

More than baby steps required

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One more health-status indicator has recently been published, and as expected, India brings up the rear. Despite reducing under-five mortality from 2.5 million in 2001 to 1.4 million in 2012, India still holds the dubious distinction of having the highest number of deaths in the world in this vulnerable age group — 22 per cent. Further, the 2013 UNICEF report on infant mortality highlights our notorious track record. Of the 2.1 million deaths in the entire southern Asian region, India’s share alone is 1.4 million deaths. Being highly populous cannot be cited as a reason; the death rate, which refers to the number of deaths per one thousand live births, is much higher in India than a few South Asian countries. In 1990, Bangladesh and Nepal had death rates of 144 and 142 respectively, compared with 196 in India. But these two countries have performed dramatically by bringing down the rate of deaths to 41 and 42 respectively, and, as a result, surpassed India’s (56) in 2012. Even as these two countries are quite close to achieving the 2015 Millennium Development Goal for under-5 mortality (of less than 38 deaths per one thousand live births), India would be able to reach that distant goal only in the mid-2020s. Unlike India, these two countries are reaping the benefits of heavy investments they made in health-care systems in the last two decades. One need not look outside for lessons. By emulating the Tamil Nadu model, which has well equipped public health centres manned by doctors and well-trained staff present round the clock, India can beat down the under-five mortality rate.
Two-thirds of neonatal deaths occur in just 10 countries, and India accounts for more than a quarter of those. The well-being of the mother and the newborn in the first 24 hours is very critical. Nearly half of all newborn deaths globally occur during this time. With over three lakh newborn deaths, India ranks number one in terms of death on the very first day of birth. One of the major reasons for neonatal deaths is a lack of good delivery practices resulting in prolonged labour. This, in turn, results in birth asphyxia, the single-most important cause of mortality; even in Tamil Nadu, 16 per cent to 18 per cent of neonatal deaths are caused by this. Childhood anaemia is another critical area that needs immediate attention. Anaemia during the early years of life leads to repeated respiratory infection and makes the child more prone to diarrhoea. Even while steps are taken to address health issues, open defecation and the lack of clean drinking water — both of which have a direct link to the health of children — have to be tackled on a war footing.

Not above the law

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The United Progressive Alliance has brazened it out on another piece of legislation aimed at cosseting and mollycoddling the political class. The Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Ordinance, 2013, which overturns a Supreme Court order mandating the disqualification of lawmakers immediately upon their conviction, offends for two reasons. First, the ordinance marks the backdoor entry of a bill that faced opposition in the monsoon session of Parliament. And second, it aims to create a class of people who can legitimately claim to be special in the eyes of the law — and even when convicted by a court of law. The apex court ruling was itself based on the sound principle that there cannot be two sets of citizens: A convicted legislator could not claim immunity from disqualification when this relaxation was not available to a convicted citizen aspiring to contest elections. Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act protects a convicted legislator from disqualification provided he or she appeals before a higher court within three months. The court struck down this clause, “which carves out a saving in the case of sitting members of Parliament or State Legislature,” even as it held that Parliament was obliged under Articles 102(1)(e) and 191(1)(e) of the Constitution to make one common law for both ordinary citizens and sitting legislators.
The court order is by no means a case of judicial overreach. The disqualification is restricted to MPs and MLAs convicted in criminal cases where the offences are punishable by a jail sentence of two years or more. This automatically excludes not just those convicted on lesser grounds but also those charge sheeted for grave offences. The Association for Democratic Reforms, which examined the sworn affidavits of a total of 4,807 sitting MPs and MLAs, found 14 per cent had declared serious criminal charges against themselves. Obviously the presumption of innocence must and does apply in these cases. A conviction, however, is a very serious matter. Besides, the appeal process could take years, leading to the untenable situation of a convicted legislator completing his or her full term. It is clear enough that the ordinance has been rushed through with political motives — to bail out convicted Congress MP Rashid Masood and possibly also Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad, one of whose cases is soon to come up for judgment. In the face of public pressure, the government had to put off an attempt to shield political parties from coming under the purview of the Right to Information Act. One more such self-serving effort is unlikely to go down well with citizens gearing up to vote in the coming State and general elections.

Scripting a new deal with Nawaz Sharif

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Jyoti Malhotra

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It is tiring to sit at an airport for several hours, especially when it has very little to recommend it. At Lahore on a recent weekday, the PIA flight to Delhi is nowhere in sight, but nobody can tell you why. Over the space of an afternoon and early evening, there are few travellers in the international departure lounge and barely any flights taking off or landing. A PIA announcement begins by saying that this is not a boarding announcement — just in case a ray of hope dispelling the somnolence of the day begins to rise in the heart of the passenger. A very small child wails and her mother tries to make her drink some tea. Only one set of plug points are working in the lounge — the others are broken. There’s only one woman at the perfume shop. Access to the wifi hotspot is so complicated, it’s exhausting just to think of logging on. The plane to Delhi, when it finally arrives, is 11 hours late.
You don’t have to spend time in Lahore airport — or at the Wagah border crossing, where the hookah-smoking/chai-drinking officials look so clearly bored — to realise that things are difficult in Pakistan these days. Incredibly, India isn’t the enemy, if anything, India is way down in the litany of Pakistan’s problems. Neither is Kashmir, even though it was to attend a conference on Kashmir, organised by the international NGO Pugwash, that I was in Pakistan.
Dialogue with the Taliban
On top of the contested list is the Nawaz Sharif government’s offer to talk to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and other such militant groups that seek to overthrow the government’s writ in the north-western border of Pakistan. The Pakistan army is seemingly dead against the idea, arguing that it cannot dialogue with the enemy. Those in favour of the Army’s argument as well as those who believe that these militants — the “good Taliban” — are only biting the hand of the Pakistan army that fed them and built them up over the years, are all agreed that the situation on Pakistan’s western border is dire.
The Kashmir conference is a world apart, not only because Pakistan has so much else on its plate. The truth is that Pakistan has become a determinedly democratic nation in the last seven years since Pugwash last held a conference on Kashmir.
Kargil — an unmitigated disaster
One Pugwash participant unequivocally pointed out that Kargil was an unmitigated disaster, adding that the Pakistan army had no business motivating and stoking the Kashmir insurgency that officially began in 1989; that, in fact, by intervening in what was a spontaneous Kashmiri uprising against its own State, the Army had set back the indigenous Kashmiri movement by several years.
Another participant hoped that the construction of a more neutral terminology — “LoC east” for Kashmir in Indian hands and “LoC west” for Kashmir in Pakistan’s hands — would help focus the Kashmir issue in terms of its peoples on both sides, and not only as pieces of strategic real estate. Interestingly, conference participants, from all parts of the undivided state — Ladakh, Gilgit-Baltistan, the Kashmir valley, Jammu, as well as Pakistan-administered Kashmir — arrive at the conclusion that neither India nor Pakistan really understands the trauma of their divided families.
A classic example is the demand for a bus across the Line of Control from Kargil in Ladakh region to Skardu in Gilgit-Baltistan — like the one from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad and from Poonch to Rawalakot — to which there is no answer inside the conference. During the tea-break, it transpires that Pakistan is wary of Indians entering Gilgit-Baltistan, a strategically located preserve in the western Himalayan belt that is cheek-by-jowl with the Chinese-built Karakoram Highway.
Reality had begun to set in right from the start of the conference, when participants wondered if it was possible to take off from — add or subtract — the ‘four-point formula’ for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute that had been floated by former Pakistan army chief Pervez Musharraf. With the former dictator now anathema in Pakistan, both with the ruling and the opposition parties, some wondered if it was possible to rename the proposal so as to make it more politically palatable.
Kashmir ‘fatigue’ — fact or fiction?
If the grim reality in India and Pakistan meant that both sides were suffering from “Kashmir fatigue,” then what explained the fact that some Kashmiris had refused to come for the conference even when they were given visas? Did that amount to a self-preservation instinct, which was not to raise the temperature with the Indian establishment by travelling to Pakistan and talking about new ways to resolve Kashmir?
Let’s open the border at Narowal, said Pakistan’s planning and development minister Ahsan Iqbal, pointing out to the audience at the conference that his constituency contained the gurudwara said to have been established by Guru Nanak in 1522. How ridiculous was it, Iqbal went on to add, that Sikh pilgrims stood on a platform high enough on the Indian side of the border so they could see the soil in which their beloved Guru was cremated?
Clearly, the ridiculousness of parts of the ongoing India-Pakistan story has touched such new lows that it is almost futile to point fingers at who is responsible. If Pakistan is unable to control the ‘jihad’ within, or if Pakistanis are being killed in large numbers everyday simply because they are Shia or Ahmadi or Christian or just “not Muslim enough” by the so-called defenders of the faith, then it is imperative that neighbouring India look for new, creative ways to expand the middle ground for moderates.
What are the contours of such a new, political bargain? Since Pakistan believes India is playing games in its backyard and destabilising Balochistan, one way is for both countries to also begin talking about the impact of the U.S. drawdown on Afghanistan in mid-2014.
There is both nervousness and exhilaration in Pakistan at the thought — the exhilaration comes from the opportunity to once again roll the dice in the AfPak theatre and hope to influence its outcome in Kabul. The nervousness comes from the realisation that 2014 is not 1996.
Whatever the outcome between Nawaz Sharif and Manmohan Singh in New York later this month, the truth is that Pakistan must ask India for help to contain both insurgency and terrorism within, and India, as the bigger, richer, more populous and more powerful country must help write a new deal for Pakistan’s newly elected government. Pakistan needs help in defanging the terrorism that threatens that country. Can India think out of its own 1947 box?
(Jyoti Malhotra is a Delhi-based journalist)
Pakistan needs help to deal with the terrorism that is threatening to destroy it

Vaccination with an inhaler rather than a jab

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Just as effective:A nanocapsule vaccine can be administered without the use of injections at one mucosal site like the nose.— photo: AP

Just as effective:A nanocapsule vaccine can be administered without the use of injections at one mucosal site like the nose.— photo: AP

When an effective vaccine against the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) becomes available, it may well be given through a puff from an inhaler rather than as an injection.

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