Category Archives: india

Cost analysis of civil services preparation : Is the fees charged by coaching institutes justified

Option one: You study back home

1. General Studies

Books : Rs. 3000 – 4000

Newspapers : Rs. 250 monthly ( Total : 6000 for 2 years; you will anyway subscribe, whether you are preparing or not)

Periodicals : Rs. 650 for frontline (2 years) + Rs.900 for EPW ( one year)

Net connection : 250 per month ( Total : 6000; you will anyway subscribe, whether you are preparing or not)

Total Cost : Around 17000 ( over 2 years )

Total Extra cost : Rs. 6000 maximum (minus newspaper and net )

2. Optionals:

Books: 4-5 books for humanities optionals  ( Mostly Indian Authors). Total cost : Not more than Rs. 3000.

7-8 books for science optionals. Total cost: Not more than Rs. 5000 ( If you are not downloading pirated copies).

Total Extra cost : Rs. 14000 ( Highly liberal estimate and spend over 2 years). Use library, old books or pirated copies and you can bring that down to a few thousand rupess.

Option two : You go to Delhi to attend coaching.

1. Coaching fees :

G.S : Rs, 50,000

Optionals : Rs. 30,000 each

Total : Rs. 1,10,000 (spot payment)

2. Periodicals, newspapers, net for personal use : Rs. 13,000 over 2 years.

3. High rent and cost of living : Around 10k every month.

Total extra Cost : Around 3 Lakhs ( Conservative estimate; multiply with no.of  failed attempts, extra fee for extra coaching etc). And even after paying such huge, exorbitant costs, the quality of teaching ( as i get to know from fellow aspirants) may not always be up to the mark.

Book review: India Development and Participation by Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze

The book cover

The amazing growth story of India in the new millennium and the countless problems that we face have spawned a cottage industry of books about the opportunities and the challenges faced by the nation. It has become very difficult to get the right book that identifies the challenges in the right perspective and suggests constructive solutions.

One way to choose is by looking at the profile of the author(s). Hence the work by the renowned economists Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen, who also have a good field experience in India was an obvious choice when I came across it in a book fair. The book India: Development and Participation is one of the most comprehensive work on the challenges faced by the nation in the socio-economic front.

Citing statistics and making comparisons with other parts of the world, it talks about the challenges in education, healthcare, women emancipation, liberalisation and decentralisation. The authors expose the myth of the inclusiveness of our growth story by showing that we lag behind sub-Saharan Africa in most of the  health and nutritional indicators. The inter-state disparities is also brought into picture. Each chapter ends with a case study of the state in India that has been able to make definite progress on the subject when compared to the other states. A comparison with China, which has similar problems like us also help us in putting things in perspective.

Are we on the right track?

Even as they applaud China for its success in the socio-economic front, the authors are unambiguous in their disapproval for the authoritarian methods used by then to achieve the ends. By noting the achievements of Kerala which has better indicators than China, they call for local, community based approaches to the major issues.

The chapter on women emancipation talks about an issue that is conspicuous by its absence in other similar discourses: the problem posed by widowhood and prospective widowhood that leads to choices like male-child preference. As the life expectancy of females are higher than males and because of our patriarchal norm of large age gap between the wife and the husband, this is a very serious issue in India.

The current edition was published in 2001. Hence the statistics are old. Interested ones can dig up the latest statistics from the original source that is given under every table. Also having written in 2001, it doesn’t talk about Naxalism which has become a serious problem off late. Being a result of the socio-economic and governance problems in the rural hinterland, an additional chapter on Naxalism can be added in future editions.

Hence as a whole, this book is one of the best written books on the socio-economic challenges faced by India. Written by eminent authors with good field experience, backed by authentic statistics and put in the right perspective, the book is a must read not only for people interested in public service but for every Indian so that we are not blinded by the glitz of our ‘growth’ story and lose sight of the humongous challenges we face.

The Pseudo science

Few pseudo sciences enjoy the kind of popularity and belief as astrology. Although variants of this pseudo science is practiced in many parts of the world, the Indian brand would definitely

Image courtesy the universal press syndicate

outshine its competitors in terms of acceptability. That such a belief system which believes that the fate of a person and his character is determined by the position of celestial bodies at the time of his birth baffles reason. Even naming this brand of superstition as ‘astrology’ with close resemblance to ‘astronomy’ is itself a fraud on science.

From deciding on the compatibility of the bride and the groom to fixing the date to start a journey, from deciding on financial transactions to naming a newly born, it seems all past, present and the future are decided by a few celestial bodies hanging from the sky. Genes? they don’t exist. Which force is used by the bodies to set all these? a mystic force other than the four fundamental forces. BULLSHIT.

What bothers me is not the total absurdity of the subject but how it is accepted by the public including highly educated persons and the high decibel statements made by interest groups that ‘astrology is a science’. Astrology is not only restricted to the hindu community alone. Reliance on it by members of other major communities is also on the increase.

What made me write this post is that i came across a paper prepared by Jayant Narlikar (Founder director of IUCAA) and three others on a simple statistical test on astrology. The full paper is here:

http://www.ias.ac.in/currsci/mar102009/641.pdf

Its a basic principle of statistics is that only similar entities should be compared. The team rightly chose to compare whether astrology or tossing a coin has a better statistical chance in correctly predicting a particular event. Yes you guessed the result right. The study found tossing outperformed the sacred science of astrology.

Astrology is not a personal superstition but rather its harm is extended to innocent others also. Marriages cancelled after engagements, financial deals cancelled after finalizing the agreement etc are just a few cases. Giving a scientific look to this superstition was widely pursued by the BJP govt during their 1999-2004 term as a part of their divisive hindutva agenda. They went so far as trying to include ‘Vedic astrology’ in the university syllabus.

Superstitions challenge the foundations of our knowledge base and if let free has the potential to destabilize the basic tenets of our social life. While blind faith and irrational social compulsions will keep the believers hooked to it, various interest groups will fight tooth and nail to keep the status quo.

 

 

 

Food, Inc : Warnings for India

Happened to see the academy award nominated documentary Food, Inc today. It was about how corporate farming has replaced traditional agriculture and how it affects both the people and the environment. Together with advocating changes in the system, the documentary calls for transparency to let people know what exactly they are eating. It’s completely about agriculture in the USA. But it definitely has warnings for a developing nation like India which, I feel is slowly heading towards that stage.

Compared to other developing nations and developed ones, agriculture in India is one of the least productive and income generating. We need solid changes in the way we manage the sector if we are to redeem a sector in which 58% of our population depends for sustenance. But rather than looking for strong and solid long-term steps, the shift of approach is ostensibly towards the supposed panacea of market solutions. In the process, a number of changes are happening in the agricultural sector that make the situation described in the documentary quite possible in the near future. Although the changes are very small when compared to the scale of agriculture in India, one should not miss the warning signs which clearly shows a shift towards corporate farming.

1.GM crops: Nothing in the field of agriculture has been more controversial than the introduction of GM crops. Traditional cotton breeds have been completely replaced by Bt cotton. Today India has the fourth largest area under GM crops. One may not have forgotten the sheer callous way in which the govt gave approval for Bt Brinjal. If it was not for the organised protest of farmers and civil society and the commitment of an environment minister to move from the ‘rubber stamp’ image of the ministry, we would have seen the introduction of the first GM food crop in the nation without any on field trials, studies on the effects of humans, other crops and cattle (brinjal is used as fodder) and without any laws on labeling GM crops (so that people can know they are purchasing GM crops). Besides all such environmental and ecological concerns, both the crops are patented by Monsanto. As these crops are hybrids, seeds will not germinate and farmers will have to buy new seeds for every season from the company. As it has happened in the developed world and shown in the documentary, this would lead to a complete dependence on a few seed companies.

2. FDI in multi brand retail: This has been branded as the next big thing in India. The market retail business is estimated to be $400 billion annually. More than 30 million people depend on this sector for existence. Although the debate on this issue is a very old one, the ministry of corporate affairs has recently circulated a note to other ministries calling for a fresh debate on the issue. Experience in other nations suggest that although in the initial phases, the opening up facilitated good competition, removed inefficiencies and middle men and created value for both farmers and customers, gradually consolidation occurred leading to dominance by a few majors like Wal-mart, Carrefour etc. This meant that the competition that offered choice for farmers was no longer present and they were left with only two choices: either sell it to the corporate in terms set by them or let his produce rot. This micro control by corporates on farming issues is also discussed in the beginning of the documentary.

3. Changing pattern of agricultural loans: Lack of credit through proper channels is another problem that our agricultural sector faces. But inspite of this, P. Sainath notes that agricultural loans ranging between Rs. 10-25 crores is on the rise. These are not loans given to the ‘marginal’ (defined as one with agricultural land between .01-2.5 hectres) farmers who form 80% of our farmers but to big corporates for warehouses and corporate farming.

The need to feed one of the largest population in the world and the prospective increase in the size and nature of the demand as our economy grows is mooted as the justification for all these changes. But have we reached a stage in which the only way forward is the highly subsidized, unsustainable, harmful and intensive farming as followed in the developed nations. The answer i feel is ‘Not yet’ (and very much avoidable). The reasons are:

1. Famines and hunger in India is more a result of mismanagement of food rather than lack of availability. As the supreme court had noted, food rot in our godowns even as people die of hunger. The surplues grains stored in FCI godownsis more than 65 million tonnes. This can feed almost 50% of our population for a year. An effective way to distribute this to the poor through a leakproof PDS can go a long way in addressing our shortage.

2. We lead the world in lack of productivity. The productivity per hectre for almost all major crops other than rubber is way below global average. Fresh investment in agriculture has been abysmally low since the 1980s. The 2010 budget allocated just Rs.12,ooo crore to the sector. Improvements in the fundamentals like irrigation, dissemination of proper knowledge etc can greatly improve productivity.

The documentary shows the real side of agriculture and food market in the developed world. It should act as a strong warning for us to know what to avoid as we continue on the high growth path and join the leading economies in the world. And as most of the important, long term changes are often pushed through by the governments without meaningful debates and public discussions, it is important that we keep our eyes and ears open and keep our legislators accountable for changes in this most vital sector.

Andamans : The emerald Islands

The last family tour that we had was to the foot of the breathtaking Himalayas in Manali in the summer of 2008. My preparations for the civil services exams meant that we didn’t get time for planning another after that. We decided to plan for a getaway right after my mains. As it would be December, North India was out of the choice. Finally we decided to visit the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Planning the tour:

We had done all the hotel bookings and had completely planned the tour through Andaman Holidays, a tour agency i found in the internet.  As various ferries have to be booked for the journey to the other islands, it is advisable to book everything in advance through one of the many tour agencies based in Port Blair.

The Islands have a very interesting and an action filled history. A good idea about the island parallel histories, one starting when the first wave of humans moved out of Africa and the other starting with Lt. Blair of the British Navy surveying the island for setting up a penal settlement will enrich the experience of visiting this place. I found this book very helpful and informative in that regard. Our Plan was to base ourselves in Port Blair and visit small islands around it and one other major island for an over night stay. We chose havelock island to be our second destination.

Getting there :

Andaman is connected by sea and air to Chennai and Kolkata only. Both cities are almost equidistant from Port Blair. The sea journey would take around three days. No luxury ships are available and one has to book for cabins in one of the passenger ships catering to the needs of the local population. We had made a similar journey during our trip to Lakshadweep. The cabins were comparable to the coupe in railway coaches and the bathroom was so narrow that it was an ordeal doing your daily routines. Besides, three days would both bore and tire you. So we decided to go by air.

We started on 10th night from palakkad and reached Chennai station on the 11th morning. Forget about freshening up in Chennai central as there is only a small waiting room and a few bathrooms catering to one of the busiest station in India.  You can get volvo buses right at the front of the station. The plight of the bathrooms in the domestic departure terminal in Chennai International airport is also pathetic due to the construction work going on. Hope it will be solved once the construction work ends.

The flight just 2 hours and the Kingfisher flight was both economic and pleasant. As one approaches Port Blair, you can see the beautiful islands as emerald spots on the blue sea. Only a few island are inhabited. Beside, 80% of the land area is under forest cover. So the view is truly breathtaking. Try to get window seats in the flight. We were welcomed by a sudden burst of rain as we stepped out of the flight at the Port Blair airport. Though December is infact the best time to visit the islands and is the peak tourist season, the rains were totally out of schedule this year. The sudden rain did cast a shadow on our plans.

Port Blair

Being volcanic in origin, the topography is more like what you see in a hill station. Its more like you are on the top of a submerged mountain. One can do a few shopping. There are shops run by govt. cooperatives. Try to buy from those. A few museums run by various govt agencies gives you an idea about the marine life and the history of the islands.

The first image that comes to the mind of any Indian when thinking about Andamans is the Cellular jail. The imposing structure, standing on the highest point in the island has become the symbol of the resilience of our national movement. The ASI has done a commendable job in preserving the structure as such. One can still feel the chill of the pain borne by the political internees when walking through the corridors of the jail.

Havelock Island

The next stop for us was the Havelock island which was about 50 kms away from Port Blair. There is a govt operated ferry connecting the two islands. But we chose to go by the private ferry MV Makruzz which was faster and more comfortable.

Havelock is a tourist island and is one of the favourite destination of foreign tourist. Being so, everything from the average biriyani to room rent in hotels is costlier than in Port Blair. The stay in Havelock was undoubtedly the best part of the tour. We stayed at the Barefoot resorts. The rates were quite high we went as the season was beginning, but it gives good value if one goes during off-season.

The location of the resort could not have been better. Its located at the beautiful Radhanagar beach. The beach itself is a very long one and only the tourists come to one end of the beach. The resort is towards the other end. So its essentially like a private beach. You can have the whole beach almost for yourself. The beach is bordered by thick lining of trees. The resort is carefully huddled within these trees. The cottages were built with local wood but was highly luxurious. All parts of the resort was connected by stone payments alone and once darkness falls, you are guided only by the small torch kept inside the rooms. We got up early the next day and made it to the beach to find ourselves to be the only living souls in one of the most beautiful beach i have ever been to. I feel that alone justified the otherwise exorbitant rates charged by the resort.  We were bewildered to find the whole beach dotted by small clusters  of sand balls forming amazing patterns. It was as if the sea goddess had created ‘kolam’ with sand or martians had visited the beach in the night and left their ‘signs’. But the sight of the small crab-lings crawling out of the tiny holes at the middle of each pattern brought me back to reality. The pattern was created by thousands of crabs hatching.

Ross Island

Our next destination was the abandoned British capital of the islands, Ross Island. It is just 40 minutes away from Port Blair in normal ferry. The island was the administrative capital and the military HQ of the islands until the Japanese occupation in 1942. The island and its structures were heavily damaged by allied bombings during Japanese occupation. Although British forces reoccupied the islands after the surrender of Japan in WWII, the Island never regained its lost glory. Following independence, the new Indian administration shifted the capital to Port Blair.

The Ross island is today under the authority of the Indian navy. Navy divers competed with the ferries in crossing the channel. A portion of the island is cordoned off as naval area. The island is well maintained and a winding pavement connected all structures. The british structures have not been restored and is in a highly dilapidated situation. There was very little to be restores after the incessant bombing by the allied forces. Huge trees have grown on the walls and one wonders how long the walls would stand. There is a very small cafeteria in the middle of Ross. That was by far the smallest restaurant that we found offering lobster. So we ordered two for lunch. There is a small beach on side of the island. But it has been rendered unfit for swimming by the 2006 Tsunami.

Andaman lies at around 92 degree longitude but the time followed is IST measured at 82 degrees. Hence the day in the islands in between 5.30 in the morning and 5.30 in the evening. So dont jump out of the bed seeing the suns rays coming in through the windows. It might still be too early in the morning. Also prepare for pitch black by 5.30 pm and plan accordingly. As I noted in the beginning, Andamas is a must visit place both for its beauty and its unique identity and place in our history. The roads and tourist centres were well-kept and the people were nice. I rate the emerald islands as the third most beautiful place i have been to after Lakshadweep and Manali

The Miracle of Calcutta

Kolkata saw the worst of the communal riots before 1947 including the one on August 16, 1946, the infamous direct action day called by the Muslim League which sealed the fate on a united India. So when the date for the costliest amputation in the history of mankind was nearing, leaders feared that the flames of communal riots in Bengal would tear India apart. But Mountbatten didnt have forces to spare for Kolkata.
The whole of the Frontier force was deployed in Punjab and NWFA. When the Radcliffe line was announced, the relatively peaceful Punjab which hadnt seen any major communal clashes in the past went up in flames. As the Frontier force watched helplessly, around half a million were butchered. But Kolkata remained peaceful. Initial bursts of violence quickly died out. It was a one man army….a frail, half naked man in his late 70s, achieved through prayer meetings what battalions of armed soldiers couldn’t…..
Its said that its difficult to control a group a people, but when it becomes a mob its almost impossible. Gandhiji didnt give any elaborate talks or offer any rewards….He went into self penance of fasting and called prayer meetings. Acts as simple as that could change the mind of a murderous mob and caused them to go back. An incident of this scale would have never occurred in the history of mankind.
This might have been one of the many incidents that prompted Einstein to say, “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth”.

Identity politics in India

I wrote this for the college magazine. Its my views of identity politics which though highly dangerous are universal

Fear is one of the most powerful weapons to control humans. Of all the countless fears and phobias that humans are susceptible to, the most powerful are the ones that can be classified under the category ‘fear of the other’. It has its genesis from the survival instinct of humans to form groups or clans among people with similar interests. The earliest of the groups were formed for improving efficiency in hunting. The groups gave them safety in the highly hostile surroundings in which they lived then. Any potential disruption to these groupings was viewed with scepticism and later with outright hostility. Thus the sense of identity and hostility towards the other is as old as humans themselves. But we have come a long way from the hunter/gatherers we were. Moving out of Africa, the modern man moved far and out and in the process developed new traits, survival skills and looks. Only the hidden messages coded in our genetic makeup links all of us to the small group in Africa that diversified to become what we are now. From that initial identity, we created new identities: on the way we talked, the way social norms were set, the way we bowed in front of the all powerful, the way we dressed etc. These identities, some as old as humans themselves or some just a few decades old have become major rallying points for politicians to pursue their ends.

The Indian Identity

As a civilization we have never ceased to grow. Whether it be invaders or refugees fleeing persecution in far off lands, we have always made it a point absorb the good things they brought in and thus renew our cultural gene pool. The result was the creation of multifarious identities of being Indian. The question ‘what makes you an indian’ will get you answers numerous as pollens in an orchard and as varied as flowers in a garden.  So what exactly makes us Indians? Rather than answering that question, It will be easier to jot down points as to what does not completely define us as a nation.

We are not a single geographical entity. The geograpjical entity is the Indian sub-continent. But large parts of it are currently not part of our country and some others never were. Even when Burma was integrated as a part of British India in 1886, it held on to its individual identity. The Indian National Congress in its Poorna Swaraj declaration in 1929 had made it clear that Burma will not be part of free India. Afghanistan maintained its tribal identity throughout history and is still living up to its image as ‘the graveyard of empires’.

Contrary to popular belief, we have never completely come under a single administration either. The Guptas, Mauryas and the Mughals integrated and ruled over large swathes of territory that would become India later. But none of them could rule over the entire land. Large parts of south and north east India remained outside their rule. Even when India was politically unified under the raj, the British only ruled less than 60% of the land. The remaining was ruled by princes under the suzerainty of the British crown. When we won independence in 1947, we didn’t inherit a single india, but 14 provinces which were directly ruled by the British and 535 princely states. Also contrary to popular beliefs, the national movement didn’t give us a single identity either. The Indian national Congress was active in the provinces alone. Although the congress had some of the most illustrious leaders like U.N Dhebar and others coming from princely states, it was the congress policy until 1939 not to organize any mass movements in the princely states. But they took memberships from the princely states who were active in movements throughout the country. These people spread the modern ideas of freedom and equality in the princely states. The beacon of reform and freedom was carried by regional parties that were independent of the major national parties.

Given the way in which India was inherited from the british, a reorganization for admistrative convenience was one of the foremost priorities. After a lot of debates and commissions, it was decided in 1956 to reorganize the nation on linguistic basis. So can language compartmentalize us into rigid identities? We had 14 states based on 14 official languages then. But the number of languages that are in the eight schedule of the constitution now is 22. Besides these 22, there are innumerable languages spoken on regional basis. Even in areas in which the same language is spoken, the regional diversities can be mind boggling. The pace, the style and the vocabulary can be so varied that one may fail to comprehend a person from the same linguistic region but speaking a different regional variety. But on a broader scale these thousands of languages can be classified into 5 root categories.

Identity politics in India

Given these factors, identity is a fluid concept in India. There are no clear cut definitions or boundaries. Every person belongs to a minority in his own way. Still inspite of the fact that we have so many identities and inspite of the fact that theses identities are not always water tight, politics of identity have found its roots in the country and flourished, sometimes leading to disastrous consequences. Even the momentous event of the birth of free India was marred by violence and a refugee crisis that has few parallels in recorded human history.  Thousands of riots small and big has happened in our country ever since. There are even political parties thriving exclusively on the concept of a particular identity.

On close perusal it can be seen that all these political parties follow similar strategies to gain foothold. In the first stage, the identity is glorified citing examples from our rich history and our heritage. Together with this, mild skirmishes are made at other parallel identities to reinforce the supremacy of the particular identity. The next phase is the fear psychosis part when people are constantly reminded that all parallel identities pose a continuous challenge to our identity and hence must be resisted. Both the Hindu Maha Sabha(1915) and Muslim league(1906) gave possible hostile takeover by the other religion as the reason for their formation and existence. The final phase is the phase of outright hostility in which the party consolidates its base and calls for the complete extermination of the ‘other’.

Its not so difficult to find the hollowness in the arguments of the political parties. Its more so true in the case of India. But that doesn’t give us any room to lower our defenses. The fact that mass hysteria can be imposed even in a modern developed society was brutally demonstrated in the case of Nazi Germany. With further cultural assimilation and ‘flattening’ of the world, questions of identity can easily be converted into powerful weapons. The first step towards preventing identity blowing out into serious scales is to understand our unique history and accept our differences.

The diversity of the country is a constant reminder of the richness of our civilization. It is undoubtedly our greatest strength. Sixty years of democracy have taken us to a point from which regaining past glory and richness is a goal that is within our reach. In the process, our greatest strength will be the collective energies of our people. The lessons learnt from the pitfalls and blemishes should never be forgotten. India is more than the sum of its parts. We should accept and celebrate the multifarious identities that we simultaneously possess and the unique thread of being Indian running through those seemingly conflicting identities. If we can show the resolve to do this, the future is undoubtedly ours.

 

On the deregulation of fuel prices

Saw some buzz on the recent deregulation. Here is the rationale.

The subsidy that we get on fuel are
diesel rs.4
petrol rs.6
LPG a whooping rs.267
kerosene rs.17

What it means is that it costs HPCL, BPCL etc 54 rupees to take a litre a petrol to the petro pump, but they sell at rs.48. In the process the total losses last year was rs. 1 lakh crore. Who takes this burden? Obviously the govt. How?

1. By raising indirect taxes (you cant raise direct taxes-can cause more evasion)
2. By cuts on social sector spending
3. Printing notes
4. Asking ONGC and other upstream companies to give a part of their profits

These three acts directly affects the poor as indirect taxes are regressive (more burden on poor) and printing notes cause inflation (again regressive). Consider the fourth point. If you take away a part of their profits, those companies will have less for investments in future mining projects and acquisitions. Remember ONGC losing out to CNPC (China) in every global bid as we didn’t have the cash. So the govt appointed a committee under Kirith parekh to study this. the current decision is based on that committee’s recommendations. By deregulation

1. Burden will be equitably shared
2. We l use less (good for environment)

In short we will pay the exact price.

So relax people. Previously when you burned the fuel in your bike, you were not only harming the environment but taking a bite off the poor man’s plate. Now will be relieved of the second crime. The government has something good for you!!!

Civil Nuclear Liabilty Bill: What does it mean?

Update : The government of India tabled the Nuclear liability bill in the parliament a few days back. But because of intense opposition, the Govt has to back track. They have postponed introducing the bill and the Law Minister Veerappa Moily has said that the govt is open to discussions on the controversial bill.

The bill has far reaching consequences to every citizen of the nation that wide spread public discussions should have happened before the bill was tabled, not after it was opposed in the parliament. So what exactly is the bill and what is so controversial about it.

The Bill:

The purpose of the bill is the cap the economic liability of the supplier of nuclear reactor and the operator of the reactors and the total liability of the govt in case of a nuclear disaster (Remember Chernobyl).

  • Total liability: The total liability in case of a nuclear accident (the cash that will be distributed to people as compensation) will be 300 million SDRs (around Rs. 2300 crore or 450m Dollars)
  • Supplier: With the NSG waiver and subsequent deals India has signed with 8 nations, technically India can buy nuclear reactors from these 8 nations. So suppliers refers to Nuclear reactor manufacturers in all these nations (eg: GE(USA), Areva(France)). As per the bill, the liability of the supplier is zero. Liability is channeled from the supplier to the operator.
  • Operator: The operator, (in India all reactors are under NPCIL , a departmental undertaking under the Dept of Atomic Energy) will have to pay a maximum of Rs.500 crores
  • So the remaining (2300-500 crores) will be the govts liability……

Summing up…..if a reactor blows up, the govt will collect 500c from NPCIL and put in another 1800c and distribute it to people

All this appropriations should be done by the govt. No one can sue the supplier (read the huge American companies). If its a case of gross negligence, the operator can sue the supplier to get back what it paid (max of 500c).

If all reactors are run by NPCIL, a govt undertaking, then why divide the liability between govt and the operator??

ANS: We plan to expand our total installed nuclear capacity form 4300MW (19 reactors) to 4lakh+MW by 2050. The most modern reactor of Areva has a capacity of 1600MW. So that is about 250 reactors by 2050. The govt simply cannot run all those. So naturally we will open nuclear sector to private operators very soon. The differentiation is to take into account this fact.

Putting in perspective, the Bhopal gas tragedy case was settled off court. The total damages paid by Union Carbide was 470 million USD. That is estimated to be less than one fifth of the damage caused by the incident. So when the effect of an industrial disaster is placed at more than 2500 million USD, the govt is trying to cap a possible nuclear tragedy at 10m (Rs.500c) USD for the foreign operator…

Come on people, even common sense suggests that this is the most unjust piece of legislation ever to be taken up in our parliament. It also goes against three fundamental aspects of our legal system:

  1. Article 21 of the constitition: ‘Right to Life’. The meaning of this article has been expanded by the Supreme court ever since to Right to life with dignity. The bill threatens exactly that
  2. ‘Precautionary principle’: This is a result of a number of SC judgments on industrial cases. As a precautionary step, the onus of the safety of an industrial establishment in our country is completely placed on the operator. Lack of economic accountability removes this onus
  3. ‘Polluter pays’: This has also been a result of SC judgments. The compensation and the cost for cleaning up the environment will have to be paid by the polluter, namely the supplier and operator.

If its so unjust and unfair then why is the govt trying to pass it….Who needs this bill???????

ANS:  The American companies and the American companies alone need this bill to be passed by the govt. The wont supply their reactors to any nation that dont have a liability regime in place. The French or Russian companies dont need this.

So why cant we just buy only from Russia and France and not from US??

ANS:We cant do that. As a non NPT nation, none of the nuclear nations (NSG members) are supposed to sell nuclear reactor or fuel to us. But under US’ initiative, an exemption has been given to India (‘NSG waiver’). The waiver was given only because of US’ clout (Not for our good, but for american giants to access India’s growing nuclear market). So as a return for that India has given written assurance in 123 agreement that a part of our nuclear requirements will be sourced to American companies.

Plainly, US gave us the exemption for them to make profits, so we are bound to buy reactors from them.

Fortunately because of the intense media glare and scrutiny the issue got (The Hindu had initiated an extensive debate in the op-ed page), the bill has been put in the back burner. But going with what has been happening recently, I feel its just a matter of time before the govt passes it. Whenever American does anything, it comes with strings attached that we might have never even dreamt of. End User Verification Agreement, Iran vote and the current bill are only a few to name. Its an open world. There are other nations who are ready to offer better products at better terms (Russia has been helping us with nuclear reactors since when….even the nuclear reactor in Arihant is supposed to be based on Russian design). Given that, the policy makers in South bloc should have the balls to negotiate with US on equal terms and not come later to the people with such preposterous legislations that defy common sense.

Tail note: The liability regime in US is the Price Anderson Act. As per this liability is capped at 10 billion USD for operators (again, 1000 times higher than our 10 million) and remaining is to be paid up by the govt. Is this how the govt values an Indian life. I think preposterous is an understatement

The face of terror

This is the second time i m writing about a terrorist incident, guess ably its about the recent attack on Mumbai. Unlike all the previous terrorist attacks on our soil, the perpetrators managed to do something extra ordinary this time. By making a fool of the already much discredited intelligence machinery of ours, they converted our economic capital into a war zone. Although none of the regular services in the city was affected, the resilient city of Mumbai came to a grinding halt. And how much insensitive and naive was the reaction of the media by airing military movements live on tv which reminded us of the Munich hostage situation in which the hostage takers watched the movements of the German special forces live in the tv in the olympic village, it was able to bring the horror of a terrorist attack right to our drawing rooms. Suddenly the whole of  India could feel the horror of the hostage desperately waving for help from the windows of The Oberoi, the pain of the GM of the Taj who worked with rescue team even after knowing his whole family had been killed inside the hotel, the grief of young mocha who lost both his parents and together we prayed for the brave men in uniform who went into the war zone without any regard for personal security. We also hailed the heroics of senior police officers Karkare,Kamte who went into the line of fire obviously beyond the call of duty. It also brought right in front of us the faces of the terrorists in action for the first time.

Until Mumbai, the general idea of a terrorist was a tall long bearded man carrying an ak 47 wearing Pathan attire. But the images we saw from CST that day was a far-cry from this. Apart from the loaded Kalashnikov and the explosives filled bag, the duo caught on tape was no different, atleast in looks from an average college going student in his early twenties. The images of them walking into CST and spraying bullets at ordinary people eager to get into their respective trains back home wearing versace t shirts and cargos cant be more chilling. It shows how even ordinary young people like us are being converted into ruthless savages by mindless brainwashing. It should also lead to more thoughts regarding the real causes of terrorism. Thoughtless and futile responses like Americas war on terror can only bring more people into this track as we are seeing nowadays. When western dominance in Islam following regions is used as the reason for propagating terrorism, how can more dominance through outright invasions cure this problem? When derailing Indo-Pak talks is one of the major objectives of such forces, wont our response by cutting our ties with Pakisthan be in line with their goals? Still the insensitive media was, throughout the 60 hours of terror was not only trying to stir public response towards a violent response but also gave unconfirmed rumours like Indian troop buildup in the border headline status. Inspite of all this, the highly matured response by the government to use the situation to create international pressure on Pakisthan and to expose the nexus between that country’s military and the terrorists was exemplary and something that other nations who give dis-proportionate responses to such incidents pulling both the parties into a deeper quagmire should try to emulate.