The prime minister has always been bullish about pumping foreign corporate funds into nearly all sectors of the Indian economy. It is no small irony, that he is the same man who is trying to stoke the xenophobic fears of the middle class by questioning the foreign support—if any—for a popular campaign born of people’s concern about nuclear safety.
The nuclear plant in question, Koodankulam, has been built with foreign (Russian) support. There is also that seminal nuclear deal with the hegemon of our time, the US. Granted, the PM must welcome foreign support in technology, in which India obviously lags behind developed nations. Where he’s remiss is in seeking it for sectors like defence—disregarding concerns of national security—or retail, where genuine fears, compelling arguments and evidence abound of possible impacts on Indian livelihoods.
But the rabbit hole goes deeper. The central and various state governments have also been inviting foreign corporate bodies into vital areas of policy formulation and implementation—be it the involvement of a foreign consultancy group in drafting the 12th Five Year Plan or governance reform in municipalities. Or locating the gaps in the Public Distribution System (PDS) in states. Foreign corporations are even involved in the state-level implementation of a grassroots programme like anganwadis. A foreign bank-sponsored foundation is being permitted by a state to run its Institute for Educational Research and Training.
Is it not hypocritical of a PM who invites and oversees foreign involvement in such vital sectors to question foreign support for a popular interrogation of government policy that’s risen out of people’s fear for their lives? Isn’t it like saying that foreign money—and other support—for India’s elite is necessary and welcome, but ordinary Indians questioning how such foreign collaborations would affect their lives and livelihoods is not?
This hypocrisy from the head of a supposedly democratic government betrays an intolerance for democratic dissent that challenges existing power structures. It also smacks of an elitist mindset that seeks to protect and perpetuate these power structures. The intensity of the government’s vindictiveness against certain ngos in the anti-Koodankulam nuclear plant campaign is of the same ilk as that which was deployed, for all to see, against the members of Anna Hazare’s team who launched the Lokpal agitation.
Granted, ordinary citizens and members of the so-called civil society who question the government on vital issues like corruption, environment, nuclear plants or mega-dams may well have skeletons in their cupboards. But before throwing the kitchen sink at them, the government must allay people’s fears with transparent facts regarding the projects and reasonable arguments based on these facts. In Koodankulam, the government has chosen vindictiveness instead of addressing concerns about the environmental hazards of nuclear power, radioactive waste and the persistent fear of an accident similar to the Fukushima disaster in Japan last March.
Neelabh Mishra is editor, Outlook Hindi
E-mail your columnist: neelabh AT outlookindia.com
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
/// that he is the same man who is trying to stoke the xenophobic fears of the middle class by questioning the foreign support///
Can anybody tell me why die hard firangies and jehadis call hindus -- 'Middle Class'. Have respect for majority people or go there whose bootlicking you are busy at.
Here is a link which provides some information about geology of Koodankulam site. This article was published in DNA. www.dnaindia.com/india/report_dna-investigations-kudankulams-lurking-dangers_1655987-alll, An issue of Outlook on Solar energy and other alternate energy sources, and their progress in India will be most welcome.
Excellent article, India is more of a hypocrisy than a democracy. There is no transparency in the nuclear field, people know only what the vested interests and Government spokesman tell them. The industry is not subject to RTI, all costs are hidden from the public. The nuclear industry is doomed as it has no way of dealing with radioactive waste, no country has solved this major problem, except to bury it in the sand and pass the buck to unborn generations. India has neither the techincal ability or the infrastructure to deal with a nuclear crisis. India has no culture of safety, period. Expand nuclear plants for short term power gains at your own risk. If nuclear plants are deemed so safe why dont they build one near Delhi on the banks of the polluted Yamuna river. Cities are the power hogs while the rural, pristine areas are the locations of dangerous plants, because the poor people can be bribed or silenced by the Government.
The Outlook Magazine has been there for very long time (atleast since mid 1990s). Koodankulam commenced in 1988. If Outlook and Neelabh Mishra wanted to express their concerns on this project, they should have done long before. The project is now nearing completion, some 13000 crores of Tax payer money spent (mostly of hardworking middle class; Media folks who act as peddlers of paid news are not hardworking by anymeans). Now all of a sudden fuss is made about this project, even as TN suffers from massive rolling blackouts and massive prospect of unemployment due to closure of manufacturing units. what is the motive? Looks like a clever agenda in place to deny TN, espically Southern TN its due share in development. And it can be confimed by the fact that Outlook has seldom wrote in favour of development in fringe areas.
For all his Pro-US nuke obsession and his other major faults, MMS cannot be faulted by the media on Koodankulam.
For one thing, the NGOs against nuke energy are abnormal - financed by 'unknown sources' probably opposed to the Russians, or pro- wind energy lobby, which is prevalent in that area. ONLY women are protesting. Whats the background to this stage-managed protests?
The nation has to wake up to the danger of these mischief mongers and semi-learned protesters. Else, we have to give up on achieving better standards of living.
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