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!

March 14, 2006

So is this the superpower?

giving away medical security of 3 billion people, the food security of 1 billion people in exchange to spend millions of dollars to “lobby” a country of 300 million people, to secure a nuclear deal?

Is that what a superpower means to people of India?

Medical security: WTO/TRIPS, patents amendments
Food security: What is this deal with Monsanto (was this the same company kicked out of Andhra Pradesh for something called BT cotton??) and Wal-mart and Dow Agro Businesses (isnt this the owner of what was once called Union Carbide?)?

February 13, 2006

Pretty interesting editorial…

NY Times editorial (served in my Gmail by the RSS reader!!) was interesting. It talks a lot about Japanese not able to acknowledge their past misdeeds. Ok, Japense foreign minister’s words. Guess when many other western countries will learn from the same editorial. Guess, it is fair to conclude that even the most developed countries are not honest! Of course, I am also not totally proud of India’s history – I do wish I were proud of every bit of Indian history – but sorry I cant be. In fact the present scenario is even more painful – age old systems like the caste system are so badly engrained in the society’s memory that it is plain shameful.

But back to the editorial. Which country or society is brutal upon itself to accept its own misdeeds? Sure some are making amends. But again who said history is not dependant on the society which reads and interprets it? Now was dropping an atomic bomb a necessary evil or just a plain evil act? Was killing a bunch of people because they rebelled a wrong act or is that also justifiable?

I have a friend who is a historian. And she told me once that there are established ways of understanding the facts (scientific – like carbon dating, etc) and interpreting them. But then I guess this fails with recent history (less than a century ago types). Because these are events still fresh in people’s minds and hence totally opinionated. It would be interesting to go a couple of centuries ahead in time and see what the society then has to say about – the Japanese or the Americans or the British or the Germans or the Indians. But surely in the past 100 years, a lot of dynasties collapsed and a lot of democracies took birth. And this is just the political history. Scientific history and its gains probably will occupy the bulk of the history of this era!

February 8, 2006

GMail ROCKS!

Well,
1. Save chat!
2. Chat from the browser:)
And this is so cool. God knows what they are using underneath – it doesnt sound like the Java IM yahoo had once upon a time or still has (that made my computer scream – why are you doing this to me?!). Who uses yahoo anymore? And this feature seems cool…..off the record!

Of course there are many other things about gmail I love…. I would like to have one more feature. Different signatures for different from addresses. I am not sure why people havent thought about it….but I would prefer to have a different signature for different email addresses I use. And hence not sit and edit my signature after it is already added!

Read more on the google blog.

February 3, 2006

Sadness galore…

Aibo (see my post Feb 19th 2004 – first post in this category!)….is being put to rest. CNN report tells me that. And now that is sad.

AIBO was the cutest dog! Now if I want a pet, I need to get a real pet. A real dog and have my carpet wet:(
How can sony do that? Please get the AIBO back? yeah it is pricey and I still cant afford it …. but removing from the market is even tougher! Nothing more to ogle at in the tech world!

Please save the dog! How about an online petition for the same?

January 30, 2006

I am telling you…

I am telling you …. this is the conspiracy of Pakistan cricket board!
The first two test match pitches were rigged to get no result. And the third one a grass top to kill Indians!
That way Pakistan will win the match and hence the series.

Any bets?

On another note….everyone is calling to remove Ganguly that he is not performing. Then why not ask Tendulkar to be dropped too?

Sania Mirza got the Padma Shri. The confusing part is – what are these awards….are they for individual achievements or wearing the Indian cap?! I also dont understand how a nationality became important in the tennis opens? Except for Davis cup or Olympics most of the tennis tournaments dont have anything to do with the country from which the player is!

In the same light, BCCI doesnt also have the sole right (or does it…was their any change recently??) to use Indian colors on cricketers. It shouldnt have. Such a crappy organization, no good for either cricket nor for India cant have this. But this in itself can be a LOOOOT longer post.

Returning to the tennis kid from my hometown, I dont know her talents, never seen her play….but hate the number of unforced errors she makes! All said, I totally support this kid. Well if nothing she carries the aspirations of 450 million women folk of India. And some men like me.

The most outrageous comparison I ever hear is comparing her to Tendulkar – both by media and hence hated by a lot of others. How can you compare her to Tendulkar? He is so talented, she has done nothing nor is she talented.
Now that is being unfair to her. Tendulkar inspired a bunch of people to try out the bat and ball….well he at least got lazy bums like me to follow cricket. All said and done, cricket is still badly riddled with more politics and talent rather than hardwork or even fitness! So much for him. Not a consistent batsman in the team, except for Dravid in the past 3 years. This is the result?

On the opposite note – Sania Mirza, probably inspired by Tendulkar, takes on a different sport and tries to excel – what is wrong? She needs to be encouraged. Hey at least she consistently reached second round in all grand slams last year! I wish she be Number 1 someday. Even if she isnt, I hope she continues where she is for a couple of years. She will go a long way in raising not just the aspirations of women in India but also boost their confidence and we can expect more sportswomen. Till then, let us cheer the odd Sania out of the billion we are!

And mind you, dont even call cricket a religion in India? Who celebrates when the Indian eves do better than their male counterparts in cricket? Only them and their families probably. So much for cricket as a religion. Call Tendulkar a religion….no problemo!