Former bureaucrats, activists, write to PM on his “foreign hand” charge against anti-nuclear and anti-GM crop agitations. They ask him to take cognisance of the issues that are being raised by the agitators
The prime minister’s hard selling of the nuclear plants and genetically modified crops hasn’t gone down well with citizens and activists. But now with Dr Manmohan Singh invoking the “foreign hand” to discredit popular agitations against these issues has raised the ire of many former bureaucrats and administrators, who have written to the prime minister, protesting against his remarks. They have asked him to formulate an inclusive policy with participation from activist groups and citizens.
The letter, dated 5th March, says, “We urge the UPA government to initiate a truly inclusive process of deliberations with all stake-holders in civil society to help formulate a rational public policy with regard to both the nuclear power sector and GM crops.”
The letter has been signed by former Supreme Court judge Krishna Swamy Iyer; Dr A Gopalakrishnan, former chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board; EAS Sarma, former Union power secretary; Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, former chief of Naval Staff, Mumbai and JM Lyngdoh, former chief election commissioner. Many activists, namely Medha Patkar, Prashant Bhushan, Aruna Roy and Aruna Rodrigues; who has filed a PIL in Supreme Court against BT brinjal, have also shown their support.
The writers have protested against the prime minister’s comments on the popular agitations. “You choose to resurrect the old bogeyman of a “foreign hand”, this time pointing to external funding of NGOs to oppose Indian development, as if they are operating to undermine the nation’s interest. This we feel, is a highly inappropriate misrepresentation of facts. In reality, what we are all fighting against is indeed is a foreign hand operating at the behest of and from within your government, supported by Indian and foreign commercial entities to corporatize Indian agriculture and the energy sector. Your remarks, in essence, indict every signatory to this letter.”
The letter raises several concerns about the GM crops and the nuclear power plants that the government seems adamant on pushing, regardless of protests. The letter has said that the BT brinjal, which has been developed and self-validated by Monsanto, the world’s leading agricultural biotech company, needs to be authenticated by an independent authority. The GM crops’ introduction is being helmed by KIA (Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture).
“India is singled out for the commercialisation of GM crops by the US and Monsanto— an objective that is actively facilitated by the Indian regulators. This is well attested to in court documents. The official push for GM in Indian agriculture means that we are the only country extensively testing untested GM crops in open field trials in virtually all our food, with great risk of contamination. In the matter of brinjal, Monsanto stands accused by the NBA (National Biodiversity Authority) of pirating an Indian brinjal gene,” the signatories have said.
Incidentally, studies by the UNO, the World Watch Institute of the World Bank and IAASTD (International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development) have termed GM-crops as ‘insufficient and unsustainable’.
The signatories have also pointed out the safety and environmental concerns that prevail regarding nuclear plants. While most Western countries had started decommissioning nuclear plants after the Fukushima disaster, many countries have announced all existing projects will be phased out and efforts will be directed towards harnessing non-conventional, non-polluting sources of energy; and Germany has been the most notable example. However, the Indian government has been pushing for facilities in Jaitapur and Kudunkulam, and the crackdown on the local people and agitators has been severe.
The writers of the letter have pointed out that there has been no independent environment impact assessment of the projects, and safety issues have been left unaddressed. They have accused the government of failing to evolve any comprehensive energy policy, and of being hand-in-glove with foreign MNCs who have been pushed out of their own country. They have denounced the EIA reports on Units 1 and 2 of the Kudunkulam plant as ‘sketchy’, and have pointed out that the execution of the project is riddled with procedural and contractual flaws.
“By acceding to importing reactors and fuel on such a large scale from France and other countries, has the government not jeopardised India’s national, and especially energy, security? Evidently, foreign reactor suppliers themselves are not as confident as the PM seems to be of the safety of their own reactors and want the Indian taxpayer to bear what could be an astronomical part of the liability in case of a nuclear accident,” the letter says.
The letter has asked the prime minister to take cognisance of the issues being raised; and has asked him to act urgently on the matter. They said, “Several important communications have been submitted to you in writing over the last two to three years, without even the courtesy of an acknowledgement from the PMO. The evidence, which has been offered on the significant gaps in safety and liability surrounding both these technologies by well-informed and deeply concerned individuals and groups in the nation’s interest, has not been seen by you, or else you would surely have taken cognisance of it.”
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