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In 1865, a child was born in Madras, India. Her parents named her Lucy Deane. As destiny would have it, in 1893, Kensington Vestry (UK) wanted to hire women Inspectors where, at that time all inspectors were men. Lucy Deane was hired and was a factory inspector. In 1898, she cautioned the authorities that asbestos was causing lung disease. The report collected dust. It took a century and in 1998, EU and France banned all forms of asbestos. (1)

As we stand today, Government of India has approved the use of GM Mustard for use in India. Like all throughout the world, there is a pro-GM and anti-GM groups in India. There have been spate of articles and influential voices who are supporting GM Mustard and its widespread use, without knowing the ramifications. Those who are against it are being labelled Luddites, risk averse, unscientific, elites and hypocrites. With government approving this, we know where the government stands.

Comparing the incomparable:

In a recent article in Indian Express(2), an author compares Viagra, Insulin and cell-phone towers and makes a point whether the elites sought zero risk proof for these products. First it pitches the GM crop as pro-poor and pro-farmer and insinuates all others as elites who swallow Viagra and go out to protest. Let me not rebut on this clever ploy of making this about one man versus the other.

The larger stupidity of this is the comparison of risks of Viagra against the risks arising out of a GM Crop. Though it is appealing to the common sense and immediately identifiable, its conceptually flawed from the first word. Viagra is a thin tailed risk and GM is a fat tailed risk. Thin tailed risks are common sense probabilistic and form the majority of Risk Management. The world as we see, revolves around with the use of such risk.

Insurance, the business which completely relies on risk had a seminal paper by Filip Lundberg in 1903 which formed the basis of what risk managers and many insurance actuaries know as Ruin Theory. Ruin is “the physical destruction or disintegration” which has no chance of recovery. There cannot be an un-ruin. Rebuilding is not bringing back the same structure which was there. By ruin, in this context, we mean the ruin of the complete system. This is not fear mongering and is grounded on sound logic and evidence.

The system here is the nature. This system is so complex that we cannot predict the weather pattern for the next month. The complexity of the system also makes the impact of GM crops unquantifiable. In 2005, UNESCO with its advisory body World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST), released a paper called as “The Precautionary Principle.”(8) It states:

“The emergence of increasingly unpredictable, uncertain, and unquantifiable but possibly catastrophic risks such as those associated with Genetically Modified Organisms, climate change etc., has confronted societies with the need to develop a third, anticipatory model to protect humans and the environment against uncertain risks of human action: The Precautionary Principle (PP).”

What it states is essentially this: lets protect before something bad occurs and not get into the damage control where we may not have any chance. This paper also puts forth when we need to apply this principle. Just by quoting this, we cannot stop the human progress.

Conditions to satisfy are:

  1. Complexity of the system
  2. Unquantifiable scientific uncertainty

If we look at GM Crops, it is a tailor case to apply this principle.

One, interaction of GM Crops with nature cannot be ascertained because nature is highly complex system and it is non-localised. Two, the impact is unquantifiable. Applying the risk of ruin, which essentially states that the impact cost will be infinity, and any non-zero probability will make the overall risk as infinity.

This is not same as one crore road accidents nor losing Titanic nor losing MH370. These are localised risks. Or the aforementioned opinion item provocatively mentions – Viagra.

Anyone who states that GM is completely safe is fooling us and fooling themselves. A recent study has revealed unintended mutations were induced in mice by a genome editing technique. And we are not sure how that will affect GM Crops.(3)

Thus we can safely conclude, that this is a system which must be seen from the Precautionary Principle and Ruin Theory view.

For detailed study of these risks, please read the books The Black Swan and Antifragile by Nicholas Taleb.  Also, he, along with many has authored a paper on GMO based on Precautionary Principle.(7)

Anti GM is essentially anti-corporates:

This is another lie that is being spread against the principled, theory and research oriented stand against GM Crops. What this essentially states are that since the anti-GM group, doesn’t like profits, are somehow socialists or communists and hence hate corporate profits. The same author(2)chides us for being perfectly fine with the duopoly of only Boeing and Airbus for travel and iOS and Android for mobile. Be that as it may, let me not address the trap again but the logic why this is wrong.

Nature provides biodiversity. What we essentially see in GM crops are close to monoculture. The single minded approach to GM crops as espoused by the pro-GM side is productivity. More, for less. More, for less land. More, for less water. More, for less pesticide. More for less, insecticide. More, for less fertilizer. Even our love of our own mother has some negatives but nowhere will you find any negatives that the pro-GM lobby presents with us. This is logical.

Let me present you another evidentiary proof. Between, 1845 and 1852, more than 10 lakh people died of famine in Ireland, also known as Great Famine of Ireland or Potato Famine. The root cause of this is a blight had wiped out the entire crop in Ireland.  What is also said and repeated many times, which we tend to forget is that the entire population was dependent on just one or two varieties of potato.

Now, you can see that why one loss of MH370 is not as same as a crop failure.

Now, you can see why the risk is unquantifiable and the losses in this case is near infinity or what we call as ruin.

With our single minded aim to improve productivity, we are laying the foundation for the unknown. Again, this is not fear mongering to be ignored, this is rooted in risk theories and in history.

Recent studies have also shown that GM crops may not be as insect resistance as we might have thought.(4)(5) This states that there is an evolutionary resistance to the GM crop. Again, we do not understand the nature as much as we think we do. And as stated above, nature is complex.

Mankind has always tampered with crops:

This is another half-truth that is being peddled by the lobby. For example, we are shown a black rose which is not available in nature but has been modified by the influence of mankind.

In 1865, Gregor Mendel, gave a speech on his experiments on peapods. The translated title of that speech stands “Experiments in Plant Hybridisation.”(6) This is essentially wrong comparison, again. Methodologies, processes and techniques were human but the ‘law of selection’ was left to nature. But, in present GM crops, we tend to select on behalf of nature. And herein lies the greatest issue we have.

Mankind have played with crops and animals. All the dogs that we see are examples. The interracial kids that we see are examples. We, you and I are examples of this selection. But nowhere but in GM crops have we altered at this micro level, the DNA.

The march of technology is inevitable. The advancement of science is unstoppable. But what can be and must be done is to make these crops into more and more trials till we are near certain that there won’t be any systemic impact of ruin.

The Precautionary Principle also states that the burden of proof does lies with the entity which brings into the system the GM crops.

To borrow Sun Tzu, “it’s a matter of life and death. A road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry, which can on no account be neglected.”

  1. http://www.wilpf.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Streatfeild-Lucy-Deane.pdf
  2. http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/gm-mustard-us-them-the-farmers-4683373/
  3. http://www.gmwatch.org/en/news/latest-news/17657-crispr-induced-mutations-what-do-they-mean-for-food-safety
  4. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carey-gillam/new-research-shows-failin_b_14003604.html
  5. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0169115
  6. https://archive.org/details/mendelsprinciple00bate – Page 317.
  7. http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/pp2
  8. http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0013/001395/139578e.pdf

This post was originally published here.

Monday, 9 March, 2015, Mumbai: Imagine you are enjoying dinner with your family at Golden Chariot restaurant, on the second floor of Goregaon's famous mall, The Hub. Suddenly, you see smoke. No, not the delicious smoke from a sizzler, but the black, rubbery-smelling smoke from a short-circuit. An uncontrolled blaze has broken out in the building. People are shouting, "Fire! Fire!" and stampeding in panic. But you are calm. You guide your family to the nearest door that says, "FIRE EXIT". But you are shocked to find that this door only leads to toilets and an enclosed room where drinks and junk are being stored! It does not lead to a staircase! You angrily start yelling at the Golden Chariot employees, asking where is the nearest genuine fire exit door that leads to a staircase. But nobody replies; people are running helter-skelter, the dimly-lit restaurant is filling up with thick smoke, and the temperature is rising.

1 False Fire Exit sign no 2 -- Golden Chariot

Photo 1: Activist Sulaiman Bhimani (right) shows a false Fire exit no. 1 in Golden Chariot restaurant. The fire exit has been illegally enclosed and converted into a storage area.

Then you see another large door in the same hall marked "FIRE EXIT". You push the door desperately, but the door does not open. It is locked! Your wife and children are depending on you, and you are wasting precious minutes by leading them into dead ends!

2 False Fire Exit no 3 -- Golden Chariot

Photo 2: Sulaiman Bhimani pushes Fire exit no. 2 in Golden Chariot, to show that the door is kept locked and will not open.

Finally, you all manage to run out of Golden Chariot restaurant, and reach the fire-exit staircase. You see other people going down the staircase, and you feel reassured that only two floors down, there is a door to exit the burning building.

But when you reach the ground floor, you are in for another shock: the door for going out of the building is chain-locked from outside! You can peep outside and shout, but the opening is too narrow to get out of!

3 Chained from outside -- Ground floor fire exit 2
Photo 3: On ground floor, one fire exit is chained from outside.

 

4 Chained from outside close up -- fire exit 2 at ground floor
Photo 4: A close-up showing the chain-locked door.

The crowd that is trapped with you is pushing, shoving and turning into a panicky stampeding mob. You all try running to another door, and this one is locked from within!

5 Chain locked -- Hub mall ground floor fire exit 1
Photo 5: Another ground-floor fire-exit, locked from inside. Imagine being trapped by this door while trying to escape a fire!

Many of the ways out of Hub Mall seem to be barred! By now, the boxes of goods and inflammable junk that are stored in the fire-exit by Big Bazaar in the basement have caught fire, and the stairwell is starting to feel like the chimney of a furnace! Thoughts of the 59 people who died in the Uphaar Cinema tragedy behind closed fire-exits flashes through your mind...

Is your family safe when it visits The Hub? On the contrary, it has been converted into an accident-waiting-to-happen. Next time you visit to Goregaon's Hub Mall, please take the trouble to walk around the fire-escape doors and walk up and down the stairwells. See for yourself how many fireexit doors are closed, and how many fire-exit passages have been encroached by greedy hoteliers and storekeepers.

Motivated by whistleblower Shaikh Fakhruddin "Fakhru" Junaid, who owns a shop on the second floor, RTI activists Sulaiman Bhimani and Krishnaraj Rao took such a walk on Saturday, and they took photographs of the hazards. Are the authorities aware of these hazards? Absolutely! Fakhru has been complaining to Mumbai Fire Brigade for the last two years, and the Chief Fire Officer's office has written to the Municipal Corporation noting the grave violations. The office of the Chief Fire Officer (CFO) reported various violations to MCGM on 14th November 2014.

CFO's letter: http://tinyurl.com/CFO-Golden-Chariot
Fakhru's letters to MCGM: http://tinyurl.com/Complaint-Golden-Chariot

Highlights of the CFO's observations:

  1. "In the north side landing on the second floor, the staircase landing was partially obstructed by keeping refrigerator and other things by the Golden Chariot restaurant and an unauthorized construction of the steel frame plywood sheet enclosure box for A.C. Unit and a steel ladder for access to the loft in encroached area of common passage by the Golden Chariot restaurant.
  2. "The common toilet block along with its approach passage and way to emergency exit of north side staircase was blocked for public use by illegally encroaching and utilizing it for restaurant activity by Golden Chariot Restaurant."
  3. "The amalgamation of two shop no. 23 and 24 along with its front common passage was done and merged it in the dining area by Golden Chariot restaurant without taking NOC and sanctioning the plan from the Fire Brigade Department."
  4. "In view of the above circumstances, I have to inform you that the MOH and Fire Brigade Department have already rejected the application for the trade licence of M/s Golden Chariot Hospitality Services Pvt. Ltd..."

Ok, so let's get this straight: Golden Chariot doesn't even have a licence to manufacture and serve food, but even then, it is not only serving food, but also alcohol. And it holds live performances!

6 Golden Chariot -- Happy hour and live ghazal
Photo 6: No licence to even serve food... but here they are, serving drinks and holding live performances!

However, the police sees fit to give this dangerous unlicensed restaurant a license to attract the public by holding live performances! See this police performance license: http://tinyurl.com/Performance-Golden-Chariot

Bear in mind, private house parties have been raided by cops, and named and shamed in the media for serving liquor and organizing an unlicensed performance for a single evening! So, the question arises whether the excise department and the police department is hand-in-glove with the restaurant owners? How come they have not cracked down on such blatant and continuing violations of various laws and public safety norms?

One must keep wondering… because yeh hai Mumbai, meri jaan!

Big Bazaar – a bomb in the basement

The story however does not end with Golden Chariot. Big Bazaar, which is situated in the basement of Goregaon’s Hub Mall, is another dangerous violator. Not only is it carrying on business illegally in the basement (a major MRTP violation), but further compounding the hazards, Big Bazaar has blocked numerous fire escapes with shopping carts, cartons of inflammable goods, and huge piles of garbage. See these photos taken on Saturday.

7 What lies inside Big Bazaar's fire exit

Photo 7: This Big Bazaar fire exit is filled with goods, weighing machines, etc.

8 Big Bazaar uses Fire Escape for storage and backroom operations
Photo 8: In this fire exit, Big Bazaar carries on backroom operations.

9 Fire escape of Hub Mall Big Bazaar -- obstructed and used for trade

Photo 9: This stairwell is used to store flammable junk, and backroom operations.

See many more high-res photos of Fire Safety Hazards of Hub Mall, Big Bazaar and Golden Chariot: http://tinyurl.com/Photos-Hub-Mall-Golden-Chariot

Journalists interested in knowing more may contact:
Fakruddin: 08879-414793
Jyoti Ladwal: 098-20-607950
Akash Dhupar: 099-20-752746
Human Rights & RTI Activist Sulaiman Bhimani 093-23-642081

ISSUED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY
Krishnaraj Rao
9821588114
9821588114

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Sunday, 13th Jan, Mumbai: Yesterday afternoon, at 3 pm, eight unknown men entered RTI Activist Sulaiman Bhimani's office with sticks and swords, and smashed a laptop, printer-scanner and computer keyboard.

The attack ended within 10 seconds as Bhimani's neighbours raised an alarm. While retreating hastily, they slashed wildly at the nameplate with the swords, and kicked at the wooden doorframe, smashing it. Bhimani escaped with only an injury on his finger.

Fortunately, this entire episode was captured on two CCTV cameras installed inside and outside his office. The attached photo shows a man who entered his cabin and struck at his laptop. (The man seen on the right in the pink shirt is NOT Bhimani, he is a visitor. Bhimani, being directly seated under the CCTV camera, is not visible in the footage.)

CCTV outside his office

Notes: The man in the blue shirt talking on the phone is a visitor, and he completely fails to react as the people wearing handkerchiefs and carrying sticks and swords walk into the cabin. (This man is the “rounder” of a well known security agency.) While retreating hastily, the assailants slashed wildly at the nameplate with the swords, and kicked at the wooden door frame, smashing it.

 

CCTV inside his office -

Notes: A man wearing a T-shirt is seen entering from the main door into the office of Sulaiman Bhimani, and abruptly smashing a laptop, before dropping his stick and fleeing. The other assailants are seen through the glass, swinging wildly to damage the office equipment before they retreat. The attack ended within 10 seconds. Bhimani, who suffered only an injury on his finger, is not seen in the footage as he was seated directly under the CCTV camera. (The man seen on the right in the pink shirt is NOT Bhimani, he is a visitor from a security agency. )

Photos and CCTV screen grabs: http://tinyurl.com/photos-CCTV-grabs-Bhimani

[satellite]

Bhimani feels that the most likely suspects are some people mentioned in this report:http://tinyurl.com/GRace-Sarvadhariya

The builder and unlawful elements mentioned in this report suffered losses of several crores when MMRDA cracked down on them recently, evicted 50 tenants with police action, and served eviction notices on 102 others. They have criminal records, and have threatened Bhimani in the recent past.

FIR was registered under IPC sections 452, 427, 323, 143, 144, 147, 148, 149. See FIR copy

https://aamjanata.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/FIR-Sulaiman-Bhimani-attack1.pdf

For more information, call Sulaiman Bhimani 93236 42081

Warm Regards,
Krish
9821588114

The following post was originally published on dianuke.org The site seems suspended under questionable circumstances. The message is being republished here in solidarity of the struggle and with a view to the time sensitive nature of the appeal for help.

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M Pushparayan, Idinthakarai

M PUshparayan

There seems to be some police operation tonight in the idinthakarai village to arrest us. We fear casualties. We hear that police plan to come into the village with arrest warrant to arrest the key leaders. If people resist the police, police likely to counter people’s resistance in any form. Tirunelveli police superintendent is more adamant on this operation. We fear major causalities if police enter. Please intervene to protect the innocent & fasting women, children and infants. We are ready to surrender ourselves provided nothing happens to the people.

The following post was originally published on dianuke.org The site seems suspended under questionable circumstances. The message is being republished here in solidarity of the struggle and with a view to the time sensitive nature of the appeal for help.

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update from Nithyanand Jayaraman

It is difficult to get reliable news. The folks in Idinthakarai are in a virtual prison, and cannot go out to verify. Our friends from Tirunelveli suggest that 10 companies, or 2000 police, are posted in and around Idinthakarai. That is roughly four police for every woman fasting to since May 4 to be heard. The fear is that the police will attempt to arrest Udayakumar and Pushparayan tonight. But when Prashant Bhushan spoke to DIG Varadarajulu, he said that the 2000 people were posted as a precautionary measure, and that they have no intent to move into the village. That is a bit difficult to believe. At the very least, this is war talk. Why do they need 2000 armed men to contain 500 women fasting non-violently?

If the police contingent moves in to the village, the villagers will not keep quiet. We hope that things don’t get ugly. Please call the Police and advise them against precipitate action. The villagers are interested in dialogue, and the police should work towards that:

Call:
Bidari, Superintendent of Police: 9940193494
Varadarajulu. Deputy Inspector General of Police:9840970530