Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Asghar Ali Engineer

(Secular Perspective April 16-30, 2011)

Anna Hazare is emerging as another Gandhi and he is not only in every newspaper but also on almost every page of every newspaper for making UPA Government to accept his demand to draft Lok Pal Bill with real teeth eighth members of civil society on the drafting panel. The UPA Government had no other course but to accept Hazare’s demand after having been exposed in several matters of corruption.

Since some of the ministers of UPA Government and some bureaucrats having been involved in 2G scandals and in Common Wealth Games scandals, it was on very weak wicket and there was overwhelming response from civil society to Hazare’s fast unto death, Government was on weak wicket and so easily gave in to Hazare’s demand. Had it not been so it would not have been cake walk for Hazare.

Hazare is being praised by entire nation today and has become role model for thousands of activists and civil society also feels proud of him. This fight against corruption is also being described by some as 2nd fight for independence. These are all short time reactions in emotional moment. However, one should not go by such emotional assessments. One has to not only examine its long term implications but also whether it is really such a dazzling moral victory as it is being made out to be. 

I think since Hazare is being described as Gandhian and his struggle as Gandhian, we must first briefly reiterate what Gandhian values are and what strictly speaking, Gandhian struggle ought to be. To begin with there are three essential elements of Gandhian struggle which cannot be compromised: truth, non-violence and utterly simple life style. Of all the three one element was surely present in Hazare’s struggle i.e. non-violence.

It is really debatable whether the other two were present or not. Non-violence in long run is possible if, and only if the struggle is based on truth and nothing but truth. Also, to sustain truth and non-violence stark simplicity of ones life style is a must and without it in no way truth can be sustained and that is why it has been so difficult to produce another Gandhi.

Now coming to overwhelming response to Anna’s fast against corruption. Naturally corruption itself is based on high life style, falsehood, greed and lies. Who gave response to Anna’s struggle? There are three distinct elements: the middle classes whose life style is far from simple, let along starkly simple like Gandhi. Also, it is mainly middle class, which apart from big business, easily resorts to corruption for its own work done. It readily shells out money to get a birth in train, it bribes municipal offices for certain extensions and unauthorized structures and also readily accepts bribe as petty government officials to allow illegal work and so on.

These middle classes also pay heavy capitation fees for admission of their children in good schools and professional colleges. In fact there is hardly any form of corrupt practice which these middle classes do not resort to. These classes have hardly any moral right to fight against corruption.

The second element which was responding to Hazare’s call was a political class (though to some extent it remained invisible for strategic reasons) which also invisibly mobilized through its cadre a section of civil society to weaken the ruling UPA which again is not a pure motive. The third element was of course of those who really wants to fight against corruption on principle and this section can be described as much closer to Gandhian philosophy and values. This section was the smallest in the whole mobilization.

It is also necessary to understand the difference between Anna Hazare and Gandhi. Anna, at best, is Gandhian, not Gandhi. He has adopted Gandhian approach, nothing more, nothing less. Gandhi was original thinker and had much deeper understanding and above all he had pure motives and always heard voice of his conscience. Only those with pure motives can hear voice of conscience. In that respect Anna cannot be compared with Gandhi. He does not have deeper understanding and towering intellect, much less pure motives.

Anna is not on record to having ever denounced communal violence. He kept quiet during Gujarat riots throughout. Gujarat genocide was a matter of great shame for India. Had Gandhi been alive, he would have undertaken fast unto death immediately, whether there was response from civil society or not. Non-violence was matter of principle for Gandhi, not mere strategy.

Not only this, Hazare praised Mody for his ‘development model’. Can development model be isolated from violence it causes in the society? Is development something absolute? If it does not help weaker sections of society what the use of that model. Gandhi wanted weakest of all to benefit from development and Modi’s development is benefiting only the powerful and the elite, Reliance, Tatas and others. That is why the big industrialists find prime ministerial stuff in him.

What is worse when he was asked about communal carnage in Gujarat, he offered no comment and only spoke at the prodding of his colleague and said he stands for communal harmony and all, including Muslims, are part of his campaign. This was all after thought and on suggestions from his colleagues who are much more secular than Anna Hazare.

Also, the overwhelming mobilization from civil society is part of the game by RSS, BJP and rightwing religious leadership like Baba Ramdev who felt aggrieved for not being included in the drafting committee. Such mobilization with rightwing political view is not good for secular health of the country. It can be greatly harmful. We know the result of Jaiprakash Narain’s movement of which Narendra Modi is the product although Jaiprakash Narain was towering above Anna Hazare.

Jaiprakash Narain’s anti-corruption movement and thereafter V.P.Singh’s campaign against corruption did not have ever lasting effect, else we would not be facing such campaign again. Both these eminent leaders were above Anna Hazare. So there is no point in celebrating Hazare’s success as 2nd independence movement. The media has its own objectives in building up Hazare and his campaign. .  

Hazare is all for Modi’s kind of development and media is mainly controlled by big industrialists and hence they see in Hazare one who can be helpful them and since nothing works like Gandhi’s name media is projecting him as another Gandhi. The well known Gandhian from Gujarat Mr. Chunibhai Vaidya has criticized Hazare’s statement about Modi praising him for rural development. Where is rural development?, he asks. Had there been rural development 10% of rural population would not have migrated to cities. Shri Vaidya’s comments are based on census 2011 figures. “So what is there to emulate Modi under these circumstances in rural development? He asked.

Malika Sarabhai has also criticised Hazare for Modi praise. She said that there has been little development in rural areas under Modi. “In fact  village common  grazing land and irrigated farmland have been stealthily taken by the Modi Government and allotted to industrialists at throwaway prices”, Sarabhai said. According to her rural population has suffered a lot under Modi.

She said that the state has witnessed maximum corruption during Modi’s rule like Rs.1700 crore Sujalam-Sufalam Water conservation scam, Bori Bund checkdam scam of Rs.100 crores and fisheries scam of Rs.600 crores. “The state is in terrible debt because of Modi’s largess to industry.”, she said.

Other activists from Gujarat belonging to human rights organizations like Juzar Banduqwala, Prajapati and others have pointed out glaring facts about Gujarat and have challenged Hazare about his praise for Modi. Gandhiji’s basic emphasis was on rural development but Hazare is praising one who not only allowed carnage of religious minority but is also helping industry at the cost of rural areas. Also, Gandhiji stressed human dignity of the last man in society whereas Modi’s Gujarat has no dignity for dalits and oppressed castes. In Modi’s Gujarat dalit children have to sit separately for lunch even in Government schools and if any teacher make them sit together he/she is immediately transferred. Perhaps Mr. Hazare is not aware of all these harsh realities.

While Hazare’s fight against corruption is most welcome and must be praised but if wants his fight to continue he cannot afford to keep company with those who are responsible for corruption of various kinds. Gandhi like purity is a must for a very challenging fight.
Centre for Study of Society and Secularism

Five central excise officials booked for service tax fraud

2011-04-20 00:50:00
Last Updated: 2011-04-20 04:47:23

Mumbai: Five top officials of the central excise here have been booked by the CBI's anti-corruption unit for their alleged involvement in a service tax scam to the tune of Rs 10.9 crore, CBI said on Tuesday.

CBI sleuths on Tuesday conducted searches at offices and residential premises in Nagpur, Mumbai and Chandrapur. They seized relevant documents and registered offences under sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act and the IPC against the five, CBI SP Thomas John said.

Two officers of the rank of deputy commissioners and three superintendents of central excise here helped prominent companies like Bajaj Steel, Llyod Steel and Sun Flag in evading service tax on foreign business deals and avoiding penalty, he said.

The officers were identified as N B Meshram and George Varghese (deputy commissioners) and superintendents D B Patil, J S Solankhi and B K Athle.
All the five, by favouring the erring companies, have caused a loss of Rs 10.9 crore to the government, John said.

All About: Service tax scamCentral exciseCBITopnewsBajaj SteelSun FlagLlyod Steel


Asia nuclear reactors face deadly tsunami risk

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

News photo
Edge of disaster: People walk along Fulong Beach near Lungmen nuclear power plant in Gongliao, Taiwan, in April. AP


JAKARTA — The skeleton of what will soon be one of the world's biggest nuclear plants is slowly taking shape along China's southeastern coast — right on the doorstep of Hong Kong's bustling metropolis. Three other facilities nearby are up and running or under construction.
Like Japan's Fukushima No. 1 plant they lie within a few hundred kilometers of the type of fault known to unleash the largest tsunami-spawning earthquakes.
Called subduction zones, these happen when one tectonic plate is lodged beneath another. And because the so-called Manila Trench hasn't been the source of a huge quake in at least 440 years, some experts say tremendous stresses are building, increasing the chances of a major rupture.
Should that happen, the four plants in southern China, and a fifth perched on Taiwan's southern tip, could be in the path of a towering wave like the one that struck Fukushima.
"We have to assume they'll be hit," said David Yuen, a University of Minnesota professor who has modeled seismic probabilities for the fault. "Maybe not in the next 10 years, but in 50 or 100 years."
Asia, the world's most seismically charged region, is undergoing a nuclear renaissance as it struggles to harness enough power for its huge populations and booming economies.
But China, Taiwan, India and several other countries frantically building coastal facilities have made little use of new science to determine whether these areas are safe. At least 32 plants in operation or under construction in Asia are at risk of one day being hit by a tsunami, nuclear experts and geologists warn. And even when nations have conducted appropriate seismic hazard assessments, in many cases they have not shared the findings with the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, leaving experts frustrated and in the dark.
"It's pretty astonishing to a lot of us that so little priority is placed on the work we do," said Kerry Sieh of the Earth Observatory of Singapore, who has studied and written about the Manila Trench, where pressure has been building for millions of years. He is among those who say it is only a matter of time before it snaps.
In assessing the tsunami risks to nuclear power stations, scientists focus on their proximity to subduction faults, volcanoes and areas frequently hit by underwater landslides — all of which can trigger seismic waves. Because giant tsunami recur, they also look at historic and scientific records, going back up to 4,000 years if possible.
The greatest threat comes from the subduction faults crisscrossing the globe, some far from the minds of policymakers, nuclear industry officials and the public because it has been so long since they exploded.
In places where tectonic plates that form these faults are "coupled," or stuck together, the stresses are the biggest, especially if centuries have passed without a major energy-releasing earthquake.
When the strain eventually forces one plate to pop up or dive under the other, the resulting temblor can spawn mammoth waves like the one that struck off Japan's northeast coast on March 11, triggering the nuclear crisis that has carried on for more than a month.
While there is some "coupling" at the Manila Trench, there is debate about just how much. Scientists say more research needs to be done to determine if pressure is building and along which segments.
A computerized simulation by Yuen's students shows a magnitude 9 quake along the Manila Trench sending waves racing along the South China Sea, before slamming Taiwan's southern shore 15 minutes later. The tsunami reaches China's southeast coast in around two hours. It also strikes Hong Kong, which sits just 50 km from the nearest nuclear plant — close enough to see increased radiation levels if a plant were to be damaged by a Fukushima-like event.
Scientists paint a worst-case scenario in which waves 5 to 8 meters could strike the plants in China and Taiwan.
Science has come a long way since the first nuclear plant was built in the 1950s. By carbon dating the ash, pollen or other organic material attached to tsunami sand deposits swept inland with the giant walls of water, geologists can determine to the decade, and sometimes even the year, when the wave hit and how big it was when it roared ashore. That's important because some tsunami only strike once a millennium.
"This is the smoking gun, the calling card of the tsunami, and when you find it, especially far inland, you know that this is an area that has been hit with a large tsunami in the past," said Bruce Jaffe, an oceanographer and tsunami expert at the U.S. Geological Survey.
Such research is considered essential in deciding where to locate nuclear power stations because most are built along seashores, rivers and lakes to supply the massive amounts of water needed to keep their reactors from overheating. Even plants perched on hills or cliffs may be in danger because the pipes used to carry up water used for cooling could be damaged in a powerful tsunami.
"When you're talking about radioactivity and possibilities of explosions . . . you have to look at what is within the realm of possibility," said Jody Bourgeois, a tsunami expert at the University of Washington who was doing research in Japan when the disaster struck. "You should be building it with factors of safety for the maximum possible events."
It's not the first time a tsunami has threatened nuclear reactors. The 2004 earthquake off Indonesia's subduction fault spawned the monster tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen nations. It also sent waves slamming into a nuclear plant in the southern Indian township of Kalpakkam, the country's center of atomic research, nearly 1,600 km from the quake's epicenter.
Though the reactors automatically shut down and no radioactive material was released, it showed that even facilities far from dangerous faults need to prepare for the worst.
While the near miss in India raised awareness, it did not prompt major changes to the safety design at the Madras Atomic Power Station, said its director, K. Ramamurthy. Last week, however, a top government official said India would revamp the safety features at all its nuclear plants to try to prevent a Japan-style crisis.
The Madras plant is among the scores that have yet to ask the IAEA for an independent review to determine if their tsunami preparedness assessments meet international standards.
The same holds for Pakistan, which built a plant along a coastline near Karachi that was hit by a tsunami in 1945, as well as for China, Taiwan and the U.S.
Though the reports aren't mandatory, Antonio Godoy, the IAEA's recently retired top seismic safety expert, said many countries have held up efforts to build a database identifying the plants vulnerable to tsunamis based on such reviews.
The Fukushima crisis does seem to have jolted some governments into action.
Tsunami expert Tso-Ren Wu of Taiwan's National Central University, warns that "we are long overdue" for a similar quake on the Manila Trench. He was recently commissioned by Taiwan to model worst-case scenarios for all three of the island's nuclear plants and a fourth under construction.
His studies indicate two plates that form the subduction zone are pushing against each other at a relatively fast 8.7 cm per year, forcing extreme amounts of energy to build up. A fault slip from the two plates would be up to 38 meters, comparable to what occurred during the 1960 magnitude 9.5 Chile earthquake, the largest on record. By comparison, the slips in Indonesia and Japan were estimated at around 20 meters. The greater the slip, the more water is heaved up to create bigger tsunami waves.
It's not yet clear, however, if the Japan disaster was a wakeup call for energy-starved China, which has the world's most ambitious nuclear power expansion.
China's nuclear regulators declined to answer questions submitted by The Associated Press, but have said in the past that plants along their southeastern coast have been fitted with the most modern technology and are able to withstand huge storm surges from typhoons, which hit with far less force than tsunami.
As for the likelihood of a mammoth tsunami, Li Zhong-Cheng of the National Energy Center told the state-run China Daily newspaper after last month's disaster that coastal areas are protected by a wide, shallow continental shelf that is not conducive to the formation of big seismically triggered waves. Other scientists say there isn't enough research to make such a declaration.
Some historical records, though inconsistent, indicate a 10-meter tsunami in 1782 from the South China Sea killed as many as 40,000 people after hitting southern Taiwan. Records also point to an 8-meter wave in 1765 that swept as many as 10,000 people out to sea in the same province where the Chinese plants are located.
But experts say China needs to look much further back in time. Unlike Japan, sand deposit studies have just begun there and have not yet yielded evidence of ancient tsunami. More research is needed along the coast and in the Philippines — which would have been within reach of the same waves.
If that data, along with predictions about future earthquake-spawned tsunami are not taken into account, some fear disaster could strike again some day.

Bharti Airtel rises by 2.18 per cent to Rs 375.80


Mumbai, Apr 19 :

Bharti Airtel moved up by 2.18 per cent to Rs 375.80 leading the top gainers in the Sensex-based group A, on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) today.

The other gainers were Rel Comm went up by 2.08 per cent to Rs 107.80, L and T by 1.62 per cent to Rs 1706.80, HDFC Bank by 1.40 per cent to Rs 2348.05, TCS by 1.32 per cent to Rs 1164.85, DLF by 1.24 per cent to Rs 236.45, Wipro by 1.16 per cent to Rs 450.40, Jaiprakash Asso by 1.09 per cent to Rs 97.05, Bajaj Auto by 1.06 per cent to Rs 1448.35.

The losers were Hero Honda declined by 4.64 per cent to Rs 1777.20, BHEL by 2.37 per cent to Rs 2135.60, Hind Unilever by 1.20 per cent to Rs 276.95, ITC by 1.05 per cent to Rs 187.95 and Maruti Suzuki by 0.82 per cent to Rs 1250.55.


Youth sets himself ablaze for Sri Lankan Tamils issue


Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, Apr 19:

A youth committed suicide by immolating himself, allegedly for the Sri Lankan Tamils issue at Seegampatti village in Tirunelveli district, last night.

According to reports reaching here today, the deceased R Krishnamurthy (25), an engineer, doused himself with kerosene oil and set himself ablaze in his house. He died on the spot.

Unconfirmed reports said Krishnamurthy had reportedly written a letter before taking the extreme step stating that he was upset ''with the plight of ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka and the diatribe unleashed against the innocent Tamils by the Rajapaksa government in the Island nation.'' Marumalarchi DMK (MDMK) General Secretary Vaiko visited the house of Krishnamurthy this morning and paid his homage.

Seegampatti village was very near to Kalingapatti, the home-turf of the firebrand politician and pro-Tamil activist Vaiko

Fake license scam: Senior DGCA official stripped of responsibility


New Delhi, Apr 19:

After days of dithering in taking action against officials involved in the fake pilot licence scam, the government today finally acted on its promise and stripped its controversial Joint Director (Air Safety) R S Passi of his post.

However, Mr Passi, until now Joint Director (Air Safety), Northern Region will continue to be at the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), according to senior officials.

"Mr. Passi has been taken off his responsibilities as Joint Director (Air Safety), but has not been sacked," said officials, adding, "he has just been removed from his post in the Air Safety Directorate." Explaining that this "development", finalised nearly three days back, was an internal arrangement and not fallout of the ongoing controversy, officials said, Mr. Passi continues to be with the aviation regulator DGCA but has not been allotted any new assignment.

Though no reason has been given for his removal, sources said the recent controversy where his daughter, working with a private airline, was found to be having a fake pilot licence, was the immediate trigger.

She was sacked after screening of pilot licences, in the wake of the fake licence scam which put the spotlight on the DGCA itself, led to this sensational discovery.

Despite having failed a flight test at an aviation academy in the United States, Mr Passi's daughter had managed to get a job with a private domestic airline here allegedly due to her father's influence.

Sources added that the removal of the high-profile official had been keenly anticipated, especially after his daughter was forced to resign from Spicejet Airlines last month, and the Ministry of Civil Aviation was under pressure from various quarters over "taking some action" against officials responsible for turning a blind eye to the fake pilot licence issue.

So far, 13 FIRs - six related to Airline Transport Pilots Licenses (ATPLs) and seven concerning records of Commercial Pilot Licences (CPLs), have been filed by the DGCA after scanning over 4,000 of the nearly 14,000 licences (4,000 ATPLs and 10,000 CPLs) issued till date.

Presently, three teams of DGCA officials, assisted by experts, are scrutinising record books of air traffic controllers, who keep a track of pilots' flying hours, and nearly 40 flying institutes as part of their auditing process following the scandal.

Flying academies are also being scanned for their 'intake-output' records on fuel consumption, period of time spent by trainees, number of staff and infrastructure, besides other expenses to tally it with the 'on-record' jottings done to create pilots' log sheets of flying hours - a process that authenticates one's licence.

Yesterday, Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi had threatened to close down any institution involved in churning out fake pilot licences, saying, "Such fake institutions must be closed at the earliest. We cannot encourage such institutions."


Pawan Hans helicopter crashes, 17 dead

UPDATED  19/4/2011 3:48:07 PM  

News 24 Desk


A Pawan Hans helicopter on Tuesday with 23 people on board crashes into a gorge in Tawang town of Arunachal Pradesh. According to information, at least 17 persons including three crew staff were killed in the terrified incident. While six were rescued. Sources in the civil aviation ministry claimed that the chopper caught fire in the air and later fell down.

The Pawan Hans Mi17 chopper was flying to Tawang from the Lokopriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati and had taken off at 1245 hours, agency sources said.

Pilots Captain Varun Gupta and Captain AK Tiwari were scheduled to land at the Tawang Civil helipad at 1320 hours. It caught fire, broke into pieces and crashed into a gorge close to the helipad at around 1357 hours, the sources said.

While 17 persons on board were killed, two crew members and four passengers survived with grievous injuries, Tawang Deputy Commissioner Gamlin Padu said.

The injured were rushed to the civil hospital at Tawang and would be air-lifted to Guwahati tomorrow, the DC said. (PTI)

Subramanian Swamy to move Supreme Court if Prime Minister does not give nod for Sonia prosecution


Chennai, Apr 19:

Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy today said he would move the Supreme Court if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not give sanction within three months to prosecute Congress President Sonia Gandhi under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Dr Swamy said he had made out a prima facie case on documentary and circumstantial evidence that Ms Gandhi abetted Italian businessman and close family friend Ottavio Quattrocchi to obtain an illegal commission in the Bofors Gun Purchase deal.

Talking to newspersons here, he said ''the law is very clear that the Prime Minister should grant permission.

''If he did not grant the sanction by July 15, my lawyer-wife would move the Supreme Court and I would pursue the case after my return from Harvard in August,'' Dr Swamy said.

Stating he had submitted a 206-page petition, seeking sanction to prosecute Ms Gandhi under Sections 11 and 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, he said the Prime Minister had to decide on the petition within three months.

Dr Swamy claimed he had enclosed sufficient evidence to prosecute Ms Gandhi and the Prime Minister had to decide whether he had made out a prima facie case to prosecute her.

The Prime Minister could not send his reports for any opinion or seek the assistance of his officials.

The Prime Minister's sanction was necessary as Ms Gandhi, being the Chairperson of the National Advisory Council, was a public servant. The post was equal to Cabinet rank.

Polling percentage of 2011 Tamil Nadu Assembly Elections