Today, November 14th, India celebrates Children’s Day. I wish all children in India “A Happy Children’s Day!”
In 2009, Google India launched the Doodle4Google competition. It is an invitation for students from grades 1to 10 to design the Google Doodle to celebrate Children’s Day in India. The theme for this year’s competition was “A place in India I wish to visit”. Google received over one million entries from more than 1700 schools across 50 cities in India.
Google India announced Vaidehi Reddy as the winner of this year’s Doodle4Google design contest. She was honoured at an event in New Delhi on November 12, 2014.
The above winning Doodle titled “Natural and Cultural Paradise – Assam” went live on the Google (India) home page today, November 14, Children’s Day.
On this Children’s day, India remembers and honours the country’s first Prime Minister Shri Jawaharlal Nehru born in 1889. The children of India fondly called him “Chacha Nehru” (Hindi: चाचा नेहरू)) or Uncle Nehru.
Jawaharlal Nehru always emphasized the importance of showering love and affection on children. He saw in them the future of India.
On December 3, 1949, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote a lovely letter to the children of India. Here are some excerpts from it:
“I like being with children and talking to them and, even more, playing with them. For the moment I forget that I am terribly old and it is very long ago since I was a child.”
“Can you recognise the flowers by their names and the birds by their singing? How easy it is to make friends with them and with everything in nature, if you go to them affectionately and with friendship. You must have read many fairy tales and stories of long ago. But the world itself is the greatest fairy tale and story of adventure that was ever written.”
“Grown-ups have a strange way of putting themselves in compartments and groups. They build barriers… of religion, caste, colour, party, nation, province, language, customs and of rich and poor. Fortunately, children do not know much about these barriers, which separate. They play and work with each other and it is only when they grow up that they begin to learn about these barriers from their elders.”
“Some months ago, the children of Japan wrote to me and asked me to send them an elephant. I sent them a beautiful elephant on behalf of the children of India… This noble animal became a symbol of India to them and a link between them and the children of India.”
“You know we had a very great man amongst us. He was called Mahatma Gandhi. But we used to call him affectionately Bapuji. He was wise, but he did not show off his wisdom. He was simple and childlike in many ways and he loved children… he taught us to face the world cheerfully and with laughter.”
There seems to be some sort of affinity between India and day 26.
On the occult side, Manmohan Singh, the 14th Prime Minister of India, from 2004 to 2014, was born on September 26, 1932. Maneka Sanjay Gandhi the new Indian Union Cabinet Minister for Women & Child Development in the Government of Narendra Damodardas Modi, was born on August 26, 1956.
Many incidents such as India’s Independence Day, Republic Day, major earthquakes, tsunamis, internecine communal riots, bloody terrorist attacks have taken place on day 26.
January 26, 1930 – India’s Independence Day
India gained freedom from the British rule on August 15, 1947, but patriotic Indians had celebrated their first “Independence Day” 17 years earlier, on January 26, 1930. The choice of the day was unforeseen.
In 1928, Motilal Nehru chaired a prestigious committee that drafted a “Constitution” for an Indian Dominion that would have been a secular democratic reflection of Britain’s parliamentary system.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his All-India Muslim League insisted on more “safeguards” for Muslims as their price for endorsing the Motilal Nehru Committee’s proposal.
Jawaharlal Nehru and other young radical leaders of Congress like Subhas Chandra Bose of Bengal viewed Motilal Nehru’s recommendations as too conservative.
Mahatma Gandhi remained aloof from such matters, preferring to spin his cotton, waiting to be called upon to lead the next Satyagraha.
Motilal Nehru was unable to rally the broad spectrum of Indian political parties to his constitution’s support and it was doomed to an early demise.
The Indian National Congress held its annual session in Lahore in December 1929. During the debates, the All India Home Rule League and the All-India Muslim League favoured for a Dominion status for India within the British Empire as enjoyed by Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Newfoundland at the time. Leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal and many others argued for a complete separation from British rule. In the end, the latter group’s view prevailed.
The Congress then promulgated the “Purna Swaraj” or “complete self-rule” declaration resolving the Congress and Indian nationalists to fight for complete independence from the British rule as opposed to a dominion status for India.
.Jawaharlal Nehru was chosen as the president of the Congress. On the midnight of December 31, 1929, he raised the first “Swaraj” flag on the banks of the Ravi river in Lahore. This flag was adopted and it was first hoisted on October 31, 1931. This flag was used by the Provisional Government of Free India during the subsequent years of Second World War.
The Congress passed a resolution fixing the last Sunday of January 1930 as India’s “Independence Day”. Coincidentally, it was January 26. It resolved to hold countrywide demonstrations in support of the goal. The day was to begin with the hoisting of the flag and reciting the “pledge of independence”. Gandhi envisaged that besides the meetings, the day would be spent,
“… in doing some constructive work, whether it is spinning, or service of ‘untouchables,’ or reunion of Hindus and Mussalmans, or prohibition work, or even all these together.”
An official draft by Gandhi said:
“The British government in India has not only deprived the Indian people of their freedom but has based itself on the exploitation of the masses and has ruined India economically, politically, culturally and spiritually… Therefore, India must sever the British connection and attain ‘purna swaraj’ or ‘complete independence’.”
The Congress called on the people to pledge themselves to civil disobedience and “to carry out the instructions issued from time to time” by the Congress, till India attained complete independence. The celebration of such an Independence Day was envisioned to stoke nationalistic fervour among Indian citizens, and to force the British government to consider granting independence.
“An Autobiography” also known as “Toward Freedom” published in 1936 by The Bodley Head, is an autobiographical book written by Jawaharlal Nehru while he was in prison. It ran nine editions in the first year alone. In this book, Jawaharlal Nehru described the observances of “Independence Day” on January 26 as peaceful, solemn, and “without any speeches or exhortation”:
“From then on, the Congress members and supporters celebrated January 26 as the Independence Day till 1947, regardless of whether the actual transfer of power had taken place.“
August 15, 1947 – India gains Independence
Following the peaceful, civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance, led by the Indian National Congress for independence, the British government agreed to accord freedom to India on August 15, 1947.
Viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohammad Ali Jinnah prepared for the transfer of power from the British Crown. (Source: indyas.hpage.co.in)
Eleven days before August 15, 1947, Viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten, Jawaharlal Nehru representing the Indian National Congress and Mohammad Ali Jinnah representing the Muslim League, which demanded a separate sovereign state for Muslims, prepared for the transfer of power from the British Crown.
During these deliberations, an abstract picture of a divided nation comprising India and Pakistan came into being as distinct from the agglomeration of princely states and provinces administered by the British Raj.
On August 14, 1947, the dominion of Pakistan which then included East Pakistan, declared independence from the British Crown.
On the eve of India’s Independence, towards midnight on August 14, 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, in his inaugural address to the Indian Parliament heralded India’s tryst with destiny.
“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.
It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity. …“
November 26, 1949 – Adoption of the Indian Constitution
After gaining independence, India, still owing formal allegiance to the British Crown, did not have its own Constitution and so it depended entirely on the amended colonial Government of India Act, 1935.
As a first step to evolve a sovereign republic, a constituent assembly of elected members of the provincial assemblies was set up to frame a new Constitution for the Republic of India. It included Jawaharlal Nehru, C. Rajagopalachari, Dr Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Shyama Prasad Mookherjee and Nalini Ranjan Ghosh. There were jurists like Dr B.R. Ambedkar, Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer and K.M. Munshi.
Dr Ambedkar was asked to lead the drafting committee of the Constitution. The committee met for 166 days over two years, 11 months and 18 days.
On November 26, 1949, the final document of the Constitution that enshrined 345 Articles and eight Schedules was adopted by the Constituent Assembly, replacing the Government of India Act (1935) as the governing document of India.
January 26, 1950 – India’s Republic Day
The Constitution came into force on January 26, 1950, and India officially became a Sovereign Democratic Republic.
January 26 was selected as the Republic Day because the Declaration of Indian Independence (Purna Swaraj) was proclaimed by the Indian National Congress on this day in 1930.
The people of India honour this day as their Republic Day.
On January 26, 1950, the Republic Day ceremonies began in Delhi.
On January 26, 1950, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, the 34th and last Governor-General of India, read out a proclamation announcing the birth of the Republic of India. The Constitution of India came into effect, declaring India as a sovereign, democratic and secular state.
Dr Rajendra Prasad took the oath of office as India’s first president, replacing the King as the head of the state, at the Durbar Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhavan (residence of the president of India). He addressed the crowd, first in Hindi and then in English. After the swearing-in ceremony, the new president of India drove through the streets in his state coach to the Irwin Stadium (now renamed as the Dhyan Chand Stadium) and hoisted the national flag.
The government declared a two-day national holiday to a jubilant nation.
Currently, the Republic Day celebrations begin in India on January 26 with a grand parade held in the capital, New Delhi, from the Raisina Hill near the Rashtrapati Bhavan, along the Rajpath, past India Gate.
The Republic Day festivities end officially with the Beating Retreat ceremony conducted on the evening of January 29, the third day after the Republic Day.
I wish all children in India “A Happy Children’s Day!”
In 1925, The World Conference for the Well-being of Children in Geneva, Switzerland, proclaimed June 1 as International Children’s Day and then established universally in 1954. Now, many countries around the world, celebrate Children’s Day, but on different days each year.
Universal Children’s Day
A major global variant of Children’s Day is the Universal Children’s Day celebrated on November 20 every year.
The United Nations General Assembly recommended this day in 1954 to urge all its member countries to institute a day, with the aim to promote mutual exchange and understanding among children, and to initiate action to help and promote the welfare of children globally as outlined in the Charter.
Today, November 14, India celebrates Children’s Day. On this day, India remembers and honours the country’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The children of India fondly called him “Chacha Nehru” (Hindi: चाचा नेहरू)) or Uncle Nehru.
Nehru consistently emphasized the importance of showering love and affection on children. He saw in them the future of India.
On Children’s Day, the Kids in India engage themselves in the fun and frolic. Various educational, cultural, social, institutions organize functions and conduct competitions for children all over the country. The State and the Central governments organize film festivals in many parts of the country to showcase Children’s films.
In many schools, the children themselves arrange the cultural activities on this day. Teachers also get involved; in many schools, they sing and dance for their students.
Every year, India Post issues special stamps of paintings by children and First Day Covers for commemorating Children’s Day in India. Here are the commemorative stamps issued from year 2006 to 2012. Please note that these images of the postage stamps are not to scale.
We have to remember that India got its freedom from the British yoke not only because of Mahatma Gandhi but also because of numerous other visionaries who toiled for the independence of the country and thousands of martyrs’ who sacrificed their lives even before he was born.
It was a stroke of destiny that Mohandas Karam Chand Gandhi was called Bapu – the “Father of the Nation”.
The first reference to Mahatma Gandhi as Father of the Nation goes back nearly 70 years when Subhas Chandra Bose referred to Gandhi thus in a radio address from Singapore in 1944.
Erstwhile Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru too had, in his address to the nation upon Mahatma Gandhi’s death, referred to him as Father of the Nation:
“Friends and comrades, the light has gone out of our lives, and there is darkness everywhere, and I do not quite know what to tell you or how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the Father of the Nation, is no more.”
Is Mahatma Gandhi, ‘Father of the Indian Nation’?
If yes, when did Mahatma Gandhi become the ‘Father of the Nation’?
Who conferred the title of ‘Father of the Nation’ on Mahatma Gandhi?
Did the above questions ever arise in your mind?
An 11-year old schoolgirl from Lucknow, Aishwarya Parashar, read a lesson about Mahatma Gandhi in her social studies textbook that said Mahatma Gandhi is referred to as the “‘Father of the Nation” and was curious to know the year when Mahatma Gandhi was conferred with this title.
Nothing was mentioned in the textbook. She asked her teachers and her parents. None of them had any knowledge about it. Even Google did not have any information. Aishwarya’s parents suggested that she send a Right to Information (RTI) petition to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
The PMO sent a reply saying that they had no specific information regarding the same and forwarded her application to the Ministry of Home Affairs which too had no answer and they, in turn, forwarded the girl’s application to the National Archives.
The National Archives too did not have any information. They told her that “there are no specific documents on the information sought” by her and if she wanted to research on this subject, then she can come there and the organisation would make available all the required documents to undertake her research.
According to media reports, the National Archives did not have public records regarding the concerned subject.
Patriotic Aishwarya then wrote to the then President Ms Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to issue a notification declaring Mahatma Gandhi as ‘Father of the Nation’.
After some time, Aishwarya filed an RTI petition seeking to know the action taken by the president and the Prime Minister on her plea.
The petition was referred to the Home Ministry with instructions to explain the action taken on her plea. The Home Ministry responded:
“Mahatma Gandhi cannot be accorded the ‘Father of the Nation’ title by government because Article 18 (1) of the Constitution does not permit any titles except educational and military ones.”
In a similar vein, according to reports, when a demand to confer the title of ‘Father of the Indian Constitution” on Dr Ambedkar was made in 2004, the then Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, in a letter to the Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit wrote:
“It is not, however, feasible to formally confer the title of ‘Father of Indian Constitution’ on Dr Ambedkar, since Article 18 (1) of the Constitution specifically provides that “no title, not being a military or academic distinction, shall be conferred by the state.”
Advani further said:
“I may clarify that although Mahatma Gandhi is popularly known as “Father of the Nation,” no such title was ever formally conferred on him by the government.“
Today, November 14th, India celebrates Children’s Day. It is a public holiday. On this day, India remembers and honours the country’s first Prime Minister Shri Jawaharlal Nehru born in 1889. The children of India fondly called him “Chacha Nehru” (Hindi: चाचा नेहरू)) or Uncle Nehru.
Jawaharlal Nehru always emphasized the importance of showering love and affection on children. He saw in them the future of India.
On Children’s Day, the Kids in India engage themselves in the fun and frolic. Various educational, cultural, social, institutions organize functions and conduct competitions for children all over the country. All schools are organizing cultural activities on this day; in most cases arranged by the children themselves. Teachers also get involved; in many schools, they sing and dance for their students. The State and the Central governments organize film festivals in many parts of the country to showcase Children’s films.
I wish all children in India “A Happy Children’s Day!”
The north-eastern state of Manipur in India has a population of about 2.5 million people. Since 1980, a huge force of army, paramilitary and state police are stationed there to fight at least 12 insurgent groups.
Forty-years-old activist, writer and poet Irom Sharmila Chanu (born March 14, 1972) known as “the Iron Lady of Manipur” as well as “Mengoubi” (“the fair one”) has been on a hunger strike since November 2, 2000 asking the Indian government to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958.
This Act gives sweeping powers to the armed forces to fight separatist insurgents and the leftist radicals. The society groups and critics say that the provisions in this Act are often misused by troops and policemen and leads to gross human rights violations by the forces. Human rights organisations often describe the army’s powers as “draconian”.
Irom Sharmila Chanu blames this Act for the violence in her home state Manipur as well as in other parts of northeast India.
The Indian government and the Indian army maintain that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is necessary to restore normality in the state.
Sharmila began her hunger strike in November 2000 after soldiers of the Assam Rifles paramilitary force allegedly killed 10 young Manipuri men.
She has been arrested many times for her hunger strike and taken to hospital where she has been force-fed a liquid diet through her nose in a bid to keep her alive.
She has repeatedly rejected requests to call off her fast until the government withdraws the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
Eleven plus years of fasting have made her into an iconic figure in Manipur. She has earned the title “the world’s longest hunger striker” for having refused food and water for more than 600 weeks.
Robert Leroy Ripley was an American cartoonist, entrepreneur and amateur anthropologist. He created the world famous Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
On December 19, 1918, Ripley launched his cartoon feature involving sports feats in the New York Globe and titled it “Champs and Chumps”. Later he started adding items unrelated to sports. In October 1919, he changed the title to” Ripley’s Believe It or Not!”
Ripley then hired Norbert Pearlroth as his researcher. Pearlroth spent the next 52 years of his life in the New York Public Library. He worked almost ten hours a day and six days a week to find bizarre events and items that are strange and unusua facts for Ripley.
The Believe It or Not panel proved popular and as technology developed adapted into a wide variety of formats, such as a book series, comic books, a chain of museums, radio, and television.
Now, Ripley’s website has featured a cartoon on the activist Irom Sharmila Chanu that describes her as “the iron lady of Manipur”.
I have reproduced the following from rediffNEWS – Last updated on: December 1, 2011 17:22 IST
Exclusive! Irom Sharmila writes: “We’ve learnt to forego truth”
On November 3, 2011, when her fast against the Armed Forces Special Protection Act in force in Manipur completed 11 years, Irom Sharmila penned a heartfelt appeal to her people, which was handed over to the media on November 30 as she was being produced before the chief judicial magistrate in Imphal.
Translated from the Manipuri text by Chitra Ahanthem.
If only human beings were able to relate to nature and her form: The breeze, the birds in the skies, the insects chirping away.
If only human beings were able to live without being petty or mean-minded like the living beings around us, there would not have been the ongoing war to be better off than the other. There would not be a relentless drive to suppress the other person to get your way in life.
But men seem to have only learnt from how animals in the jungle prey on weaker animals and their blood-thirsty instincts.
The use of weapons of destruction like guns has led many young lives to leave their homes to take part in the theatre of war.
Many lives have been affected and a thousand marital ties are affected by the unending struggles. Man’s inability to trust nature and God’s creation has led to the quest for artificially manufactured things and the transient comfort they can give. This has encouraged the race for getting more and more money, leading to violating what is due to other people.
People have forgotten to be humble and only learnt how to forgo truth.
The State and nature of a society and its people are reflected in the nature of its political leadership.
Over time immemorial, different communities have co-existed peacefully with one another in harmony. The people of the hill and the valley used to share the products of the land. If the produce of the land was low, the produce was still shared equally.
The roots of the rush to acquire more land and other trappings of power and influence are an outcome of a weak and diluted leadership.
While one cannot take along their belongings once they pass away, the practice of fighting over who gets to control which part of the land has led to divisions between communities and the call for breaking away.
So long as leaders are more concerned in amassing wealth for themselves and counting their money, who is it that will lead the way?
The leaders are the ones who should be the backbone of society. It is their duty to revitalise people who are tired and worn out. It is their mandate to soothe the minds and hearts of people.
I hear many things that leave me astounded. I hear these stories from the people around me.
They tell me that they stand in line at petrol pumps. They say that they start queuing much before the day breaks till about 3 in the afternoon only to be told that the petrol stock has got over. They tell me that they feel sleepy and exhausted after their quest for petrol.
And I think to myself: This petrol that is so necessary is something that is not of our state. Then I think about how our ancestors lived. They had limited world exposure, but lived self-sufficiently. They did not have to depend on other people.
Would their way of life be inconvenient for them?
Today, we seem to be getting lost in the gloss and glitter that exist around us. Is the quest for glitter making us lose our heads and in the process taking away our mind faculties?
Will it not be possible to think that such gloss and glamour do not exist and then reorganise our lives accordingly?
It is only when we know our own selves as we really are that we can begin to think of collective good. The ability to think of the collective good can only contribute to the betterment of society.
I do know and I do hear that among the daily wage-earners who have been newly recruited, 54 of them came up with Rs 300,000 each to give to a doctor who is related to the chief minister.
The total amount, coming to a little over Rs 1,500,0000 was taken as ‘favour money,’ but later, the joint government order mentioned that there could not be any demand for their job regularisation.
The trade for a government job has reached suffocation point and for this tiny state that is yet to be able to stand on its own, it only leads to disillusionment among the youth of today who are well educated and have the ability to contribute to the development of the state.
People who are equipped with degrees are left out of gaining employment if they cannot get the amount that is required to guarantee a job. They remain wasted while the state and society stay in dire need of their attention.
This state of affairs has only contributed to the malaise that is prevailing in Manipur today.
It is this discontent that is the root cause of all that ails the state. The pursuit of government jobs happens because someone with a government job is ensured financial security in the form of his pension and other entitlements.
The race for government jobs means that people sell off their ancestral property and other holdings to collate the amount that is required. The subsequent efforts to recover the money spent for a government job results in government departments being crippled with corruption.
The sense of duty has entirely disappeared in every sphere.
That is why we get to see confrontations arising out of disgruntlement from the common man who is fed up with the way the system is operating.
The emergence of the select few who have power and money at their disposal has emboldened them and led to treading on the lives of the less fortunate.
It has become common for them to exploit those who earn on a daily basis by taking way their basic human rights just as it has become normal to hear about crimes against women.
The powerful and the wealthy are well connected to the leaders who are leading the pack of thieves and are hence not wanting for anything in their existence.
The rampant exploitation of the poor daily wage-earners and the farmers who are at the end of the social and economic spectrum leaves them without the resources to live comfortably on one hand and leave them without the means to have their grievances addressed.
Left without the backing of the powerful, they face an uphill process when they attempt to air their life stories of unaddressed issues.
My beloved people
Just as all living beings having faith are drawn to Mother nature as one to her bountiful lap, let us place faith in our mothers who have borne us.
Our mothers who are like no one else, keeping guard in the dead of the night with a fire torch in hand.
May the light in your torch lead us to a better society where love and harmony exist between different groups.
May it bring together all the fragmented pieces.
May Mother Nature continue to bless us with her bountiful gifts to feed everyone.
May people have access to healthcare for everyone.
May anger and disillusionment go away.
May those who stone and set fire to vehicles that are carrying food and other supplies for their fellowmen leave behind their destructive nature.
May the seething anger that leaves us half-dead and half-alive and caught between hunger and excess, may all that is uncalled for go away.
May we be able to live in peace as nature does.
May we strive to be selfless.
May we be able to imbibe the spirit of sacrifice.
May the movements that started with a vision to serve the people and all those who set out to work for the people by getting into governance find their way back to what they set out to do.
May all their wrongdoing and their pretensions of doing good turn into what is right.
May all that is wrong, get resolved. May we be able to find the way to a better Manipur!
May we be able to give up setting fire to the centres of learning.
May we be able to save the pillars of our society from HIV/AIDS so they are able to stand together as one.
May we be able to save lives.
May a new beginning be heralded that brings justice to everyone.
May all that is evil and wrong be changed by truth.
Irom Sharmila’s address: A-4, Special Ward, Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital, Porompat, Imphal East 795005, Manipur.
As the World Awakes, India Sleepwalks Into Nuclear Peril
Many countries are rethinking their nuclear plans post-Fukushima. Some are proceeding to draw down their nuclear power operations. According to an AP report,
Germany…turned decisively against nuclear power after the Fukushima crisis, shutting down eight reactors and planning to close the remaining nine nuclear power plants by 2022.
Last June in the wake of the Japanese disaster, Italians held a referendum and rejected nuclear energy for their country, leading then Prime Minister Berlusconi to concede that his country would have to bid “addio” to nuclear power.
Having known nuclear devastation up close, first during wartime in 1945, and then in peacetime last year upon seeing the writing on the tsunami wall, Japan has acted with alacrity, From the same AP report,
Japan will be free of atomic power for the first time since 1966 on Saturday, when the last of its 50 usable reactors is switched off for regular inspections. The central government would like to restart them at some point, but it is running into strong opposition from local citizens and governments.
And France has replaced a vehemently pro-nuclear premier with the Socialist Francois Hollande, who will almost certainly build no new reactors. For decades France has been the “poster child” of atomic power. But Hollande is likely to follow the major shift in French national opinion away from nuclear power and toward the kind of green-powered transition now redefining German energy supply.
Wasserman’s article also declares that the chances of the United States building any new reactors are slim to none – the price tag of around $10 billion a reactor puts it at a decided disadvantage compared to – renewable energy!
Following Fukushima, China is engrossed in a bottom-to-top reevaluation of its nuclear energy strategy.
Thus is there a pensive re-examination of faith even among fervent believers in nuclear power. Theoretical argument is one thing; the sight of one of the world’s most efficient and advanced populations struggling to cope with a nuclear emergency gives an entirely different aspect to the matter. The slightest chance that huge centers ofpopulation might not just be devastated, but rendered unlivable for hundreds of years, alters the mental odds-making completely, as well it should.
This is the setting in which an establishment high on the ‘development’ narcotic and tantalized by the apsara of growth rate has decided to commit India to building no less than 30 new nuclear reactors in the next 20 years.
Deeming the Fukushima meltdowns no deterrent to their previous plans, the Indian government and its agencies have tried to downplay fears about nuclear power in general, and those concerning the Koodankulam nuclear plant in particular. The plant, located right on the ocean at the country’s southern tip, bears a certain situational resemblance to Fukushima.
Widespread misgivings about safety and health issues have been sought to be pooh-poohed by trotting out an army of ‘experts’, led by former missile scientist and ex-president APJ Abdul Kalam, best known for his well-publicized ardor for turning India into a ‘developed’ country by year 2020, read, an endorsement of every grandiose scheme to take Indians as quickly as possible into the top ranks of the world’s consumers.
But, Koodankulam’s residents and their neighbors have begged to differ with the authorities. Their movement (there have been local agitations against the Koodankulam plant long before Fukushima), which the government has tried to ignore, belittle, slander and disrupt, is now engaged in a peaceful protest that has caught the attention of the world. According to PMANE (People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy), some 9000 people are engaged in a sit in, with several hundred on an indefinite fast. PMANE is now starting a ‘Respect India‘ campaign along the lines of Gandhi’s ‘Quit India’ movement of 1942. A line from their crisp indictment of India’s development mania says it all, ”As a result of our ruling class’s nuclear madness, our land, water, air, sea, sea life, sea food and food security will all become spoiled and poisoned.”
It is noteworthy that the anti-nuclear struggle has no backing from major political parties, handmaidens all to a development ideology run amok, unhinged from any concern but economic growth rate.
If establishment luminaries are in the least troubled by the fact that there is still no good solution to the problem of nuclear radioactive waste, they have not let on. Even if no earthquake or tsunami ever came near the nuclear reactors, the dangers of soil and groundwater contamination are serious enough. It is reasonable to add that human (and yes, computer) error is an eternal fact – it wasn’t an earthquake that caused the Chernobyl disaster. Seeing pictures of its after-effects 25 years later, it is clear one does not have to live through nuclear war to recognize the truth of a phrase attributed to Nikita Khrushchev, “the living will envy the dead”. A malfunction is enough.
“As the world sleeps, India awakes to freedom”, Jawaharlal Nehru declared as he became free India’s first prime minister. It was the midnight hour of August 14-15, 1947. Some wags granted Nehru his eloquence but raised a minor technicality. Since it was 12 AM in India, it was actually daytime or evening in much of the world, which therefore was quite wide awake, thank you! Today we might be on more solid ground in paraphrasing Nehru’s words: “As the world awakes to its dangers, India sleepwalks into nuclear peril“.
Niranjan Ramakrishnan is a columnist and writer living on the West Coast. He is the author of Bantaism: the Philosophy of Sardar Jokes. His forthcoming book, ‘On the Other Hand’, is a collection of essays on Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas in the context of current-day issues. He can be reached at email@example.com