Archive for April, 2006

April 27, 2006

Narmada, Bhopal, etc etc

First and foremost thanks to the Be the Change team for the wonderful banners for Bhopal and Narmada. The source code is available here. Be the Change team will appreciate lot more of these from you folks!

A lot has been going on – be it Narmada or Bhopal or Coke or Reservations. Polarizing it may seem, digging in for information can change perceptions at times. But who has the time to dig? Life has become so fast that people categorize you as either you are with the tide or you are against it. People with the tide always see everyone moving with the tide, some might be just washed away with the tide – but still are with the tide is the arguement.

But what is the cost of a human life? Who can determine if my life is “expendable”? Is it fine in the name of national security or patriotism?

I have no problem with foriegn companies coming to India. We live in a globalized world. Heck otherwise I wouldnt be sitting in the US and typing this out. But I will respect companies which respect people and doesnt cause any harm. I want tightening of laws and tougher implementation of the laws. Nothing like this.

Respect companies which respect people. And if nothing else, the least we can do is listen to voices which are being drowned or washed away in this “development” tide. http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/Supplement/article/489/ lists some hotspots. If coke is doing what all it claims to be doing in rain water harvesting or whatever then why are locals in the areas where there are coke plants complaining? Cant a take moment of my life and listen to them? We cant drown more voices……we need to stop and listen to them and make any corrections. And if you are too small for making a difference – two things
a. quit drinking coke
b. If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.

There are many things you can do. The least you can do is spread the word!

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April 19, 2006

Narmada – Group of Minister’s report!

So a group of ministers went to the Narmada valley on a fact-finding mission. Somehow they never chose to make the facts public except for the leak which was carried by the Hindu. Our state and central governments have themselves failed to follow the order of the Supreme Court – this is not an issue of whether big dams are good or bad ….. no, I am not talking about that at all.

Full report of the GoM panel:

http://www.hindu.com/2006/04/17/stories/2006041705231100.htm

“General Observations

1. The complaints from various quarters that the Rehabilitation and Resettlement of oustees of Sardar Sarovar Dam has not taken place in consonance with the orders of the Supreme Court have been found to be correct.

2. In spite of the extreme shortcomings in respect of Rehabilitation and Resettlement of oustees, the Madhya Pradesh Government can organize proper effort for rehabilitation, say, within a year from now. The leadership there has to show its political will to accomplish this gigantic task.

3. The Chief Minister of Gujarat had assured the Water Resources Ministry, in a recent letter, that Rehabilitation and Resettlement in Madhya Pradesh could be fully ensured in accordance with the orders of the Supreme Court. It will have to be ascertained as to how Gujarat Government could come to the rescue of the Madhya Pradesh Government in this behalf.

4. The outcry against the SRP (cash award) must be responded by stopping this practice as it has bred corruption and thousands of people the GoM met in the valley, have rejected the same as a practice breeding corruption. Besides, this practice has been adopted by the State Government with the approval of the GRA. It is yet to be seen whether the Supreme Court would find this practice to be in line with its specific instruction which said: “every displaced family whose more than 25% of agricultural landholding was acquired would be entitled to be allotted irrigable land of its choice to the extent of land acquired subject to the prescribed ceiling with a minimum of two hectares land and that project-affected families (PAFs) would be allotted a house/plot free of cost”.

5. The GoM found that there was no moral and legal justification for deducting Rupees One lakh by way of Income Tax for every unit of Rupees Ten lakhs that is to be given to an oustee as a settlement under SRP.

6. In due course of time, the Government must explore a better system of redressal of grievances than what is sought under the present GRA. It is a fact that 5000 petitions for redressal of grievance are pending before the GRA. The Chairman of the GRA is headquartered at Bhopal and his visits even to Indore are few and far between which has meant a great hardship for the oustees.

7. The position of the adivasis (oustees), particularly in the areas like Kakrana and Kharia Bhadal, which the GoM could not visit, is reportedly very bad. The GoM will pay a visit there if required, in due course of time.

8. The Ministry of Water Resources had been insisting that Madhya Pradesh Government should adopt the mechanism of referring ATRs to Gram Panchayats according to the previous Government’s assurance given in the then Chief Minister’s letter of 29th August, 2003. Since the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister has finally responded positively on this issue recently, the ATRs will now be sent to Gram Panchayats, as stated by the Chief Minister in his meeting with us on April 7, 2006. That will, however, not have any effect on the problems at hand.

9. The GoM felt concerned about SCs & STs for whom there doesn’t seem to be any special provision in respect of Rehabilitation and Resettlement.

10. The reports of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Sub Group and the GRA on the basis of which Narmada Control Authority (NCA) granted permission for raising the height has been largely paperwork and it has no relevance with the situation on the ground.”

April 15, 2006

A message from a friend on a hunger strike

Yes on a hunger strike in India, for Bhopal while all I do is post this here and call and email and fax the Indian Government to act!

Take action: http://studentsforbhopal.org/

Bridget Hanna’s Blog, on hunger fast in New Delhi:

We are at day five of the hunger strike. This is where health begins to decline. Media attention is wavering and the Prime Minister’s office is playing games. Maybe we’ll get a meeting with him Monday and maybe we won’t.

This is a hunger strike. A strike: like a blow. People have said “hunger strikes are manipulative and useless. Why hurt yourself instead of your enemy?” It’s hard for many in other countries, particularly in the US, to understand why it is done, what it means in the context of a country founded by Gandhi. It is hard to understand that gesture, the gesture that says “I know so deeply, I believe so certainly, that I would put my life in your hands to make you understand, to make you act.”

Here’s what it does: it makes everyone else feel uncomfortable.

Here’s what I feel – rage, guilt, fear, anxiety, frustration, helplessness, to start. Perhaps many of the same things that those in Bhopal, ignored for so long, are used to waking up to, are used to tasting in the water. The hunger strike forces us to feel, force us to face our own beliefs (what do I believe that deeply?). It can force us to challenge our own helplessness.

Are you helpless? No. Please realize that. The Bhopalis give you that gift. Your phone call, your email to the Indian government, your fax to the embassy, your screaming voice outside an official’s home at night. Yes! Your newspaper editorial, your cousin the news producer, your political bookgroup, yes. Now is the time. Activate them! Please. Think creatively, take to the streets, and throw your weight around. They would not do so, but I am begging you.

Here is what a hunger strike can do: it can shame, deeply shame it’s targets (we can compliment the Indian government here for still being vulnerable to shaming). A strike makes them consider their own power, their brutality is exposed, just as it makes me and you consider our power, our brutality. What can we do, how do we act?

I don’t know if you understand what is at stake here. Yes, Bhopal was the world’s worst industrial disaster. Yes, 20,000 have died, 20,000 are drinking contaminated water every day, and hundreds of thousands of second-generation children may always suffer. No, no one has been held criminally responsible for these deaths. But this is even bigger. Bhopal is about what kind of a world we will all live in. If India can stand up to the biggest chemical company in the world and say “you can’t do business here until you repair the damage you have done to our country and people,” that precedent could fundamentally challenge the reign of profits over people globally. It could become a building block for all the movements for social justice and for a non-toxic future that have piled up behind it for twenty-one years.

The Bhopal campaign, all six demands of the Marchers (re-posted below), can be won. Everything from the clean water that so many here would die for, to “Blacklist Dow,” the statement that cuts to the heart of India’s love affair with chemicals and multinationals, can be won. From the sidewalk at Jantar Manter we can starve and sing and talk, but we cannot move mountains. This battle will be won with international support.

Or, still, it can be lost. I don’t mean to manipulate you but from here on the ground, I don’t know what else to do. Your actions could save the lives of friends now and they could change history forever.

I read this today: after five days of starvation the body enters ketosis, where it begins cannibalizing itself. When it does so, the breath of the faster begins to smell of fresh pears. Oh my, this won’t be pretty.

– Bridget Hanna, Hunger faster from New Delhi

April 6, 2006

Always thought about it…

But could never articulate it like Dilip in Rediff .

Well – that is the sad part of our life, as long as it doesnt affect us “directly” we wont act. I was thinking of a piece like Dilip’s before Narmada, for the Bhopal march.

What is more shocking and I am coming to terms with is the media in India. I have stayed four years away from India and surely my thoughts and ideas about how the country is are surely a bit romanticized! I knew a sort of responsbile media. Today all I see is tabloids, which my firefox adblock nicely blocks off. But the articles make me ashamed.

Rediff mentions a letter of support by Frank Pallone and others for Bhopal to the Judge in NY. They fail to mention that Frank Pallone also wrote a letter, alongwith 20 other congressmen to our own Prime Minister urging him to provide clean drinking water to the Bhopal survivors.

Some small actions you can take:
a. If an engineer or scientist – review the documents and see for yourself what a mockery the so called engineers of the Narmada dam are making of your education: http://petitions.aidindia.org/narmada_petition
You can send a fax to the PMO http://petitions.aidindia.org/narmada
Support the Bhopalis quest for clean, drinking water: http://www.studentsforbhopal.org/FaxAction/fax_action.php

Mr. Prime Minister, I dont think you are respectable or honorable. You are answerable, you are answerable to me and rest of the citizens of India. What shady deals did you cut with Dow CEO at the two breakfasts you had with him till now? WHAT WAS YOUR CUT?

April 4, 2006

Powerless in USA!

Well….if the power goes out in India, you are guaranteed it wont return for a few hours.
In the US, there is no guarantee. It might come back the next second or might not come back for a few days (yeah seen those bad days too, and no, I dont live in the Hamptons). The fun is when you use electric stoves! Nothing to eat, no gas station can fill up an empty tank without power, you cant walk 10 miles and even if you do, you may find the place closed – what do you eat?

Seriously – so much of life in this country depends on electricity. I should learn to stock up some junk food for such unreliable outages.

Anyway, so yesterday the power went off. Was poking fun at an ad, which had this person throwing a power switch on and off and not knowing what was switching on or off. Similar thing happened – in about 15 minutes, the power came and went for 20 times. This was after a powercut of 3 hrs.

So what do you do when the power goes off? No tv, no computer, no internet, no email. Luckily my cell phone was working and had some charge. So I figured out how to dial my parents with just one addressbook entry. Yeah, no brainer – but yesterday was the time I could find to do that! Seriously send in suggestions on what to do, when you dont have electricity!