Around two million people have been hurt by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that took place 26 years ago. “The Chernobyl disaster underscored that mankind must be extra careful in using nuclear technologies,” Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych said. Is India listening?
The impact of Chernobyl nuclear disaster we see today is not just the exclusion zone around the destroyed reactor, but enormous radioactive contamination still observed in the now independent states of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. There are vast territories in Russia’s Bryansk Region where the levels of background radiation are still too high for people to live safely in the area. Ironically, Russia, one of the countries most severely affected by Chernobyl, prefers to ignore the immense renewable energy potential and still placing its bets on more nuclear power plants.
Indian nuclear power plants are situated in Zone II and III except Narora plant in Uttar Pradesh, which is situated in Zone IV. Is the government doing enough to ensure that our nuclear plant are safe and can withstand any disaster, natural or otherwise? Here is an international report highlighting the Chernobyl disaster and the measures taken by the Ukrainian government to protect its citizens from the after-effects of the disaster.
Twenty-six years to the day after the world’s worst nuclear disaster, Ukraine on Thursday began construction of a vast new metal shelter to contain the stricken Chernobyl reactor.
The 20,000-tonne structure, big enough to enclose the Statue of Liberty, is due to be completed by 2015, allowing the delicate and dangerous job of dismantling the reactor and cleaning vast amounts of radioactive waste still around it to begin.
“The Chernobyl disaster underscored that mankind must be extra careful in using nuclear technologies,” Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych said at the commencement ceremony. “Nuclear accidents lead to global consequences. They are not a problem of just one country, they affect the life of entire regions.”
The 26 April 1986, explosion spewed a cloud of radiation over the northern hemisphere, forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes in Ukraine, Belarus and western Russia. The Soviet government initially tried to hush up the explosion and resisted evacuation of neighbouring settlements, as well as failing to tell citizens how to protect themselves against radiation.
A concrete “sarcophagus” was hastily erected over the wrecked reactor, but it has been crumbling and leaking radiation in recent years and a new confinement structure is necessary.
Mr Yanukovych said two million people have been hurt by the tragedy and it was the state’s obligation to protect and treat them. But his reassurances fell flat with Chernobyl clean-up workers and victims. About 2,000 protesters rallied on Thursday outside parliament in Kiev, demanding more compensation and pensions.
Mr Yanukovych also thanked international donors for pledging 740 million euros (615 million pounds) to build the new shelter and a nuclear fuel waste facility. The biggest donors are the G8 industrial nations, including Japan, itself still recovering from last year’s Fukushima nuclear meltdown.
“It feels good to note Ukraine wasn’t left alone with its pain. We felt the whole world came to our rescue,” Mr Yanukovych said.
Vince Novak, director of the Nuclear Safety Department with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which part-funds the project, praised Ukraine’s commitment.
“It is definitely important to know there is a strong commitment in Ukraine to do everything necessary to ensure that the Chernobyl project progresses well,” he said. “We have no room or margins for delay, for errors or for poor performance.” Mr Novak said 1,000 workers are now beginning to piece together the giant arch from French steel on an assembly site 200 metres away from the exploded reactor. After it is assembled in the coming months, workers will begin to lift it to slide it over the reactor. The contours of the new confinement building should become visible by the year end. Then a front and back section will be built.
Preparatory work has been under way since 2008. That included cleaning up the assembly site, replacing contaminated soil, and then putting it in concrete, which now enables employees to work without special radiation protection.
EAS Sarma, former secretary to the Government of India, has also written to PMO hoping that someone there will have the sanity to think outside the narrow confines of Department of Energy and be statesmanlike in reviewing the safety of nuclear power. There are a myriad ways to find answers to our energy problem without committing the people of this country to a dangerous nuclear future.
Following persistent agitation by three intrepid activists, and supported by several exclusive articles in Moneylife alone, written by Vinita Deshmukh, the President of India, Pratibha Patil agrees to give up the land on which she was building a palatial post retirement bungalow
President Pratibha Patil has announced that she will now give up the large tract of A1 army land that she had grabbed to build a palatial post-retirement bungalow. This follows persistent newsbreaks only in Moneylife for the last one month and continuous agitation by activists in Pune.
A statement from the Rashtrapati Bhavan said, “Considering the fact that the issue has got linked with the issue of war widows accommodation by some people, the President has chosen to forego the aforesaid allotment of accommodation proposed to be made to her as her post retirement home in Pune.” It also said that, “What has pained the President the most is the fact that she is now being portrayed by some people as one who, by agreeing to accept a defence accommodation for her post retirement home, is insensitive to the cause of war widows and ex-servicemen. But facts are to the contrary. She has always been proud of our brave jawans who are ever-ready to display their spirit of sacrifice while defending our borders. She has the highest regards for our war widows who have lost their dear ones for the sake of security and integrity of the nation.”
It was Moneylife which broke the story that Pratibha Patil, president of India and the supreme commander of the armed forces was building a palatial home for herself on a whopping 261,000 sq ft of land in Khadki Cantonment in Pune (out of which the bungalow occupies about 4,500 sq ft). The land belongs to the defence. It was planned to have a fortified home. It was more than the stipulated 2,000 sq ft norms as stipulated by the law. Here is our first article
President Pratibha Patil grabs 2,61,000 sq ft of land meant for soldiers and officers
The issue came to limelight after information was revealed under the Right to Information (RTI) following a query by Col Suresh Patil (retd) and founder of Justice for Jawans (JFJ), RTI activist Anup Awasthi and Indian Ex-servicemen Movement (IESM). They campaigned against Ms Patil’s ‘snatching’ away land meant for soldiers and officers.
The RTI application was sent to the President’s office. As per the reply, under the President’s Emoluments and Pension Act, 1951 and rules framed under the President’s Pension Rule, 1962, “where suitable government residence is not available for allotment to a retired president, the size of the residence to be taken on lease to be provided to a retired president shall have a living area not exceeding 2,000 sq ft”.
In an earlier response from the Rashtrapati Bhavan, to a campaign by a group of ex-servicemen, said that, “No illegality has been committed. The land has been allotted to the President for use during her lifetime and will continue to belong to the defence ministry," it said rebutting charges that the plot had been "given" to the President.”
Vinita Deshmukh, who consistently followed the story, told Moneylife that, “She is absolutely thrilled by the response from the President. It is truly a people’s victory.”
Moneylife has been consistently at the story. After the first article, Vinita wrote about the fact that Pratibha Patil’s house stands on defence land meant only for military use with military spending its resources for her benefit.
(Pratibha Patil’s house stands on A1 defence land meant only for military use; military spending its resources for her)
Soon after the above story was published, it went viral in the social media. However, the President's office came up with a denial which did not address the core issues, but was carried faithfully by the mainstream media (Pratibha Patil’s Pune Bungalow: Denying the undeniable ).
The protests gathered steam and spread both nationwide. (Protest against President’s land grab set to spread countrywide)
Further, it was found out that Pune Cantonment Board’s reply to RTI application says that the cantonment comes under the jurisdiction of the Maharashtra Tree Act. Apparently, trees too were being uprooted to give way for the palace.
Trees cut illegally for President Pratibha Patil’s Pune bungalow?
Even the home ministry questioned the President’s move. The president’s office instead stood ground and stated their reply, which was full of factual errors.
Ministry of defence had questioned ‘precedence’ of allocating defence land for President Pratibha Patil’s retirement home
With the social media and nationwide protest at the peak, the President office sent an emissary to pacify the RTI activists. However, the Governor of Tripura, DY Patil, had planed to fly down to Pune to pacify activists opposing President Pratibha Patil's post-retirement home; tweets depleted his confidence and he sent his confidante instead, who in turn asked the soldiers to "tone down the agitation". Thus showing the power of the citizens.
Twitter buzz scares away Pratibha Patil's emissary sent to pacify protestors of Pune land grab
Vinita Deshmukh finally wrote that many unanswered questions remain. By the time, the nation was fed up.
President Pratibha Patil’s palatial home in Pune: Many unanswered questions
The Association of Mutual Funds of India is will shell out enormous money to duplicate what is available, with no idea how any investor would be persuaded to use it
While the Association of Mutual Funds of India (AMFI) has at last started talking against the Securities and Exchange Board of India’s (SEBI) debilitating move to ban entry load in August 2009 without much discussion, the former is about to embark on a dubious adventure. AMFI has been planning to spend crores of rupees to build a MF Utility, a comprehensive mutual fund platform to buy and sell mutual funds. A lot of market observers are wondering who will benefit from it and how?
An industry source, who does not want to be identified, believes that costs can easily be upwards of Rs15 crore. The industry itself is divided as to who will pay for this white elephant and why. While the larger fund companies (about four) are in favour of the plan, the vast majority of fund houses are unwilling to shell out money for it.
Indeed, with such a high price to develop the product, how will AMFI recover the cost, especially at a time when retail investors are shying away from investing in equity funds? As of now, mutual funds can be bought physically through distributors but participation is abysmally low relative to savings being generated. There are already three ways one can buy funds online. One, all fund houses such as HDFC Mutual Fund and ICICI Prudential Mutual Fund have their own portal for transacting online. Two, there is the hair-brained idea of former SEBI chairman CB Bhave, which is to get mutual fund investors ‘trade’ online through broker terminals. This has been a flop. Finally, it is pertinent to note that, at the moment, there already exists a platform for mutual funds, namely Finnet jointly developed by two registrars and transfer agents—Computer Age Management Services (CAMS) and Karvy. This platform covers almost 95% of the industry’s schemes and products. A rationale for developing yet another one and that too led by an association which has refused to do any kind of self-regulation, is not clear when there are already three online models around. If AMFI’s idea of using technology is to improve ‘distribution’, it clearly missed the point.
AMFI had stated the intentions of building this platform last year, when Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and National Stock Exchange (NSE) had built their own platforms. In order to compete with them and offer investors a stand-alone platform, AMFI had come up with this idea. According to AMFI, investors will now have a single login ID instead of multiple, providing unified access to all AMCs. Any investor now access any scheme online either directly or through a distributor (who would fill up the form on behalf of the investor and process it further through the registrar and transfer agent). This is exactly similar to Finnet.
One head of a fund house calls it a half-baked idea. Most importantly, today investors need to be persuaded to invest in equity mutual funds. The MF Utility will be a “Do-It-Yourself” model which has no chance of succeeding in India in the near future. With no one to advise investors what to invest in MF Utility, what is the point of technology? Yes, technology does make things easier, but there has to be an incentive for distributors to do business, but this incentive is insignificant when SEBI banned the entry load in August 2009. Apart from AMC distributors, what will other distributors do? A head of a one of the smaller AMCs says that “this looks like a platform to benefit a few.”