Wednesday, September 05, 2007

DEAL YA NO DEAL

The nuclear deal negotiated by the Indian Government with the US has become a bone of contention among the proponents and the opponents of the deal. In this game the stakes have reached sky high and the very survival of the UPA government is now dependent on this issue. Where does the common man or "Aam Aadmi" come in on this issue? To my mind this is a battle between idealism and pragmatism. While I do not believe that our PM is a traitor or a stooge of the US, I do believe that the policies of this UPA government have not been in accord with the welfare of the poor.

Debating specifically on the nuclear deal I feel a nation wedded to the ideals of non-violence and renunciation does not need weapons of mass destruction. India has not waged a war in its history and we don't need a bomb. We have enough for deterrence even taking a pragmatic view. Today corporate India has hijacked the development debate in the corridors of power. Providing cheap power to sustain our 8.5-10% growth takes precedence over all issues. Nuclear power has been a holy cow since Nehruvian times and compared to the investment made has never given commensurate returns. It meets less than 3% of our energy needs today. The safety norms adopted by the nuclear establishment are certainly not adequate and even today the people living in the vicinity of the nuclear plants are likely to suffer from the ill effects of radiation in this life and pass it on to the future generations. Going by the most optimistic projections, which seem unlikely in the face of the finer print of this deal, India is not going to get more than 6% of its energy requirements from nuclear energy. India has been a nuclear power since decades thanks to our scientific community backed by the Nehru family and the Hindutva brigade in turn. Both did so for different reasons and after two nuclear blasts in the deserts of Pokhran the nation whose icon even today is the apostle of peace proclaimed itself a nuclear power. While Nehru and Indira always projected our program me as an "atoms for peace ", the hindutva brigade called it a proclamation of super power status. Since 1945 amidst the accumulation of nuclear weapons no nation has or will use nuclear warheads. The cost of doing so is total annihilation of all forms of life on mother earth. Therefore to oppose this deal on the basis of the Hyde act which will make USA suspend fuel supplies in case of a nuclear test is not really acceptable. All right thinking individuals should oppose this deal because of the fact that we do not need more weapons of mass destruction nor do we need more nuclear reactors which will result in radiation hazards. We need to divert our scarce resources to quickly develop solar, wind and hydro-electric power. In fact innovations like cycle generators, speed breaker generators must be encouraged. I am not for a moment suggesting that these solutions will be enough to offset the nuclear power production anticipated, but I do feel that the development debate must not be hijacked by parameters of sensex driven growth of corporate India at the cost of Bharat. We must not displace from their green lands the peasants, nor poison the land and rivers with nuclear waste so that we can sustain an 8-10% growth. Instead a government with a long term vision which can put aside the obsession with GDP and instead concentrate on GNH or gross national happiness (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_National_Product) will be more in tune a holistic growth of India. We must also change from an economy of materialistic consumption to an economy of permanence leading to sustainable living.

At the end I would like to remind our leadership of the talisman Mahatma Gandhi gave to the leaders of free India to use in case they have difficulty in decision making. It is as follows.

I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test:

Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to Swaraj for the hungry and spiritually to starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melting away.

Please apply this to the nuclear deal and I think an honest answer to this will certainly make India go against the deal.

Sincerely
Dr Vispi Jokhi