Citizens' Issues
Public Interest Exclusive
Kudankulam crackdown invites citizens’ ire

Activists demand revocation of clearance for the project and a stop to all police actions

The arrest of many agitators by the police at Idinthikara, Kudankulam, has been criticised by citizen groups and activists, who have demanded that the crackdown be stopped immediately and work at the site be stopped.

The Jan Sansad, or People’s Parliament, identified the Kudankulam action as a “case of misplaced priorities”. It said in a statement, “We demand both Union and state governments to withdraw all police actions, Tamil Nadu government revoke the clearance and close down the nuclear plant as demanded by the local people.”

“While the prime minister has maintained that the greatest danger to the Indian state is terrorism, there is zero respect for non-violent struggles of people’s movements for people’s livelihood. Governments are highly undemocratic by installing such a highly destructive plant without considering the protest of local people. This action shows the real disaster of denying people’s right over development planning. This is clear violation of the principles of democratic decentralization,” said the Jan Sansad in a resolution adopted on the issue.

The organisation further said, “The Kudankulam nuke plant will definitely affect the lives and livelihoods of the people living in that area. The radioactive particles leaked out will be harmful to the health of people and the environment of the marine system. If any accident, as in the case of Fukushima, happens that will destroy the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people. The cooling water released from the plant will increase the temperature of the seawater and will harm the marine life in the coast, hence the livelihood of the people. In the international context also Nuclear energy is not accepted by scientists and governments. Most of the countries which are depending on nuclear energy had changed their stand because it is highly expensive and risky. Nowhere in the world scientists could find a safe method to process or keep the nuclear wastes including the spent fuel.”

A retired IAS officer commented on the crackdown as ‘shameful’. “It is sad the government uses force to put down citizens who are raising questions that need to be answered. If there are serious environmental and security concerns, they must be answered and till then, the work must be stopped,” he said.

Meanwhile, the agitators at Kudankulam have taken up a fast to protest against the police action and have sought the release of those arrested. SP Udayakumar, convener of the group People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy, said they were all prepared to be arrested.



Prof S Ganesan

5 years ago

India needs to generate and provide electricity to all her citizens. Only with increased growth of electricity, it is possible to make progress i.e., have good infrastructure, health care, education, etc. The national energy security, the hard won freedom, the nation's survival all need growth of all forms of generation of energy. The nuclear industry should be allowed as part of her mix of energy options. All options including nuclear should be encouraged. Energy conservation and efficient energy managment are also essential. Safety in high technology areas like nuclear energy needs continuous updates as in France which produces more than75% electricity from nuclear. The people who oppose nuclear energy also needs first to oppose non-eradication of Malaria, road and rail accidents and power cuts. We need PMASGNE urgently. PMASGNE is People's Movement Against Slow Growth of Nuclear Energy.

K B Patil

5 years ago

Any well read person in this country knows how inefficient and callous our government agencies are. Just recently, National Geographic was telecasting a programme about the Union Carbide plant at Bhopal which shows how corporates take shortcuts even where human lives are involved. Such being the case, if I was living near Kudankulam, even I would be nervous about my future.
The Kudankulam protests and the Nira Radia tapes are a glaring example of government doublespeak. Peaceful protestors are arrested under the charge of sedition whereas the lobbyist was seen manipulating the government. Yet, our PM did not find her activities disturbing.

K M Rao

5 years ago

We should not permit these eco terrorists to harm the basic interests of the country. Let them cite one developmental activity that does not affect environment, livelihood of any one. Let them also enlighten us how to meet the growing energy needs of the country. The decision was taken by elected governments. Let these fellows contest elections, get elected and prescribe and implement their ingenious way of meeting energy needs of the country.

Fall to continue: Thursday Closing Report

Nifty may seek support at 5,175 but the trend is down unless the market closes above any previous day and strengthens further

The huge sell-off in the second half of trade after the key European markets opened lower and a depreciation of the rupee to a fresh two-month low resulted in an extremely negative close, wiping out all the gains of yesterday and some more. In our yesterday’s closing report we had mentioned that if the Nifty manages to make a higher high, we may see it reaching 5,460. Today the index made a high above yesterday’s high but couldn’t sustain that level for long and went to make a new low in the past 10 trading days (including today). The market record its second highest fall in 2012 after 27 February 2012 where the Sensex had ended 478 lower and the Nifty was down 148 points. From here we may see the benchmark seeking minor support at 5,175. The National stock Exchange (NSE) saw a much higher volume of 91.50 crore shares, which was above its 10-day moving average.

The market witnessed a small gap-down opening as a report indicating lower factory output in China for the month of March saw the Asian pack trading mixed. Profit booking after two days of gains also weighed on the sentiments. The Nifty opened four points lower at 5,361 and the Sensex started the day at 17,586, a cut of 16 points over its previous close.

After remaining in the red till around 10.00am, select buying pushed the indices into the positive. The upmove enabled the benchmarks to hit their intraday highs a short while later. At the highs, the Nifty touched 5,386 and the Sensex rose to 17,687.

The rupee lost 10 paise to touch a new two-month low of 50.77 against the dollar on the Interbank Foreign Exchange market in early trade, following increased demand for the American currency from importers.

However, profit booking at higher levels led the indices lower again amid choppy trade. Moving sideways in the negative terrain till around 1.30pm, a lower opening of the key European markets and US stock futures trending lower led to a huge sell-off following which the local market fell sharply lower in post-noon trade.

The slide continued with the indices falling to their intra-day lows in the last half hour. At the lows, the Nifty went down to 5,206 and the Sensex dropped to 17,137.  The market closed a tad above those levels. The Nifty declined 137 points (2.54%) to settle at 5,228 and the Sensex tumbled 405 points (2.30%) to finish at 17,196.

The advance-decline ratio on the NSE was negative at 387:1326.

The broader indices were equally punished in today’s decline, as the BSE Mid-cap index tanked 2.27% and the BSE Small-cap index dropped 1.68%.

While yesterday all sectoral indices settled higher, it was the opposite today. BSE Realty (down 4.25%); BSE Power (down 3.62%); BSE Bankex (down 3.41%); BSE Capital Goods (down 3.37%) and BSE Metal (down 3.29%) were the top losers.

Coal India (up 2.40%) and Hero MotoCorp (up 0.48%) were the only gainers on the Sensex. The losers were led by Jindal Steel (down 7.26%); DLF (down 5.01%); Tata Steel (down 4.55%); Tata Power (down 4.42%) and Reliance Industries (down 4.15%).

The Nifty gainers were Coal India (up 2.07%) and Hero MotoCorp (up 0.57%). The main losers on the index were Jaiprakash Associates (down 7.18%); Jindal Steel (down 7.15%); Reliance Power (down 6.56%); Reliance Infrastructure (down 6.53%) and IDFC (down 6.03%).

The preliminary reading of China’s factory output for March, which was lower for the fifth month in a row, was offset by Japan’s higher-than-expected trade surplus for February. Referring to the development, an analyst at Nomura Securities opined that the “recovery in exports would be sustainable. However, in view of the contrasting news from the region, the Asian pack settled mixed for yet another day.

The Hang Seng gained 0.22%; the Jakarta Composite rose 0.13%; the KLSE Composite added 0.04%; the Nikkei 225 climbed 0.40% and the Taiwan Weighted surged 0.98%. On the other hand, the Shanghai Composite lost 0.10%; the Straits Times declined 0.88% and the Seoul Composite fell by 0.05%. At the time of writing, the key European indices were down between 1.11% and 1.82% and the US stocks futures were in the red.

Back home, foreign institutional investors were net buyers of equities totalling Rs622.64 crore on Wednesday and domestic institutional investors were net sellers of shares amounting to Rs293.70 crore.

Line pipe maker Welspun Corp today said it has bagged pipes and plates orders worth Rs1,217 crore from national and international markets. With the addition of these orders, the current order book of the company stands at Rs6,241 crore. The stock plunged 7.55% to close at Rs135.30 on the NSE.

In a move to address shortage of liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply, state-run Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) today signed an agreement with the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation for setting up a Rs 4,500-crore LNG terminal near Chennai. The project would initially have a capacity of about 5 million tonnes may be scaled up to 10 million tonnes whenever there is an increase in demand. IOC declined 1.92% to settle at Rs265.50 on the NSE.

Thermax has acquired the steam division of Virgo Valves and Controls, India and its German subsidiary company—Rifox-Hans Richter Gmbh, a leading steam traps and allied steam accessories manufacture, for a value of Rs13.39 crore. The acquisition will bring to the Thermax fold the manufacturing facilities of Rifox-Virgo in Germany and in India. The stock slipped 0.42% to Rs485 on the NSE.


Economy & Nation Exclusive
The great Indian media story: Digitisation dream gone sour

The path to digitisation has plenty of roadblocks which is affecting the revenues and profits of companies in the broadcast media

The television media is looking forward to digitisation, which is said to be beneficial for—both channels and broadcasters. It is expected to increased revenues for television channels and broadcasters, many of which are struggling financially. But, there is ample evidence to point out that the transition is not going to be easy.

About a week ago, the ministry of information and broadcasting said that it will start with the digitisation drive from April 2012, beginning with the four metros. The ambitious process is supposed to digitise all cable and analog households in the country by December 2014. The conversion is something many experts claim to be the cure-all, in this case, helping broadcasters and channels to earn revenues and save themselves, and provide a “high-end” experience to viewers, who are still stuck with an ordinary viewing.

According to the FICCI KPMG report, India has 146 million households that have television sets; and cable and satellite makes up 80% of the segment. The biggest beneficiaries from the digitisation drive may be the Direct-to-Home (DTH) service providers and Multi System Operators (MSOs).

But we see that despite a considerable rise in the number of DTH subscribers, the channels, broadcasters and DTH service providers have not made money. This brings us to the question, why?

The answer may lie in the convoluted tariff structure and huge inefficiencies of the system. The core problem is that channels are too dependent on advertising, customers are not paying enough for their entertainment, a substantial part of what they are paying is not reaching the TV channels and there is huge oversupply of channels, many funded by slush money and controlled by politicians. This oversupply is draining everybody’s resources—pushing costs higher and dragging down everybody’s profits (or increasing their losses).

The revenues of television business are hugely dependent on advertising. They hardly make much money from subscription. Currently, the average revenue per user (ARPU) is Rs160 per month, across all platforms, according to the FICCI report. This is much lower than what other countries pay. To reach Indian homes, they are dependent on cable operators and DTH providers who extract their pound of flesh. Hernan Lopez, president and chief executive of Fox International Channels, recently said in an interview: “Indian broadcasters generate $2.6 billion a year in advertising. But they only net out $700 million in subscription fees, after accounting for the $400 million they have to pay back in carriage fees.”

Carriage fee is the fee that the broadcasters pay the cable operators and DTH operators to ensure that their channels are carried into your homes. The system of carriage fee is mystifying, and suffers from lack of transparency. The analog cable operators have enormous clout in this area, and they can raise carriage fees, and every year, channels seal deals with these cable operators at increasingly high rates. And there is good deal of revenue leakage from the system. This means, that the channels often lose out on the revenues they earn, as the cable operators do not report their total earnings. Many cable operators are opposed to digitisation because they think it will lead to their loss. It is not that DTH operators are making money either with their carriage fee system. In a recent meet, Harit Nagpal, MD & CEO, Tata Sky, pointed out, “Of every Rs100, the DTH operator has to shell out 32%-35% as taxes and the broadcaster takes about 35%. So, what am I left with? DTH operators in India have shelled out Rs20,000 crore so far towards digitisation.”

The FICCI KPMG report says, “Broadcasters as well as MSOs expect a decline in carriage fee after the implementation of the first phase of digitization. However, there is a lack of consensus on the movement of carriage fee in the medium term. While broadcasters expect a decline over the next two to three years, some MSOs expect carriage payments to claw back to current levels.”

The biggest problem faced by the sector—and what nobody wants to talk about—is of oversupply that is forcing fragmentation. More than 600 channels are on air and government has approved more channels, which are yet to be launched. While many television channels find it difficult to manage their finances and get money for continuing their operations, channels (especially in the regional segment) funded by slush money supplied by some powerful entities get ahead. The money flows in without interruption and unregulated; while other channels struggle to raise money through painful and legitimate means and the channels with dubious means of funding further fragment the sector, and eat away at the revenues. This seamy side of the TV business escapes the fund mangers and analysts. The industry professionals cannot talk about it.

Following the global financial turmoil and inflationary pressure, many corporates have cut down on advertising costs. While the number of channels going up, advertising rates have remained flat and even shown a decline. The 2011 FICCI report had estimated that advertising will grow at 15% CAGR. But the 2012 report says that the growth has been close to 12%. Since 2009, rates have remained flat.

To combat all this, broadcasters have tried to tap into the premium payable segment, i.e., viewers who pay for what they watch via DTH platforms. But it continues to be a very niche segment, because DTH services are costlier than regular cable. Cable operators provide more channels at the same cost while DTH and high definition channels (HD) will also cost more. Convincing the viewer is to pay more will require across-the-board changes.

The FICCI KPMG report estimates that the total cost of digitisation, over four stages, would cost Rs20,000-Rs25,000 crore— excluding investments for DTH additions during the phase. While large cable operators may be able to raise the required cash, small operators and MSOs may not be able to do so. Judging the present scenario, 2014 does not seem to be a realistic deadline for complete digitisation. Information and broadcasting minister, Ambika Soni has assured that the prices of set-top boxes (which are offered at the cheapest rates by China) will come down and that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) will impose a tariff capping for subscribing to channels so that viewers do not get access to the whole bouquet of channels. But it will take more than that. Digitisation may improve subscription base, but without a thorough reform in the revenue structure of the industry (which seems impossible given the endless supply of channels), it seems unlikely that Mr Nagpal’s and his friends’ problems will go away.


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