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It is the day for cute messages and wearing your patriotism on the sleeve. It is a day that has increasingly lost meaning for me. We got independence from the British Raj. That was 68 years ago. Are we free?

What does independence mean? Was really racist enough to think that we needed the white skins out? I don't think so. Many freedom fighters too enaged with the world beyond India, got educated in the west. Indeed most of those we bother to remember as leaders of our freedom struggle were. They have continued the thought, the methods, the dysfunctional laws to keep the natives in line.

But if you take a moment to think about it, was this why the Indian masses fought for freedom? Poor starving masses have no ideology. They resist oppression. Their ideology is survival. Their ideology is their right to thrive. Many places had every home throwing up a satyagrahi or a rebel. They did not do this because of inspiring ideologies. They did this because they could not thrive under the British. They did not like being second class citizens, they did not like their wealth being stolen, their grains feeding far off wars while they died in famines. They fought against the British because the British WRONGED them. At the top, those with fancy ideologies, who were rarely poor enough to worry about whether they could survive formed grand theories about how they were the rightful custodians of India. But the Indian masses supported them for the hope to an end of their , not fancy ideologies or even democracy.

These people are still struggling. They are still being evicted from their homes and roots in the name of development that happens elsewhere. They are still providing cheap food so that the subjects of the Raj don't revolt, even as they the drought with their sweat and blood. They are still demanding their rights. they aren't revolting because they don't know how. There are no elite with their ideologies to tell them how to fight this time, because the elite are busy squabbling over the loot from the last time. Besides, there is a danger in reminding the masses that they didn't fight for freedom because the colonists were British - many invaders have ruled India without uprisings. There is a danger in reminding that they fought the British because they were harmed and humiliated. Because they still are.

The danger in reminding people of this is because very little has changed for those who gave uprisings their power. Their living conditions have very little change. Most freedom fighter stories - it is the season now, check them out - still describe the freedom fighters living in poverty, forgotten. These stories talk of India's lack of gratitude for their contribution. But these stories also stand witness that the conditions that led those people to revolt for their freedom still exist. In effect, they achieved nothing for their own realities.

The that made a career out of hyperbolic patriotism as idolizing soldiers evicted protesting soldiers on the day before Independence Day celebrations. The 68th "Independence Day" and soldiers can't even ask for their rights without being attacked by the state. What were they asking for? Their basic rights. One rank, one pension. . An old age without needing to beg from those they put their lives on the line to defend. The country is dotted with struggles. I doubt if there is a single district in all of India without some struggle still going on. Whether it is desperate slum dwellers fighting for their homes, or farmers fighting for something as pitiful as allowing them the income for survival so that they continue to subsidize the food for this colony. A government that is asking people to give up their LPG subsidies never thinks of asking people who can afford it at least to pay the actual cost of what it takes to grow food and profit from it. We hide the harm to farmers, sneer at any effort to make their lives easier as "handouts", while filling our bellies with the handouts from farmers.

Aren't celebrations a bit premature?

India is STILL bleeding money, draining most of the country for the prosperity of a few. Is it even freedom if criticizing the government means being declared a supporter of India's enemies and jeered at and being asked to leave the country? "Go to Pakistan!" Why? Because this is the country of your colonists. Not yours for you to stay here, right?

We have a  poverty line that is so absurd, it is more like a miracle line - incredible people who can survive on nothing. And we still have about a fourth of us living UNDER it. MAGIC. Perhaps we can earn TRPs if we turn it into a TV series. Oh wait they usually don't survive. They exist starving till something they can't afford to cure takes them down. There is a government hell bent on emptying vast swathes of India for the profit making industries with little regard for the people or the forests. We are now redefining things so that they don't sound so terrible. We tweak statistics to make them sound less terrible. We call the cutting down of age old forests as reforestation because surely, someone plants a few saplings somewhere.... Forest dwellers are now the homeless. Massive displacements "compensate" the development hit masses for the loss of their livelihood, their homes, their sustainable communities that were their support structures and nurtured the environment, their sources of food... with pigeon hole housing - because hey, if we give them a home, we just shifted them for progress and didn't really harm them. Right?

Celebrating 68 70 years of complacency over colonization this IndependenceDay

The drought saw young daughters studied till the 12th class come to Bombay to work as prostitutes and send money home instead of dreaming weddings their families can't afford. Parents gave daughters to bride traffickers to feed the remaining family even as trafficked brides get shared among brothers, discarded if the husband dies or no longer wants her. Parents marrying daughters off with just one consideration - that the boy's home is in a place where there is water. There are men marrying water wives to fetch water for their real families. While resorts boast of swimming pools and cities suck up water from hundreds of kilometers away while people nearby die of heatstroke chasing the scarce water tankers. We saw those accused in the irrigation scam give themselves a clean chit while others condemned them. Not one voice spoke of the need to make reparations to those development-hit people denied water for 10 years.

Today is the deadline for providing feedback on Net Neutrality. The government and internet providers are deperately looking for ways to make massive profit from an unequal internet by finding ways to call it equal. The previous feedback seems to have gone into some blackhole and there is a new, short deadline for providing new feedback if you are still planning to persist on fighting for your internet. Poetically, your chance to have a say ends on independence day. Oh and the government has formally declared in court that you don't have a right to privacy, even as your information torrents into big data for someone's profit. With the government's blessings.

The British jailed journalists and editors who wrote to oppose them. Our government has sent notices to on how they were reported. Crimes against inconvenient natives go unpunished. We are actually diluting the laws for whistleblowers making it illegal to expose wrongdoings that the government doesn't allow you to. Propaganda continues to convince the people that the rulers are their best interest, just like the old days.

Does it sound like these people are independent yet? Can a country with most of its people living hand to mouth - if at all - even call itself free? Can a country that denies dignity and income to those who feed it, serve it, protect it be called free? Can a government that silences people critical of it be called a government of the people? General Dyer merely ordered the firing at Jalianwala Baug. The soldiers were Indian. As Indian as our agencies inventing crimes against people who are opposing wrongs by our colonists against the natives.

Picture abhi baaki hain dost, the freedom struggle is not yet over!

Is this independence? Are Indian people really rulers of their country? I don't think so. Independence day is just a PR game for me. The elites telling people they have something precious, even when people cannot experience it. The freedom struggle is not over yet. The so called Independence Day merely marks a change in colonizers. The freedom struggle is still on, invisible, modest but determined all over India where people are STILL fighting an unjust state that is trampling all over their right to thrive on their land.

Old post. Still valid, so no need to write a new one.

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A long overdue step toward bringing in standards in advenure sports took off when the Government of Maharashtra issued norms as a Government Resolution applicable to individuals and organizations offering adventure tours. While the initial rules are better than expected, largely due to trekking organizations impleading themselves into the case by Anil Mahajan that led to the Bombay High Court directive, this must be seen as an initial step, that also will require much refinement before a desirable state of regulation without suffocation can evolve.

There is no doubt that operators of dubious competence endanger lives of people seeking adventure. However, it is important to recognize that there are few specific qualifications that could apply to many of the tours on offer and most of the competence of even the best of professionals in the adventure sector comes from experience and hobby that lead to no certification.

The GR has a mixed reception from what I have observed in the adventure fraternity. Well established businesses with large turnovers have little to worry about (other than availability of instructors with qualifications specified - who will be rare for a while yet). However smaller businesses and organizers are in a quandry even as they recognize the need for regulation for the sake of safety. There are still other hobbyists who are not comfortable with the need to register with authorities for every hike (something many people do every weekend in this region) and see this as a created opportunity for corruption.

Several valid questions raised include:

What distinguishes a hike from a picnic or other trip?

Many trekking locations are also popular spots for picnics or local festivals. Often, picnicers are found drinking alcohol and littering the place with both trash as well as dangerous glass from broken bottles. Trekking groups are the ones usually organizing clean up campaigns. Yet these guidelines will do little to prevent risky behavior by individuals, while forcing paperwork deterrents on organizations going to the same place with far more competence - for reasons of safety. Additionally, such trips will be forced to provide medical and evacuation plans which will add to costs and result in more trips conducted as unofficial picnics bypassing regulations resulting in little actual safety on the ground. It will be impossible to regulate free movement of people to picnic spots of their choosing and again be difficult to discriminate them with any sensible logic from pilgrims and other travelers to the same spots.

Qualifications

There are few qualifications that can apply to professionals in several kinds of adventure tours. While specific sports - like rock climbing, skiing or rafting have specific training courses available, most trekkers learn trekking by trekking and it is difficult for someone who has trekked for decades and is likely more competent than someone merely doing some mountaineering course to prove competence on paper. Further complications arise when it comes to trips out of the state. For example, consider a rafting trip on the Kali (Karnataka) or an adventure camp in Manali which will feature skiing and paragliding as activities. What qualifications should the instructors provided from Mumbai or Pune (for example) have? They will essentially be escorting travel, with local adventure operators providing the specific expertise for the activities. Why would they need more qualifications than any other tour operator? On the other hand, with local guides not requiring registration, there remains absolutely no guarantee of competence outside the state in any case, unless the operator is large enough with rich enough clients who will bear the costs of qualified instructors from Maharashtra accompanying every batch - who will not be allowed by local operators to run the activity on their setup in any case - because they will have established teams with smooth operations.

Worse, there are no qualifications that cover many kinds of competencies required on adventure tours, and responsible operators usually hire based on their knowledge of competence of people in key roles. These may not necessarily have the competencies on paper.

Innovation

Like any other field, the adventure field too goes through innovations. Rock climbing and rappelling trips that cannot be done in monsoons gave away to waterfall rappelling in the Sahyadri region. Skiing and snow boarding at snow points at Rohtang gave away to sliding down mountain slopes sitting tight in inflated truck tires. Is sliding down a snow slope on an inflated tire adventure or fun? Is sliding down the same slope on a snowboard adventure or fun? Will a team game involving a team building a makeshift raft and crossing a pond require an instructor trained in rafting or swimming coach? Is it adventure or not? Most operators experiment on themselves, and learn the risks before taking another through the experience. But with these regulations, that will not be enough. Too many regulations will strangle the joy of innovation - either for fear of legal consequences or for lack of qualifications to fit every need.

How unsafe is unsafe

Treating all adventure sports as being equally unsafe is a bit immature. Hiking in the Sahyadri is something entire generations of mountaineers grew up doing each weekend. When I was an active hiker, it was common to leave home intending to go on a trek and eyeball various groups waiting for the last train to Karjat at Dadar station to make a decision on which trek it will be. With these rules it will be impossible. I will need to register on Friday before offices close in order to be able to attend a weekend hike. No more spontaneous "gimme a breath of green". On the other hand, I can't remember half a dozen people who died on hikes in over two decades of being involved in the outdoors. Can't say the same or drivers on roads. Yet, you wouldn't dream of asking people to apply for permission each time they want to drive!

On the other hand, the unpredictable winds make paragliding at Solang Nallah uncommonly risky - particularly in early summer - peak Maharashtrian tourist season, and it has been banned and allowed dozens of times over the years, balancing safety concerns with public demands and livelihoods. It keeps boiling down to the competence of instructors and locally evolved rules for stopping flights in unpredictable weather. Yet these rules can't do a thing about ensuring safety there. Even a trained flier from Maharashtra would lack knowledge of prevailing wind patterns in a new place.

Also, how exactly would local authorities ensure safety of those registering with them? Knowing who to call in case of an accident? That can be managed with far fewer headaches.

Medical safety

Given India's pathetic doctor to patient ratio, it takes Alice in Wonderland to expect doctors escorting every adventure tour. Assuming all doctors in Maharashtra were willing to escort adventure tours, the chances are we'd still have more adventure tours than doctors.

There are few mountain first aid courses, and many of them are for knowledge and don't offer certificates in the end. They may, in the future, but the instructors competent in first aid currently often have no papers to prove it. The guidelines also fail to recognize that many adventure training includes first aid. Basic and Advanced mountaineering courses in the Himalaya include training for the mountains and high altitudes, for example. Advanced rock climbing courses (at least the one I did) include things like rock face rescues using ropes systems, and so on. It can easily be made mandatory for all adventure courses to include first aid training rather than requiring separate courses that cannot accommodates specific risk factors of each sport.

Evacuation is something that needs more elaboration. Many really risky places don't have phone coverage. Are we saying every organization must be forced to buy satellite phones? Even if calls for assistance are made, the first responders are usually "whoever is available and near" this can mean villagers, other adventure groups, the Army, helicopters, evacuation by the group members of the casualty themselves... and it is most efficient. It is difficult for me, as someone who has been in a lot of extreme adventure situations to understand how this can be predicted and guaranteed on paper. The only medical emergency of my career involved me helping a woman down a mountain to lose altitude fast. She was 15 kilos heavier than me, but I still carried her part of the way. Ended up with bad knees for a week myself after that. Where in the form would the readiness to do this be written? Merely writing that there would be a vehicle waiting hardly matters. Most trips using vehicles have the vehicle waiting, trips not using vehicles will have a considerable added expense to be forced to use vehicles on the possibility that an evacuation may be needed (remember, hiking is safer than driving?).

Age restrictions

The age restriction of participants of adventure tours going 3000m and above must be above 16 years came less than a month after Malavath Purna, a 13 year old daughter of a poor farmer from Andhra Pradesh got felicitated for climbing Everest. Are we saying that Maharashtra's children must not do such things? Or that they may, but they must not be organized by Maharashtra's adventurers? The concern has solid basis. Younger people can be more sensitive to high altitudes and hypothermia, for example. At the same time, mandating presence of a competent (read qualified for high altitudes) guardian personally (not necessarily parent or relative, but responsible personally) or stricter enforcement of presence of doctors or other measures may be wiser than forbidding the opportunity to all below sixteen with not even a process to apply for exceptions provided.

Concerns about corruption

Many regular hikers worry that the need for registering every trip will lead to a flourishing business for touts and agents, as few of the free spirited mountaineers have the time or inclination to stand in queues as a matter of routine. There are also concerns of extortion by police or other authorities by citing some or the other nearly impossible to fulfill conditions for hobby hikers.

Equipment

Given the requirements of quality standards of improvement and given that India neither has approved standards, nor consequently manufacturers that follow them, this will result in groups being forced to pay three times the cost of perfectly safe and acceptable equipment produced in India. There is nothing wrong with Indian ropes, harnesses and helmets (among other things) for example. But there being no standard, ALL INDIAN MANUFACTURERS will be forced to get certification in some foreign country where they don't do business (harness and rucksack manufacturers often operate small businesses from slums producing good equipment), or fall short of requirements to sell in India. Further, the blanket lifespans stated have to be a joke. You could probably use a karabiner for more than 10 years easily, and cycle out your long tyrolean traverse rope within a season or two. There needs to be some sanity here for the guidelines to be useful.

Livelihoods

Given that most adventure professionals have very poor incomes (the dazzle rarely translates to reliable incomes - most are adventurers doing it compromising stable incomes for love) there need to be standards of payment along the lines of minimum wage as well, if instructors are expected to spend money getting qualified. Additionally, till qualifications can be "rolled in", reference certificates of competence by senior professionals (should be defined in some manner - in position to hire professionals for more than 5 years?) should be considered valid. Given that waiting lists for many of the best qualifications are long (2 year waiting for a 9k basic mountaineering course at Nehru Institute of Mountaineering Uttarkashi, for example), registration confirmation should be considered for temporary licences to operate in non-critical roles, as it is beyond unreasonable for a person living from paycheck to paycheck to spend 9 thousand rupees (and about twice that preparing, traveling, etc) and wait two years to be eligible to earn anything.

Too urbanized

Most adventure sport happens outside urban settings. There is a possibility to improve rural incomes as well as effectiveness of the norms by involving panchayats at locations of adventure sport destinations in maintaining records of visitors arriving. This will provide for emergency action information being available at the closest point as well as allow spontaneous hikers the flexibility and monitor ALL visitors including spontaneous outings. Exempting local guides from accountability does not make sense, since local guides are often the most knowledgeable professionals on a trip. Registering local guides and porters available for trekking routes locally will result in better employment, standardized wages and accountability.

In my view, these questions are valid. Equally important and appreciation deserving is the fact that the initial guidelines have made a commendable attempt toward enforcing important things. Making indemnity forms mandatory, for example is a small and easily applicable step that will immediately result in responsible disclosure of risks as well as putting emergency contacts on record. On the other hand, these norms STILL cannot prevent a death on a high altitude trek because of incompetence - the original subject of the PIL that led to the directive for the regulations.

It will be a while before bureaucracy and free spirit find a meeting point that is also practical to implement as well as meets objectives. It will not be easy. However, things must not stop here and the exercise must be taken to conclusion resulting in norms that allow adventure sport to thrive in Maharashtra while also insisting on responsible operations and recognizing that adventure has an inherent element of risk. The goal is a robust and accountable community, not sterilization.

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India’s Sovereignty, Security and Freedom at risk-

Is the IB being used by foreign corporations to take over India’s vital seed sector?

The IB report has a special section on GMOs (genetically modified/engineered organisms). It clearly supports the introduction of GM crops into Indian agriculture.

The IB report makes specific mention of the Supreme Court cases which have beenfiled. It curiously also accuses civil society organisations and individuals of influencing 3 Committees that were officially mandated to assess GMOs. The IB report objects to these formal government reports, the Moratorium Orders of Shri Jairam Ramesh, the Parliamentary Standing Committee Report and the Supreme Court-appointed Technical Expert Committee Report (TEC) because they find that on current evidence, GM crops have little to contribute to Indian agriculture, safe food and food security. These findings did not accord with the view of the PMO, when headed by the erstwhile Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh. This report was initiated under the UPA Government.

IB objects to protection of Indian seed and food sovereignty?

In 1998, when Monsanto introduced Bt cotton illegally, without the statutory approvals from the GEAC, we had to file a case in the SC to defend the laws of the land, our Constitution, our Seed Sovereignty and Food Sovereignty. When open field trials were being conducted without appropriate and independent Biosafety assessments, and expertise inthese matters, the current cases in the Supreme Court were initiated in 2003 and 2005 to uphold the law: protect the environment and safety of our seeds and food from irreversible genetic contamination, protect smallholder farming in India, and the health safety of 1 billion citizens. The country faces a major threat from the multinational Seed/chemical industry, seeking control over our seeds, our agriculture and our food. This is the corporate focus. This is their AGENDA. Thousands of organizations and many multiples of thousands of individuals are committed to resisting this unacceptable corporate goal for India.

IB favors the foreign hand in the ‘making of India’s Bt brinjal’:

The IB report quotes a Dr Ronald Herring of Cornell University who promotes GMOs and the monopoly of Monsanto. It is ironic that the IB report relies on the evidence of Dr Herring with his antecedents in Cornell University, a hub of blind GMO promotion. It is the direct foreign hand along with USAID and Monsanto funding, behind the ‘making of India’s Bt brinjal’. Here is a real foreign hand that informs the IB report. Has the IB report been written then with foreign influence, for the benefit and profits of foreign corporations? Thestrategy of the global GMO seed industry with their patents & IPRs (Intellectual Property Rights) is to bend regulation and influence governments and regulators to approve GMOs, by-passing scientific, transparent and independent safety testing.

Outrageous insult to our Parliamentarians and Contempt of Court by the IB:

The PSC recommended a high-level enquiry into how Bt brinjal was approved by the Regulators for commercial release. The self-assessed safety-dossier by Mahyco-Monsanto was a cover-up as evidenced in independent assessments of the raw data by several leading international scientists.  It staggers belief that the IB find it possible to hand out an outrageous insult to the Parliamentary Standing Committee, by suggesting  that they have in effect been led ‘by the nose’ by activists and civil society groups and have no competence to address their official mandate on the subject. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the IB report has been influenced by those who have most to gain by undermining our seed and food sovereignty ie. the foreign corporations.

The IB report has also attacked the government decision made under our Biosafety laws to impose a moratorium on Bt Brinjal. It is thus attacking our Biosafety. This will only suit foreign interests.

The IB is guilty of contempt of court since it attacks the Technical Expert Committee set up by the Supreme Court to look into the issues of GMOs and Biosafety. The case is still being heard.

The IB fails to refer to the important other official report, the ‘Sopory Committee Report’. This report of 2012 commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture itself is a stinging commentary on what is wrong with GMO regulation in India. Ourregulatory institutions and the MoA have been indicted in this report for lies, fraud and lacking GMO expertise. And the truth with regard to massive contamination was revealed in this report.

NGOs saving Indian seed and food sovereignty:

The biggest foreign hand by STEALTH and official COVER-UP will be in GMOs/GM crops if introduced into Indian agriculture. All that stands between a corporate takeover of our seeds and agriculture is the committed and exemplary work by the not-for-profit sector that helped create an informed debate on GMOs and has postponed, even stopped government action from introducing them for over 15 years.  In conspiring with deeply conflicted institutions of regulation, governance and agriculture, of which there is incontrovertible proof, to introduce GM crops into India, the IB will in fact aid the hand-over of the ownership of our seeds and foods to Multi-NationalCorporations. This will represent the largest take-over of any nation’s agriculture and future development by foreign-hands and this time it will be no bogey foreign hand. This will be for real.  China is on record as saying that she will not allow her armed forces to eat any GM food. This not-to-be-imagined future will plunge India into the biggest breach of internal security; of a biosecurity threat and food security crisis from which we will never recover. The fallout of this mere 20 year-old laboratory technology is, that it is irreversible. This is what must give us sober ‘food for thought’ uncontaminated by GMOs, something the IB seems to be supremely oblivious of. GM crops have already demonstrated no yield gain, no ability to engineer for traits of drought, saline resistance etc and have some  serious bio-safety issues which no regulator wishes  to examine.

Indian Cotton in Foreign Hands, Indian farmers’ hard earned money expatriated to foreign lands:

India’s Bt cotton is an outstanding example of the above scenario. It was introduced into India’s hybrids, not varieties so our farmers would be forced to buy seeds each year. This ‘VALUE CAPTURE’ for Monsanto which was contrived and approved by our own government mortgaging the public interest has ensured that in a short 10 years, 95% of cotton seeds in the form of Bt cotton are owned by Monsanto. The damage to India’s organic cotton market and status is significant. India is the largest organic cotton producer/exporter in the world. It is Monsanto now that decides where cotton should be planted and when by our farmers, a role that the MoA has absconded or been eliminated from. The Royalties accruing to Monsanto that have been expatriated are approximately Rs 4800 Crores in 12 years,   (excludingother profit mark-ups). What would this figure be if GMOs and propriety seeds flooded our farms without Biosafety assessment and regulation? This is the arithmetic the IB should have done, instead of throwing an arbitrary figure of 2-3% loss of growth. The IB is thus conspiring with global corporate interests to hemorrhage India’s agricultural economy. More than 284000 Indian farmers have been pushed to suicide because of a debt trap, lack of government investment in smallholder farming and dependence on non-renewable, propriety seeds and chemicals sold by the corporations. We call for an investigation on the foreign influence in writing the GMO section in the IB report.

If India's intelligence agencies become instruments of global corporations working against the public interest and national interest of India, our national security is under threat.

This IB report is deeply anti-national and subversive of constitutional rights of citizens in our country.  It does India nocredit.

Signed:

 Vandana Shiva,               Aruna Rodrigues,                Kavitha Kuruganti

Navdanya

8100 25169                       98263 96033                         9393001550

On day 2 of Modi on the job, his cabinet has passed the ordinance for the Polavaram project. It is waiting for Pranab Mukherjee's signature.

Apart from 136 villages, 211 hamlets and 7 mandals being transferred from Telangana to Andhra, as per the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management Plan study conducted by Agricultural Finance Corporation Limited, on behalf of the irrigation department, the backwaters of Indira Sagar dam, once completed, will submerge 2,929.07 hectares of reserve forest, spreading across mostly Khammam (2,820.61 hectares), followed by 70.71 hectares in West Godavari and 37.75 acres in East Godavari. Another 293.08 hectares of reserve forest would have to be acquired for project and canal. Thus, a total of 3,223 hectares of reserve forest would disappear totally under the project.

That will teach the anti-national animals to not vote for Modi in the next election.

The National Board of Wildlife (headed by the Prime Minister) had cleared the wildlife aspect of Polavaram (Indira Sagar) project in 2006 after considering various aspects of submergence of the Papikondalu Wildlife Sanctuary (187 hectares) in a meeting attended by BJP's favorite enemy A. Raja. Clearly the "developmental harvest" will be reaped at the cost of the tribals and wildlife he sold out anyway.

The project, proposes to irrigate 232,000 acres in Krishna, Godavari (east and west) and Vishakhapatnam districts (in other words, less than 1.5 times the 1,57,406 acre area that will get submerged - or in other words, there are industrial uses for most of the water), and generate about 960 MW electricity. Water from this project will also feed the proposed Vizag-Kakinada Industrial Corridor; two Special Economic Zones, the Apparel Park, Pharma City, probably a Naval Establishment, and perhaps an atomic research station. The project's stated aims are to irrigate 54 mandals in 4 districts - Krishna, Vishakapatnam, West and East Godavari; to sustainably increase agricultural production; to assure water supply for drinking in Vishakhapatnam and towns en route; to link the Godavari and Krishna rivers, thus reducing pressure on the Krishna waters; and also facilitate recreation, pisciculture, etc.

Over 276 tribal villages in the agency areas of East and West Godavari districts and Khammam district will be submerged. Based on the 2001 census of these areas, it is estimated that 237,000 people will be displaced. About 53 per cent of those displaced will be adivasis, two-thirds of them being Koyas and Konda Reddis. More than 300 hectares of prime forest land, comprising the Papikondalu Wildlife Sanctuary, will also be inundated. The likely agricultural loss is also phenomenal; in the submergence area, cotton is grown in over 10,000 acres, each providing an average of 150 person-days of work. Paddy is grown in 10,000 acres, providing an additional 75 person-days of work each. Tobacco is grown in 6,000 acres and gives 250 person-days of work per acre. And losses in other livelihoods will worsen this situation further. The levels of displacement of lives and livelihoods, besides destruction of environment from this project will far exceed the impact of the Sardar Sarovar dam over the Narmada river. What is more important, a lot many more tribal households stand to be displaced in this project when compared to the latter.

Prof T Shivaji Rao commented on the India Together post this article refers to extensively saying:

The Polavaram Dam issue is not properly understood by the general public in either Andhra pradesh, Orissa, Chattisgarh or CWC in Delhi with the result that the Courts at the state or central level are not scientifically briefed about the complete environmental implications of the project. Firstly,the project was strongly opposed in May 1983 by Dr.K.L.Rao,the top most expert in irrigation Engineering on the ground that the spill-way is highly under-designed and wrongly sited and it will collapse one day or the other.

Secondly,it is not clear if Orissa and Chattisgarh states are opposing the dam on the ground that their original agreement was based on assumption of spill-way design for a Maximum Flood Discharge of 36 lakhs cusecs with a return period of 500-years which is not in tune with the CWC Design standards of 1000-year return period which means raising the peak flood to 49.5 lakh cusecs. Further,the Environmental Impact Assessment, Risk Analysis, Disaster Management including the Rehabilitation and Resettlement reports are based on the old design [2004] criteria of 36 lakh cusecs peak flood while the revised project design based on peak flood of 49.5 lakh cusecs [September,2006] does not take into consideration the need to make a corresponding revision of EIA, RADM and R&R packages. Under the inter-state Agreement,it is the CWC which has to design the project and the determine the back-water curve that is crucial for identifying the areas to be submerged due to extreme floods.

We shoud not put the cart before the horse. In one of the cinemas "Vaddate Dabbu",N.T.Rama Rao as hero instructs his engineers to construct the top floor of the building first so that the basement can be taken up for construction later. Today the politicians and the bureaucrats seem to follow this advise in total that means even without the Central Water Commission taking the primary step in calculating the maximum peak flood for spillway design as per the norms prescribed by the Central Government and the norms followed in other countries and also without the directions of the Central Water Commission on the configuration of the backwater curve that presence the scenarios of submersion in the upper states of Orissa and Chttisgarh and Andhra Pradesh no organization can make a proper assessment of the environmental impact, risk analysis, disaster management plan including rehabilitation and resettlement schemes. But in the present case it appears the reverse process has come into operation and the non-governmental organizations and the Ministries of Environment and forests at the state and central levels seem to be helpless spectators while implementing the rules under the Environmental Protection Act and Forest Conservation Acts.

Unfortunately when the Bachawat Tribunal was giving the award 1982 on Godavari water the peak flood at that time was of a far lesser magnitude and consequently the peak flood was raised to the expected peak level of 36lakh cusecs. Consequently the Bachawat Tribunal accepted the interstate agreement for a peak flood of 36 lakhs cusecs and put a condition that the clearance for the polavaram project was considered for the dam height fixed at an elevation of 150ft. and that the submersion of villages due to back water curve in the upper reaches of the river in Orissa and Chattisgarh states must be limited to +150ft only. Unfortunately in August 1986 the Godavari river experienced a peak flood discharge of 36 lakhs cusecs and hence this unexpected event of extreme magnitude leads to a corresponding increase in revising the peak spillway flood discharge to be about one and half times the historically recorded flood and consequently the state Government has been directed by the central Water Commission in August 2006 to revise the peak flood to 49.5lakh cusecs.

Consequently the Orissa and Chattisgarh state governments are arguing that in view of this revised extreme flood the inundation in Chattisgarh and Orissa will be far higher than originally contemplated at the time of interstate agreement made in 1980. Hence the environmental clearances and forest clearances obtained on the basis of a peak flood of 36 lakhs cusecs does not hold good because more extensive areas will be inundated due to the peak flood of 49.5 lakh cusecs as revised in Aug-Sep 2006. Hence the non-governmental organizations, the state Governments and the courts must take into consideration this new aspect which throws all the earlier reports on Polavaram dam out of gear and hence fresh reports must be prepared to confirm to the rule of law for ensuring a safe environment for the dam and the people who are likely to be affected both on the upstream side and downstream side. Prof.T.Shivaji Rao, Director,Centre for Environmental Studies, GITAM Engineering College,

These people will be moved to cheaply provided accommodation that usually never reaches all those who are displaced and a 40,000 rupee alternative cannot compare with the loss of your own home. The tribals live off the land and forests and have no skills for economic survival in other environments. On top of losing their homes and getting some half hearted compensation that can never compete with the quality of life they have, they will also have to figure out how to survive in an environment they don't have the skills for.

As usual, the person deciding on how their life should unfold is some guy sitting on a stack of notes elsewhere, who will not have to face a moment's discomfort over their devastation.

Once more, development hit tribals will sacrifice for the "greater good" of those who already have more than them. Us, elitist leeches will never tire of sucking the life out of them.

2

In a way, the story of what's going on around Niyamgiri is the classic story of India. Only we aren't used to seeing dark skinned tribals who have never seen an air-conditioned room as "people like us". Yet, they are stuck in the middle of the most typical melodramatic soap opera that Indian protests could wish for.

If you simply read the details of the case, you'd wonder what the big deal was. Big corporate illegally built a refinery, so wake up law enforcement. Shut it down. The end.

Wait.

Not so fast.

This is India.

Here, if someone breaks laws and they are rich, a cottage industry springs up to fix it. Usually at the cost of those who won't boost the economy by creating such jobs. So.... [cue dramatic music]

The illegal refinery maker gets a quick makeover, hops onto a convenient white horse brought around by the new liveried stable boy and goes charging in a haze of dramatic lighting, soft focus and a haze of surrealism you only find in films.

Said knight SAVES the wicked people who want to kill him in a classic demonstration of Gandhism. The contrast is ramped up a bit. The wicked tribals must be Maoist supporters or something (at least one TV anchor believes this to be so and went requesting for Lal Salaams).

But no film finishes in the first five minutes, right? So we have the tribals, miraculously rescued from their wretched lives still plotting against the white knight. You know what happens when the bastiwalas are out to lynch the hero. We are a socialist state, and no one buys the film if you call the Bastiwalas the villains. You need a real villain.

Enter Girdhar.

Dongria Kondh DanceThis is whoever agrees that the tribals have rights. They are inciting the bastiwalas, who normally would never want to keep their homes when the builder comes with the bulldozers. I mean, doesn't everyone walk out when evicted from their homes? Everyone who are decent folks, that is, not the people who take homes on rent and refuse to vacate.

So anyway, back to these squatters occupying National Property. They should go back to wherever they came from.

Pause.

Tribals say they came from here. Vedanta came from outside. Now what?

Enter the script writers. Director is screaming "You can't talk about these things. We need to talk development.

D'uh of course.

While they work on the script, let me confess this is a tedious metaphor, because what's going on in Niyamgiri is sinister and not really ending with the credit roll.

What is really happening there is that there is an entity who has simply convinced a lot of powerful people that it is in their interest to declare them the rightful owners of that land. In a manner of speaking. The original inhabitants are now treated as encroachers delaying the true owner from fulfilling the destiny of that land. And there is no one these tribals can trust beyond the few people who agree that they have rights. And those people are being undermined too.

At this point, I don't think who funds the people endorsing the tribal rights is an issue. If they are not Indians, it is a pity that the largest democracy of the world did not have people who believe in rights of citizens and someone had to come from outside to help those people. If the cause is right, the cause is right.

The government is choking funding to NGOs helping its own people, because the NGOs are opposing government sponsored exploitation of the people. They are spreading canards about NGOs running publicity campaigns against the government. As if a government that can get free and unlimited coverage in National media can be "out publicized" by an NGO - no matter how well funded - if they have a clear and reasonable point to make.

But it doesn't work like that. Vedanta is funding political parties. It is funding enough journalists and media houses that they see an encroachment of the environment as the right thing, and not agreeing to being evicted from their irreplaceable home as the wrong thing. It is purchasing bauxite from the government owned corporation. These are a lot of powerful people who only have to murmur for it to echo across the country.

When motivated "reporters" actively go organizing scenes to video and show the world, the tribals are too stupid to understand that they are being framed in a media trial. The tribals do as they are requested - either from the inherent amicability of those living close to nature, or because they are hoping that these big journalists from the city will help them by bringing attention to their cause. Instead, big journalists are there to engineer scenes to show them as enemies of the state.

A government that should care about the rights of its citizen is blatantly helping the encroacher enslave them. We have one ex-lawyer f Vedanta in the Parliament. We have the state government doing all it can to sabotage the hard earned gram sabha hearings by choosing a few villages that give their client the least hostility. And client it is, if Vedanta is paying vast amounts of money to them.

In spite of this, when the first gram sabha categorically refused Vedanta for the entire region, the state representatives tried to return the status quo to a limited area during the hearing itself.

When all 12 gramsabhas refused Vedanta, you had ministers saying that they would figure out Vedanta's bauxite from other places, while Vedanta was scoring publicity points as champions of girls rights, in collaboration with NDTV, whose anchor was setting up scenes to discredit tribals by REQUESTING them to do as she told them to. And they did it, for her. And she broadcast it as their anti-state inclinations.

You have eminent economists waxing eloquent about how Orissa needs Vedanta for development, when Orissa currently has highest revenues from mineral resources out of all states. If mining were to bring development to Orissa, it would have happened already. It doesn't. What those eminent economists say when they are not talking about Niyamgiri and recommending manufacturing as an urgent need to save Indian economy is true. If you sell raw materials and consume finished products, you will stagnate in poverty. Unless your raw good is oil, I suppose. Then you'll be saved by the largest military exporter of democracy in the world. But that is another story.

But here's the deal. A population of sheep fed the "right ideas to think" over a period of time thinks those ideas to be right. If people are not informed that Orissa leads the country in mining and they are simply told that evicting these tribals for mining will finally bring progress to a horribly poor state, they look no further before staunchly going around endorsing the eviction of these tribals for mining. Simple.

Not all that different from telling people that the Kudankulam plant will fix the power shortage in Tamil Nadu, when the total capacity of the built AND INTENDED plants is less than the deficit. When renewable power sources could have covered the deficit completely by now in a fraction of the investment and risk of Kudankulam. Naturally, people who don't know that Tamil Nadu is one of the places in India with the highest potential for wind power (which also installs rapidly) are told that the place cannot progress (there's that word) without a nuclear plant, it is people who *want* the best for the place who get conned into endorsing a highly inefficient solution that hurts the interests of the people they care about.

This is how exploitation takes place. Not all that different from some politician recommending women stay at home to prevent rape, knowing full well that it isn't the solution, but it really works for misogynists to push women back under control in the name of "caring" for them.

I have an ongoing war against disinformation as a tool for exploitation. Know this. 90% of what you see on TV has been put there to control what you think. This is a rape of your rights too. Your "free choice" is only as free as the information you have access to.

Whenever you come across an important issue, discard all current news about it. Go to google news archives, start reading. Don't trust anyone but yourself, or you become a part of the knife collection in the back of these poor tribals who have been stabbed in the back by every single authority who had any power to help them. The government abandoned them. The government conspired to take away their rights. Media abandoned them. Media created mass opinion against their rights. Media even exploited their hospitality and cooperation to get them to unwittingly pose for evidence against themselves. People who should have cared and had the power to add their urban (and thus heard more) voice in protest chose to not examine why their compatriots were being seen as against the progress of the country.

These aren't single knives, but entire categories of knives, repeatedly stabbed in the backs of those simple people who are too stupid to need money at the cost of foregoing living their lives in healthy, clean surroundings, among their extended communities, with some of the most progressive attitudes on gender, conservation and nurture of our planet.

Here is a video. Notice the chubby kids, gender equal society and healthy animals in the fields.

Here is the story of that knife.

At the end of the day, there are people who profit if they can get the rich wealth of these tribals. There are people who don't care enough to ask why someone would give up a better life because some outsiders told them to. It is one thing to incite a mob in a momentary protest. What would it take for someone to deprive themselves and their loved ones for years? And there is you. The one with the internet connection. The one who has nothing to lose if you spend some time idling around finding out why people are so keen on convincing you that other people who refused development for themselves (and no other) are wrong and need to be somehow overcome?

Does your gullibility make you an unwitting soldier against your bretheren?

Will you claim the freedom of your mind?