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Disingenuous Diplomacy to Push Forward BJP’s Nuclear Policy


Disingenuous Diplomacy to Push Forward BJP’s Nuclear Policy

Sukla Sen

 

In his Agenda for nuclear diplomacy1, the author, Rakesh Sood, has rather intriguingly tied up two different issues together.

But before taking that up, let's look into the claim made by the author right at the very beginning of his article: "On June 22, the Narendra Modi government announced that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol had been ratified (emphasis added)."


This appears to be rather misleading. On two counts. One, while some of the news reports indicate the ratification as an accomplished fact, some others indicate otherwise. For example: "I can confirm that we are ratifying (emphasis added) the Additional Protocol to the IAEA Safeguards Agreement," said Syed Akbaruddin [on June 23], spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs.2

What, in this regard, is far more important is that while the Additional Protocol had been signed by the Government of India (GoI) back in early 2009 (March 15, as reported by Sood in his subject article; while the IAEA site3, however, reports that the Additional Protocol was actually signed by India on May 15 2009), the ratification was pending for long five years; and it was to be ratified by the Indian parliament. Here is an authoritative testimony to that effect: "The Indian parliament must ratify the [additional] protocol for it to enter into force."4 While the UPA never presented the "additional protocol" before the Indian parliament for ratification, nor did the NDA during the last (brief) session of the parliament (from June 4 to June 11). 


So, the version given out by the Reuters, and also a few others, to the effect that India has given a commitment that it would be ratifying the Additional Protocol appears to be the correct position in this regard.
It is rather striking that how Sood, who should be knowledgeable enough on this issue given his career profile, committed such an obvious slip. (So is the deafening silence all around as regards the fact that the Indian parliament is yet to ratify the Additional Protocol as required.)


This actually takes us to the issue why the ratification of the Additional Protocol remained pending for more than five years since signing of it by the GoI.
The reason is rather simple. There was virulent opposition to the Indo-US Nuclear Agreement5 both by the Left Front and the BJP. (The Additional Protocol6 was only a part of the process to get that Agreement clinched.) The Left Front withdrew its outside support to the UPA-I government on this issue and the BJP not only voted against the confidence motion which had to be moved as a consequence of the withdrawal of the Left support but also created a great ruckus in the Lok Sabha during the debate on the motion. The BJP had also publicly committed to renegotiate the Agreement as and when it comes to power7. The BJP position as regards the Indo-US nuclear deal is quite succinctly captured in these words (of its own, spelled out in August 2008): "[The] BJP and many other political parties stand firmly in opposition to the deal. ... (I)n the [India-specific Nuclear] Safeguards Agreement India has not been accorded the status of a nuclear power state in line with USA, Russia, UK, France and China. BJP feels that as a consequence of this deal India will not be able to conduct a nuclear test if any time, in future, it thinks it is necessary in the interest of defence and security of the country. It will also come in the way of India becoming a nuclear power state. It will compromise with our national sovereignty and our strategic interests."8 There was also specific objection to India-specific Nuclear Safeguards Agreement and the Additional Protocol (on the ground that it'd curb India's nuclear sovereignty) The ferocity of the opposition to the deal is the only reason one can think of why the Additional Protocol was not presented to the Indian parliament for long five years even after it being signed by the GoI. Sood's own explanation that the issue "was left pending ratification because there were other, more difficult and more critical issues that needed to be tackled first" sounds utterly unconvincing. Sood, as it appears, just does not want his readers to revisit the stand taken by the BJP on this issue (only in the recent past) given its complete U-turn now, without offering even the faintest hint of any explanation whatever. (The Presidential address to the joint session of the parliament delivered on June 9 (in its 31st para) just blandly informs: "The international civil nuclear agreements will be operationalized and nuclear power projects for civilian purposes will be developed."9 “Renegotiation” is just a completely forgotten idea!

 

So then why the (somewhat ambiguously worded) official announcement as regards India ratifying the IAEA Additional Protocol at this particular point of time? For that we'll have to look into the precise chronology of a few closely related events.

 

It was on Monday, June 23 (not June 22 - a Sunday, as indicated by Sood), the announcement was made.10 The same Reuter news report, confirming the date, also informs: "In a report last week, a defence research group said one Indian enrichment facility, located near Mysore, was undergoing an expansion and could be capable of producing a large surplus of weapons-grade uranium from mid-2015." The "report" referred to above had actually been released on June 20.11 The key portion of the report reads: "IHS Jane’s defense and security intelligence experts have identified a possible new uranium hexafluoride plant at the Indian Rare Metals Plant (IRMP) near Mysore, India. This site in India will support new centrifuges that will substantially expand India’s uranium enrichment capacity, most likely to facilitate the construction of an increased number of naval reactors to expand the country’s nuclear submarine fleet, but also, to potentially support the development of thermonuclear weapons. (Emphasis added.) IHS Jane’s experts assess that the new uranium enrichment facility could become operational by mid- to late-2015."11 Quite significantly, the Reuters report quoted earlier further informs: "[Indian] Officials have shown displeasure over the [IHS] report, with a newspaper quoting one saying it was "mischievously" timed to influence a meeting this week of the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires (emphasis added)."10 And another news report tells us: "Days ahead of the June 26-27 NSG meeting in Buenos Aires, India said it was ratifying an agreement, a so-called Additional Protocol, with the International Atomic Energy Agency (emphasis added) to expand oversight over its civilian nuclear programme."12 This report also informs that "(a)n influential world body [i.e. the NSG] that controls nuclear exports will address the sensitive issue of closer ties with India (emphasis added) - which is outside the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - at an annual meeting this week, a draft agenda obtained by Reuters showed." 

 

Now, therefore, it won't perhaps be too irrational to connect the dots and thereby infer that if the IHS report (released on June 20) on the discovery of a clandestine Indian site meant for uranium enrichment and potentially supporting a thermonuclear weapons (or Hydrogen Bombs, in common parlance) development programme was (deliberately) timed to mar India's case in the then forthcoming June 26-27 NSG meet, India's (sudden) announcement as regards ratifying the IAEA Additional Protocol on June 23, without actually doing so, was very much meant to offset its (anticipated) impact. In fact a commentator on and analyst of nuclear issues of very considerable repute, Mark Hibbs, has been quoted in the aforementioned Reuters news report to have drawn the very same conclusion: ""India sees its ratification of its Additional Protocol as an arrow in its quiver supporting its quest for NSG membership," said Mark Hibbs, a nuclear expert at U.S. think-tank the Carnegie Endowment."

 

Moreover, the negotiations for nuclear trade with the US commenced soon after signing of the relevant agreement between India and the US on October 10 2008.13 & 14 And accordingly Mithi-Virdi in Gujarat and Kovvada in Andhra were (reportedly) earmarked for supply and installation of nuclear power plants by US-based companies - the former for Westinghouse and the latter for GE Hitachi.15 And, at no stage, non-ratification of the Additional Protocol was reported as a hindrance.

 

Not only that, had the real intention been to impress the US President whom the Indian Prime Minister is scheduled to meet only in (late) September then one would have rather waited for the Indian parliament's budget session due in early July (from July 7 - August 14) which would provide an opportunity to get the Additional Protocol actually ratified by the parliament.

 

And, if still Sood is terming the subject announcement as a move towards boosting India-US nuclear trade (echoing the official position16). it has apparently twin purposes. One, to help camouflage the real intention. And, two, more importantly, to use this argument as a springboard for launching his public campaign in favour of tweaking the India's Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010 (in sync with the Modi government's anticipated move?). 

 

Be that as it may, we'll now try to look into the second part, arguably the very core, of Sood's article.

 

Sood’s Central Argument

 

Sood's central argument is: "Ratifying the Additional Protocol was the low-hanging fruit but significantly, the decision indicates that nuclear diplomacy will remain a priority for the Modi government. The focus should therefore now shift to resolving the ambiguities of the 2010 Nuclear Liability Law. (Emphasis added.) Without this exercise, India can only import nuclear fuel for the existing power plants; it will not be able to undertake the much-needed expansion of the nuclear power sector. It is not only the foreign suppliers who would like clarity on this issue; Indian vendors are equally concerned about its ambiguities." And, he further goes on to urge: "what the Modi government needs to ensure is that supplier liability does not become “infinite” or “open-ended” (emphasis added). What is necessary is a genuine effort to address the concerns of the suppliers’ community so that their liability can be quantified in a manner that does not raise costs to prohibitive levels." Though Sood is careful enough not to make it explicit, he, in fact, even justifies the concept of supplier's liability in principle (even if just for the record); given the present context, the sum and substance of his urging is that that India's nuclear liability law will have to be sufficiently bent to meet the demand of the (potential) suppliers. 

 

But a careful examination of the case would reveal that the actual reality is hugely different from what is being presented. The UPA-II government by laying down the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Rules17, notified on November 11 2011, had already seriously tampered with the very essence of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 201018 enacted by the Indian parliament after due and detailed deliberations, including consultations with different sections of the public, only to appease the potential suppliers. It also tried to go even further, albeit unsuccessfully because of widespread protests. On the strength of a legal opinion obtained from the then Attorney General of India, the UPA-II government wanted to empower the NPCIL to enter into arrangement with nuclear vendors/suppliers from the US wherein the written contract between the NPCIL and the US vendors would contain a clause to the effect that the operator NPCIL has abdicated and waived off the "right of recourse" as provided under section 17 of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010. This move, however, appears to have been silently dropped in the teeth of public outcry. Quite significantly, BJP leader Arun Jaitley, now the Finance-cum-Defence Minister in the Modi Cabinet, had in a signed article opposed the move and termed it legally untenable.19

 

Now, let's come to Sood's specific arguments that under the liability law supplier’s liability must not become “infinite” or “open-ended.”

 

The factual position is, as per the Act, the liability of the operator, under sub-section 6 (2) (a) is limited to a maximum of Rs. 1,500 crore for a single accident involving a nuclear reactor of 10 MW or above.18 Evidently, the liability of the supplier cannot exceed that of the operator. So it is neither “infinite” nor “open-ended.” But, far more interestingly, the section 24 of the relevant Rules drastically brings down the limit, in a number of ways.

 

The sub-section (b) of section 17 of the Act allows the operator recourse, i.e. to claim damages from suppliers when the nuclear accident happens owing to the fault of a supplier, such as a patent or latent defect of equipment or material supplied or sub-standard services provided. The sub-sections (1) and (2) of section 24 of the Rules, arguably, negate this provision.

 

As regards the time limit, the sub-section (2) of section 24 of the Rules provides that the right to recourse is restricted to either the period of granting of initial license or the product liability period, whichever is longer. The product liability period is a standard warranty period, generally of 12 months after commissioning of the plant. The initial license period is again generally of 5 years duration. "Normally, an operator will have to secure a license before he can start construction. Since the plant construction takes more than 5 years, the initial license period would have expired even before a nuclear plant is commissioned. So with this clause, the Government has effectively limited the period of recourse only to the warranty period. If an accident takes place after 12 months, the supplier will then have no liability."20

 

The sub-section (1) of section 24 of the Rules provides for "right of recourse [which shall be included in the contract] for not less than (emphasis added) the extent of operator's liability under sub-section (2) of section 6 of the Act [i.e. Rs. 1,500 crore in case of a nuclear reactor of 10 MW or more] or the value of the contract itself, whichever is less (emphasis added)." Here, things are admittedly a bit hazy. (One wonders whether it’s a case of lousy drafting.) While the floor limit of the “right of recourse” is defined (which could very well be the value of the contract), it does not (explicitly) talk of the upper limit. So, the upper limit will be as per the sub-section (2) of section 6 of the Act, i.e. Rs. 1,500 crore in case of a nuclear reactor of 10 MW or more.

 

What, however, is most interesting is the Explanation 2 to section 24 of the Rules. This provides that "an operator’s claim under this rule shall in no case exceed the actual amount of compensation paid by him up to the date of filing such claim. (Emphasis added.) This is nothing less than ridiculous. As per this provision, the accident has to take place, (subsequent to that) the compensation claims have to be filed by the victims, (then) the claims “should be settled and paid by the operator, all within the first 12 months of [commencement of] the operation of the plant, if the operator has to exercise his right of recourse. This is as good as no recourse at all!"20

 

In this context, it needs be specifically noted that the section 24 of the Rules relates only to the sub-section (a) of section 17 of the Act; it does not at all mention the sub-section (b) of section 17 of the Act. It thereby, apparently, tries to convey that the Rules make the sub-section (b) of section 17 of the Act infructuous. But all the vendors may not be too impressed. As per alternative (and not too unreasonable) interpretation, the sub-section (b) of section 17 of the Act would continue to stand on its own, untampered by the Rules. (This interpretation (quite plausibly) presumes that sub-sections (a), (b) and (c) of the section 17 of the Act would operate independently of one another.) And the section 46 of the Act perhaps only further adds to their concerns.

 

The plain fact, however, remains that in spite of all such acrobatics the foreign vendors, the US-based ones in particular, have still strong reservations about coming to India.

 

And, that being the case, Sood's plea for "resolving the ambiguities of the 2010 Nuclear Liability Law", in effect, is an argument for fundamentally altering the original Act passed by the Indian parliament – to completely defang it, couched in diplomatic equivocation.

 

July 3 2014

 

The author is an anti-nuclear peace activist and a founder member of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), India.

 

 

Notes and References:

 

1. See: <http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/agenda-for-nuclear-diplomacy/article6152407.ece?homepage=true&utm_content=buffera8b03&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer>.

2. See: <http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/06/23/uk-india-nuclear-idINKBN0EY14O20140623>. Another similar, but even more explicit, example: “Let me confirm to you that the government has decided to ratify the additional protocol (emphasis added) to Indian specific safeguard agreement. We had signed this earlier, what we have decided is to take next step of ratification. This is a signal of our commitment to abide by our international obligations,” the Spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry said. (Source: <http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/india-to-grant-greater-ease-to-iaea-to-monitor-its-civilian-nuclear-programme/>.) An equally, or even more, definitive contrary statement: The ratification, concluded last week (emphasis added), also appears well timed with the meeting on Monday in Buenos Aires of the Nuclear Suppliers Group — the elite 45-country club India aspires to join, which controls the global flows of nuclear wherewithal. (Source: <http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-more-open-to-ninspections/article6139494.ece>.)

3. <http://www.iaea.org/safeguards/documents/AP_status_list.pdf>.

4. See: <https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2009_04/IndiaProtocol>.

5. For a highly informed evaluation of the Agreement, see: <http://centreright.in/2013/03/the-prodigal-state-indias-new-nuclear-clothes/#.U7E-FUATxqI>. For a tentative assessment by this commentator, while the negotiation was still on, from an anti-nuclear peace activist’s standpoint, see: <http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article10224>.

6. For the text, see: <https://armscontrollaw.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/indias-iaea-ap.pdf>. For a very recent comment on it, see: <http://armscontrollaw.com/2014/06/23/india-finally-ratifies-its-additional-protocol-but-does-it-mean-anything/>; also see an informed evaluation by Siddharth Varadarajan at <http://www.hindu.com/2009/03/07/stories/2009030755691000.htm>.

7. For example: Describing the Indo-US nuclear deal as a "blind trap" and tantamount to acceding to the NPT regime, BJP today [on October 2 2008] said once it comes to power it would renegotiate the deal and even keep open the right to conduct a nuclear test if need arises. (At: <http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/oct/02ndeal6.htm>.)

8. Source: <http://www.bjp.org/images/upload/other_publications/indo_us_deal_e.pdf>. 

9. See: <https://in.finance.yahoo.com/news/full-text-of-the-president-s-speech-to-parliament-074449489.html>.

10. See: <http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/06/23/uk-india-nuclear-idINKBN0EY14O20140623>.

11. See: <http://press.ihs.com/press-release/aerospace-defense-terrorism/ihs-reveals-new-potential-nuclear-enrichment-site-india>.

12. See: <http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2014-06-24/news/50825758_1_nsg-npt-daryl-kimball>. For a preliminary report on the outcome of the NSG meet, see: <http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/07/02/nuclear-trade-india-idINL6N0PC43620140702>.

13. See: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/India%E2%80%93United_States_Civil_Nuclear_Agreement#Formal_signing_of_the_deal>.

14. "The Indian Government has provided the United States with a strong Letter of Intent, stating its intention to purchase reactors with at least 10,000 megawatts (MW) worth of new power generation capacity from U.S. firms. India has committed to devote at least two sites to U.S. firms." This is an excerpt from a written statement submitted by William J. Burns, the then Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Department of State, during his oral presentation at the hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations, US Senate on September 18 2008. (Source: <http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-110shrg46951/html/CHRG-110shrg46951.htm>.) This was even before the formal signing of the Agreement on October 10 2008.

15. See: <http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Country-Profiles/Countries-G-N/India/>.

16. For example: “The move is clearly tied to the new government’s push for enhancing energy security, which is slated to have a significant nuclear component. It will not be surprising if countries such as Japan, France and the United States now enhance the level of their civilian nuclear trade with India,” official sources said (emphasis added). (Source: <http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-more-open-to-ninspections/article6139494.ece>.)

17. See: <http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Nuclear%20Rules/Civil%20Liability%20for%20Nuclear%20Damage%20Rules%202011.pdf>.

18. See: <http://lawmin.nic.in/ld/regionallanguages/THE%20CIVIL%20LIABILITY%20OF%20NUCLEAR%20DAMAGE%20ACT,2010.%20(38%20OF2010).pdf>.

19. See: <http://www.rediff.com/news/column/diluting-nuclear-suppliers-liability/20130922.htm>. The view of the present commentator on this issue, predating Jaitley’s article, is available at <http://www.dianuke.org/attorny-general-interpretation-of-nuclear-liability-law-is-legally-untenable-sukla-sen/>.

20. Source: <http://www.dianuke.org/nuclear-liability-act-and-its-rules-the-tail-wagging-the-dog/>. Also see: <http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/liability-rules-leave-very-little-recourse/article2675389.ece>. Both these analysts, apparently, read “not less than” as provided in the sub-section (1) of section 24 of the Rules as “not more than.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Founding Statement of Ganamancha

DECLARATION

(issued at Press Conference on 2/7/2014)

We the undersigned political parties and organisations have decided to come together to form a struggle platform: “Working People’s Movement for Democracy and Secularism”.

BJP’s Rise

We have felt the need to unite in a common platform in the backdrop of Modi-led BJP’s ascent in the country, particularly in West Bengal. BJP’s victory in the general elections was mainly because of the misrule, corruption and anti-people policies of the Congress-led UPA regime, which alienated and angered the people. While the Congress has been decisively rejected, other forces, including the Left, have failed to offer a credible, progressive alternative.

Narendra Modi has become the Prime Minister of the country with the full backing of the big corporate class and international finance capital on the one hand and the communal-fascist forces led by the RSS on the other. Even while the new PM was being sworn in, communal clashes were reported from Ahmedabad and Bijapur. A young software professional from the minority community was beaten to death by members of a Hindu extremist outfit in Pune. Provocative statements on article 370, Ayodha temple, Vedic texts being introduced in school textbooks etc. have already been made from different quarters. The BJP government has imposed Hindi in official communications in the social media and the Health Minister has launched a tirade against condoms and sex education in the name of “Indian values”. All these betray the communal, obscurantist and divisive agenda of the RSS-BJP.

While promising “achche din” during the course of the election campaign, the PM has now started talking of a “bitter pill”. The steep hike in railway fares on the eve of the budget indicate the economic agenda of the BJP government. Inflation is climbing, with sugar and vegetable prices rising sharply. The move to enhance the FDI cap beyond 51% in the defence sector is aimed at developing a foreign controlled military-industrial complex in India. Cuts in subsidies and welfare measures and aggressive neoliberal policies are also in the offing.

With the unfolding of a full-throated rightwing agenda, it becomes imperative for all progressive, democratic and Left forces to unite in building resistance in defence of democracy and secularism.

West Bengal

The authoritarian and corrupt regime headed by the West Bengal Chief Minister over the past three years has frustrated the people. Attacks on democratic rights, state sponsored violence directed at opposition parties, atrocities against women and myriad crimes like murder and extortion carried out by the goons patronized by the Trinamul Congress have become the order of the day. People’s hard earned savings have been looted through scams like Saradha. The state is witnessing the closure of factories like Jessop, Hind Motors, several tea gardens and jute mills.  

Workers are suffering due to joblessness, rampant contractualisation, low wages and relentless price rise. Peasants are faced with the pincer attack of rising agricultural input costs and depressed output prices. The deprived sections like dalits, adivasis and Muslim minorities continue to suffer from neglect. Rather than implementing the substantive recommendations of the Sachar Committee and Ranganath Mishra Commission, the TMC government has indulged in irresponsible, non-secular tokenism. All this has contributed to growing discontent among the people.

The CPI(M)-led Left Front has failed to play the role of an effective opposition in West Bengal, in manifesting peoples’ aspirations and building up struggles against the TMC government’s misrule. The Left Front government, especially in its last decade of rule, had pursued neoliberal policies like building SEZs and coercive land acquisition in an aggressive manner. There were major violations of democratic norms by the CPI(M), as a ruling party, in various spheres alongside a rise in corruption and high-handedness by party leaders. Unfortunately, despite the defeat in the 2011 assembly elections, the CPI(M) has failed to rectify its ideological-political deviations.

The anti-democratic character of the TMC regime and the continuing decline of the CPI(M)-led Left Front have provided space for the BJP in West Bengal. BJP’s rise in the state will lead to communal polarisation and destroy its secular and progressive legacy. We believe that the threat posed by the communal forces can be combated by mobilizing people in a mass movement and not by tailing discredited anti-people parties like the Congress.

Struggle Platform

We are coming together in a common platform to build a movement to defend democracy and secularism. We are committed to:

(a)  Democracy and defence of democratic rights

(b)Secularism and communal amity

(c)  Opposition to pro-corporate neoliberal policies which increases social inequality and leads to plunder of resources

(d)  Social justice for women, adivasis, dalits, minorities and other deprived sections

(e)  Upholding progressive and democratic values across the world and opposition to militarism and hegemony

 

We are inviting all progressive, democratic, secular and left political parties, organisations, groups and individuals, who agree with the above-mentioned principles and are willing to fight for them to join hands and strengthen the platform. We shall raise our voice against all instances of violation of democratic rights and crimes against women in the state and strive to stand by the victims of state-sponsored violence. We shall raise the issues of informal sector workers, organised workers, peasants, agricultural labourers, women, dalits, adivasis, Muslim minorities and fight against all forms of exploitation and oppression.

 

We will be organizing a Convention in Kolkata on August 2, 2014 to finalise the Charter of Demands and chalk out the future course of action.   

Sd/-

 

Convenors of “Working People’s Movement for Democracy and Secularism”

 

Abdur Rezzak Mollah, Samajik Nyay Vichar Mancha

 

Abhash Munshi, Mazdoor Kranti Parishad

 

Kunal Chattopadhyay, Radical Socialist

 

Partho Ghosh, CPI ML Liberation

 

Prasenjit Bose, Left Collective

 

CONTACT NUMBER: 033 6555 4474

Radical Socialist Statement on Starvation Death of Tea Garden Workers

Tea gardens in West Bengal continue to be sites of super-exploitation of workers. The death due to starvation of six persons from the Raipur Tea Estate in North Bengal has driven home this point once again. Yet the only response of the government of West Bengal has been to announce one more Committee to discuss the matter. The matter is a straightforward one. For at least one decade, tea plantations in West Bengal have been closing, workers have been paid terribly low wages, not paid in the name of crisis of the industry, and have suffered from malnutrition and starvation. According to the 51st Annual Report 2004-05 of Tea Board of India, a total of 118 tea gardens were reportedly closed between the years 2000-2005 that had affected 68,442 workers. In many of the tea gardens, owners do not declare the tea garden as closed but ‘conveniently’ abandon them. The company has to apply for closure in order to close a garden. These companies owe huge dues not just to the workers in terms of Provident Fund and Gratuity dues but also to the respective state governments and concerned banks. An important feature/nature of such closures and abandonment was that the tea gardens would reopen during the peak season and again close during the lean period as in the case of one tea garden in West Bengal that was closed five times during 2001-2006 and on 13 January 2006 it was closed permanently. In Raipur Tea Estate, there had been previous cases of starvation deaths, recorded as far back as 2005. In all, a few thousand workers and their family members have died out of starvation and malnutrition in the last one decade. As a result of ill payment, plantation workers have been caught in a viscous circle of poverty, poor literacy and ill health, with children of tea workers ending up in the same ill paid work as their parents and grandparents before them. Radical Socialist condemns the collusion of owners and governments that have made possible repeated deaths of workers and the systematic super-exploitation of the laboring force for the profit of the owners. While the Minister for labour, purnendu Bose, acknowledged the possibility of malnutrition, his colleague, Jyotipriya Mallick has blamed the tea labourers, saying they do not take government medical aid and that is the cause of their deaths. We condemn this policy of civering up for owners and blaming the victims. Neither the previous, nor the current state government of West Bengal has done anything concrete for the workers. Yet there are obvious remedies that need to be taken up.  In the first place, the Tea Act should be invoked and any plantation that is not being run properly should be taken over by the government.  In the second place, factory and plantation books should be inspected with full participation by workers representatives elected by them, so that action can be taken against managers and owners who have not paid PF, etc to workers.  The right to life is higher than the right to profit. Take over the wealth of the owners who flout laws and push workers to death, to ensure the survival of the workers

Radical Socialist, 2 July 2014

DEMAND THE RESIGNATION OF TAPAS PAL FROM PARLIAMENT AND LEGAL ACTION AGAINST HIM:

DEMAND THE RESIGNATION OF TAPAS PAL FROM PARLIAMENT AND LEGAL ACTION AGAINST HIM:

FIGHT THE PERSISTENCE OF POLITICAL RAPES AND THREATS OF THE SAME

 

Tapas Pal, film actor and in recent times a Trinamul Congress Member of Parliament, has reiterated openly the threat that many political leaders utter a little covertly. He has stated that if women supporters of “our party” are attacked, men of the party will be sent to rape women of the opposition. In earlier times, at least since the rise of mass communal and casteist politics in India, this had been a regular strategy of such communal/casteist forces. This was taken over and used systematically by the Hindutva forces, for example in Gujarat during the 2002 pogroms, when the false news that women had been dragged from a train and raped by Muslims was spread in order to incite rioting mobs of Hindutva cadres to rape and sexually attack Muslim women (as well as to kill men, women and children because of the Godhra deaths). 


In West Bengal, in the past, we have seen the former ruling party, the CPI(M), and its leaders using violent and sexist language against women, and have condemned these immediately. We have also seen the use of rape as a political weapon on several occasions, and have joined hands with feminists and women’s rights groups, civil liberties organisations, and other progressives, to resist such cases, regardless of the party, class, community or caste colour, for we do not believe that any progressive social or political work can be achieved using such means, and see it as our task to resist all practices that promote rape or violence on women, and the use of political violence under conditions of democracy. 


This violent, criminalized and sexist political culture has been absorbed and regurgitated by the ruling TMC of West Bengal. The latest case is the speech by Mr. Pal, the M.P., at a meeting in Krishnanagar today. He claimed that CPI(M) members had attacked his party members, and said that not as an MP, but as a TMC activist, he was warning that he would avenge such things. He went on to threaten the killing of CPI(M) members and the rape of women. 


Mr. Pal has been elected MP, and as long as he holds on to that position, public utterances by him have that effect. So whatever his disclaimer, this was an MP, someone who has sworn to uphold the Constitution of India, urging people to go and rape women of opposition parties and kill members of the opposition. As for the recurrent claim that the CPI(M) is using violence, we question this on two grounds. If indeed the CPI(M) uses violence, the response should have been the use of due legal process. And secondly, the CPI(M) today is in shambles. Its cadre base is so pathetic that in the elections of 2014 the Left Front had its share of votes lowered to 29 per cent and the CPI(M) could not even put enough people even in all booths. So the bogey of CPI(M) violence, based on what was a reality in the past, is used by Pal to call for nothing less than lynch law, a call that can be easily used to stage “events” and then take “revenge”. The ultimate case one can remind is the Reichstag fire, but plenty of lesser events exist. 


The TMC has tried to go into a damage control mode by saying that the context must be examined. We reject this absolutely. No context justifies calling for killing the members of an opposition party or raping their women cadres. 


Above all, however, we warn that appealing to various state institutions will be futile, unless ordinary people, women and men, people in political parties, people in social movements, unite to protest and resist. 
Our goal is not one of scoring points, nor of removing one hated government only to replace them by a new set of the same kind but to defend the democratic rights of everyone. Radical Socialist has always taken the position that in a bourgeois polity, any call for defending democracy must stress the role of mass action rather than calling upon the bureaucratic state of the ruling class. It is not by appealing against Pal to Narendra Modi, but by appealing to the democratic traditions of our working people, that we must mobilise against the political use of rape. 


We demand:
• Immediate legal action against Tapas Pal by the Government of West Bengal. 
• Resignation of Mr. Pal from the Parliament.
• Proceedings against Mr. Pal to be initiated by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
• Immediate action be taken by the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Women.
• An end to criminalization of politics and use of women’s bodies as a political tool. 
• Safeguarding of democratic rights of all as enshrined in the Indian constitution.
• Right of women to move and work freely without the constant fear of being sexually assaulted.

30 June 2014

Support the Struggles of Brazilian Workers, Condemn the Dilma Rousseff Regime's Patronage of the Rich in the Name of Promoting the World Cup

Support the Struggles of Brazilian Workers, Condemn the Dilma Rousseff Regime's Patronage of the Rich in the Name of Promoting the World Cup

 

 

 

Statement of Radical Socialist, 12 June 2014

 

 

 

As the “World Cup fever” grips the world, or more accurately, as it is rammed down us through the media, Brazil has erupted in struggles. For a year, popular mobilizations of immense dimensions have been shaking the country.

 

 

 

At its peak, a million people or more have been out protesting. This is not some abstract protest. When in 2007 the Brazilian government of Luis Inacio da Silva (Lula), of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers Party) put forward its bid for the 2014 World Cup and was given it by FIFA, Brazil, like India, was seeing itself as part of a new acronym, BRICS, and imagining that the crisis of capitalism was finished and the country, notably its elite, were on the way to international stardom and the world cup would be the icing on the cake. $11 billion has been spent for the world cup by now. This at a time when the masses of working people are angry at the lack of development of educational and health facilities. As a result, the most visible governmental role over the World Cup has been to augment security repeatedly. 57000 troops, over 1,00,000 law enforcement personnel, even 34 anti-aircraft guns have been reportedly pressed into service.

 

 

 

Meanwhile, every opinion poll shows this growing cost of the World Cup has been viewed as detrimental by ordinary people. Workers, students, have come out, demanding a reorientation of government priorities. Students and teachers have struck, demanding more funding for education. But most worrying for the government in recent times has been the transport workers' struggles. From 5 June, Metro workers in Sao Paulo have been on strike. In order to achieve its goal of getting political prestige out of the World Cup, the government has taken strong action. The transport workers carry 4,000,000 passengers every day in the city. On 8 June, the courts declared the strike illegal. They demanded that workers must immediately return to work, and declared a fine of US $ 222,000 per day on their union for defying this order.

 

 

 

While Brazil has a Social Democratic regime, whereas in India a party rooted in fascist politics has gained parliamentary majority, what is common to both countries is the determination of the ruling class to use neo-liberalism for its own expansion at the cost of the toiling people. Radical Socialist expresses solidarity with all the fighting militants, especially with the workers of Sao Paulo out on strike and the militants attacked and beaten up by police on the eve of the World Cup. We call on working class, socialist and democratic organisations in India to protest, to express solidarity with the toiling people of Brazil.

 

 

 

Long live working class struggles for emancipation

 

 

 

Full support for the Sao Paulo Metro Workers

 

 

 

Long live proletarian internationalism.

 

Say No to Nuclear Power. Defend the anti-nuclear activists who are falsely accused

Say No to Nuclear Power. Defend the anti-nuclear activists who are falsely accused

 

 

 

Radical Socialist, 13 June 2014

 

 

 

India today is one of the few countries in the world seeking to pursue in an unabashed manner a nuclear programme. Both dimensions of it are damaging and reactionary. On one hand, any nuclear programme, however hidden under rhetoric of peaceful use, covers the potential for a nuclear weapons programme, as shown by Indira Gandhi and Atal Behari Vajpayee in Pokharan I and Pokharan II respectively. On the other hand, as Fukushima has been the latest accident, after Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Hanford, and others, to demonstrate, there is no fool-proof and safe nuclear power programme.

 

Yet, for two linked reasons, Indian capitalism is determined to press forward with nuclear weapons and nuclear power alike. It brings massive contracts. And this kind of centralized power production benefits the top layers of the capitalists. And such power production, like electricity from big dams, goes for a skewed “development” policy that subsidizes luxurious living for the wealthy while exploiting the toiling people.

 

 

 

And nuclear weaponization has been the goal of the Jan Sangh, forerunner of the BJP, ever since 1951, as they see it as essential to securing a higher status for the Indian state in the global pecking order.

 

As a result, the latest offensive against anti-nuclear activists, while utterly false, malicious, and contemptible, is also understandable. India's anti-nuclear activists, and organisations like the CNDP, many of whose leaders have been named in the leaked Intelligence document, are democratically minded Indian citizens. They are being reviled as “foreign agents”, in a stance that is typical of reactionary nationalism. Radical Socialist has been committed to a non-nuclear future for India, and stands by these activists and their campaigns. We call upon all socialists, environmentally concerned citizens, and democratic forces, to unite to defend the anti-nuclear activists from such false attacks.

 

New Environment Policy --Confused or dangerous priorities?

Confused or dangerous priorities? - The new Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change Mr. Prakash Javadekar spells his firm commitment to create conducive environment for investors.  At social and environmental cost? – Rohit Prajapati

Mr. Prakash Javadekar the new Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change taking over the charge promised to ensure “Fast Environment Clearances”. This is just beginning of the implementation of “Money-Festo – Modi-Festo” for the ministry of environment. A new system for online submission of applications for environmental clearances has been launched. But what about online submission of complains against pollution?

Mr. Javadekar also said that there shall be a maximum time limit for the entire approval process, with stage-wise timelines and promised continuous efforts to bring down the timelines for each stage. But what about the time limit to resolve complains against polluting industries?

Now we are in the era where all the three ministries the Environment, Labour and Industry individually and collectively are more and more concerned about better environment for industries and its profitability, industrial-friendly labour laws and the prosperity of industry so that industrialists can  concentrate only on their production and profits in the interest of GDP. There are other ministries also equally concerned about the industries & its profitability but now Environment, Labour and Industry Ministries are exclusively dedicated themselves to the industries and its profitability.

Keeping in mind the above objective of these three ministries in practice in the interest of  industries, their profitability and GDP the time has come to merge all these ministries in one ministry which can be named as Ministry of Industry, Investment, Industrial-friendly Environment & labour (MoIFEL). By merging all the three ministries the government will be more transparent to overtly expressing their real concerned and commitment for the industries, their profit and GDP.

Industries, their profitability and Environment Clearance were and are the main concerned of Ministry of Environment and Forest. I have not seen MoEF any point in past and in present showing real concerned, commitment for environment protection and complaints of people. The ministry has at best only shown concern and worry about ‘Environment Clearance’ and not even lip service to the people’s complaints about air pollution, contamination of river, surface and ground water, contamination of soil & agriculture produced and its effect on people’s health & life on the earth.

The present Government too so far has shown no commitment for environment protection & labour rights, so government want to get rid of the issue of environment and labour.

Mr. Modi’s government’s main priority is speedy environment clearance for the industries and not the environment protection. Mr. Modi’s manifesto clearly states “Frame the environment laws in a manner that provides no scope for confusion and will lead to speedy clearance of the proposals without delay.” This spells out assurance of Mr. Modi’s Government to the industrialist that they should not worry about environment laws as he will remove all their hurdles so that just by filing some papers and giving some vague assurance they will get the environment clearance.

This is the “Gujarat Model of Development” which led Gujarat State to become number one in pollution. To make it further crystal clear, Mr. Modi’s Manifesto overtly states that “Take all steps: like removing red-tapism involved in approvals, to make it easy to do business, invest in logistics infrastructure, ensure power supply and undertake labour reforms, besides other steps to create a conducive environment for investors.” The Modi-Festo says in very clear words to mortgage the environment and labour laws.

This capitalist development has never tried to arrive at even a realistic estimate of loss of livelihood, land acquisition, displacement, irreversible damage to environment and permanent loss of natural resources figures but the magnitude of the loss can be guessed from some of the facts emerging from various important research works on status of environment in Gujarat.

We should understand this new challenge and it is the time for the all the environment and trade union movements to launch collective struggle against this move of the present government.

 

Rohit Prajapati

Environment Activist

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