Skip to content

Mumbai, 25th January, 2017: Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (R-ADAG) was caught with its hands in the proverbial cookie jar, and that too by the Supreme Court! R-ADAG tried to twist the terms of its Power Purchase Agreement with seven states, and make a profit of well over Rs 1,000/- crore by making the states count one day as one year (31st March 2013 is the previous financial year, and 1st April 2013 is the next financial year. Get it?) And moreover, when All Indian Power Engineers' Federation (AIPEF) blew the whistle and prevented it, R-ADAG tried to sue AIPEF's office-bearers for damages of Rs 1,000 crore! Ulta chor kitwal ko dante!

The true significance of Supreme Court’s 8th December 2016 judgment on Reliance's Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) Commercial Operation Date (COD) has gone unreported. Mainstream media has avoided reporting important thing, namely:

1) By exploiting a loophole in the Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) signed with seven states of India, Reliance Power wanted to hugely overcharge them. Madhya Pradesh, where the power project is located, would have had to pay over Rs 400 crore extra to Sasan Power Ltd. based on their false claim that Unit 3 of the UMPP started commercial operations on March 31, 2013. (Counting interest costs, the impact on MP would be around Rs 450 crore.) The PPA specifies that power is to be supplied @70 paise per unit for the first two years, and hiked up to Rs 1.31 per unit from the third year. But, if Reliance Power’s claim of March 31, 2013 as the commercial operations date (COD) were to be accepted by the seven power-purchasing states, then the first year of power purchase would be only one day long, i.e. starting on 31st March, 2013 and ending on April 1, 2013. Such a stand would enable Sasan to start charging the higher power tariff of Rs 1.31 per unit from April 1, 2014, instead of April 1, 2015. This would have resulted in a wrongful gain of Rs 1050 crore to Sasan Power Ltd, coming out of the pocket of the Indian power consumer and taxpayer.

2) Moreover, were such a claim to be accepted, it would have also resulted in incalculable loss to the nation in terms of power-generation, as it would have removed all the deadlines and left Sasan Power Ltd. under no pressure to fully operationalize Unit 3 in a time-bound manner. On 31st March 2013, Unit 3 was functioning at a mere 17% of demand. The unit became fully operational and achieved the capacity to fulfill 95% demand only in August 2013. If 31st March were considered the start of the COD by waiving this condition, it is possible and even likely that the date on which 95% demand capacity was achieved would have been pushed back even further. The heart of the PPA is the condition that Unit 3 had to be functioning at over 95% of demand, for the Commercial Operation Date to commence. By seeking to subvert the heart of the contract, R-ADAG betrayed its profiteering tendencies, and its willingness to sacrifice the safety and well-being of the national grid.

3) Sasan Power would have got away with looting India, were it not for the persistent efforts of All Indian Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF), spearheaded by its chief patron Er. Padamjit Singh of Delhi and Er. Shailendra Dubey of Lucknow.  It is heartening to see the activist spirit with which this professional body defended the national interest before the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission and its Appellate Tribunal, and before the higher judiciary.

4) Sasan Power Limited tried to misuse Bombay High Court as a forum to intimidate AIPEF to prevent it from pursuing the matter before appropriate forums, including higher judiciary. It malafidely tried to get an injunction from Bombay High Court in August 2016 for muzzling and stalling AIPEF, and claiming damages of Rs 1,000/- crore, although the same matter was already reaching Supreme Court in Appeal.

5) There is significance in the fact that prominent Congress leaders Kapil Sibal and P Chidambaram, in their capacity as senior advocates, attempted to defend the indefensible. This helps to remind the public that Anil Ambani has friends on both sides of the political fence. No matter who wins elections – BJP or Congress – big money wins every time. The Congress camp may shout from rooftops that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is protecting the business interests of the “two brothers”, but one must bear in mind that Congress leaders also have their interests at heart.

ISSUED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY
Krishnaraj Rao
9821588114
krish.kkphoto@gmail.com

Posted in Public Interest by
Sulaiman Bhimani
9323642081
sulaimanbhimani11@gmail.com 

8

As soon as the demonetisation of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes was announced, I had said that it was a forced and public funded "bailout" of banks. This article examines news reports from the last year and explains how I arrived at the conclusion.

Please note: I am not an economist or banker or accountant or even particularly good with money or calculations. As a result, almost all the conclusions in this article are actually quoted from news reports and analysis. I have merely strung them together. I could still be wrong, feel free to argue in the comments.

As soon as the demonetisation of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes was announced, I had said that it was a forced and public funded "bailout" of banks. This is a phenomenon polite people call recapitalization unless the government literally dumps money into banks.

This view has not changed. But many are skeptical, saying that excessive money with banks is not good for them as they will have to lend it out in order to earn from it. That is true, and they will have to lower interests and give out more loans and such. However, to those following the news, I'm simply presenting various things that happened in the year before the demonetisation. Particularly with regard to the Non Performing Assets - NPAs. Too many NPAs and the banks won't be able to function. On the other hand... pay attention here: The bank with the largest number of NPAs - State Bank of India - doesn't seem to be in as much crisis as several others - say... Indian Overseas Bank - guess why? Because with that size come plenty of other performing assets as well as deposits keeping the show going.

For the record, it isn't the first time that the government has forced the country into actions that end up putting money in banks. The Jan Dhan Yojana was the first. It doesn't seem to have yielded much. Then came the DBTL, where in spite of the Supreme Court saying that citizens must not be deprived of their rights because of not having an Aadhaar, a convoluted scheme was imposed on them where the gas subsidies provided for the state would be provided as deposits into their bank accounts as opposed to people paying less for gas while buying it. Small amounts at a time, but it would end up totaling to a good amount of money belonging to citizens getting deposited into the banks by the government. People were free to withdraw it, but at least some of it would hopefully remain as deposited, just like some Jan Dhan accounts would indeed see use even if most remained empty. But these are old stories.

The NPAs of banks had increased to an alarming level by the end of the December quarter, last year. Then governor of RBI, Raghuram Rajan had been on the case of banks for NPAs for a while, and took a firm view of the matter, giving the banks until March 2017 to deal with their NPAs. Banks were to start flagging and resolving NPAs and restructured loans and by March, skeletons were tumbling out of banking closets and it was clear that the banks had been underplaying NPAs in order to show better results to investors (presumably). With the pressure on from the RBI, the banks started turning the heat on defaulters. It is no secret that it is banks with large corporate loans struggling the worst with NPAs, and I can only speculate that people who knew people who knew people had a lot of money at stake. To quote from the linked article:

RBI had conducted an asset quality review of Indian banks and found many accounts that were showing stress were required to be classified as non-performing. But since banks were not classifying those accounts as NPA, the banking regulator directed lenders to classify them as sub-standard and provide accordingly. Sub-standard assets attract 15-20 per cent provisioning as compared to five per cent provisioning requirement in standard assets.

RBI had asked the banks to complete the exercise of classifying assets as NPA in the third and fourth quarter.

As a result, many banks including the likes of Bank of Baroda, IDBI Bank, Bank of India suffered record losses in the Oct-Dec quarter. Since the remaining accounts (those which were not classified as NPA in Q3), need to be classified as NPA in Q4, losses could her mount. Bankers said this has prompted the banks to call the management of the defaulting companies and ask them to make payments, which will help the lenders avoid further losses.

Incidentally, this is around the time when Narendra Modi claims that planning for demonetisation started (although there doesn't seem to be much evidence of planning going by the manner in which it has been carried out).

Soon after this began noises of Raghuram Rajan not continuing as the governor of RBI after his tenure was complete. What happened behind scenes is anyone's guess and rumors and claims out in public range from Raghuram Rajan not wanting to continue to the government not wanting him to continue. Regardless, he was succeeded by Urjit Patel, who headed GSPC in Modi's Gujarat when GSPC took loans to the tune of 20,000 crore and basically had nothing to show for them, with no gas ever being produced. His closeness to Ambani (who profited majorly from the GSPC mess) as well as Jignesh Patel is well known. So, given Modi's preference for complete incompetence in area where competence is expected being a requisite for appointments, who better than Urjit Patel to head RBI while it was overseeing banks reducing NPAs?

Unlike Raghuram Rajan's approach, where the RBI would support banks in dealing with bad loans, Urjit Patel was of the view that "bad banks" take over the debt. It is unclear what happened of that approach or whether and what efforts continued toward NPAs, but they continued to rise. Attempts by Modi (and one wonders why Modi) to get Indian state owned firms to take over floundering defaulting companies (and their debt) failed a month before demonetisation was declared by Modi. To quote from the link:

India's government is pushing state-owned steel, power and shipping firms to take over assets of private companies that have defaulted on loans, but faces resistance from them, leaving it scrambling to clear a $135 billion pile of stressed loans from banks' books.

[...]

Last month, steel ministry officials met with Modi to outline measures to revive a sector reeling under bad loans and cheap Chinese imports. Days later, in a renewed push, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley met with top lenders, including State Bank of India (SBI.NS) and ICICI Bank (ICBK.NS), steel and shipping ministry officials and some state-owned companies.

He gave the state-owned firms a list of 23 troubled steel, power and shipping companies with bad loans totaling $14.5 billion, according to government officials and minutes of the meeting seen by Reuters.

The state-owned firms were "encouraged" to buy at least one asset and take a minority stake in a company on the list.

The banks needed lots of money and fast, or many of them being Public Sector Banks with the government owning more than half of them, it would stress the government for funds. One wonders what was wrong with turning the screws on NPAs harder. The banks needed money and fast.

How could this be achieved? Well, how about if all the people in India put most of the money they had into banks and left most of it there?

What followed, with demonetisation seems to be a harebrained scheme to get most of the cash with the country into banks. This is how not only do the banks not have enough cash planned and are not even in a position to provide enough cash in the near future, we have increasing noises about "cashless" transactions being an intent behind the demonetisation. So the money gets transferred from account to account, but remains with the banks instead of returning to the people with limits withdrawn and notes available again.

Then with demonetisation with banks bloated with funds, some of the staggering NPAs were "written off" to reduce their burden and free the money the banks would have to provision for the bad loans. Any taxes the government got would be a bonus (but given the expenses and waivers of demonetisation, I doubt these were the real motive).

Added feedback from someone who knows more about money than me: While the increased deposits will allow the banks to lend more, earn more, lower interest rates, etc, the interest earned by the banks and taxes to the government will no doubt be useful toward recapitalizing the banks. As will various confiscations of deposits be.

So now the thoughtless demonetisation with it unending new rules being pulled out of hats has happened. Banks have a different problem. Too much cash. And the methods to deal with it won't necessarily result in big profits for them. What they will do to existing loans with the economy and thus borrowers stressed far worse is anyone's guess.

Finally, how do I know that this is really a bank bailout and not a coincidence? Well, now that things are going south with the demonetisation, the usual process of protecting Modi from the consequences of his own action has already begun. From being "Freedom at Midnight" - Modi's project planned meticulously and in complete and necessary secrecy for 10 months, the story now is that the RBI and Finance Ministry presented the demonetisation plan to Modi in a manner that "turning down the scheme was out of the question". And guess why (emphasis mine):

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is working “more than ten hours a day” just on ensuring that the 8 November money measures announced by him ensure a smooth landing for the economy rather than turbulence. This despite the fact that the plan actually owed its origin to the Reserve Bank of India and the Ministry of Finance, who persuaded the PM to go forward with an idea which will affect (and has affected) over a billion citizens of this country. Prime Minister Modi showed moral courage in coming forward and accepting ownership of the currency swap scheme announced on 8 November, and has since then publicly backed every twist and turn in that policy by the monetary and fiscal authorities. Senior officials say “Prime Minister Modi was presented with the issue in such a way that turning down the scheme was out of the question”. Through the plan, concerned officials wished to “shield those in high positions in banks across the country from the consequences of the crony-oriented lending that they had been doing, specially since 2006”, the year when Narasimha Rao’s liberalisation policy was fully substituted by the UPA into a faux Nehruvian economic policy that combined Fabian socialism with Wall Street ways. “Officials argued that a windfall of up to Rs 550,000 crore would flow to the banks through the enforced extinguishing of currency notes issued by the RBI, and that this would recapitalise several banks that were in effect bankrupt, thereby allowing them to lend again”. The Prime Minister was assured that “steps would be taken to ensure that the common man suffered minimal discomfort” and that “the informal economy would accelerate its absorption into the formal without jobs being affected”. It needs to be mentioned that it is the formal sector that is responsible for not repaying bank loans of a value crossing Rs 750,000 crore, which will be several times the value of tax evasion by the informal sector. NPAs are being written off by banks at an accelerating pace over the past six years, with still more businesses declaring themselves unviable by the month.

I rest my case.

1

1 October, 2016, Cuttack: Before doing business with a judge's brother, think twice. In the year 2000, Ravenshaw, a 150-year-old college, signed an MOU to start professional courses in "public private partnership" with Star Computer Institute Pvt. Ltd., belonging to BJP politician Biswajit Mohanty, son of Barrister Ranjit Mohanty, and brother of Orissa High Court's second-seniormost judge Indrajit Mahanty. In 2011, this MOU was renewed for a further three years. Upon the MOU's expiry in 2014, Ravenshaw (which was now no longer just a college but a full-fledged university) decided not to renew their MOU with Star. In the process, Ravenshaw incurred the enmity of Biswajit Mohanty's elder brother, who proceeded to give them a taste of pure hell!
Ravenshaw is a grand old institution with 8000 students and 90 faculty members, and a sanctioned strength of 153 faculty. It became a University through an enactment in 2005, and was bound by UGC's guidelines, which said, "No university whether central/state/private can offer its programme through franchise agreement even for the purpose of conducting course through distant mode." But, given the money and prestige involved, businessman Biswajit Mohanty was in no mood to leave the campus peacefully. So the matter went into arbitration, and also, in November 2014, an FIR was registered against Biswajit Mohanty because he allegedly "entered the University campus with five other persons and misbehaved with staff and students of the ITM department using the most filthy language". The police complaint said that Biswajit Mohanty threatened them, saying, "If you don't refrain yourself coming to the ITM department, I would assault you by entering into your home".
And then, in March 2015, came the judgment of the district judge to the arbitration petition filed by Star Computer Institute while the arbitrator's final order was still awaited. The judgment upheld Ravenshaw's right to terminate the MOU. The FIR and this adverse judgment against Biswajit Mohanty provoked his big brother Indrajit Mahanty, who took all the high court cases concerning Ravenshaw into his hand.
Until then, Ravenshaw's cases were heard by single benches such as Justice S.C. ParijaJustice Biswanath Rath, and Justice Sanju Panda, and many orders and judgments were favourable to Ravenshaw. Multiple writ petitions filed in 2015 against a recruitment advertisement issued by Ravenshaw, were initially posted in the single judge benches of Justice B.N Rath, Justice Dr. B.R Sarangi and Justice Dr. A K Rath, and later, all recruitment matters were brought to the court of Justice B.R Sarangi, where they remained stayed for 7 months. Then, on 9th December 2015, a division bench of Justice D P Choudhury and Indrajit Mahanty overturned the earlier judgmentsfrom 2014, quashed the recruitment, and slammed Ravenshaw on almost every count. This bench -- dominated by Justice I Mahanty who is almost a decade senior to Justice Choudhury (currently the junior most judge in Orissa High Court) – went on to initiate two suomotu civil contempt proceedings. Between March and May 2016, Justice Indrajit Mahanty passed eight orders on various cases that showed Ravenshaw who was boss!
On 9th December 2015, a division bench headed by Justice Indrajit Mahanty overturned the earlier judgments from 2014, quashed the recruitment, and slammed Ravenshaw University.
The orders and judgments mentioned in this article (including FIR and District Judge's arbitration order) can be downloaded fromhttp://tinyurl.com/Ravenshaw-cases
Questions arise about our judiciary's integrity:
  1. Was Orissa's Chief Justice Vineet Saran ignorant about Justice Indrajit Mahanty's special interest in Ravenshaw University? Or did he consciously allow Justice I Mahanty to use the court system to settle scores?
  2. Unknown to India's common man, is our judiciary generally functioning in this way? Do many of our judges have an axe to grind? Is it normal for some judges to say to each other, "I want to teach that party a lesson, so transfer that case to me"? Do they quietly manipulate and attract some cases to their own court?
The main issue is not whether Justice Indrajit Mahanty is a good guy or a bad guy. It's also not whether his judgments and orders in Ravenshaw matters are judicially correct or otherwise. The key issue is, why did Orissa High Court allow Justice Indrajit Mahanty to give judgments on Ravenshaw, where he had a vested interest?
What happened afterwards: After activist Chittaranjan Mohanty, on behalf of the 8000 students of Ravenshaw, petitioned the Chief Justice of India and Chief Justice of Orissa High Court in July 2016, all Ravenshaw-related matters were taken away from Justice Mahanty.The division bench matters were assigned to a bench headed by Justice S.C. Parija and the single bench matters were assigned to Justice Debabrata Dash who hears all service matters. A PIL is about to be filed for review of the judgment and orders of the Division Bench headed by Justice I.Mahanty in Ravenshaw recruitment matter.
ISSUED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY
Krishnaraj Rao
98215 88114
krish.kkphoto@gmail.com
POSTED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY
Sulaiman Bhimani
9323642081
Related Articles

Judge Indrajit Mahanty's incestuous ties with Trade Unionist Biswajit Mohanty

 

3

The government of India doesn't seem to be interested in getting security vulnerabilities fixed. A CS engineer, Bhavyanshu Parasher, has been spending his time understanding the current security standards deployed by the government of India in most of its data-critical apps and websites. Last year, in September, he disclosed a security flaw in Prime Minster Narendra Modi's web API that exposed user identifiable information like e-mail addresses and also that there was no proper authentication check for API endpoints. During that disclosure, he faced challenges because it was difficult for him to get in touch with concerned authorities. He mentioned on his blog that e-mail address mentioned on Google's Play Store were not working. We had to contact @buzzindelhi (the handle used by BJP's Arvind Gupta on Twitter) to help him get in touch with the concerned authorities.

"The e-mail address provided on Google's Play Store returned a response stating “The email account that you tried to reach is over quota”. Had to get in touch with authorities via Twitter."

Now, the same thing is happening again. He wants to disclose vulnerabilities in two major applications deployed by the Government of India but he is struggling to get in touch with the concerned authorities. He has published a post on his blog about it though he has not mentioned the specifics of the vulnerabilities yet, as he is hoping the government will patch them before he discloses them. However, this may be rendered moot, as our searches showed that at least one of the vulnerabilities has already been publicly disclosed, but not by Bhavyanshu. That security flaw is in an unpatched version of server software and there is a CVE assigned to it. Fix has been rolled out but developers are not aware of any of this. But then why wouldn't it be so? UIDAI website still uses SSLv2 and SHA1 encoding in a world where SSLv2 has been phased out for over a decade now, and even free SSL certificates like the one used on this site come with SHA2 encoding because SHA1 isn't considered secure. You can go to the UIDAI website and check this for yourself in your browser details for the SSL certificate.

UIDAI ssl fail
UIDAI SSL fail

Bhavyanshu sent emails on March 24 and then again on April 4, but he hasn't received any response. This time @buzzindelhi isn't showing much enthusiasm in getting the vulnerabilities fixed either. In response he just directed him to the public Twitter handle of Akhilesh Mishra (Director, myGov). Hardly an acceptable process for initiating discussion about security breaches!

https://twitter.com/buzzindelhi/status/714658965703958528

One would expect Mr. Mishra to contact Bhavyanshu immediately, but the truth is that even he isn't interested.There is, as yet, no reply from him.

It is cases like these which make the whole concept of Digital India look ugly. There are no dedicated e-mail addresses for security response teams. Official e-mail addresses don't work and the apps are poor on security. It is a goldmine for unethical hackers and a complete deterrent for ethical hackers who would like to help the government fix security leaks. There is no way for the researchers to get in touch with the concerned authorities. A concept like Digital India, without guaranteed user data security and user privacy, should not be promoted by the Government of India as it puts many people at risk.

Considering the complete lack of interest in securing the vulnerabilities, we cannot provide too many details. However, people looking to exploit government data would already have found these and would be using them by now. This isn't exactly rocket science. What data is vulnerable? Let us just say that I have seen e-mail addresses, Aadhaar numbers (where provided) and street addresses and can confidently say that a malicious hacker could write a script that replicates the data for all profiles. And before you think that such things are not done, just today, Madhu Menon posted a link to the hacked and leaked Turkish citizenship database.

A similar database of MyGov.in users could prove devastating to BJP, given that their supporters are disproportionately more likely to have signed up. And while Bhavyanshu stresses that he would not do it, it isn't outside the realm of belief that more malicious hackers not just could, but definitely would. And there seems to be no way to prevent this short of raising a public stink, because a government that claims to be interested in a Digital India does not seem to have the foggiest on digital security and the need to have developer teams rapidly rolling out fixes in the event vulnerabilities are found.

"Seems like the government doesn't have dedicated security team for projects that need immediate attention to security flaws. Instead, people who wish to disclose vulnerabilities have to rely on Twitter handles to get in touch with them. I am doing a lot of volunteer work like this because I like the concept of Digital India but I don't want it without data security and privacy. I have written a web app that will help eliminate this communication gap between researchers and authorities but whom to contact? Who are the concerned authorities after all? Don't give me another Twitter handle!" , Bhavyanshu told me when asked about the current status of vulnerability disclosure. He also pointed us to privacy policy of MyGov and why people should push government for better data security.

The page for MyGov.in on HackerOne - a bug bounty program by security leaders of top internet companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Google (that rewards hackers for finding and reporting vulnerabilities so that they can be fixed) says it all "There are no known guidelines for reporting potential security vulnerabilities to this organization." Even the fact that the app has no known process for reporting vulnerabilities is an immediate flag. It tells hackers that there is no one keeping an eye on it or worried about security. The most beginning programmer puts a working address on Google Play for contacting the developer. Yet, the official application of the largest democracy in the world fails to do it.

Contrast this with the Hack The Pentagon challenge that is actively rewarding hackers to break in and expose security vulnerabilities so that they can be fixed. This is the country where, a few days ago, our Prime Minister gave a speech at the nuclear summit on April Fool's Day explaining the need to fight terrorists using 21st century technology with modern technology.

Yet, his government seems supremely unconcerned about unauthorized access to confidential information. As the UK just saw, in a country that uses technology extensively, a security breach can be used as an attack vector, when hackers hack into the water supply and change the composition of chemicals put into the tap water. A more famous example to recall could be the Stuxnet worm that damaged Iran's nuclear facilities. Yep. Code resulting in real time damage to equipment. We have, in the past seen that banks too can be hacked. We have seen that election equipment can be rigged. What will it take for us to wake up before our money, our vote, our voice and even our physical location is compromised?

It is completely insane to push for a Digital India and inaugurate three websites a month without having the requisite push to secure the data that will now be vulnerable to theft, or facilities to access. If Digital India must be, then it must be preceded by a culture of taking technology seriously or the whole country will inevitably suffer.

MyGov privacy policy claims to protect user identifiable information. Below are the excerpts from their policy page.

1. "MyGov do not sell or share any personally identifiable information volunteered on this site to any third party (public/private). Any information provided on MyGov will be protected from loss, misuse, unauthorized access or disclosure, alteration, or destruction. MyGov gather certain information about the User, such as Internet protocol (IP) address, domain name, browser type, operating system, the date and time of the visit and the pages visited. MyGov make no attempt to link these addresses with the identity of individuals visiting our site unless an attempt to damage MyGov has been detected."
(https://mygov.in/simple-page/terms-conditions/)

2. "Please note that MyGov do not share any personally identifiable information volunteered on this site with any third party (public/private). Any information provided to this website will be protected from loss, misuse, unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration, or destruction."
(https://mygov.in/mygov-faq/)

Turns out that like many other things, this privacy policy is a jumla as well.

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.