Modi’s “Electricity To Every Home” Vision Kick-Started With Civil Nuclear Deal With Australia

The recent India-Australia nuclear deal sealed on September 5 through which India would
import uranium from Australia for civil and peaceful purposes is supposed to provide besides a political and economic boost to India, a relief to a quarter of its
billion-plus population which has no access to power and electricity.

The currently present 20 nuclear power plants in the country operate at only 2-3 percent of their capacity, and the import of Uranium from Australia, which has about 40% of the world’s reserves, would help in a 20-fold increase in nuclear capacity and 63,000MV production by 2032 by adding 30 new reactors.

The use of civil nuclear energy has raised environmental and social concerns. Local people in Tamil Nadu have an on-going civil non-cooperation moment against the government to shut down the power plant at Kudankulam fearing a nuclear disaster.

Questions regarding the effects of nuclear radiations on people living in the vicinity seems to be answered by the World Health Organization that reported in early 2013 that radiation exposure due to Fukushima was low[1]. Nuclear energy also gets supports from a few environmentalists because resorting only to coal or natural gas would increase the already high temperatures in the world. Currently, more than 50% of the country’s electricity is produced through coal. Inside the core of an average nuclear reactor, the power density is about 338 megawatts per square meter, whereas wind energy has a paltry power density of 1 watt per square meter. Hence the high upfront costs, with the Indian government planning to spend $85 billion, are balanced out by the cheap production and supply costs. Hence, nuclear energy looks the most feasible and cost-effective.

Not only this, Germany after its hasty decision of phasing out all its nuclear plants by 2022 in 2011 as a result of the aftermath of Fukushima Daichi nuclear disaster in Japan has become isolated and has increased the dependence on coal and the power costs. China, on the other hand has emerged as the global trendsetter by investing heavily in nuclear as well a renewable sources of energy.

Government’s plan to providing electricity to 1.2 billion of its population in the next ten years seems to have kick started, but it needs to make sure that the waste disposal is strictly regulated, the plants are renewed after their age, health and safety measures for people living in the vicinity is a top priority and that the usage of nuclear energy is more transparent.

 

References:

  1. In early 2013, the World Health Organization reported that radiation exposure due to Fukushima was low and concluded: “Outside the geographical areas most affected by radiation, even in locations within Fukushima prefecture, the predicted risks remain low and no observable increases in cancer above natural variation in baseline rates are anticipated.”

http://www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/pub_meet/risk_assessment_radiation_japan_2013_exec_en.pdf

A Reaffirmation of Faith in Humanity during J&K Floods

Source: Rediff

Source: Rediff

Being called the Katrina of India, the worst floods in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the past century caused by the over flow of river Jhelum, which killed around 200 people and left 1.5 lakh stranded, has re-affirmed the faith and belief of the people in humanity, as help poured from all over as people came together to aid their countrymen in need.

Relief came from volunteer doctors, donations from various colleges and institutes tied up with airlines, government introduced emergency helplines, telecommunication sectors trying their best to connect people, small and big NGOs mobilising relief material, US pledging USD 250,000 for relief amenities and AirIndia sending 21 lifeboats from New York to Srinagar.  Sanjay Raina in Srinagar, who helped rescue others before saving himself, says, “I found inner peace in putting many others in rescue boats first before evacuating my ownself.” Army loaded seven trucks of relief material weighing more than 300 tonnes including over 2.4 lakh litres of mineral water, as many as 774 blankets, baby food, biscuits, pulses, candles, match sticks.

With the army helping around one lakh people with setting up of 16 relief camps, could this be a kind of alliance between J&K and the army which had been having clashes and misunderstandings since a long time. “In hours of tragedy, we should certainly count our blessings. If army stops rescue, it’s all over, so please respect it,” a person tweets.

Is the Modi Mania Good for India

The recent times had seen many major national and international news. The power politics in Crimea’s annexure, Food Security Bill, the Supreme Court judgement of criminalisation of homosexuality (Section 377), the introduction of NOTA by Election Commission, ISRO’s debatable expenditure of 450 Crores for Mangalyaan are few of them. Another important thing that gained huge attention in media and otherwise is the Modi-mania in the recent General Elections 2014.

India did not want a new leader, nor an old one, but a leader with a new perspective, and Modi symbolised that. With the phrase of ‘good times ahead’, and Modi’s talk of ‘vikas’, BJP won an outright majority—282 of the 543 elected seats in Parliament’s lower house. Only Congress has ever won a majority by itself before, and it has not had one for 30 years. Meanwhile, Congress has been routed, retaining only 44 seats. Given the sense of let-down Indian voters have for governments they elect, Modi’s ratings are staggering. They speak for a trust in him and a sense of optimism.

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In every speech Mr Modi listed practical gains that flowed from his rule in Gujarat: reliable power and water, decent roads, flourishing industry, less of the most corrosive forms of graft. The GDP growth rate of Gujarat has been 11.05% over the past few years. He swears by good governance and urban development and the masses have a huge expectation from him to get us out of the staggering rut the country is in. But is Gujarat model sustainable at a national level? Foreign investment might take a hit on local entrepreneus and monopolies might begin to form.

He has the full support of business tycoons llike Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani. Infact, he is equally supportive by offering tax breaks or land at concessional rates to big companies. He has been called a ‘crony capitalist’. Will the increase in science and technology and big multi-nationals and hence increased employment be at the cost of marginalisation and sidelining of tribal and indigenous groups, who make up a huge percentage of the population?

With BJP having the majority in Lok Sabha, and a support from leading business-men, and Modi’s stress on ‘less government’ and ‘more governance’, and his history of walking away from interviews when faced with tough questions, he is not wrongly being called authoritarian. He is a powerful person in-charge and can actually take actions, unlike Manmohan Singh, who has been called ‘the accidental prime minister’ by Sanjaya Baru in his latest book. No opposition is tolerated in Modi’s Gujarat. Being the prime minister of a major democratic country, the PM must be answerable to the people, and must engage in a healthy dialogue with the nation.

The Modi wave has hit the hearts of the youth.  By correctly projecting his story of rise from being a small tea-stall owner, and giving emphasis to self-growth, the youth finally has a persona they can relate to. The 63-year old bearded Modi, who has been recently hailed as ‘the newest fashion icon’ by US media is the most tech-savvy Indian politician.

Going by the Pakistan President Nawaz Sharif being invited to Modi’s inauguration as the PM, and Modi’s awaited September visit to the US, invited by Barack Obama, there is a bright future for the foreign relations in the coming years. It would also prove to be a boom to the Indian economy.

There are various paradoxes in his party, though. The huge turnout at voting in one favour showed a clear distinction from earlier elections- this one was guided by a desire to see a change, and that too in the form of development, job opportunities and a growing trade, and not in the form of communist and religious ideals.  At the same time, BJP’s latest election manifesto reintroduces a proposal to build a temple to the Hindu god Ram on the site of a medieval mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya. Of the 449 B.J.P. candidates now running for seats in the lower house of Parliament, all but eight are Hindu. Chetan Bhagat in a recent article in The Times of India on the popularity of Modi said that a leader representing ‘Hindu pride’ will find resonance.

Even with the paradoxes, the new government might be the best thing to happen to India, and may be the worst nightmare. But as the Indians have already placed a bet on it for the next five years, let’s give the government atleast two years before heralding the coming of ‘good times’.

Dated: 4th July, 2014

Bollywood’s Queen And Other Coming-of-Age Stories About Women

Bollywood portrays, consciously or unconsciously what is evident in the society. And in turn, continues the trend, with society being formed by what is shown in cinema.

Best thing about the latest releases? None of the female protagonists are shy, coy and helpless. Queen, Gulaab Gang, Hasee Toh Phasee, Dedh Ishqiya all have strong female characters.

Imtiaz Ali called Queen a coming-of-age movie. Another such bollywood flick is Highway with a girl figuring herself out as she travels with her kidnapper right before her marriage. Indian Cinema hardly gave its audience any other buildungsroman with girl protagonists. From Dil Chahta Hai, Three Idiots, Udaan and Life of Pie to even British and American movies like Slumdog Millionaire, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Forest Gump, do you notice a disturbing, recurring difference in the stories between those of a male protagonist and those of a female?

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The boy coming-of-age movies begin when the boy is a child, teen, or in college and still has life to explore. For the movies like Queen, and English Vinglish, it is evident that had it not been for the utmost breaking-point moment, these protagonists would NEVER have grown up and ‘came of age’. Rani was ready and happy to get married to a boy who would try all his might to let her remain passive in her emotional, psychological and intellectual growth, and for sure—she would have settled in the role quite comfortably.

A Bollywood movie with a strong empowered character would be Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, with Naina having the choice of travelling the world, or staying in India. That is what actual empowerment is. It is not the situation a person is in, which makes him or her helpless or empowered; but the option given of choosing one’s situation is.

Good thing about Gulaab Gang, the 2014 movie is that the concept is not purely a work of fiction. And though a gang of only girls, they fight not only for women, but for the whole village, and even against issues like corruption and politics, which might be headed by another woman itself. Now that’s true liberation, where the concept of a woman fighting the battles of even a man does not come off as a surprise, and shows that the society is mature enough to accept the change.

Have a look at foreign coming-of-age movies with girl protagonists, like Big Girl, Juno, The sisterhood of Travelling Pants, Bend It Like Bekham – even they have natural occurrences and opportunities that make the protagonists grow morally and psychologically while they are in their tweens, or teens; much before they are already typically ‘grown up’ and ready to marry.

In Queen, Rani ‘thanks’ the boy who left her a day before her marriage, for letting her realise her potential and giving her a chance to explore herself as she travels alone (which she would have never done had she been ‘happily’ married). At that moment, when the boy is thanked-for for being an arsehole, the movie loses its feminist approach and becomes a movie that painfully shows the societal reality. Why should the boy be thanked? Why should he, in an ironic way, hold the reign of empowering her, by ditching her?

What could have been more empowering and liberating was if she herself had realised the shallowness of Vijay’s love when he refused her to take up a job, or got mad at her while she tried to learn how to drive a car. Why Indian Bollywood women characters need the ‘last straw on the horse’s back’ situation to realise what’s as plain as nose on the face? And why does it always have to be a boy who pins that last nail on the coffin?

Nevertheless, it’s a step ahead than movies like Raanjhanaa which seem like they are portraying the society of the 60s.

This post was first published on Women’s Web.