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Kudankulam Protests , Church and Western NGOs A Citizen’s Probe

Updated: March 31, 2012 1:19 pm

In the second week of March, the government said that there would be no compromise on nuclear safety or livelihood of any section of society in India’s pursuit of atomic power. This statement came against the backdrop of anti-nuclear protests in Kudankulam and Jaitapur. Addressing a joint sitting of Parliament, President Pratibha Patil asserted that the country would more than double its nuclear power generating capacity in the 12th Five Year Plan period from 2012-17. “My government attaches the highest priority to safety while harnessing nuclear energy, and will not compromise on safety or the livelihood of any section of society in the pursuit of our nuclear energy programme,” she said. Mrs Patil’s remarks came a day after Japan observed the first anniversary of a massive earthquake and a devastating tsunami that killed several thousands and crippled nuclear power plants in Fukushima.

However, the government earlier confirmed a crackdown against NGOs alleged to be fuelling the protests against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant. The Home Ministry didn’t disclose the names of the NGOs. However, it is learnt that two of the NGOs under the scanner are the Tuticorin Diocesan Association and the Tuticorin Multipurpose Social Service Society, both headed by Bishop Yvon Ambroise. Ministry sources said the cases have also been lodged against two Kanyakumari-based NGOs.

It may be noted that in an interview to a science magazine, PM Manmohan Singh while speaking to the NDTV Science editor, Pallav Bagla blamed US non-profit groups for whipping up anti-nuclear demonstrations that have stalled the two new atomic plants in Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP). This is what the PM said, “The atomic energy programme has got into difficulties because these NGOs, mostly I think based in the United States, don’t appreciate the need for our country to increase the energy supply.” He further added in the context of application of biotechnology for agriculture sector: “There are NGOs often funded from the United States and the Scandinavian countries which are not fully appreciative of the development challenges that our country faces.”

This was confirmed by the MoS for the PMO, V Narayanswami who also told the media that three NGOs had already been blacklisted and their foreign funding suspended. Though, the names have yet not been made public, the convener of the protest against the KKNPP, People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), SP Uday Kumar went overboard and threatened to sue the PMO, (he has, since, carried away his threat) ministers and told English channels which are in collaboration with news agencies of the same countries, that he has never received a single paisa either from foreign or even from national organisations for the protests. He said if proven he was ready to face capital punishment. But, the reports that are coming in reveal that three organisations which have been blacklisted are Tuticorin Diocese Association; Good Vision, Nagercoil, People’s Education For Action and Community Empowerment. The third one is run by Uday Kumar.

It is to be kept in mind that the whole protest movement picked up steam only in 2007 after One-day hunger strike was organised on February 15, 2007, prior to the Indo-US 123 Agreements when the US began eyeing India’s huge nuclear market. At one-day hunger strike the people of poor Christian fisherman communities were brought on truck load with the support of two overgrown Diocese of Tuticorin and Tirunelveli. Here is the list of some of the leaders of the initial protest—Y David, Gabrielle Dietrich, Lal Mohan, Anton Gomes, Mano Thankaraj, Balaprajapathi Adigalar, Dhanraj, Alankaram Bharathar, Peter Dhas, Kavitha, Rosammal, Frederick, Gilbert Rodreigo, Jeromios, Jayakumar and parish priests Panneerselvam, Venis Kumar, Jesuraj, Suseelan, Arul Raj, Jagdish, Clarence. So, the movement from the very beginning was organised by the Church, and various parishes. In fact, Uday Kumar is believed to be stationed at the Idinthakarai village church. Idinthakarai is the centre of the protest under the full guidance of the Church. Udaykumar himself stays with the parish priest Father Jaikumar, and uses the Church infrastructure for coordinating the movement.

Why is the Church arrayed against the project? Though, the convener always quotes that another Fukushima may happen in India and scares fisherman away from the coming tsunami; the reasons are geopolitical. India is not the place where tsunami as powerful as one that hit Fukushima may again arrive. The simple reason is that KKNPP is too big a strategic investment for India. India and Russia signed an inter-governmental agreement on the project on November 20, 1988 for the construction of two reactors. The project could not take off for a decade due to internal crisis in Soviet Union and then in Russia. Construction started in 1997 and there was a certain problem to be addressed for transporting the LWR from Russia. A small port was then constructed and it also took another decade.

In 2008, India renegotiated for building four additional reactors at the site. It is expected that the capacity of each reactor will be 1000 MW. If all reactors can be operationalised, the total capacity of the power plant would surge up to 9200 MW and it can wipe out the energy deficit in Southern India. Apart from six Russian-made nuclear power plants producing 6000 MW power, two Indian-made fast breeder reactors (FBRs) producing 400 MW power each will be contructed. This will make India stockpile enough fuel for strategic nuclear deterrence and this will be the biggest nuclear facility in the entire world. India’s coming strategic autonomy has pinched many in the Western world since many powerful states do not want emerging power like India to achieve autonomy and pursue a peaceful, co-operative policy vis-a-vis northern neighbour, in particular, China.

Thus, there have been multiple layers of operation to destabilise KKNPP. The NGOs from Scandinavian countries have been roped in, particularly Denmark and Sweden as these are the weak NATO states and pander the US for their own security. Danish missionaries have centuries old foothold in Tuticorin. The three contiguous southern districts of Tamil Nadu—Tuticorin, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari—have a substantive Christian population. The three districts have 1.4 million Christians upon which various churches have strong influence. The plan to sabotage the operationalisation of the first two units which are “99 per cent and 94 per cent” ready, does not seem to have local hands. Consider the fact that the chief Russian architect of the KKNPP, Sergei Ryzhov and whole leadership of designer unit of Russia’s state nuclear corporation was wiped out in June 2011, while flying from Moscow to the Karelian capital Petrozavodsk.

It is also to be observed that suddenly there have been a spurt in foreign money entering Tamil Nadu as grants (legal money) in last four years, once the first hunger strike was organised. The divertion from church to insurgent organisations in the North-East India is well documented. This is the easier route even in Tamil Nadu where it is seen that nearly Rs 800 crore was received by the Church and christian missionaries only in 2010-11.


Who is SP Udayakumar, who is leading the protests against the construction of the Kudankulam nuclear plant?

Udayakumar earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Hawaii in 1996 and he had also worked for the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota for three years. His publications include Presenting” the Past: Anxious History and Ancient Future in Hindutva India (2005); ‘Om-made’ History: Preparing the Unlettered for the Future Hindu Rashtra; Historicizing Myth and Mythologizing History: The Ayodhya Case in India; Mapping the ‘Hindu’ Remaking of India; and, Betraying a Futurist: The Misappropriation of Gandhi’s Ramarajya. His western education and his various publications clearly indicate his anti-Hindu mentality.

As an endorsement to his book Presenting the Past: Anxious History and Ancient Future in Hindutva India, Joseph E. Schwartzberg Professor Emeritus University of Minnesota, writes, “Rewriting the history of India to promote the fundamentalist Hindu nationalist agenda has been a major project of the so-called Sangh Parivar, a still potent collectivity of exclusivist political, social and cultural entities that flourished under the aegis of India’s recently deposed BJP-led government. In this trenchant and salutary work, S.P. Udayakumar exposes the methods employed by the revisionists and demonstrates their remarkable similarity to those developed so effectively under the European Fascist and Nazi regimes more than half a century ago.”

Johan Galtung Professor of Peace Studies Director, TRANSCEND Rector, TRANSCEND Peacre University, endorses the same book thus: “Presenting the past has basic ramifications. The BJP-led government in Delhi was substituting Nehruvian secularism with its virulent Hindutva, a fundamentalist ideology that put Muslims and other minorities in India on a collision course with the Hindus.”

As the Kudankulam Plant was nearing the commencement of its operations, Udayakumar led People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, with the backing of Roman Catholic Church, started indefinite fast at the Coastal town of Idinthakarai near Kudankulam on 11 September 2011. After a token appeal to the PMANE to stop their protests, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister appealed to the Prime Minister to suspend works until the fears are allayed. When the Prime Minister sent Union Minister V.Narayanasamy for talks, the protestors refused to meet him.

But, when Jayalalitha assured them that the Tamil Nadu Assembly would adopt a resolution to urge centre to suspend work at Kudankulam, fulfilled her assurance, the agitators ended their fast. But, when the Centre ignored the TN Assembly’s resolution, the agitators announced a token fast and PM announced the formation of an Expert Committee after meeting a delegation from Tamil Nadu led by Finance Minister O.Panneerselvam.

Despite concerted efforts by the Prime Minister, the agitators refused to accept the report of the expert committee and they even ridiculed the expert opinion of Dr.Abdul Kalam, who also recommended a 10-point action plan for the development of Kudankulam. Despite the PM’s 15-member Expert Committee answering all their queries and allaying their fear, the PMANE continued with its protests with the sole motive of not allowing the plant commence its operations. Between October and December, both the center and state shifted the blame on each other. Later on 9 February TN CM Jayalalitha constituted a four-member committee to study the safety of the plant. The Committee submitted its report to the Chief Minister within three weeks, but till date the CM has not acted upon it. Though the four member committee gave hints in various press meets that they are for the immediate opening of the plants, the CM has not come out openly about it.

Meanwhile the Fishermen community led by Udayakumar has been continuing their protests (since September) without venturing into seas for even their daily livelihood. Their “sustained’ protests for months together, without any income for even their basic needs, was a clear give away and the fact that they have been backed by the Church was out in the open.

Dr SK Jain, Chairman and Managing Director of Nuclear Power Corporation of India was the first person to openly talk about the involvement of foreign hands in attempting to thwart the Kudankulam project. He said, “The recent protest at the KAPP was supported by environmental activists from the US, Australia, France, and Finland, who were present in villages around the project. The foreign activists along with a splinter group of Tamil Nadu-based anti-nuclear activists were creating all the trouble. All the activists were receiving foreign funding in abundance.” Dr Jain also alleged that some of the churches in the area were participating in the agitation.

The Union Home Ministry swung into action and focused its attention on those NGOs and Churches which support and back the PMANE. In December 2011 itself, suspecting the involvement of foreign hands, the Centre launched a probe into the functioning of 6 NGOs and the Home Ministry sent notices to them.

In the first week of February Union Minister Narayanasami declared in a press conference that, two NGOs namely Tuticorin Diocese Association (TDA) and the Tuticorin Multipurpose Social Service Society (TMSSS), run by RC Bishop of Tuticorin Diocese Rt. Rev. Yvon Ambroise received Rs 54 crores and another NGO run by Udayakumar received Rs 1.5 crore from foreign agencies. In a hasty reaction, Udayakumar denied the allegation saying that he had pawned his wife’s jewellry for Rs 6 lakh and that he would accept even capital punishment if the allegation was proved. Apart from the above said two NGOs, two other NGOs namely, People’s Education for Action and Liberation (PEAL), Madurai, and Good Vision, Nagercoil are also under the scanner. The Union Home Ministry officials have reportedly told the media houses that the protesters are getting support from a lot of other NGOs as well, mostly Christian-run organisations.

Apart from the NGOs, the protesters have got support from politicians like Vaiko and notorious anti-developmental activists like Medha Patkar. Whenever Medha Patkar supports an agitation, one can straight away draw the conclusion that the agitation is anti-developmental and anti-progressive and even anti-national. The Tamil Nadu police have so far filed 100s of FIRs against the protesters including Udayakumar, Tuticorin Bishops, Vaiko and Medha Patkar. Police say that the Christian priests have been using places of worship for organising protests, which is against the law. They also said that the premises of St Lourdes Church in Idinthakarari were being used as a protest venue and priests of the Catholic Church and Church of South India (CSI) were openly supporting the agitation.

The protestors received a huge blow when the Prime Minister himself came out openly about the ugly role of foreign hands behind the protests. In an interview to Science magazine, the Prime Minister said, “that these NGOs do not appreciate India’s need to make use of high-technology like nuclear energy or genetically-engineered crops to move forward on its growth agenda. For example, what is happening in Kudankulam? The atomic energy programme has got into difficulties because these NGOs, mostly I think based in the United States, don’t appreciate our country to increase the energy supply. There are NGOs, often funded from the United States and the Scandinavian countries, which are not fully appreciative of the development challenges that our country faces.”

This is something that could not be expected of Manmohan, especially when considering his track record. It is a sort of rare courage shown by the Prime Minister and all thinking citizens who want to see India progress have welcomed his bold statement. It is only after the arrival of the UPA government, the number of Christian NGOs has doubled and the flow of foreign funds to them has increased by five times! So, if an allegation comes from the head of the same government, the allegation can never be wrong.

How did the Church react? The Church said that the government must stop harassing the Christians! AM Chinnappa, archbishop of Madras-Mylapore and president of TNBC, had stated, “It is open secret that the central government is taking these actions against the Diocese of Tuticorin and other Christian NGOs, in the wake of the debate and dispute on the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project. The government is trying to mislead the nation by saying that the Church is against the national and public interest and playing into the hands of foreign powers. This is our only moral involvement with the people. If the government is able to convince them and allay their fears the Church in no way will stand out against any decision.” However, he has not said anything about the several attempts made by the government to all the fear of the people and the PMANE’s refusal to accept the government’s assurances and safety programs.

The events which unfolded in the last eight months have exposed the following facts:

■   The protests have been engineered by America, European and Scandinavian countries purely for Geopolitical Reasons, specifically against Indo-Russian relationship.

■   America and other Christian countries have been managing the protests through the Catholic Church and Christian NGOs with the blessings of Vatican

■   Though the cause for Fukushima’s disaster was the Design of the plant, it has been repeatedly and deliberately misinterpreted as due to tsunami.

■   Although the Nuclear plants in India have been functioning well since the 60s with utmost safety and security measures, the anti-nuclear establishment spread rumours creating panic in the minds of innocent citizens.

■   Both the Center and the State governments have been playing soft on the anti-national protesters and treating them with kid gloves, purely because of the reason that the Church is behind the protests. The UPA Chairperson’s allegiance to the Church is a well known secret. Similarly, the Tamil Nadu CM has been very accommodative of the Church since 2004 and her election manifestos (in 2009 and 2011) have committed many supportive agendas for the Christian community. Even during her election campaigns she had gone overboard giving commitments to them for their vote banks. After capturing power she has met the Christian Clergy twice and even celebrated Christmas with them. Her stands in the issues pertaining to the hanging of Rajiv Killers, Mullai Periyar Dam and now the Kudankulam Power Plant certainly cast aspersions in the minds of the right thinking persons.

The Chief Minister must realise that the people of Tamil Nadu are reeling under severe power shortage and that they are terribly unhappy with her and that she can no more put the blame on the previous regime, especially when the Kudankulam plant is ready for operation.

May better sense prevail on both the governments!

 By BR Haran from Chennai

Uday Kumar’s public defence cannot hide the real reasons and brains behind the protest. Kumar now admits that he is associated with Swedish groups, particularly, IDEA, on whose Board he is a consultant. Earlier, he was running South Asian Community Centre for Education, Research and Development (SACCER) under the auspices of which he started an India-Pakistan reconciliation school. Uday Kumar has been working closely on South Asian geopolitics after his decade-long training in the US and later his conflict-resolution work in Africa.

The US caught on the wrong foot has stated that it is fully supportive of India’s nuclear energy programme while Russia has stated its stand that “some foreign friends of India are playing proxy game” and it stands vindicated.

The accompanying Tables document of the foreign funding in Tamil Nadu from the MHAFCRA data about organisations receiving more than one crore contribution annually. At least 958 organisations got Rs 1 crore or more foreign contribution in the year 2010-11. World Vision of India, based at Egmore, Chennai, tops the list of 958 for 2010-11, with Rs 233.74 crore. Interestingly, the organisation has avowed objective to provide emergency aid to all people affected by conflict or disaster and to promote justice to change unjust equations affecting the poor. It has received more than Rs 1100 crore as foreign contribution in last five years. The address of organisation is Vepery, Egmore, Chennai-600008, Phone Number: +91-44-26620026 and only local vigilant citizens can unravel whether some of this huge fund also got diverted in protest activities?

In 2010-11, out of 958 organisations receiving more than a crore of foreign contribution, at least 515 were Christian missionary organisations, which collectively received Rs 2,003.75 crore as foreign contributions. But, nearly 186 such organisations are based in Tamil Nadu and these received more than Rs 800 crore in the year 2010-11. That means, Tamil Nadu which does not have a huge chunk of Christian population received almost half of the foreign contribution and the share of the organisations is almost one-third. The sudden spurt does not seem unconnected with the way poor Christian fishermen have been instigated to confront the state frontally. Even 10 per cent diversion would be a huge amount and incentive for the poor fishermen to hold the nuclear complex at ransom.


On November 6, 2011, Delhi’s Sunday Guardian had carried a column about the way work on the Kudankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu was being sabotaged by clusters of foreigners acting through their Indian dupes. Huge amounts of cash were getting funneled into the locations where the manufactured protests were taking place, all with the intention of seeing that Russia was not given a contract for the setting-up of two more reactors at the site. Both French and US commercial interests were united in wanting to keep Russia away from the lucrative Indian market for nuclear reactors. They were apprehensive that if a further $9 billion were committed towards purchase of two new reactors at Kudankulam (Stage III and Stage IV), there would be no money left to buy (more expensive) French or US equipment. Besides, both countries were holding back on expanding nuclear cooperation with India, intending to use the developing country’s need for nuclear energy as a lever to force it to abandon its indigenous nuclear programme. In particular, the Obama administration has been relentless in its view that advanced nuclear technology belongs only to “civilised” countries, and that India ought to desist from seeking self-sufficiency in the same. As for Nicholas Sarkozy, he has adopted the policy of Tony Blair, abandoning the independent foreign policy of Charles De Gaulle and Jacques Chirac in favour of being a poodle of the US administration. These days, Paris follows the cues tossed to it by Washington, including in the matter of nuclear commerce with India.

The French behind the Kudankulam agitation had harnessed other European interests determined to keep India in a low-energy trap in their plan of sabotaging the commissioning of the completed Kudankulam reactor. Now that China had become such a headache to the European Union by competing with the alliance across a range of manufactures, the intention was to hobble India, so that the other billion-people country in Asia did not emerge as a serious challenger to the EU, especially in the matter of services. Contacts in institutions such as the Reserve Bank, the Home Ministry and the Finance Ministry were used to plant the seeds of policies designed to slow down economic growth. The RBI began a suicidal policy of rate increases in 2006, exactly when Indian corporates were scaring their European competitors by buying up huge entities such as Corus Steel, Arcelor and Land Rover. The Home Ministry began raising objections to capital flow from East Asia and West Asia, thereby blocking those in either location who wanted to shift their investments away from Europe into India. Because of the Home Ministry policies, funds that ought to have come to India either stayed within Europe or left for China, Brazil and other markets. The Finance Ministry put out a welcome mat for exactly the same US and EU financial conglomerates that were responsible for the theft of $4 trillion of investor funds during 2007-09. It helped that several of these entities made sure to employ the relatives of key policymakers in India, giving them huge salaries for little work besides whispering in the ears of their policymaker relatives ways in which policies could get tweaked to favour the financial depredators and speculators who have collectively ruined the international economy.

Even a brief visit to Kudankulam three months ago—or six months after the agitation began that shut down the plant and caused losses of more than $2 million a day in lost power and interest cost—would have been enough to reveal the numerous foreigners who were wandering amongst the agitators, encouraging them with money and advice. However, the Intelligence Bureau was asleep, not because its field operatives were unaware of the situation, but because several of the NGOs involved are reported to have contacts with the higher levels of the Congress Party. It is a known fact that Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her son and political heir Rahul have dealt with those involved in several NGOs, including many from abroad, in the process giving them access to agencies of the central government, which of course the Sonia branch of the Nehru family controls. Such privileged access by certain NGOs has led to their being very influential in policy, especially with ministers eager to be close to Rahul Gandhi. Another fact is the way in which these foreign vested interests have persuaded elements of the Christian church to support them. France and Germany being countries with strong Catholic traditions, and the Northern European countries having powerful Protestant links (especially in Denmark), it was easy for nationals of these countries to persuade innocent church groups in the vicinity of the Kudankulam nuclear project to join them in blocking off access to the plant.

However, so powerful were the NGOs involved that nothing was done against them till last week, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh publicly pointed to them as being responsible for the stoppage of India’s largest nuclear power project. By his open admission, the PM has shown great courage, for he must be well aware of the links between the NGOs and the higher levels of his own Congress Party, links that are ensuring that other ministers—such as Home Minister P Chidambaram, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal and Environment Minister J Natarajan keep silent on the issue, although the first and third are from Tamil Nadu, the state where Kudankulam is located. The powerful linkages of the NGOs will ensure that the guilty escape, as the Home Ministry will not have the courage to prosecute foreigners close to influential politicians. These days, the Home Ministry functions more as an instrument for the protection of the ruling party and its top leadership than it does in its legal role of defender of law and order and national security, so much has it been compromised by politics. The NGOs involved in the Kudankulam agitation are joined by others active across India in shutting down projects. A country that has one of the largest deposits of coal in the world is forced to import huge amounts each year, because agitators have blocked output at coal sites. Of course, conveniently for them, coal is a nationalised resource in India, which makes it easy for NGOs with political backing to force the shutdown of state-owned collieries. A similar situation prevails with regard to uranium. Mining has slowed to a trickle because of (well-funded) agitations that have blocked access to uranium mines. The Manmohan Singh government is as helpless to prevent this as it is to stop a handful of NGOs from blocking the flow of power to Tamil Nadu, a state with a growing energy deficit. Apart from a few token actions, the government has done nothing to restart work at Kudankulam or any of the other sites where internationally-inspired protests have led to stoppages. Even in the case of Kudankulam, the NGOs concerned are so influential that media coverage has been overwhelmingly hostile to the government and friendly to the protestors. Television channels in particular have been very critical of the PM, where they ought to congratulate Manmohan Singh on speaking the truth after so long.

The use of NGOs to create problems in developing countries is not unique to India. In Egypt, authorities there are under strong pressure from the US and the EU to let go certain NGOs who have been fomenting trouble in that country. Since 9/11 provided a convenient excuse for entering into military and intelligence operations across the globe (99 per cent of which have nothing to do with Al Qaeda), NATO has in effect enforced a policy of Zero Accountability for itself. Citizens of NATO countries regard themselves as immune to local laws, as can be seen by the efforts of the Italian authorities to free two NATO navy personnel who are reported to have shot dead two Indian fishermen a couple of weeks ago. Whether in Afghanistan or in Libya or in Iraq, the tens of thousands killed by NATO military action go unmourned, and the military personnel responsible remain unpunished. The UN Human Rights chief, Navi Pillay, has been perfectly house-trained by NATO. She obligingly ignores the many deaths caused by NATO and concentrates only on targets suggested to her by the alliance. Indeed, the entire UN “human rights” and “international crimes” setup has been perfectly house-trained by NATO, ignoring the numerous human rights violations by the alliance, thereby reducing it to a farce.

Every human being is the equal of any other. This is the command of the Almighty. Hence, an international system that gives immunity to a particular set of people to do what they like against others (of course, for the noblest stated motives) is wrong. India has a right to high technology, and those countries that seek to sabotage this quest are wrong. Those entities that stop projects from going forward that can reduce the abject poverty of hundreds of millions in the country are wrong. Unfortunately, those that seek to ensure that India will never replicate the Chinese example of being an economic challenger to the NATO powers are so powerful that Kudankulam and dozens of other big projects continue to be stalled, despite the Prime Minister’s warning to the nation about the vested interests behind such sabotage.

 By MD Nalapat

Western powers have made umpteen efforts not to let Asian countries reap the benefit of higher technology. The US had been smart enough to engage in “policy of containement” vis-à-vis emerging powers. They engage with the emerging power like the hub and the spoke and on the other hand engage in policy of off-shore balancing at different levels. The emerging powers have to be contained by the second most powerful regional actor. While at the trans-regional level, it maintains a balance of power among various regional powers by excluding itself so that it remains the arbitrator of the global order. The weak NATO states have always been the carrier of the containment strategy in the name of human rights or insufficient democracy and now the hoax of technology threat. One must remember how it was the Americans and the Dutch who connived to let Khan steal nuclear secrets from URENCO. When the matter came to light, the case file was stolen from the Dutch court. A former Dutch Dr Ruud Lubbers premier in an interview to a Dutch radio, VPRO Argos Radio on August 9, 2005, admitted that the Dutch internal agency, BVD and the Americans wanted to help Pakistan build nuclear weapons as they wanted Pakistan to be a regional balancer against India during the Cold War.


March 11, 2012 marked the first anniversary of one of the most powerful earthquakes on record that struck the northeast coast of Japan, triggering a massive tsunami wave up to 40 meters in height. The 9.0 magnitude quake hit at 2.46 PM as a result of thrust plate faulting on or near the subduction zone interface plate boundaries between the Pacific and North American plates. The most devastated area was the northeast coast of Honshu, Japan’s most populous island near Sendai, the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture, roughly 231 miles northeast of Tokyo.

Shinto priests throughout Japan held commemoration ceremonies on March 11 to mark the one-year anniversary of the disaster. The Association of Shinto Shrines issued a suggested prayer to be read during the ceremonies. In New Delhi, Japan’s ambassador to India Akitaka Saiki held a prayer meeting at his residence at 11.16 AM, Japan’s local time, in memory of those perished in the disaster.

In a “Shinto response” to the disaster, Rev. Masafumi Nakanishi, a Shinto priest, performed a ceremony on February 29 at Georgetown University’s Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. The ceremony included a purification ritual as well as offering of sacred food: fruits and vegetables, salt and water, sake (rice wine) and seaweed.

Of the approximately 80,000 shrines in Japan, about 4,500 were damaged, 309 were partially or totally destroyed, and 243 may not be used because of nuclear fallout from Daiichi nuclear plant. Many of the shrines that were spared were built just beyond the tsunami’s reach because Shinto ancestors had planned their safe placement.

I had arrived in Tokyo on March 8 morning and had experienced a series of large foreshocks, beginning on March 9 with a magnitude of 7.2 event approximately 25 miles from the 11 March earthquake, and continuing with three earthquakes greater than magnitude 6 on the same day. Along with two more colleagues, I had left Tokyo for Sapporo, the capital of the Northern island of Hokkaido, in the morning of 11 March and was in the midst of a conference in the afternoon at the Hokkaido University, when the building shook violently, thereby disrupting the conference proceedings. The hosts assured us that the building was safe as it was newly constructed by using advanced earthquake-resistant technology and sophisticated architectural design.

The earthquake churned up a devastating tsunami that swept over cities and farmland along the northern part of Japan and threatened coastal areas throughout the Pacific. Walls of water whisked away houses and cars as terrified residents fled the coast. A ship carrying more than 100 people was reportedly swept away by the tsunami.

I watched the terrible events with an appalled fascination in TV in my hotel room when I returned after dinner at Sapporo beer garden. The first truly epic natural disaster to be recorded and beamed into a billion homes in real time produced dreadful images which will be seared into my memory forever. Most terrible of all was the black wave, a tide of death creeping over the landscape like a gigantic flood. A number of cars were swept away by the waves taking along with all and everything that came on its way. It was a wall of destruction traveling at 40 or 50mph.

The Japanese National Police Agency confirmed 15,850 deaths and thousands injured and missing. Four trains disappeared into the sea and an estimated 125,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed. A dam burst in Fukushima prefecture, submerging homes and flooding the nuclear power plant, causing radioactive material to leak. The following day an explosion triggered fears of a meltdown. It was a triple disaster, earthquake, tsunami and nuclear.

Of the three, the most dreadful was the nuclear one. Suddenly all reports concentrated on the possibility of a reactor meltdown, the overheating fuel rods, and the design flaws in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Very soon, the nuclear angle emerged compelling. With the forces of nature meeting human hubris and the terror of the unchained atom, there emerged human drama, the whiff of cover-ups, institutional incompetence, heroism and then an international angle as deadly clouds of radiation fears spread wildly.

Even while journalists started unearthing the meanings of terminologies of nuclear disaster – sieverts and millisieverts, the difference between pressurised and boiling water reactors, and half-lives of various isotopes of caesium and iodine, and created a nuclear scare story that proved overblown, one year on, efforts are being made world-over to put the situation in perspective and thereby reassure the people of Japan where nuclear allergy has remained strong since 1945 bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Though the Fukushima experience triggered a debate all over the world about the viability of nuclear as a source of safe and clean energy, with focus on alternative sources of energy, it transpired that it was a collective global media’s reaction to the Tohoku earthquake that was skewed in favour of a nuclear disaster that never was. Nevertheless, the kind of reporting that Fukushima got around the world, it left lasting and profound economic and environmental implications.

Weeks after the tsunami struck, several nations including Germany, Italy and Switzerland announced that they were re-examining their commitments to civil nuclear power. On March 15, 2011, the EU energy commissioner, Gunther Oettinger, announced that the imminent meltdown of No.4 reactor threatened an “apocalypse”. Six weeks later, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a physicist by training, announced the complete closure of the German nuclear power programme.

Amidst the mounting hysteria and information void, the first considered report from Japan by Britain’s nuclear regulator Mike Weightman emerged several weeks later. It made it clear that although the nuclear plant was outdated, riddled with design flaws and struck by geological forces that went away beyond the design brief, the plant had survived remarkably intact.

But the damage was done otherwise, with panic spreading and creating mayhem. The panic caused a minor evacuation of Tokyo, which certainly resulted in more road deaths and cannot be attributed to radiation leaks. There were also reports that the Japanese government drew up plans to evacuate the 13 million residents of Tokyo as it feared a series of explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant would be the end of the city. Many European countries started flying out expats home from places where the radiation levels were lower than the natural background.

There was a paniky situation at the Narita and Haneda airports. With computer network down, there was no information available if a scheduled flight will take off. When I was at the Narita airport on March 13 to take the JAL flight back to Delhi, I was struck to note that only at 11 AM of March 13, there were a dozen flights of several airlines lined up to depart for New York alone, with many throughout the day to various destinations out of Japan.

Even while addressing the nuclear issue, clearing the mountains of debris is truly a daunting task for the government. It is said that only a huge crisis would nudge Japan onto a more productive course, as occurred following the devastation of World War II. Regrettably it is being witnessed this time that plans to spend about 20 trillion Yen ($250 billion) on reconstruction have been stymied by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s failure to articulate a grand vision, bureaucrats’ reluctance to make vital decisions, and the realities of the deflationary cycle that deepened during the past 12 months and depressed both companies and consumers. Japan’s new Reconstruction Agency only began operations on February 10, 2012, 11 months after the tsunami.

Lessons from Fukushima

In an article written by Yoichi Funabashi and Kay Kitazawa and published on March 1, 2012 in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the findings of an independent investigation panel established by the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, highlighted Japan’s failures in disaster planning and crisis management for the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power station. The article shows that agencies were thoroughly unprepared for the cascading nuclear disaster, following a tsunami that should have been anticipated. The article explains the reason behind the lack of disaster preparation.

The article highlights how the then Prime Minister Kan Naoto secretly instructed Shunsuke Kondo, chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission to draw up a “worst case scenario” for the nuclear accident as the crisis deepened – that is, six increasingly drastic scenarios that would play out as various systems at the nuclear plant failed.

As mentioned, the most extreme scenario would have involved evacuation of all residents living within 170 km or more of the Fukushima plant, and, depending on the wind direction, could have meant evacuating the 30 million residents in the Tokyo metropolitan area. According to the investigation, TEPCO’s own nuclear energy division understood the “unprecedented” risk of high water levels along the coastline where Fukushima is located, but the company dismissed these probabilities as “academic”. Regulatory authorities encouraged the company to incorporate new findings into its safety plans, but did not make these measures mandatory.

Also, many human errors were made at Fukushima, illustrating the dangers of building multiple nuclear reactor units close together. TEPCO bears the primary responsibility for incompetent handling the disasters’ aftermath. TEPCO failed to make rapid decisions, losing government trust in the process. A public myth of “absolute safety”, nurtured by nuclear power proponents over decades, contributed to the lack of adequate preparation. The public was also ill-informed about the meaning of reported radiation levels. The 400-page report also underlined suspicions in the US that Tokyo was not being completely honest with its closest ally about the scale of the problems.

The final outcome of studies of Fukushima nuclear plant should be an intense effort to build up the resilience of the country, its organisation, and its people. This will help Japan to be better prepared to avert future disaster or respond effectively.

Future plans

Japan is planning to build six energy efficient so-called “future cities” in the region devastated by the earthquake and tsunami. The scope and sustainability of the projects are currently being discussed. The idea is truly ambitious. A trio of devastated towns – Ofunato, Rikuzentakata and Sumida Kesen – would jointly become home to the world’s first mega solar power project with locally distributed batteries.

Kamaishi plans to make its own electricity for local consumption and to create new industries. Higashi Matsushima is to use cutting edge building technology to create a disaster resistant community. Iwanuma could use debris from the natural disaster to redevelop a natural environment. It will also have a solar-powered smart electricity grid. The town of Shinichi plans to become an “information infrastructure hub”. Minamisoma is trying to be an “energy circulation” themed city. This is a part of the government’s bold ideas for alternative energy.

As per the plan, the residents of the “future cities” would not only control their electricity usage but also create and store energy in their own homes. Japan does not intend to design the new communities by merely pouring money for construction. The plan is to ensure the cities to be self-sufficient and sustainable so that people plan to live in them over the long term.

The survivors and planners have their own apprehensions on the execution of the projects, however. They fear the projects could be the latest version of billion-dollar boondoggles. Japan has the reputation of politicians-bureaucrats and politician-construction companies nexus primarily for the financial benefit of each other. Though Japan is encouraging foreign companies to participate in the rebuilding, overseas groups complain that there is little actual enthusiasm for their expertise and products, both with the massive clean-up so far and the planned reconstruction efforts. There are also reports that Japanese middlemen have offered assistance only if bribes are paid. Given the complicated and long-drawn decision-making process, Japan’s decision-makers need to focus on the needs of the people rather than the desires of major Japanese companies. Countries such as Denmark, England, Germany and Sweden have good models of smart communities. Japan can learn from them.


Given Japan’s resilience, the country is expected to come out stronger and better from the current difficult period. Japan needs time and the world ought to have patience to see a better Japan. Today, the country is struggling to cope with prolonged economic stagnation and the yen’s relentless surge is biting into Japan’s export economy. Today, Fukushima is a ghost town. The reactors are buried under tons of rubble and have reached a stage of cold shutdown. It will likely take 20 to 30 years to clean up. A 12-mile exclusion zone around the plant has forced more than 100,000 people from their homes. The challenge for the government is to bring people back to their homes if it is safe, or develop a decontamination strategy to try and make areas safe that are not now. These are things for the future. The task before the government is gigantic.

 By Rajaram Panda

(The author is a leading Japan expert, was a former Senior Fellow at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi, and now an independent researcher.)

The American-Scandinavian-Dutch connection to derail India’s nuclear programme and to help build a nuclear counter-weight against India has a long history. One can also study BVD spy Frits Hoekstra’s book, a senior BVD officer who quit the service in 1987 to understand the level of complicity of the Dutch with American agencies to create disruption in third world. Since, the Dutch lid was taken off in India, the baton had been passed on to other neighbouring Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Denmark.

The good thing is that the government has realised that national security can no longer be soft-pedaled. With the funds drying out, the few hundred fishermen would move back to their villages and it will be few weeks when the first plant can become fully operational. KKNPP is India’s strategic asset. The Church which should focus on preaching and social work should not indulge in political activities. Tuticorin Dioceses was founded by the Danish and is still a strong foothold of the Scandinavian missionaries, though the colonial period is passé. It is a resurgent post-colonial India in the age of Asian century. The Church must mend its ways now to reengage with the spiritual universe and should not be seen as indulging in activities which bring disrepute to a great religion and its Asian Prophet!


(This article is mostly based on the report published in


Crime in Delhi is intrinsically interlinked to the criminals in the vicinity of western Uttar Pradesh in general and Ghaziabad in particular. Sensing the gravity of crime in city Ghaziabad, Raghuvir Lal, SSP, Ghaziabad, has gone into overdrive. God-fearing SSP open to redressing the grievances at any time stands by the innocent but then falls heavily on malefactors. He more often than not goes about conducting raids and carrying out combing operations. He solely believes in community based policing instrumental in keeping crime of any nature in check. In an interview to Uday India’s Syed Wazid Ali, he spoke on various aspects of crime taking place in Ghaziabad. Excerpts:

What is the nature of crime in Ghaziabad?

This region has been, if you see the past, a crime belt, and it ranges the crime from petty to heinous. MV thefts have been on the rise for some time. But as you know we have not only worked out some sensational cases in the recent past but also busted many gangs operating in the city.

Is visibility of the police being scanty the reason for the crime here to go up?

Absolutely, Ghaziabad has 3000 police personnel manning 50 lakh of people. If you compare this with Delhi which has around 80000 policemen you see the difference for yourself. We in toto are short of 2 lakh policemen, as of now 40,000 fresh recruitment is in the pipeline.

The police and land mafia share a strong nexus, is it true?

I wholly agree on this. I’m very particular about such a grave issue which has been kept on a leash. I’ll weed the rest out soon, wait and see. We often do conduct raids and run combing operations.

Will the shuffle in the state government affect the police machinery?

Not much. This is common but then the government’s endeavour is to govern the state and they know better keeping in view law and order. Whichever the government is, I have to serve society and mankind.

This district hogged the media limelight for hardened gangsters like Sunil Tyagi, Babbu Tyagi, Sunder Bhati and Mahender Fauji. What’s the current picture?

That’s been too old an episode. Those terror-mongers are now in judicial custody (JC). Bhati an offshoot of Fauji and his boys have been hauled up and lodged in different jails.

You had some problems when the movie Zila Ghaziabad was being shot?

I gave permission to film within a specified area. They shot at night and I helped them within my capacity. I did not hurt anyone’s sensibility nor did I want any disturbance caused to the neighbourhood and the villagers.

How do you deal with the cases like one property changing different hands with all legal documentations except the one with bona fide ownership?

I am cognizant of such cases, I personally handle this nuisance. There may be foul play at the lower level. I know the civic body and the local police collude to execute the plan.

How do you detect the crime on the part of the police when a thana pramukh with the connivance of some local political netas implicates one in some case or other like NDPS and Arms Act?

As I told you that I remain connected with everything happening outside this place. I share everything with the reporters on the beat, most times they tell as to what’s going on in the city and I react the very moment.

The UP Police are believed to be notorious at the lower level. They frame an innocent and then negotiate the police remand and his release?

Yes, I admit that. I, here, have an open darbar—you come and convey your grievances and I assure that your grievances will be redressed satisfactorily.

Why do you not start giving them lessons in etiquette while they talk to a commoner?

I do that on a regular basis, can you believe that? I just not only brief them certain things with regard to their duty towards a common man but also teach them people-friendly lingo. I solely believe in community-based policing to cease or at least minimise crime and for that you should be a part of the people.

SSP, Ghaziabad












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