human rights

Free Indian Fishermen

Free Indian Fishermen


S.O.S   e – Voice For Justice – e-news weekly
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Editor: Nagaraja.M.R.. Vol.11..Issue.12….….21/03/2015

Editorial :  Indian Fishermen, Are They Criminals ?

–        An Open Letter To Prime Ministers of Sri Lanka And India

I, as a citizen of South Asia region condemn the statement of Mr. Ranil Wickremsinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in which he told that ‘If someone tries to break into my house, I can shoot. If he gets killed, law allows me to do that,” he said in the interview to Thanthi TV broadcast on Friday night. “This is our waters. Fishermen of Jaffna should be allowed to fish. We stopped them from fishing. That’s why the Indian fishermen came in. They (Jaffna fishermen) are willing to have a deal. Let’s have a reasonable settlement but not at the cost of the livelihood of northern fishermen .”

I see this statement as unfortunate and highly condemnable. This statement is not only against humanity but even also differs and violate the international law such as UN sea laws. Being a primeminister, Mr. Wickremsinghe must know the importance of humanitarian approach in resolving the conflicts among countries and groups.

Sea boundary of India and Sri Lanka attracts fishermen from both sides to earn their livelihood. Fishing as a traditional business is very old in its practice and it exists since the time when division of sea was not made stringent in such away. As a group of human being, fishermen represent a common interest group and identity of ‘being fishermen’. Conflicts between the countries, politicization and high pressure of increasing financialhttp://cdncache-a.akamaihd.net/items/it/img/arrow-10x10.png growth are working negatively in terms of collective solidarity, friendship and living style of fishermen.

South Asia is already a region vulnerable for such activities of crossing boundaries in search of employment and reducing poverty. We, as a south asian must know the situation of our countries that is similar and filled with challenges of poverty, hunger etc. But at the same time, unfortunately, we also spend a lot ‘against’ each other rather than ‘for’ each other.

I  believe that any such conflict must be raised in suitable forums and through mutual dialogues. Government of India and Sri Lanka must work together to stop such activities that restrict livelihood of Sri Lankan fishermen.

Sri Lankan fishermen and Indian fishermen are not enemy of each other, they both earn their livelihood from the same sea and the only requirement in present situation is the requirement to fix their access to a certain sea boundary. This can be done easily through mutual discussions and decisions without provocation of people.

I demand Sri Lankan PM to express his apology over the statement because it was against humanitarian approach, against UN sea laws and most importantly against the unity of fishermen. He must apologise that he see fishermen not as ‘criminals’. He must also apologise to people of Sri Lanka that he doesn’t believe what he said is a common belief of Sri Lanka’s people and fishermen. We know that even fishermen of Sri Lanka will never support his statement.

I also demand Govt of India to become involve in dialogue with Govt of Sri Lanka so that any such dispute can be resolved at the earliest and can save dignity of Indian fishermen as well as livelihood of Sri Lankan fishermen.

Jai Hind. Vande Mataram.

Your’s ,

Nagaraja Mysore Raghupathi

Amnesty International Demands The Release Of Human Rights Defenders In Kerala

Two human rights activists arrested in Kerala on suspicion of being involved in unlawful activities because they had ‘pro-Maoist’ materials in their homes must be immediately and unconditionally released, Amnesty International India said today.

On 30 January, the Kerala police arrested Jaison C Cooper and Thushar Nirmal Sarathy in Kochi and Kozhikode respectively. They were denied bail on 3 March, and continue to be held in judicial custody.

“Indian courts have stated on multiple occasions that mere possession of certain literature cannot be considered a crime. The National Human Rights Commission has asked for a report from the Kerala police on the arrests. Authorities must ensure that the two men are protected from torture and other ill-treatment,” said Shemeer Babu, Programmes Director, Amnesty International India.

The investigating officer in the case told Amnesty International India that the men had supported banned armed Maoist groups and also supported an attack on the National Highway Authority of India’s project office in Kochi on 29 January. The men were arrested under India’s principal anti-terror legislation, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

However, the investigating officer admitted that the only existing evidence against the men was that the police had found pamphlets and materials ‘supporting Maoist groups’ in their homes, including a book titled ‘Why Maoism?’ in Jaison Cooper’s home. The police also said that they had found in Thushar Sarathy’s house a document signed by a leader of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) armed group giving him power of attorney.

Thushar Nirmal Sarathy’s wife believes that her husband was arrested because he is an active member of several groups protesting against land acquisition by the state government. Jaison C Cooper has also been actively engaged in protests against land acquisitions and forced evictions.

In recent weeks, the Kerala police have detained several people across the state on suspicion of being supporters of banned Maoist armed groups. Some have been subsequently released.

“Human rights activists in Kerala must be able carry out their work without intimidation or harassment and authorities must take prompt action against those who violate their rights,” said Shemeer Babu.

In April 2011, the Supreme Court observed while granting bail to Binayak Sen – an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience – that “the mere possession of Naxalite literature does not make a person a Naxalite”.

In November 2010, the Gujarat High Court ruled in the Vishvanath case that “possession of material without there being any overt act or actual execution of such ideas by itself would not form or constitute any offence.” In October 2012, the Bombay High Court stated in the Jyoti Babasaheb Chorge case: “That the possession of certain literature having a particular social or political philosophy would amount to an offence, though such literature is not expressly or specifically banned under any provision of law, is a shocking proposition in a democratic country like ours.”

Background Information

The UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – to which India is a state party – has stated: “No person may be subject to the impairment of any rights under the Covenant on the basis of his or her actual, perceived or supposed opinions… The right to freedom of expression [includes] the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds regardless of frontiers.”

Parts of the UAPA do not meet international human rights standards and are likely to lead to human rights violations. Amendments to the Act in 2008 extended the minimum period of detention of suspects from 15 to 30 days and the maximum period of such detention from 90 to 180 days. These amendments also avoided adequate pre-trial safeguards against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees, reversed certain evidential burdens of grave crimes and required, in certain circumstances, accused persons to prove their innocence.

An Underground Radioactive Waste Laboratory Coming Up In Gogi Village In Yadgir District Of Karnataka

By VT Padmanabhan & Joseph Makkolil

The spent fuel from a nuclear reactor contains highly radioactive elements with half lives upto millions of years.  In India, the waste removed from the reactor every year is cooled in the spent fuel pool for about five years. After this, plutonium and the un-burnt uranium are extracted in a reprocessing plant.  Plutonium can be used to make bombs as well reactor fuel.  The waste from this process, known as high level waste (HLW), will contain almost 95% of the radioactivity generated in the reactor.  HLW has to be isolated from the water bodies and the biosphere for millions of years.  Scientists working in this field say that it can be safely kept in a deep geological repository (DGR), carved out below 500 meters from the surface.  DGR is considered as a reference solution by all because there is no other solution.  Before going in for a full fledged DGR, an underground research laboratory (URL) is built for undertaking studies and experiments.  If no adverse event is seen during this phase, the laboratory can be expanded to a full-fledged  repository.  A URL can be seen as a stepping stone for DGR.

India’s Radioactive Waste Repository

India would need a repository by 2030, the latest.  Since it takes some 30 years for site selection, evaluation, construction and licensing, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is already late.  In India, hundreds of scientists have been working on locating a suitable repository site and experimenting on ways to place the waste in the holes.  They wroked in an abandoned mine at 1000 meters below in Kolar Goldhttp://cdncache-a.akamaihd.net/items/it/img/arrow-10x10.png Fields in Karnataka from1964 and terminated the experiment in 1990, when they realized that the place was not suitable for a DGR.  They claim to have selected half a dozen sites, but the details have not been released. In all the major nations with high level nuclear wastes, open discussions, consultations and negotiations between the waste generators and the communities living near the potential sites are happening.

An Underground Research Laboratory (URL) at Gogi in Karnataka

In March last year, we reported a secret move by the DAE to set up a repository (DGR) for storing high level radioactive waste (HLW) under the hills of Idukki-Theni districts in Kerala-Tamil Nadu.[i] [1]  TIFR published a blanket denial saying that INO has nothing to do with radioactive waste.   Our contention was that radioactive waste repository was a separate project, co-located at the same site. Now we report a similar effort to build an underground research laboratory (URL) in Gogi village of Yadgir district in Karnataka.

The URL at Gogi was announced by Dr AK Rai, the director of atomic mineral division’s southern region in an Indo-French theme meeting on geological repositories in October 2009. A team led by Prof. G.J. Chakrapani, Department of Earth Sciences in Indian Institute of Technology-Roorkee has been studying Geochemical evolution of ground water in a limestone – Granite Terrain Underground Research Laboratory Site, Gulbarga’ since 2011.(Gulbarga district was bifurcated in 2012 to form Yadgir district.)  Beyond these, nothing else is known about this novel project.

Uranium Mines at Gogi

Gogi has some uranium deposits, estimated at 4000 tons of U3O8.  DAE’s atomic mineral division  started drilling in 1995 and exploratory mining commenced in 2007.  Soon after, the villagers started experiencing several health problems and they attributed this to the contamination of water by drilling and mining.  This received extensive coverage in the Hindu, Decccan Herald and the New Indian Express.  The problem became so severe by 2011 that the minister in charge of Yadgir district, Rajugowda, said that “residents of Gogi village have already started experiencing radiation- related ailments such as cancer and congenital malformation”.  He appealed to the chief minister of Karnataka to cancel the mining permit.  Ananth Hegde Ashisara, chairman of the Western Ghats Task Force and vice-chairman of the Bio-Diversity Board also supported the cause of the villagers.  Justice Shailendrakumar, Judge in the Karnataka High Court and the chairperson of the Jan Adaalat ruled on 15 September 2012 that norms were not followed when the public hearing was conducted on uranium mining earlier at Gogi village.  Responding to this judgement, in December 2012, the Central ministry of environment and forests cancelled the environmental clearance given in March 2012.  The ministry said that the Gogi mining chapter is closed. 

However, the district revenue administration reopened this chapter and started working on land aquisition in September 2013.  This means that the project has not been shelved.  Incidentally, the total estimated uranium reserve  at Gogi is less than 3% of the total uranium estimated in India by the atomic minerals division.  About 6 to 8 million tons of ore will have to be excavated to extract 4000 tons of uranium. This ecologically disastrous project, located on the banks of River Bhima, a tributary of River Krishna, is also economically unviable.  Uranium mining we feel is only a ‘cover’ story for carving the URL which will be upgraded to a repository.

BARC-Mangalore University study of groundwater in Gogi

Scientists from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and the Mangalore University (MU) discussed the results of a study  on the  concentrations of uranium and radium in water samples from around the Gogi mining region in an internal meeting at Mamallapuram in December 2012[ii] [2] .  A total of 22 samples – 18 from tube wells, 3 from open wells and 1 from the river Bhima – from within 30 km radius of the mining centre were analysed.  There were three samples from within  a radius of 5 km of the mining centre.

Results in a nutshell

  • Concentrations of both radionuclides are the lowest in river water.
  • Gogi village and Hoskeri canal samples are significantly higher than the median of all tube wells.
  • Uranium and radium in the tube well of Gogi village are 375 and 178 times higher than the median.
  • U and Ra in Hoskeri canal sample are 4 times higher than the median.
  • The estimated total dose from U and Ra for the Gogi villagers is 1619 µSv or 1.6 mSv.

Gogi Water is Unfit for human consumption

The authors of the study estimated an internal (radiation) dose of 1619 micro-Sv (or 1.62 milliSv) from the water alone. For estimating the internal dose, one must know the total intake.  Scientists say that  “since site-specific data on daily intake of water by the population of the region was not available (sic), the dose calculation was performed for an intake of 1 litre a day”.  Since average water intake in this arid tropic region will be about 3 litres pd, the annual dose will be (1.619×3) 5.67 mSv, which is more than the reported average occupational  exposure of radiation workers in India’s nuclear power stations.

Let us believe that the people in Gogi drink only one liter of water a day and that the annual dose they receive from water is 1.62 mSv. WHO’s current Guidelines for drinking water are based on a “reference dose level (RDL) of the committed effective dose, equal to 0.1 mSv from 1 year’s consumption of drinking-water (from the possible total radioactive contamination of the annual drinking-water consumption).  WHO says that “if the RDL of 0.1 mSv/year is being exceeded on aggregate, then the options available to the competent authority to reduce the dose should be examined.”[iii] [3]  

The internal dose to the Gogi people, as estimated by the authors, are 16 times the WHO’s RDL. At this contamination level, the government is supposed to act and ensure that the communities do not receive unnecessary and avoidable exposures. The source of contamination, whether natural or human-made is not an issue.  The competent authority in India is the Department of Atomic Energy and BARC is its research wing.  In the paper presented at the Mamallapuram meeting, the authors say that mining has not started in Gogi and hence the high concerntration of uranium and radium in drinking may be due to the uranium ore in the underground. Licensed mining did not start, but a total of 500 holes (sum 55,000 meters) were drilled in a small area and exploratory mining had commenced in 2007.

Peoples’ Health or Profit? 

This study was conducted by scientists paid by the governments, using facilities owned by the government.  Not by scientists employed by a multinational giant.

Apart from the presentation at Mamallapuram internal meeting of DAE, this paper was not presented in any open conference or published in any journal.  We could not find the details of this study in any DAE-affiliated website either.  A copy of the paper has been uploaded in Research Gate, a network of scientists by one of the authors based in Mangalore University.

Why did BARC refuse to share the findings with the communities, the media and the government?  In this case, the resources required for decontaminating the water source and for providing safe drinking water is too small for DAE which is one of the richest government outfits in India.  Do they expect mass desertion by people, so that they have all the land they need for mining the uranium and setting up the waste repository?

BARC-Mangalore University study of groundwater in Gogi raises this age old question of ethics in science.  Are scientists supposed to sit idle over such discoveries, which will have serious consequences for the health and well being of thousands of people over several generations?  Let us not forget that in the aftermath of nuclear disaster, these very same people will be in charge of monitoring the environment?  Will they tell us the truth?

We also feel that URLs and DGRs must be set up in time, before the wastes accumulating in the reactor sites and reprocessing plants ‘overflow’ and turn into a nightmare in heavily populated, high value areas like Kalpakam. During a year-long research, we could collect only a handful of documents on the Indian DGRs. In the issue of site characterization, all of them are vague. There should be open flow of information, discussions and debates at all levels, starting from the Panchayat to the Parliament.  DAE’s way of doing these things without transparency is unlikely to work in modern times.  The senior scientists who lead DAE and BARC must learn their basic lessons from their counterparts in Europe and America. 

A detailed 16 page paper on this topic can be read at:

https://www.academia.edu/10993804/Indias_Underground_Radioactive_Waste_Disposal_site_at_Gogi_in_Karnataka 


INO Will Cause Major Environmental Damages In Theni:  Medha Patkar

 

 

Noted social activist Medha Patkar joined hands with MDMK leader Vaiko to oppose the proposed neutrino observatory project in Theni district, saying that it would cause large-scale environmental damages.

“Nature will suffer major damages if India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) is set up. Radiation from it will affect people in the area. The central government does not seem to care about the people’s livelihood. The INO project will not benefit India either,” Patkar said.

She said the Centre was showing keen interest in implementing the project, which has not received approval from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board. No guidelines or rules had been framed for implementing it either.

“The main water resources, including Mullaiperiyar and Idukki dams, will be affected by the project,” she said.

She was addressing a press meet along with Vaiko before launching a campaign against INO.

Patkar alleged that BJP government was following the same ‘anti-environmental’ schemes as the Congress regime, which had started the Narmada dam and Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project.

She said Kerala had opposed INO and various state governments had not agreed to locate the project in their states, nor were they willing to cooperate with the Centre on it. It was against this background that the project was being started in Theni district.

Patkar alleged that the tunnel to be created for the INO, using explosives, would harm the environment in and around the district. Water springs and other water resources would get plugged, rendering the area dry.

Claiming that INO would require five lakh litres of water per day, she said it would touch 3.5 crore litres as the project advanced. The hill and forest wealth would be affected and that’s why Vaiko was also fighting against it, she said.

Patkar alleged that the BJP government was implementing the same projects it opposed when Congress was in power. There were reports that a site near Madurai Kamaraj University had been selected to dump waste from INO, which would affect the Madurai district also, she said.

Vaiko said that the BJP government was implementing a scheme that would affect livelihood of people of the district and natural wealth of Tamil Nadu.

“The Anti-INO Movement is not a political movement. It is not a caste movement. It is a movement for the welfare of the people and in the interest of the people,” Vaiko said.

He said a similar project in Italy had destroyed a river and people were fighting against it.

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