Six Word Saturday – September 22, 2012 : OMG

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Kudankulam: Antinuclear Fishermen lay siege to Tuticorin port

Written by Sam Daniel, Edited by Mala Das

September 22, 2012

Anti-nuclear protesters lay siege to Tuticorin port
Anti-nuclear protesters lay siege to Tuticorin port

Protests against the Kudankulam nuclear plant continue unabated with thousands of fishermen having laid siege to the port at Tuticorin today, demanding the closure of the controversial plant.

Nearly thousand fishing boats have blocked entry to the Tuticorin harbour, which is situated around 60 miles away from the nuclear power plant. The loading of nuclear fuel, which is on at one of the reactors at the Kudankulam plant, has not in the least dented the determination of the protesters, all fishermen hailing from the districts of Tuticorin, Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli – where the plant is located.

“Fishermen in Kudankulam and surrounding districts are protesting over the last 400 days, but the government is not listening and we will have to resort to these kind of protests,” said a fisherman. These fishermen are worried that the plant, once commissioned, will destroy their livelihood. Subash Fernando, Spokesperson of the Agitation Committee, says, “Once the plant is commissioned, the radiation from it would disqualify our catch for export to the European market, and even if nuclear fuel is loaded, it’s not too late to stop it”.Two expert committees appointed by the government have found the plant to be safe, dubbing public fears unfounded.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who initially supported the cause of the movement, later did a U-turn, citing that the project could bring relief to the state which is reeling under a severe power shortage. Around a lakh and half people, who live in the vicinity, are opposed to the plant. “If India believes in democracy, the government should listen to the people.

If Japan could have a Fukushima disaster, imagine what could happen in India which was also hit by a tsunami not long ago,” said a villager. Presently, the Supreme Court is hearing a petition that challenges the go-ahead given to the nuclear plant. Petitioners cite that the plant is yet to incorporate 11 of the 17 safety recommendations made by a government task force after the Fukushima disaster.

However, the atomic energy department claims these are only enhanced safety features which would be implemented in phases. At Idinthakarai – ground zero for the protests – just three kilometres away from the plant, around four to five thousand villagers are continuing their protest demanding the closure of the plant. Two weeks ago, around 10 thousand people marched towards the plant in a bid to lay siege; police opened tear gas and resorted to lathicharge to disperse the crowd.

A non-bailable warrant has been issued against SP Udhayakumar, the face of the movement, as he failed to honour a court summon. He says “the government is trying to project them as the most wanted terrorists”. The Kudankulam power plant is the first nuclear project to near completion after the Fukushima disaster. Some countries like Germany have decided to turn away from nuclear energy and the international community is keenly watching how India handles the rising opposition to the project..

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Protests against the Kudankulam nuclear plant continue unabated with hundreds of fishermen having laid siege to the port at Tuticorin today, demanding the closure of the controversial plant.

Around 200 anti-nuclear activists were detained today in Tuticorin, while they were heading to Idinthakarai, the venue of protest against the Kudankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu. The activists were set to join the villagers who have buried themselves neck-deep in sand along the shore, demanding a halt to the preparations for loading of fuel into one of two nuclear reactors at the controversial plant.

Around 1000 villagers near Kudankulam, including women and children, buried themselves neck deep on the sea shore protesting against the upcoming nuclear plant. Over the last one year they have been demanding closure of the plant alleging the project would destroy life and livelihood. Two expert committees have found the plant to be safe. The Supreme Court too has refused to stay nuclear fuel loading.

Hundreds of anti-nuclear protesters forming a human chain stood in sea waters for the second day today demanding halting of preparations for fuel loading into the Kudankulam nuclear reactor in Tamil Nadu.

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Koodankulam: Fuelling Of Nuclear Power Plant Has Begun

Fuelling Of Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant Has Begun

By People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy

21 September, 2012

Idinthakarai : Even as hundreds of thousands of Tamils, Malayalis and Indian citizens from other states are protesting against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) for more than a year now, and a batch of appeal petitions is being heard by the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court, the discredited and the CAG-disparaged Atomic Energy Regulatory Commission (AERB) has given clearance for the fuel loading in the first unit of the KKNPP. It is reliably learnt now that the Nuclear Power Corporation India Limited (NPCIL) has started the loading process.

The ruling establishment’s message is loud and clear. “We do not give a damn about the Indian citizens, their democratic and nonviolent opposition to harmful policies and projects and the very democratic heritage of our country. We will put the interests of foreign countries and their MNCs ahead of the wishes and well being of the Indian citizens.”

Hundreds of thousands of fishermen, farmers and merchants and their families from Tamil Nadu and Kerala who rely on the sea and the land for their survival and existence do not figure anywhere in the scheme of things of the Indian ruling class. The central government’s dictatorial decision to open up the retail trade and a few other key sectors of our national economy to FDI should also be seen in this light. Hundreds of thousands of Indian citizens and families that depend on the retail trade for their livelihood and sustenance do not matter in their pro-American and pro-Corporate political stance. Even as eight crore Tamils in Tamil Nadu oppose the visit of the Sri Lankan president to India, the Delhi elites are entertaining him with feast and festivities.

The leader of the DMK is, as usual, blaming the AIADMK for not initiating a dialogue with the PMANE and the struggling people in the Koodankulam issue. Although his party is part of the central government, the DMK chief has not asked the Prime Minister to do anything about the KKNPP issue. The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister is keeping a deafening silence about the issue also. The Tamils are left high and dry having been abandoned by both the strong parties of Tamil Nadu in the wake of grave dangers such as nuclear power parks, poisoned sea and sea food, polluted land and crops, and radiation-affected progeny.

The PMANE Struggle Committee and the struggling people all over Tamil Nadu and the rest of India demand immediate cessation of the fuelling of the KKNPP and convert it into a pro-people and pro-Nature energy project.

The Struggle Committee, PMANE

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Standing in a Woman’s Shoes

By Prabha Sridevan

The Madras High Court has played a stellar role in the evolution of gender justice in its 150 years of existence, setting the trend for social change through its rulings.

Physical, social and economic vulnerability affects men and women differently. Social structures give automatic advantages to the male or result in undeserved disadvantages to the female. Unless there is a positive affirmation of a woman’s rights, her voice will not be heard. This affirmation must come from the courts. The Madras High Court has played a stellar role in the evolution of gender justice. On its 150th anniversary, it is fitting to recall this contribution.


I have categorised the cases that the Court has dealt with in this regard into three groups — the pre-Constitution period, 1950-2000, and the 21st century — with the full awareness that any list of “my favourites” is liable to be criticised.

In the pre-Constitution period, when the right to equality and special provisions for women were not enshrined as law, we find in the Madras High Court a remarkable recognition of the woman’s right to property, to dignity and in fact a recognition of woman as just herself and not as an adjunct to man as father, husband or son.

As early as in 1864, in Chalakonda Alasani vs. Chalakonda Ratnachalam, the Court held that the rules applicable to a coparcenary for custody of the properties and the separate ownership of self-acquisitions were applicable to female members of a devadasi community living jointly. It was dealt with as if it was a family. Nowadays, the concept of what constitutes a family may no longer be based on marriage or heterosexual ties. From that perspective, this judgment is indeed very modern.

The right to dignity of a woman was seen as an indefeasible right by the Court. In Ramnath Zamindar and Anr vs. Doraiswami (1882), the claim to legitimacy by the son of a dancing girl was upheld. The Court empathised with her reluctance to expose herself to insensitive cross-examination. In Parvathi vs. Mannar (1884), the Bench held that the English law insisting upon proof of special damage in a case of libel against a married woman would not apply under the customs and social context of this country. In both cases, the Court looked at the issue “standing in her shoes.”

Does the husband have the right to beat his wife? Such a misconception is still prevalent. But in Emperor vs. Subbaiah Goundan (1936), the Court was clear that no husband had such a right, “… and wife-beating is not eo nomine one of the exceptions in the Chapter of ‘General Exceptions’ in the Indian Penal Code … We think it necessary to state in unmistakable terms that the learned sessions judge’s declaration of the rights of husbands in this regard has no foundation, so that no one may rely upon that in future as a justification for wife-beating.” Behind the wry humour, we can sense the Court’s pain.

In re Boya Chinnappa, our Court held that the prosecutrix in a rape case cannot be treated “as if she were an accomplice so far as her credibility is concerned.” Yet how often our Courts have even in later cases treated her exactly like that and she is repeatedly victimised during the trial!

In the 50-year period that covers the second group of cases, women were moving out of their homes to seek employment, and women were also moved out of their homes because of divorce or desertion. The courts had to deal with these issues.

But first, let us look at the right to dignity again. In re Ratnamala and Another(1962), the judge held “I must reiterate that the modesty of a prostitute is entitled to equal protection, with that of any other woman. The technique of such raids must be totally altered; otherwise, grave abuses of the law might enter into the very attempt to enforce the law.” Even today, this declaration that her right to dignity is non-negotiable needs to be reiterated!

In Srinivasa Padayachi v. Parvathiammal (1969), the question was whether the pre-nuptial settlement deed was valid. The Court said: “’Marriage may be a sacrament under Hindu Law, but that does not militate against the existence of a contract for the marriage.” The tone is so modern, affirming that the factum of marriage will not destroy the woman’s contractual rights.

Divorce undeniably renders a woman economically very vulnerable, and the Court set right the imbalance. In Soundarammal vs. Sundara Mahalinga Nadar (1980), the Court observed that the laws of divorce should not result in merely wrapping the wronged woman with decree copies of alimony but that the alimony awarded should compensate her for her loss and should be realised uninterruptedly and fully. In Ameer Amanullah vs Pedikkaru Mariam Beevi (1985), the Court held that the statutory obligation to provide maintenance to the wife and children transcends personal law and operates irrespective of caste, creed or religion.

By 1985, women in employment were commonplace, and views that a woman’s rightful place was in the hearth were no longer acceptable. But patriarchal bias still permeated public spaces. The Court held in Sivanarul v. State of Tamil Nadu that a woman cannot be removed from work because she was married. In Rukmani vs. The Divisional Manager, Marapalam Tea Division, the Court held that it was obnoxious and arbitrary to ask a woman to produce a “no objection” certificate from her husband to get a job. In R. Vasantha v. Union of India, the woman insisted that she shall not be excluded from employment in the night shift. The Court agreed, “This social change must necessarily have its impact upon the traditional perspectives concerning woman’s role and that must call for change in our laws … to advance the constitutional guarantees…” A true trendsetter.

A minor girl asserted that her father had no right to terminate her pregnancy. And the Court agreed in V. Krishnan vs G. Rajan @ Madipu Rajan. It is a significant decision for its admirable prescience in recognising, though tacitly, a girl’s right over her body without being trapped by extraneous questions. It said that the Constitution does not distinguish between minors and adults when it concerns fundamental rights.

In the Chidambaram Padmini case and the Meera Nireshwalia case, the very spaces that ought to be safe for a woman victimised her. In the former, the complainant was raped in a police station; in the latter, her home became a hazard. The husband, in collusion with the person who had bought her property, had termed her insane and confined her in an asylum with the help of the police. In both cases, the court showed its stern disapproval and awarded compensation.

Facing or prosecuting a matrimonial case is not easy for the woman. In Janaki vs. V. Sundaram, reminding the Family Courts about their role, the High Court held: “A starving wife cannot be compelled to face the trial. The very purpose of establishing a Family Court is to have a different atmosphere in regard to settlement of family problems. Family Court must instill faith and confidence in parties.”

This is live equality, not pedantic equality that treats two unequal persons as equal.


Now we move to the 21st century when women are turning agents of change and the Court has facilitated the process. Two women claimed that they must be appointed as members of a public trust in Lalitha Sundari and another vs. Kedarnathan (2002). The Court relied on CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women), to which India is a signatory and held that there can be no discrimination against women regarding appointment to public office, and upheld their claim.

The wife who was not allowed to enter her marital home contended that it was a shared household and in Vandana vs Srikanth (2007), the Court proactively construed the concept of a “shared household” and secured her space. It was a nascent Act, and a narrow interpretation would have defeated the purpose of the enactment. And in M. Palani vs Meenakshi (2008) the Court held that maintenance can be claimed by a woman in a domestic relationship, based on consensual sex regardless of its duration. The glass ceilings in the religious space are the hardest to shatter. In Pinniyakkal vs. District Collector and ors(2008), the woman said that she had the right to be a pujari (priest) in a temple and the High Court protected her right, observing “The altars of the God must be made free from gender bias.”

The Courts did not forget the homemaker either. In National Insurance Co. vs. Minor Deepika and others, the High Court put an economic value to the work done by the homemaker. It invoked the CEDAW principles affirming her right to dignity. Turning to working women in the workplace and their right to be free of sexual harassment, the Court, in Srinivas Rajan vs Director of Matriculation Schools, said, “The Special Committee which enquired into the allegations made by the women staff … had clearly forgotten the real import of the Vishakha case.” A woman who has been widowed is traditionally expected to retire from public space but in R. Malathy vs. Director-General of Police, the woman fought for her right to continue in police service, and she succeeded. This judgment traces the history of injustice inflicted on widows. One sees that in this period, the Court has looked at gender equality from many angles.

True, the woman has not always succeeded. But as we celebrate the 150th year of a great High Court, I wish only to record the triumphs (certainly not all of them) in this humble tribute. There have been failures, but the time to dissect them is not now.

(Prabha Sridevan, a former Judge of the Madras High Court, is Chairperson, Intellectual Property Appellate Board.)

Reproduced from The Hindu, September 21, 2012.

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