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On November 29, about 50 employees of the Kaiga atomic power plant in Karnataka were reported to be suffering from radiation poisoning after radioactive heavy water from the plant contaminated the drinking water of the plant (November 24). Kaiga is one of India’s newer nuclear reactors.

According to sources, the workers experienced a mildly higher level of radiation than permissible after drinking from a water cooler near an open area in one of the reactors. The contamination was detected when some of the affected employees noticed a change in the urine pattern. They were then admitted to a hospital for tests, which confirmed radioactivity. Scientists said the contamination was unusual because the affected employees do not go into the actual reactor area but work around it. The affected employees are receiving treatment at the plant hospital in Mallapur.

The Nuclear Power Corporation (NPC), which runs Kaiga, did not initially respond to media queries about the alleged leak. According to the Deputy Commissioner of Uttara Kannada, N.S. Channappa Gowda, there were no casualties or injuries reported. Kaiga station director, A.M. Gupta said he was surprised to see the workers with a slightly higher level of radiation. M.R.Srinivasan, former Atomic Energy Commission chairman, said the victims were from various departments, and steps should be taken to restrict entry to sensitive areas of the plant in the future. B.Bhattacharjee, of the National Disaster Management Authority, said that apart from the 55 in hospital, the rest of staff was safe.

A case of sabotage isn’t ruled out as Atomic Energy Commission chief Anil Kakodkar said that somebody “deliberately” put radioactive tritium in a water cooler at the Kaiga water plant. Kakodkar said, in an interview to the Times of India, “The investigations are being carried out from two angles; first to ascertain as to who contaminated the water cooler with tritiated heavy water, and the second, from the radiation protection angle.” . People involved will be punished under the Atomic Energy and other acts after investigation is completed. Meanwhile, Uttara Kannada District Superintendent of Police, Raman Gupta, said that the police have offered their assistance in the investigation at the Kaiga plant. “We are taking it seriously as public interest is involved. We are waiting for the nod of Kaiga authorities for investigation.”

Karnataka education minister V H Kageri, who is also the district in-charge of Uttara Kannada where Kaiga is located, allayed fears of radiation leak affecting the people and the surrounding areas. He said, “There have been no reports of anyone being affected by the radiation incident. It is an isolated case in the unit and precautionary measures have been taken to prevent any harm to the people or nearby areas.”

Amidst all apprehensions about the radiation contamination at the nuclear plant, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has denied any radiation leak and said there was “nothing to worry about”. “I have been briefed about it, it is a small matter of contamination and is not linked to any leak,” Manmohan Singh told reporters accompanying him on return from Trinidad and Tobago on November 29 at night. “There is nothing to worry. All our systems are intact and under control. An inquiry has been ordered,” he said.

The nuclear accident at Kaiga, Karnataka should act as an eye- opener to key safety regulations ahead of India’s ambitious atomic expansion programme. It is only when lapses such as these are stopped will India be able to realize its ambition. It is time that the ones in power and the ones entrusted with such important responsibilities sit up and take stock of the situation.

Corruption Index in India

In a country where a scam is uncovered every second month and the scam value has a series of unending zeroes trailing behind it, who cares anymore for a hundred-crore scam? Like I mentioned in a previous article (The Madhu Koda Scam…In Common Man Terms…), since 1992, the total money involved in scams stands approximately at an appalling Rs. 73 lakh crore (courtesy: Outlook). Had it been 20 years ago, the country would have been in uproar over the exposure of a scam of this magnitude, and involving no less than a Chief Minister. There would have been demonstrations, rallies and public meetings by all political parties; effigies would have been burnt, accompanied by vociferous slogans demanding the immediate resignation of the Chief Minister and punishment of the guilty.

Public Reaction during Harshad 'Bull' Mehta scam..

That is, however, a story of the past. Today, a Madhu Koda scandal hardly

Corruption Chart of Indian States

creates a ripple. It would probably make it as the top story in the press nationwide for a week. A Rs.4000 crore scam – what’s so new about that? Yet another corrupt politician laughing his way to Swiss banks, filling his coffers with the nation’s wealth–the same, old story. The country couldn’t be less bothered. We have become cynical enough to understand that the hierarchy is designed to let these ministers get away. In the Madhu Koda case, what caught the country’s fancy was the sheer scale of his money laundering operation and the size of his loot. For instance, during the raids by the police at his house, money- counting machines were found—now, that would probably help you grasp the scale.

V.K.Krishna Menon-the torchbearer

Tracking the history of corruption in India (a rather entertaining experience, I promise), one would find that corruption and scandals in India had a rather humble beginning. Probably, the first to make any impression was the Jeep Scandal of 1948 when V. K. Krishna Menon, then High Commissioner to the UK, was involved in a scam worth Rs. 80 lakhs. Today, this amount would barely suffice as a bribe to some low-level assistant in the transaction. Any scandal below a minimum value of a few thousand crore is a sheer waste of time and energy. In an interview with Outlook, E. A. S. Sharma, ex- Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, says, “The Indian public looks thoroughly anesthetized and numb, unable to express any concern at all.”

The political sphere, however, is yet to experience any such numbing

Arun Jaitley

emotions. Every political party has expressed its concern, its stand, its opinion and some other things in the same tune. With the first phase of Jharkhand assembly polls beginning yesterday – November 25, 2009 – the war of words between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress over the ‘alleged’ corruption by former chief minister Madhu Koda has intensified. While the Koda-hit Congress promised good governance in Jharkhand, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley asked the government to make public the list of people suspected to be involved in the Koda scandal.

Shahnawaz Hussain

Former Union Minister and saffron brigade’s Muslim face Shahnawaz Hussain has sought a public apology from the Congress for the misrule of Madhu Koda as chief minister and his alleged amassing of hundreds of crores through hawala transactions. “Madhu Koda alone is not responsible for the unethical deeds that took place during the former’s regime when parties like Congress and RJD kept supporting him, knowing full well the state of affairs,” said the Lok Sabha MP from Bhagalpur. An icing on the cake of this blame game is the statement made by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Rajnath Singh, who said that the Congress may hush up the Madhu Koda scam like the Bofors kickback case.

The latest reaction happened just two days ago, on November 24, 2009. The BJP-JD (U) combine on Tuesday created uproar in the Lok Sabha over the Madhu Koda issue and forced adjournment of the House. The BJP raised the issue and demanded a discussion. With the demand being turned down by the Chair, BJP’s Deputy Leader in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and others proceeded to stage a walkout.

According to an article in the Economic Times, poor handling may weaken the Koda case. An I-T lawyer associated with the interrogations said that the case, which was planned so meticulously at the initial stage, is gradually turning out to be `absurd’, which may `derail’ the entire investigation.

Its time to take a firm stand

This is exactly how most scam stories end. There is a lot of vigour and anger, enthusiasm and dedication at the beginning—a feeling of “we’ll get to the core of this”. However, the vigour keeps wilting as the news treks backward from the front page to the third page to the fifth page before blinking feebly as a snippet – and then it’s gone. Investigations, apparently, are going on but I doubt whether it’s true. Investigations happen as long as the media has its roving eye on the case. The public, anyway, has a short memory, having too many things to think about. Somewhere down the line, all the money looted from the nation’s treasuries are to be replenished only by the masses. Hence, perhaps, they hardly consider it worthwhile to waste time on useless ventures. They are more liable to think of coping with the situation than worrying about punishment; a punishment which would never be meted out. Ending on an oft-repeated but very important note, it’s time this stopped, and stopped for good. It won’t happen overnight, I know. I always believed that a stir is enough to create a ripple and its time we stirred…!!

The Chinese control of Aksai Chin was and is important to China’s control of Tibet. Indian control of the southern slope is important to its defense of the North- East. This was the geopolitical logic underlying the proposal of an east-west trade off between Chinese and Indian claims. China would abandon its claim to the southern slope, recognizing Indian sovereignty over that tract. In exchange, India would give up its claim to Aksai Chin, recognizing Chinese sovereignty over that area. Through such mutual compromise, each side would be able to protect their own vital security interests while conceding a similar right to the other. The Gordian knot of complex legal and historical arguments would be cut. Most importantly, the threat to each side’s territorial security posed by the claims of the other side would be eliminated.

China has twice proposed an east-west swap. The first time was in 1960 during the rule of Zhou Enlai in China and Jawaharlal Nehru in India. In 1980, Deng Xiaoping revived Zhou’s proposal. Deng explicitly suggested that the border issue could be solved. China would recognize the Mac Mohan line in the east, while India would respect the status quo in the west.

India was not interested in an east-west swap either in 1960 or in 1980. The perpetual gap between India and China on the issue of India’s rejection of the swap proposal remains huge.

It has been over thirty years since the border talks were started. While progress was made with every meet, an agreement is still an improbability. Hence, expectations were not high as the two countries met for the 13th round of border talks on the 7th of August, 2009. There seem to be certain issues which are preventing the meets from bearing any fruitful result.

India’s inability to decode the Chinese grand strategy has been one of the outstanding reasons. China is a satisfied party in the border talks. It got what it wanted (the Aksai Chin corridor linking Xinjiang with Tibet), partially through discreet encroachment in the late 1950s and the rest through open capture in the 1962 War. China’s ‘swap proposal’ was an attempt to legitimize its occupation as such. When that did not work, they diverted the attention of New Delhi and asked them to focus on other aspects of bilateral relations.

Another reason is failure on the part of either country to develop an alternative future in case the border talks fail. This is sad since India is one of the six countries against whom China has used force in the past. A lot would depend on China’s opinion of India as a military power. Unfortunately, most Indian studies on China’s military modernization point out that it is aimed at Taiwan. Similarly, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) plays an important role in the Chinese decision-making process but it is yet to give India its due importance.

The third outstanding reason is the act of domestic consensus, both intellectual and political. In comparison to China’s successful policies with neighbouring countries, India has casual proposals such as ‘swap of territories’ or ‘status quo,’ which tend to validate China’s claims and violate the spirit of the Indian Parliament’s resolution of 1963.

Most political parties agree that fostering a harmonious relationship with China is important. However, hesitation is high in taking a public stand on this issue. The stand of the Indian Left on Sino-Indian relations or the border problem has been of little help. With both intellectuals and politicians shying away from actively shaping public opinion, the challenges for India’s negotiators rise high.

Negotiations with China have been a challenge for many countries. India is no exception. Successful negotiations assure greater involvement in Chinese history and culture, negotiating strategies and analyses. Domestically, India has the advantage of a stable government and brilliant, far-sighted leadership. Our strategies are in seasoned hands. All we need is an innovative idea that will be able to design a border package acceptable to popular aspirations. This might be a time-consuming process, but with patience and diligence, it is achievable and will be achieved.

 

 

Madhu Koda, former Chief Minister of Jharkhand, is probably one of the most oft-heard names on the news circuit today. Every news channel, in its top 10 headlines for the day, has something new to let India know about him. Coming to think of it, he deserves every bit of coverage he has been getting. He is, after all, at the centre of investigations into an alleged Rs 2500-crore money laundering and corruption scam, one which could well be one of the largest corruption scandals India has seen.

The Chief Minister of Jharkhand from 2006 to 2008, Madhu Koda is a 38- year old tribal leader who did well for himself in the political scenario and is currently an independent Member of Parliament. He is accused of misusing his power and position by illegally selling mining rights, granting mining and road- building contracts for hefty bribes, and siphoning the cash overseas. It might interest the reader to know that all these contracts hardly ever came good, as the roads, bridges, and other infrastructure were never built.

The key players in the scam were Madhu Koda and his close friend Binod Sinha, his brother Bikash Sinha, and two other brothers, Sanjay and Dhananjay Choudhury. All four of them were businessmen dealing with mining contracts.

There are different versions of how the scam came to the notice of the media and the IT department. Some say that the spark for the corruption probe came from Durga Oraon, a graduate student and tribal member in Jharkhand, who was annoyed at the slow pace of development and the plight of the tribal residents. According to the Outlook, however, a series of investigative reports published from 2007 onwards in the local Hindi daily, Prabhat Khabar apparently blew the lid off the scam. Usha Martin group, among the state’s oldest and biggest mining companies, is a major shareholder in this newspaper. Madhu Koda, after several deliberations, turned down a long- time proposal of this company due to inexplicable reasons and reduced the company stakes from 76% to 49%.  Many say that the downfall of the CM began with this decision, as a series of exposes began appearing in the newspaper.

Koda's trail in India

Tax officials, who made dozens of raids on the offices of Mr Koda, say they have found a paper trail showing that he spent the cash on assets ranging from an iron ore mine in Liberia to hotels, shopping centres and properties in Thailand, Dubai, South Korea and Bhutan. According to reports, money was carried on buses from Jharkhand to Mumbai and then allegedly transferred to Dubai via hawalas  or illegal foreign currency brokers.

Last month, the Union Finance Ministry’s Directorate of Enforcement accused Mr. Koda and the eight alleged associates of money laundering, in a preliminary filing that will lead to formal charges later.

India has become the land of scams and scandals. Since 1992, the total money involved in scams (stands approximately at an appaling Rs. 73 lakh crore (courtesy: Outlook). Corruption on this scale presents major image problems for the country. Over the years, our political and judicial system has been modified so as to accommodate such scamster politicians.

We have set up different levels of hierarchy in order to avoid any such swindling of funds. Obviously, it has been rendered ineffective, seeing the the increasing scale of each scam over the last decade. Funnily enough, a point to be noticed is that all these scams come to light only when the job is done, not while it is being pulled off.

This vicious system continues to empty the country’s coffers along with robbing the country of entirely of its scope for development. In many countries special courts have been set up to try corrupt rulers. It is time India took a step too. There should be permanent, fast track courts to ensure that these looting ‘ministers’ are brought to justice sooner rather than later. In a country where half the population struggles to manage even two square meals a day, the discovery of a Rs 4000 crore scam is appalling and calls for stringent punishment. This, along with stepping up pressures for public accountability, will probably make the ‘smart’ ministers think twice before considering the nation’s wealth as their own!!!

Now that we have to set up a blog and make it work..i realise it is hard work beckoning..!!!

Hello world!

This is my first attempt at blogging..!!!Hoping to enjoy it..