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Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board cautions, based on the sparse specifics available in the public domain and comments by authority figures that the government may be concealing information about the magnitude of the accident at KAPS (Kakrapar Atomic Power Station) Unit 1


The Kakrapar Unit-1 PHWR Primary System Leakage Incident on March 11, 2016

The Kakrapar Unit-I nuclear reactor in Gujarat is undergoing a moderately large leakage of heavy water from its Primary Heat Transport (PHT) system since 9.00 AM on March 11,2016. From the very limited information released by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) of the government , as well as from the conversations I had with press people who have been in touch with nuclear officials, few inferences can be drawn.

Till 7.00 PM on March 12,2016 , the DAE officials have no clue as to where exactly the PHT leak is located and how big is the rate of irradiated heavy water that is leaking into the reactor containment . However, some reports indicate that the containment has been vented to the atmosphere at least once , if not more times , which I suspect indicates a tendency for pressure build up in that closed space due to release of hot heavy water and steam into the containment housing . If this is true, the leak is not small , but moderately large , and still continuing. No one confirms that any one has entered the containment (in protective clothing) for a quick physical assessment of the situation , perhaps it is not safe to do so because of the high radiationfields inside . When NPCIL officials state that the reactor cooling is maintained , I believe what they may be doing is to allow the heavy water or light water stored in the emergency cooling tanks to run once-through the system and continue to pour through the leak into the containment floor through the break .

All this points to the likelihood that what Kakrapar Unit-1 is undergoing is a small Loss-of-Coolant Accident (LOCA) in progress. It is most likely that one or more pressure tubes (PT) in the reactor (which contain the fuel bundles) have cracked open , leaking hot primary system heavy-water coolant into the containment housing . The reactor cooling is said to be maintained which , in view of the PT breach , can only be by supply of heavy water or light water from the storage tanks of the emergency cooling systems . While it may perhaps ensure bulk coolant temperatures in the PHT system to be well under control , it could still mean fuel centreline temperatures in the channel which may have a breach could be quite high . The seriousness of the accident and the potential high risks to the plant and personnel in the near vicinity are yet to be assessed , because NPCIL and AERB do not yet know where the location of the leak is or how to initiate actions to stop it. They were waiting for a team of AERB Specialists to reach Kakrapar in the afternoon of March 12 th. (today) to jointly decide between AERB & NPCIL how to proceed from here on. This is therefore a potentially serious accident in progress , and the DAE, NPCIL and AERB appear to be clearly saying at the moment that they know very little of what is happening. I was just told that a senior team from AERB has reached Kakrapar this evening and now the serious accident investigations will hopefully begin and decisions initiated .

In August 1983 , the Pickering Heavy Water Reactor in Canada had a serious Small LOCA , due to a sudden two-meter long rupture of a pressure tube (PT). Upon later analysis , the cause was found to be the mislocation of annulus gas spacer springs which allowed the pressure tube to sag and contact the calandria tube , leading to hydrogen enrichment of the cooler areas of the PT. This made the tube more brittle in such cooler locations and it ruptured due to the internal fluid pressure. In 1983 , when this accident in Canada occurred , India was under international nuclear sanctions following the Pokhran-1 test and it took some time before root causes of this accident were understood by our Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) institutions. But , the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) did commendable work immediately in analysing the phenomenon of hydriding of PTs in a PHWR , and carried out experiments, developed computer programs and the appropriate PT Integrity Inspection Equipment within the next decade. Based on all this work , a Pressure Tube Aging & Integrity Management Program was develop jointly by BARC & NPCIL , for strict adherence to and use by NPCIL in all their PHWRs. Besides , it was found essential that the PT material has to be changed to Niobium-stabilized Zircalloy , and accordingly all previous Indian PHWRs including Kakrapar Unit-1 were re-tubed with the new alloy tubes in subsequent years . But , this re-tubing did not preclude the need for strictly following of the PT Aging Management Program and the periodic checking of the garter spring position between the PT and the Calandria tube to minimize the PT sagging within the calandria tube. It may be possible that , having built more than 20 PHWRs , NPCIL and AERB in recent years have become overconfident and relaxed their strict adherence to this Aging Management Program , which might have been the reason for the current accident.

Let me caution the reader that the above conjecture is based on bits and pieces of reliable and not so reliable information gathered from different people close to the accident details and in positions of authority. Future detailed evaluation may or may not prove my entire set of conclusions or part of them to be not well-founded. But , technical experts are compelled to put out such conjectures because of the total lack of transparency of the Indian cilvilian nuclear power sector and the atomic energy commission (AEC) , the Dept. of Atomic Energy (DAE) , the NPCIL and the AERB . Public have a need to know and , therefore , the AEC and its sub-ordinate organizations need to promptly release status reports on the progressing safety incident which could affect their lives , to alleviate their concerns and anxieties . It is a series of such lapses in communication over the years which has built up the ever-increasing trust deficit in the DAE system among the general public. All future plans for expanding the civilian nuclear power sector should be put on hold until a truly independent nuclear safety regulator is put in place , who is not controlled by the AEC or the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) , who will then be answerable to openly communicating with the public on all civilian nuclear power matters.

(Dr. Gopalakrishnan is a Former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board , Government of India. He can be reached at agk37@hotmail.com )

This article was originally published on the Dianuke website.

When news like Fukushima hits, people start thinking of nuclear radiation leaks. Then, mistakenly, they imagine that risk from radiation is a very rare thing. While accidents on such a scale are rare, radiation leaks in themselves are not. For one, every running nuclear plant is already venting "acceptable amounts" of radiation into the environment on a daily basis.

Now, there are doctors who swear that there is no way to determine an amount which has no health risks. However, this post is about actual leaks, not releases. News from the last one year from my bookmarks and a few simple searches. Some of the news may be developments on long term contamination on radiation leaks, others may be new radiation leaks.

No particular reason for this beyond some reactions to the leak at RAPS a few days ago, that seemed to see this as a rare and acceptable thing.

  1. Fukushima, of course continues to leak radiation into the environment. The description of this is beyond an entry in a list.
  2. Chernobyl too continues to leak radiation through its crumbling sarcophagus, though on a lesser scale than Fukushima.
  3. Kansas State University - 29th June 2011: Radiation leaked at 149 times the Derived Air Concentration (DAC) limit for Iodine during a trial run of its reactor. Though four different systems caught the excessive radiation levels, operators reported their belief that this was due to the proximity of a radioactive sample near the monitors.  They did not disclose what kind of sample nor why it was near four different monitors, if that’s even possible. Plus, the sample they discuss showed Cesium, not Iodine.
  4. North Carolina State University - 7th July 2011: Officials said Thursday that there is a low-level water leak in the liner that surrounds the campus nuclear reactor, but that it poses no danger to the public.
  5. Submarine, off northeast China - 29th July 2011:  A rumor began spreading on the Chinese Internet sites that there was a radiation leak on a submarine stationed near Dalian in northeast China. As the story went, the accident occurred while technicians were installing new electronic gear on a Type 94 SSBN ( nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine). Not verified, but detailed. China denies, but no one believes denial.
  6. Kakrapar Atomic Power Station, Gujarat - 1st August 2011:  An incident from 30th May 2011 came to light where four temporary workers were exposed to 90mSv from spent fuel due to operator error. Health concerns were dismissed citing absence of immediate symptoms of radiation poisoning (usually with fatal doses). As per AERB, the dose limit for workers at a nuclear plant is 20mSv, which was deliberately ignored by station director P K Dutta when he made the following quote "A radiation of 90 mSv does not cause any harm. If we get our whole body CT scanned, we would be exposed to a nuclear radiation of 60 mSv,'' who also mentioned contract workers demanding regularization because of this incident as "taking advantage of it". Temporary workers being exposed to radiation and abandoned without adequate health support or information is an ongoing problem with nuclear plants.
  7. Dounreay Nuclear Plant, Scotland21st September 2011, Guardian: Scottish nuclear fuel leak 'will never be completely cleaned up' - Tens of thousands of radioactive fuel fragments escaped from the Dounreay plant between 1963 and 1984, polluting local beaches, the coastline and the seabed. Fishing has been banned within a two-kilometre radius of the plant since 1997. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has decided to give up on its aim of returning the seabed near the plant to a "pristine condition". Staff from here has been consulting at Fukushima to share experience.
  8. San Onofre Nuclear plant, California had trouble with premature wear in the cooling tubes leading to leaks of water and gas last summer. First one, then both reactors were shut down for investigation earlier, but this seems to now be a permanent shutdown currently. The exact amount of leakage is unknown, but officials say that it shouldn't be harmful. Only harmful enough to shut down a nuclear plant, I suppose, not health.
  9. Dounreay Nuclear Plant, Scotland - 8th October 2011: Radioactive liquid effluent is understood to have leaked inside a treatment facility. It did not exit the building. Dounreay was constructed in the 1950s as an experimental nuclear power complex, but has not generated electricity since 1994 and is currently being decommissioned by Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL) who got a top safety award for their work in May 2011.
  10. Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP), Pakistan - 30th October 2011: heavy water leaked from a feeder pipe to the reactor leading to a seven hour emergency till it was contained. The plant was already shut down for maintenance.
  11. Point Lepreau, Canada - second half of November 2011: 23 barrels of water laced with the toxic chemical hydrazine was released into the Bay of Fundy.
  12. Point Lepreau, Canada - December 13th 2011: Almost 6 litres of heavy water splashed to the floor, requiring an immediate evacuation of the building. Point Lepreau had been shutdown for refurbishment since 2008, and the leaks happened during the preparations to restart it. Currently, it is stopped till further investigation.
  13. Orchid Island, Taiwan - 30th December 2011: Tao Aborigines from Orchid Island protested on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei, saying radioactive material was leaking from a nuclear waste dump on the island. They demanded that the storage facility be removed. Although residents of Orchid Island have long suspected that a radioactive leak has occurred, it was first officially confirmed when Academia Sinica research fellow Huh Chih-an detected radioactivity on the island after being commissioned by Taipower in November.
  14. Prarie Island Nuclear Power Plant - 5th January 2012: Leak found. Alert declared.
  15. Exelon Byron Nuclear Generating Station, Ogle County, about 100 miles west of Chicago, near Rockford - 30th January 2012: The supply of power from off-site (needed to maintain backup for safety systems) went down, forcing Exelon to take Unit No. 2 offline. Steam containing tritium had to be vented from the reactor triggering panic.
  16. North Anna, Virginia, US - 17th February 2012: water taken from an on-site groundwater sampling point contained an unusually high level of tritium — more than twice the EPA's standard for drinking water.
  17. Bruce power, Lake Huron, 240km northwest of Toronto, Canada - 17th March 2012: Leaks were discovered as the reactors were being powered up after an earlier shutdown.
  18. EDF Nuclear Power Plant at Penly, Normandy, France - 5th April 2012:  A faulty joint on a pump leaked lubricant from the pump used to cool the reactor, which caused two small fires and a low level leak inside the reactor building.
  19. Point Lepreau, Canada - 21st May 2012: A third leak. 300 litres of tritiated heavy water spilled on May 21 when a valve opened too soon during pressure testing at the plant. Poor training has been cited as one of the causes for the accident.
  20. Rawatbhata Atomic Power Plant (RAPP), Rajasthan, India - some time near 25th May 2012 - 38 workers working on heavy water and tritium supply channels were exposed to tritium leaks (unspecified quantity), 3 of them in doses exceeding allowed dose.
  21. Davis-Besse nuclear station in Ohio - 6th June 2012: Small amount of radioactive water sprayed through a minor leak and no radiation escaped the plant.
  22. Dounreay, Scotland - 7th June2012: A steady decline in urine levels for uranium and plutonium has been reported for workers here.
  23. Prarie Islands Spent Nuclear Fuel pools - 8th June 2012: A U.S. Appeals Court ruled that the NRC violated a federal act by neglecting to run in-depth studies on how storing radioactive waste at nuclear power plants impacts health and the environment. Read document. 1,500 tons of high-level irradiated waste is stored in heavy steel and concrete casks on a tarmac a few hundred feet from the Hudson River. The Westchester-based plant produces about 30 tons of radioactive waste every 18 months, which is then crammed into two overcrowded, 40-foot deep spent fuel pools. Each pool holds about 1,000 tons of radioactive waste and has been leaking into the ground and river for years.
  24. Pallisades Nuclear Plant, Michigan, US  - 12th June 2012: The plant was shut down and a Nuclear Regulatory Commission investigation has been started over a year long leak of approximately 31.8 gallons of borated water per day (not heavily radioactive - used to stop fission) from a cooling tank into the reactor's control room. The operator believes there may be several leaks involved, but the leaks have not been found yet, so repairs are pending. Pallisades had five unplanned shutdowns in 2011. NRC has downgraded the safety rating for the plant.
  25. Susquehanna Nuclear Plant - 20th june 2012: PPL Corp. shut down the Unit 1 reactor at its Susquehanna nuclear power plant near Berwick on Tuesday to investigate what it called a minor water leak inside the container structure surrounding the reactor. Unit 1 had been online only 11 days since a 69-day shutdown starting March 31, during which the company repaired cracks in Unit 1 turbine blades.

And there are more. I have gone through about half the tabs I opened. Bored now. This list is nowhere near comprehensive. An astonishing 75% of all US nuclear reactors were found to be leaking tritium last year.

The simple point I am trying to make is that claims of safety by the pro-nuclear lobby are highly exaggerated.


So it is time to come back to the series on Globalization.

Human Capital Flight or Brain Drain is the migration of educated and skilled professionals from less developed places to more developed places. The usual reasons are going abroad for further education and settling there or taking jobs in developed countries for better salaries and living standards. While brain drain does result in financial profit for the persons migrating or their families they may remit money to, there are other less realized aspects of brain drain that also need to be considered.

Expense of education borne by less developed country, while fruits of the person's service are reaped by developed countries.  Today's outrage on Twitter was the government making it mandatory for doctors going abroad for further education to return to work in India after completing their education and reserves the right to enforce it by not issuing No Objection Certificates to doctors who don't comply. The government of India estimates some 3,000 doctors who studied in government subsidized hospitals have left the country in the last one year. The annual cost of each student is about 31.31 lakh rupees, while fees charged are Rs.850/- per annum. The government is paying the difference per student that results in no gain to the citizens. 939 crores is no amount to sneeze at. In a country with high poverty, scarcity of medical professionals and tight budgets, this money should be better utilized or recovered.

As far back as 2001, the UNDP had estimated that India loses about $2 billion a year from IT professionals taking up jobs in the US alone.

Some argue that those working abroad remit money. But a country's well being is not money alone. When 3000 doctors go abroad, there are supporting jobs that get reduced too. Less nurses, less ward boys, less patients treated, more losses due to ill health, less villages with access to healthcare... it is all interconnected - which is why governments subsidize - for development.

On a "for higher education" scale... a 2009 report by Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham) estimated that India lost around $10 billion annually in foreign exchange from an average 5 lakh students choosing to go abroad for further education every year and made a strong case for deregulating higher education. The concern of the Indian government that doctors going abroad for further education return to work in the country makes sense. But more is needed. here need to be more and better education facilities to keep the students in the country - which will also result in more jobs within the country. It is a cycle.

The government spends considerable money in education from basic schooling to subsidizing degrees that have costs well beyond the average man's capacity to spend. This expense is intended as an empowerment of citizens as well as raising the skill capital of the country. Brain drain delays the development of the country. In his essay on Globalizing Inequality, P. Sainath quotes statistics from Africa from the Economic times, and puts them in a context of national interest.

...today, according to the Financial Times, the entire continent of Africa has just 20,000 engineers and scientists to serve a continent of six hundred million people, because today, there are more African scientists and doctors and engineers working in the United States than in all of Africa and much of this drain of medical personnel has come from South Africa – the country facing the world’s largest AIDS pandemic.

Lower employment in developed countries. Migrant professionals increase competition to native professionals and often work at lower salaries, resulting in increased unemployment for the local population. UK's visa restrictions for professionals from 2010 came from rising unemployment in the country with hundreds of thousands unemployed IT professionals and engineers while 36,000 immigrated for jobs from outside the EU. As the economy tightens worldwide, these inequalities become more and more visible and resented.

But beyond this, there is also a social cost. When well educated people leave for more prosperous surroundings, their influence also leaves with them beyond their services. Educated minds lead to a more thinking society and increasing brain drain adds to the less developed areas remaining permanently mired in poverty and less world aware society.

Brain drain, or Human Capital Flight increases inequality and makes poorer countries poorer and richer countries richer. A few random examples come to mind. Michio Kaku, the scientist-activist calls the H1B America's secret weapon. It is the visa for professionals to immigrate. Over half of America's top professionals are non-Americans and they are driving the country's prosperity, because they change the ratio of educated and skilled professionals in society - making the country skill dense and thus with more opportunity too. On the other hand, if India has one doctor for 1700 people, Ghana has one for 6700 people. 305,000 Malaysians migrated overseas between March 2008 and August 2009 compared to 140,000 in 2007. According to the official Chinese media, 65,000 Chinese last year secured immigration or permanent resident status in the United States, 25,000 in Canada and 15,000 in Australia in 2007. A 2007 study of Chinese students found that 7 out of 10 students enrolling abroad never return. And while it is true that lack of opportunity or oppression drives or abundant opportunity pulls these people, these numbers of people moving to greener pastures is also making the pastures greener, and their loss is desertifying the pastures they leave.

Many have recommended deporting/encouraging return of Pakistani professionals back to Pakistan as a possible solution for dealing with extremism by increasing powerful, influential voices who have seen the merits of a developed and inclusive society. Obviously no one imagined them to pick up guns and fighting wars with the Taliban, but the influence of thoughts that were more broad minded would dilute the influence of extremism and provide alternative ways of thinking for people at large. In other words, they would strengthen the moderate voice. It is no coincidence that reversal of brain drain was suggested as a developmental intervention.

Needless to say, I support the government's decision to make it mandatory for doctors to serve in the country even if they go abroad for further education. In addition to doctors studying in government colleges, I think doctors studying in private colleges should also be required this, though for a shorter period. There are reasons - below.

  1. Whether a government or private educated doctor, the government still has made considerable contributions to making that education possible and in the cost that is possible in India. Consider, for example an Indian doctor and an American doctor working on similar jobs, paying off their education loans. Even if the Indian doctor gets paid less, guess who finds the payments easier? That is the difference in a developed and developing country, which makes a developing country more needy. I see nothing wrong in citizens with the capacity to pursue extensive education being expected to have a stake in helping develop the country.
  2. I think this should apply to all professionals, not only doctors, though doctors have more conspicuous investment and scarcity of professionals.
  3. This should not apply to those who do all their degree education abroad, since their investment is also in another country.

I got several significant comments, which I'd like to talk of here.

The medical students are already giving in a lot of effort for 7-8 years to go through a shabby education system. Give them adequate compensation/incentives to work in rural areas. Monetary/reduction in study term/preference in PG admission. ~ Raj Rambhia [1][2]

This, I think is a matter of education reform, and applicable to all students whether they continue working in India or abroad.

the question of how the students can "give back" is indeed a serious one. the number of students that manage to study medicine in India is largely due to government subsidized education. Two issues here 1. How do you get them to "pay us back" and 2. What about all who studied in private colleges.

1. Lets say, 4.5 years of studies and the avg. 10 lakh that the govt spends on a student can be reimbursed in 1 year of internship and 1 year of Bond. The bond already exists, and lasts 6 months long. Problem is, there is no enforcement. Is 6 months enough? will one year fix this? Difficult decisions to make. In the 6 months, of the docs who do it seriously, a large number of them see upwards of five hundred patients a week, many do twice as many. thats a few hundered thousand patients treated by the lot of them, does that cover the costs?

Now, they get to go abroad only after they finish the bond, and get a NOC. The new "law" adds a clause to the NOC, it says studies that you do on your own money, in your own time, also, now belong to the nation. Meaning, you come back, irrespective of how many years you have worked in India. and "given back"

2. What about all those who did not study in government colleges? Like me. My college made me do a bond, 2 years paid pittance and on call24x7, I enjoyed it, as did most others I know. Now, 3 years down the line i might want to go work in the US for 10 years, maybe my wife wants to do a PhD, but if I go by the j1 Visa, i cannot, my visa expires when I finish studying.

~ Uberschizo

I am not certain even in this instance the government is speaking of private colleges, though I support even if they are. Also, I am not certain the government means stints working in India for every higher education course. The impression I got was mandatory serving in India, which would be a one time deal. Let us see what clarifications emerge.

Additionally, I think for exceptional cases, there should be an alternative to reimburse the government for the money invested in their education in stead of working, though I hesitate to recommend this, because it isn't only about money, but a professional less in the country. Also, extremely specialized doctors would find it far cheaper to pay back than invest time, but our country needs the neurosurgeons more than the money.

I think some of this also ought to be in reforming education so that students form attachments in the country and genuinely care about the need of the country, which will go a long way toward making this easier for all.

Another comment referred to this as a "communist" choice. I disagree. It is about as communist as the country making the specialized education possible and affordable or people earning more also paying taxes at higher rates. On the other hand, it is capitalist in an exploitative way to the interests of people of both countries to get educated using resources of a poorer country, depriving someone of them, and then going abroad to undercut salaries for doctors who have invested far more money to get qualified there.

In my eyes, while specific solutions may be good for specific groups of people, governments being responsible for entire countries, have a responsibility to make decisions that will help all. The decision to enforce professionals to serve in the country impacts thousands of lives beyond that student alone.


had originally written this article for Tehelka, but I don’t think they published it. If they did, let me know, and I can redirect this page there.

Animation of dripping water

Recently, the government circulated a 15 page draft for the new water policy, that aims to privatize its delivery services. Astonishingly, no one has paid much attention to this. In other news, the Maharashtra government is looking to divest BMC of water and sewerage departments and combine them into a separate entity along the lines of the Delhi Jal Board with a view toward eventually privatizing it.

A consultancy firm was paid 49 lakhs to do comparative studies with different countries for consultancy on how to “augment the city’s water supply and improve the sewerage operation”. This fee was deliberately below 50 lakhs in order to bypass the requirement for the approval of the standing committee. The BMC chief can use special powers to approve it as long as it doesn’t cross 50 lakhs. Why avoid the standing committee? Going to the standing committee makes the matter public. Privatizing water is unlikely to be taken kindly by the masses once they realize it will mean substantially higher water bills. Resistance will increase substantially. The less time citizens have to realize and prevent, the better the chances for our “democracy” to score a goal on its own people.

I suppose that said firm Deloitte from London is only coincidentally from a country with abundant water resources and fully privatized water (and growing civil unrest as poverty rises). England has a history of privatized water dating back to the 17th century till it collapsed in favor of public water in the 19th century due to inability to expand to meet needs. And it stayed near dead for a century till Margaret Thatcher privatized all the water in 1989 – after it was developed at public expense.

Do not expect any report from this company to talk about the World Bank going quiet on privatization of water after its study showed a near absense of the much advertized private funds expanding reach of services and mixed results that were not better than public water, but an increase in prices anyway. ALL of India will have an economic shortage of water by 2025 and large sections will have physical scarcity of water and there are no success stories combining poverty, water scarcity and water privatization. In contrast, Japan, Canada and Scandinavia have no privatization of water. Nicaragua, the Netherlands and Uruguay have passed laws banning privatization of water. Every country with any privatized water has people movements fighting it. Our great role model, the US came from 60% of its water being privately provided when it was formed to 30% in 1924. Now, it has public-private partnerships and people’s movements to get rid of that “private” too.

India needs money. We have payments of over $100 billion coming up. Everyone is in a mad scramble to figure out what can be done to raise this money urgently, but no one wants to look at what brings us here or how it can be prevented in the future. Privatizing water will raise enormous amounts of money. If this can be converted into a market, then there are massive profits which will not suffer from slowing economy or ANY reason. You will sell your gold, your house, your own body before you will stop needing water.A water mine in a country predicted to have massive water problems on the horizon. However, profit at what cost?

It isn’t like we don’t have reserves, but touching those reserves will be the final certificate of the government being untrustworthy about national finances. So the race is on to what can be sold out from under the country’s feet, because there isn’t time to develop the capacity legitimately, and I don’t know if there is any inclination either.

The recent FDI in retail was a recent example. Before we discovered this miraculous need for money, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce report on FDI in Retail in May 2009 had categorically recommended against it. Now, the plan is shelved, but India assured Walmart that it was only a pause, and FDI in Retail was going to happen. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was blunt “I need the money”. In the meanwhile, the rent-a-gurus waxed eloquent about how the FDI in Retail will save our farmers. None answer a simple question – why would any business pay the farmer more for something available on the open market for less? There is no explanation for why existing retail chains we have never developed the infrastructure the firang ones will apparently conjure up.

People who opposed FDI in Retail were branded as anti-progress and pro middle-men, even when they were presenting data of damages to the small farmer in the land of the Walmart itself. And the middlemen though inefficient, are citizens of India, and don’t deserve policies designed to destroy millions of them. There are no explanations on how to manage the massive unemployemnt that would happen either. As though the corporates are magic wands – pay more to the farmer, give employment to more people, sell cheap to the buyer. Someone needs to find a calculator.

Like Pavlov’s dog, when we hear money, we *know* corporations are best. That is the non-negotiable conclusion and starting point and we choose data to fit it. For example, in 2011, our trade with China reached a record high. That was the headline. And in the article, it mentioned that trade deficit was also higher than ever before. The trade hit USD 73.9 billion in 2011 – USD 12.2 billion dollars more than USD 61.7 billion in 2010. The trade deficit rose to over USD 27 billion. Indian exports out of all these numbers are USD 23.4 billion. In other words, the amount of exports is smaller than the trade deficit.

If your idea of development is selling the country as a market, what else do you expect? It is no secret that money spent goes out. Household savings are at a 13 year low. Far from the days of our undeveloped country, where people saved for prosperous retirements and National Savings Certificates doubled money in five years. Now have “disposable incomes” which seem to be less and less disposable.

There is nothing wrong with the capitalism or globalization, but systems have no soul, no ethics – it is the government that regulates practices and determines how they grow and profit, and where the line is drawn, so that the common man is not devastated – and in turn can sustain a market. When you subjugate democracy and well being to drain a flood of money to an entity that gives you a beam of money where you need it, it is the country losing that flood. If you are the government, you can’t hide from this indefinitely.

People blaming capitalism are missing an important point. What capitalism can and can’t do is determined by the government, it is unrealistic to say corporates did it. Corporates would be forced to clean up if the governments enforced laws. There are many countries where corporations can’t make the kind of messes they make here. But then, they pay the governments less, so the it is the government choosing the suffering of the people over money. To the extent of adopting non-transparent practices deliberately to hide exploitation from citizens.

Ripples from a waterdrop.

No business invests more money than it expects to earn. This is a basic fact of good business. When we are privatizing water, whoever thinks it is a remedy for loss suffered by the government is delusional. That money comes from consumers – many of whom may drop out of tax brackets. Would be more efficient and less harmful to install donation boxes countrywide.

The government’s new policy aims to recover losses by removing subsidies to the agricultural and domestic sectors. It sees no difference between water as a necessity and water as a source for commercial profit. Why would a corporation see a human’s need for survival as something to support? The welfare of humans is not their responsibility. It is not corporations whose names will be tarnished if people die of thirst. Records worldwide will note it against the name and human rights record of the country.

Another delusion is that corporates are free of corruption. Witness the disinformation between what is happening and how it is presented to see how policies are being systematically promoted for profit. Corporate corruption isn’t about trickles like bribes, but flash-flood policies that siphon resources till they dry out. Corporates are opaque and unaccountable in ways that governments are not. Citizens have no control over private entities. People can vote out governments, but only change service providers who are very similar to each other anyway. CEOs earning more than your average ministers, executives taking flights, staying in five star hotels, massive staffs and their smart uniforms and shiny shoes… comes from the consumer. But when a necessity like water is put in the hands of a corporation, then it is citizens of a democracy being forced to sponsor these expenses for survival – there is no choice here.

What right does a government have to take a fundamental necessity of life entrusted to them; that no government created; and the infrastructure developed from decades of taxes and efforts of many governments and sell it off to patch ongoing deficits temporarily?

As water becomes more and more scarce, people will kill and die for it. Strategic experts say that the next wars will be fought over water. If water is converted into a commodity for profit, what will it mean in terms of wars within the country? No one seems to think of what desperation for an essential for survival can mean to one under threat of losing access to it. If inflation triggered the flood of anger over corruption, what will lack of water trigger over privatization? Our whole awareness of India has been reduced to “consumer” and measures of well being to GDP and stock index. We’re driving our way into a ditch.

The real question is, what else is there and why is it not explored? How about requiring companies to clean up after themselves or pay fines and lose licences? We have an increasing array of destroyed water bodies. Why not make deals with corporates to clean them, sue polluters and sell their water for a specific time period to recover investment? This will mean the development of the country as well as privatized water. But it isn’t an instant profit market, so it will not fetch the government much money.

Our whole financial policy is becoming one of “selling ancestral wealth to live lavish lives” and the scary part is that no one sees anything wrong with this. No one is thinking that in an increasingly unequal country with a vast young population and decreasing birth rates, in three decades we are going to hit a massive old population with very little money and not enough young people or money to care for them.

In our greed for getting money into the government at all cost to show a “successful government”, the country is paying an increasing price. Adding water to the mix is sowing the seeds of a genocide or French Revolution, because everyone needs water.

Transcript of Globalizing Inequality - a lecture by P. Sainath, sponsored by the Center for Social and Environmental Justice of Washington State University, Vancouver. Video by pdxjustice Media Productions.

Part 1 || Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4


We did it weeping in our hearts for we too live in slums and we know our turn will come. The police constables giving protection to the demolition also live in slums and they did not take any pleasure in the actions they were forced to undertake by the government of Maharashtra. The people doing the demolitions were from the slums.

Incidentally. a United Nations habitat report of around late 2003 makes the assessment that by 2030, 25 years from now, fully one-third of humanity will live in urban slums. One third. The largest number of those are going to be in india and Africa.

None of this got covered. Even in covering the Tsunami, even in covering... this is the mindset of inequality. What happened? The poor have no rights. Even in the coverage of the Tsunami.

Whatever was done for the Tsunami victims was a result not of their rights, but of our generosity. You are going to get a new house. Not because you are a citizen of a decent society, not because you are entitled to one, which you are, under the directive principles of the Indian Constitution.

You're not going to get a house because of that. You're going to get a house because I am sorry that half your family was washed away in the Tsunami. It's not about your rights. It's about my generosity.

We've reduced people to that. We've reduced the poor to the objects of our generosity and our sympathy.

You build your own home, we'll demolish it. But we'll give you a new one. If we choose to. That is, if we feel sorry for you.

How agonized we are over how people die. How untroubled we are by how they live.

If you look at the Indian stock market. Coming back to that central indicator of how economies are doing, the Confedration of Indian Industry, which has the most optimistic take on such figures says that the total number of people having any kind of investment in the stock exchange constitute less than 1.15% - I repeat - one point one point percent of India's hundred and eighty million plus households.

1.15% of households. That's the most optimistic figure of those participating in any kind of investment in stock markets.

Yet, as I told... when the stock market collapsed, in May 2004, it collapsed for all of two days. The country's largest newspaper had a front page mimicing 9/11. "Ground Zero!" said the headline. 2,340 billion rupees lost. Notional money. Which came back two days later. Notionally. And it had an aircraft flying into the stock exchange building and the tail of the aircraft had the communist hammer and sickle.

Well, when the stock exchange collapsed for all of 48 hours, this was following what every political analyst across the spectrum says is India's second most historic election since independence - 1977 after the emergency and 2004.

The finance minister of the country abandoned the first day of parliament, did not attend the first day of the new historic parliament. He came rushing to Bombay to the stock market to dry the tears and hold the hands of destroyed millionaires of dalal street.

Two days later it was okay, but he stayed there three days to make sure that the market behaved, then he went home.

It was... ah... meanwhile, an election that was largely fought on the key two states on the issue of farmers suicides, it took another 149 suicides of farmers in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh before the Prime Minister condescended to visit the place.

But a twitch in the SENSEX had the finance minister jetting out to Mumbai. That is the difference of attention that you get if you are poor or if you are rich.

So it is all about our generosity and our feelings and whom we are feeling sorry for today, or who we feel sorry for most of the time. If you start applying these measures to the various forms of generosity that you see, you get a very different picture from what you get from the Tsunami coverage.

One of my favorite forms of generosity is the drive to wipe out malaria in the third world. Some of you may have read about this - the distribution of - the planned distribution of millions of bed nets to protect people against malaria. Have you ever read about this?

It's a plan involving the WHO, the World Bank and anyone else out to make a dollar.

Teh fun part of this malaria nets thing is, by 1980, India had more or less successfully contained malaria. It was almost wiped out by the early 1980s. In the 1990s we entered the brave new world of structural adjustment. Huge cuts in public services. Privatization of medical services in a large way. Soaring costs of medical attention. 21% of the Indian rural public no longer seeked medical attention for their ailments - that's the latest figure we have - because they simply cannot afford it.

Now after all these cuts, malaria resurfaces with a vengeance in India and in neighbouring countries. Having caused it to resurface in the first place, now generosity demands that we distribute bed nets - millions of bed nets to people who don't have beds.

Now, if you're living in a hut, you don't fix your bed net to a wall, because you don't sleep close to the wall, because that's where the crepy crawlies reside. The scorpions and other stuff. You try sleeping a little away from the wall.

I'm a rural reporter. I spend 270 days of every year for the last 12 years in the villages and self-preservation causes you to figure out these sort of things about where you sleep and where you don't sleep.

So first, we're getting these bed nets to people who don't have beds, at the cost of God knows how many million dollars. It's planned. Every time it's been attacked, they have withdrawn quietly, only to try and bring it back through the next government.

Now, if anyone with even half a brain knows that even if these nets... oh, by the way, you'll forgive the gendered language... it doesn't mind, it's theirs. It says that these bed nets will protect you against malaria because the nets are impregnated with anti-mosquito repellent. Whatever that means.

Now, anyone with half a brain knows that the malaria ... we'll exempt the experts, right? - we're talking about people. Anyone knows that the malaria mosquito is not most active when you sleep. It is most active at dawn and dusk when people are in the fields.

Of course, you could make a bold new fashion statement by walking around in your net, but it might cramp your style.

The whole thing is one unmitigated racket. This is the generosity of the generosity, you know... the charity that begins at home and stays there. It has nothing to do with the eradication of malaria in these countries.

Speaking of malaria, one of the astonishing things you can look at in the spectrum of inequality across the globe both in the terms of what's happening and how the media cover it, is what I call the globalization of communicable diseases.

Anyone in the audience remember this word - SARS? Rings a bell? Yeah, it does, doesn't it?

You remember how SARS was perceived as moving about like the black death, mowing down millions in its deadly wake? You know how many people actually died of SARS in India? Zero.

SARS sero.

You can look at the World Health Organization's website on the subject. Total number of cases identified in India? Three. But from the coverage you got from the media, you think that SARS... you know the subcontinent was in danger of its survival, right? The way it was covered.

3 cases from SARS. 0 deaths from sars. Why did SARS get so much attention? And by the way I'm not saying that SARS is not dangerous. You're going to get a hell of a lot of SARS by other names in the not too distant future, because we have globalized communicable diseases through these strategies of the last 10-15 years. Through the policies of the last 10-15 years.

However, it's important to look at why SARS or plague... you know in '94 we had a plague in India. Every aircraft going out of India was sprayed while going out, sprayed while being received at in the airports in the West. The plague killed 53 people. SARS worldwide - in its 100 days according to the World Health Organization's website, in the hundred days of its existence in the first round, across the planet, SARS killed 879 human beings.

That's about half the number of people who die of tuberculosis every day in India.

But TB never gets the same kind of coverage. Because it kills the wrong people. SARS germs, plague germs kill the beautiful people. So they get that kind of attention. In the media, in the medical systems, in the government's policies.

Plague germs, SARS germs, they are notorious for their non-observance of class distinctions. They board aircraft and fly club class to New York and that scares the pants off the world.

So they affect the wrong kinds of people. And I'm not just talking about poor countries. How many people are aware, that in August 2003... in OCTOBER 2003, the government of France, one of the best off countries in the world... The government of France acknowledged that in August 2003, 15,000 senior French citizens had died in a heat wave.

Now France has had heat waves before. Why did 15,000 people die in that heat wave and why is it that all those 15,000 citizens were elderly pensioners and retirees?

You know, the thing is, 879 people from SARS in 100 days. 15,000 people in rich France in the space of a month. And it didn't make the world headlines, because they were largely poor, elderly pensioners whose health benefits had been subjected to severe cuts in the preceeding two or three years. That's why they died.

If it had been 800 people of the flying classes, you got that kind of coverage. When 15,000 - and again, we're not talking about Bangladesh and India - we're talking about France. 15,000 senior citizens died, they didn't even make news. You can get on to the net and look at the figures and the discussion. They had a special parliamentary commission to go into it, I don't know what came out of it.

It may also be interesting to look at why China was the worst affected country by SARS. And that has a lot to do with what we're discussing today. In the 90s... in the 80s and 90s we entered this world of structural adjustment, cut some subsidies, cut some basic services, withdrawal of entitlements of poor people, and privatization of just about everything including soul and intellect.

The Chinese government closed tens of thousands of factories. Now if you are a citizen of China, you have access to health through your workplace, through your school, your factory or the local network that you were aligned with.

When tens of thousands of factories were closed down across China, millions of workers lost access to health. The chain of command, the alarm system, the signal system by which a new disease got reported and got checked at the labs and the tertiary level, that system completely collapsed.

Therefore when SARS hit, there was no plot on the Chinese government's part to conceal it. For most of the time, they really didn't know, because they had destroyed the system by which they could have known. They destroyed it to save a few million dollars, and lost a few billion dollars, because the deprivations you visit on the poor, tend to come back to you.

That was the year when the Chinese GDP took its worst hit in a decade and a half. Also leaving severe scars on the GDP of Singapore, Thailand, and a number of other countries, also hit by SARS.

The great software festival of China was cancelled. China lost billions of dollars though it saved million, in throwing workers out of work. Throwing workers out of their factories. That happened with China.

Did I mention France? In this country, I have no idea. I don't think there is a clear estimate, how many elderly American's cross the border into Mexico and Canada to buy drugs. I do know that your Federal government has responded to it by conducting police raids on pharmacies in Michigan.

Not by trying to provide cheaper drugs to poor people, but by conducting police raids on pharmacies in Michigan and the Mexican border. To prevent people from getting cheaper drugs.

In Africa, thanks to the new institutional arrangements and the trips and the WTO... under the trade related intellectual property rights and the WTO, India... an Indian company which produced so far the cheapest - the company's name is Cipla - which produced the cheapest anti-AIDS drug. Millions of Africans were denied the right to get this drug at dirt cheap prices, by the intervention of multinational corporations of the pharmaceutical sector.

After a huge outcry - after considerable outrage across the world, a compromise was reached, but the owner of the company will still tell you that he can provide it for much cheaper if it were not for the pressures working on him nationally and internationally.