Friday, June 8, 2012

CPI (M) and Koodankulam: What Mahasweta Devi left unsaid

These are some notes in the context of Mahasweta Devi's letter to Pinarayi Vijayan telling him that she would visit his house if he would visit Koodankulam with her. Some so-called "activists" have been under the impression that  Mahasweta Devi managed to stump Vijayan and the CPI (M) with that letter. According to them, the CPI (M) is confused on Koodankulam and has no answer to Mahasweta Devi. Here is a short response.

I don’t think, whether one agrees with it or not, that there is any ambiguity in the CPI (M)’s position on nuclear power. The CPI (M) has a longstanding position against nuclear weaponisation and in favour of universal nuclear disarmament. During the 123 agreement debate itself, this point has been made again and again. At the same time, according to the CPI (M), India has to aim for the attainment of self-reliance within the indigenous civilian nuclear programme. For that matter, the technological option of nuclear power has to be kept open and not closed; research should continue.

The CPI (M) believes that it is impossible to generate something like 40,000 MW of nuclear power by 2021, as the UPA government claims. Imported nuclear reactors are unviable due to their high cost. They also have longer periods of completion. There are also uncertainties and dangers involved in ensuring supply of imported fuel to the same. There are cheaper and speedier options open for generation of electricity with indigenous technology and a combination of fuels like coal and natural gas and hydel power. Along with these options, there has to be also gradual development of nuclear technology and fuels in the country.

Now, this was the position of the CPI (M) when the nuclear deal was stuck. The 123 deal imposed new complications into the policy. The Left parties held that the 123 deal 
“...should not be seen in isolation from the overall strategic tie-up with the United States. The nuclear cooperation deal is an integral part of the July 2005 joint statement, which has political, economic and strategic aspects. It is also closely linked to the June 2005 military framework agreement signed with the United States. It is therefore not possible to view the text of the bilateral “123” agreement negotiated with the United States as a separate and compartmentalised entity without considering its implications for India’s independent foreign policy, strategic autonomy and the repercussions of the US quest to make India its reliable ally in Asia...”.
Thus, the 123 deal compromised India’s commitment to nuclear non-weaponisation as well as violated its policymaking autonomy in the energy sphere. Thus, the CPI (M) demanded not just the rejection of the 123 deal; it was also critical of starving the indigenous research sector in domestic nuclear energy generation for funds.

The Fukushima incident inserted an even newer complication. It generated fears of nuclear accidents among people. Thus, any new nuclear plant could not be installed without taking the people into confidence and addressing their concerns and fears regarding safety. Even if the plant is supposed to be “technically safe”, it is not an automatic substitute for allaying the fears of people living nearby. This has also been the CPI (M)’s position after the Fukushima disaster.

In Koodankulam, the CPI (M), going by the above position, has not disapproved of Phase 1. On Phase 2, it has stated:
“The two reactors set-up in Koodankulam and purchased from Russia much before the nuclear deal falls in a different category. The local people have various apprehensions about the safety and the impact on the environment of these reactors, especially after the Fukushima accident. It is necessary to conduct an independent safety review and allay the apprehensions of the people before commissioning the plant. The CPI(M) has demanded an immediate halt to the import of nuclear power plants to Jaitapur and other locations. Existing nuclear power plants in India should undergo a thorough safety review to be conducted by an independent body. There has to be an independent and autonomous nuclear safety regulatory authority. The proposed legislation by the government to set up such an authority will only make it a controlled body captive to the government.”
This is the CPI (M)’s position on the Koodankulam plant.

The CPI (M)’s Tamil Nadu unit has made two seperate points. First, it has supported the plant’s commissioning. Secondly, it has asked the government to end repression there and convince people there about the project. See the following reports in support of these two points, sorted by dates.

In support of the plant:

“The State Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Wednesday urged Central and State governments to initiate steps for commencing operations of the Koodankulam project soon after reviewing the reports submitted by the expert committees.” 
“The State unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Friday called upon anti-Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) protestors to give up their agitation, as panels of experts appointed by the Centre and the State governments had vouched for the safety of the plants...In a statement here, State secretary of the party G. Ramakrishnan welcomed the State government decision to go ahead with the commissioning of the plants. He requested the local people to extend their support for the functioning of the plants.”
Against repression on the agitating people:

“The State unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has urged the Centre to defer the generation of power from Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project until all its safety aspects are ensured. In a statement here, CPI (M) secretary G. Ramakrishnan said that after the accident in a Japanese atomic power plant following tsunami, a fear psychosis had cropped up all over the world regarding atomic power stations. This had triggered a fast at Koodankulam in which a number of local people and organisations were involved.
While a number of countries were subjecting their atomic power plants to re-certification, India was also trying to get such a certification for the new nuclear reactor it was planning to buy from France. “However, as far as the Koodankulam plant is concerned, only a superficial inspection was conducted after the incident in the Japanese plant. It is not satisfactory,” he said. 
The CPI (M) pleaded that a “trustworthy team” of experts should certify the safety aspects of the Koodankulam plant. Besides, both the Atomic Energy Commission and Nuclear Power Corporation should set up all the safety measures. “In addition, this atomic power plant should be brought under the Nuclear Liability Bill”. “Also, the government should convince the public that their livelihood will not be affected because of the plant. Till these things are completed, commencement of power generation should be deferred”, he said.”
“On the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project, Mr. Ramakrishnan said that the people in Tirunelveli district still entertained fears about the safety of the project. He, therefore, wanted the government to keep the project in abeyance till an independent committee of experts studied the project and guaranteed its safety.”
“The Centre should put on hold all works at the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project till an independent expert committee certified the safety of the nuclear reactors there, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) secretary, G. Ramakrishnan, has said. Talking to reporters here on Friday, he said that though the type of reactors used in Koodankulam were in use in European countries for the last four decades, it was for the first time that this type of reactor was being installed in India. Pointing to the apprehension expressed by the local people, Mr. Ramakrishnan said that the Centre should appoint an independent expert committee to study the safety aspects of the reactors. “Till such time the panel certifies the safety of the reactors, the work should be put on hold,” he said. The Centre should handle the issue in the right way, he added.”
“On the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant row, he said that the priority of the government should be to allay the fears of the local people on the safety of the plant. The Centre should also consider developing livelihood infrastructure for the local people as suggested by the former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, he added.”
“In a release, CPI (M) general secretary G. Ramakrishnan stated that based on former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s recommendations, the Centre should ensure the safety of those in and around Koodankulam and allocate Rs.200 crore for development activities.”
“The CPI(M) condemns the police repression on the people protesting against the commissioning of the nuclear power plant at Koodankulam. Those arrested are being charged with sedition and for waging war against the State which is baseless and unwarranted. There are reports of water supply being cut off and other essential supplies being blocked to the Idinthakari village. The CPI(M) calls upon the state administration not to resort to repression and force against peaceful protesters. Since there are a number of issues still agitating the people regarding the nuclear plant, the concerned authorities should immediately begin talks to address these issues.”
“In a statement, State secretary of the party G. Ramakrishnan welcomed the State government decision to go ahead with the commissioning of the plants. He requested the local people to extend their support for the functioning of the plants. Mr. Ramakrishnan said that instead of resorting to repressive measures such as filing criminal cases against the protestors, the State government should take steps to allay the fears of people about the technology and safety aspects of the Koodankulam project.”
“CPM state secretary G Ramakrishnan on Friday urged the state government to make efforts to muster support for the Koodankulam nuclear power project by convincing the anti-nuclear protesters on the safety aspects.”
“Mr. Ramakrishnan said that instead of resorting to repressive measures such as filing criminal cases against the protestors, the State government should take steps to allay the fears of people about the technology and safety aspects of the Koodankulam project.”
10) 19 May 2012:

News item from Theekkathir (translated from Tamil):
CPI (M) demonstration demanding withdrawal of cases on people of Idinthakarai: 100 persons including MLA Nagai Mali, arrested 
Tirunelveli, dated May 18th 2012 
The CPI (M) carried out a demonstration demanding the withdrawal of cases instituted by the Government of Tamil Nadu against the people opposing the Koodankulam nuclear plant. Hundreds of people who participated in the demonstration, including MLA Nagai Mali, were arrested.
The Secretary of the Tirunelveli Corporation unit of the CPI (M) R. Karunanidhi presided over the demonstration and meeting, which took place in Jawahar Maidan in Palayankottai.
The CPI (M) district secretary spoke inaugurating the demonstration. Former MLA Noor Mohammed and Nagai Mali MLA spoke condemning the launching of cases. The CPI (M) district secretariat member V. Palani, other District Secretariat members, corporation committee members, District Committee members and many others participated. Since there was no police permission for the demonstration, the police arrested hundreds of people who took part in the demonstration. They were released a few hours later.
A photo of the demonstration organised by the CPI (M) at Jawahar Maidan in Palayankottai dated 18th May 2012 against police repression on agitating people at Idinthakarai.

A roughly translated excerpt from S. P. Udayakumar's speech welcoming the CPI (M) delegation at Idinthakarai on 18th May 2012:

“The Congress is completely corrupt. The BJP is communal. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) is a party that fights for the working people from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. Even though they differ from us, they have come to visit us and lent their voice against repression on us. We thank them for coming.”

From another news report on the same speech in Tamil:

"காங்கிரஸ் ஊழல் கறைபிடிந்த கட்சி, பிஜேபி மதவெறி கட்சி, இந்தியாவில் உழைக்கும் மக்களுக்காக குமரி முதல் இமயம் வியாபித்து போராடும் இயக்கம் மார்க்சிஸ்ட் கட்சி என போராட்டக்குழுவின் அமைப்பாளர் உதயகுமார் வரவேற்று பேசினார்."

A CPI (M) delegation went to visit the agitators on May 18th, 2012. The agitating group has itself in a press release stated that:
“On May 18, 2012, a Communist Party of India (Marxist) team came to visit us at Idinthakarai under the leadership of Comrade P. Mahalingam (aka V.P. Nagai Maali), an MLA from Kilvelur constituency in Tamil Nadu. That evening the CPI(M) organized an agitation at Tirunelveli in support of us and some 50 of them including 6 women were arrested by police.”
So, I do not think Mahasweta Devi’s plagiarised paragraphs on the Koodankulam plant have to be taken seriously by Pinarayi Vijayan. I say plagiarised because it turns out that large parts of Mahasweta Devi's "techno-savvy" letter to Vijayan that dealt with Koodankulam were plainly lifted from a website. Please compare her letter with the article on Koodankulam written by one K. Ramachandran. The TN State unit of the CPI (M) has strongly stood with the agitating people there, even as it has supported Phase 1 of the project. 

Mahasweta Devi's plagiarised letter to Vijayan wrongly assumes that the CPI (M) is silent on the repression on people there. The same "civil society activists" who wrote the letter for her have also deliberately hidden this fact from her. Hence her question "I will visit Pinarayi village and will you visit Koodankulam to express your solidarity to the people there?" is a non-starter. 

For how long would Mahasweta Devi continue to be a tool in the hands of these wicked anti-CPI (M) guys? Why should she cut a sorry face for the short-term personal gains of these few individuals? 

No comments:

Post a Comment