Koodankulam Update: Hot water spillage injures six workers at the nuclear power plant

14 May, 2014. 2.00 p.m. Shopkeepers from Anjugramam, a village about 15 km from Koodankulam nuclear complex, reported seeing at least 6 ambulances rushing by at around 1.15 p.m. Anjugramam lies near a fork in the road, where one fork leads to Kanyakumari town and the other to Nagercoil. Another Idinthakarai resident, Mildred, who was at Myladi (25 km from Koodankulam) reported seeing 3 ambulances rush by at around 1.45 p.m. Myladi is en route Nagercoil. Nagercoil and Kanyakumari are two major towns within 30 km of the nuclear plant, with large hospitals. Predictably, the nuclear establishment denied the occurrence of any accident first. Later they admitted to a minor incident and are reported to have said that the injured were taken to the hospital in the NPCIL township, where they were well enough to walk on their own. Sources from inside the plant report that at least three of the injured were contract workers and the other three were NPCIL staff. Reports also suggest that the accident happened in or around the boiler section of Unit 1, which reportedly attained criticality mid-year last year.
After initially flashing news about the incident, the media is now reportedly playing NPCIL’s statements denying and downplaying the incident. If NPCIL’s past record is anything to go by, truth will be a while in coming. Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was unavailable for comment.
This accident comes less than a week after the Honourable Supreme Court ruled that it was satisfied with the safety features installed at the plant.

Conversation with NPCIL, Koodankulam Station Director R.S. Sundar on his mobile phone 9443350706 at around 3.40 p.m, on 14 May 2014

NJ (me): Hello Sir. This is Nityanand. I’m a freelance writer. I’m calling to find out if the workers admitted at Krishna Kumar Hospital in Nagercoil are from your plant.
RSS: Who are you? First tell me who you are.
NJ: My name is Nityanand Jayaraman and I’m a freelance journalist from Chennai, currently speaking from Coonoor.
RSS: I don’t speak to freelance journalists, only normal journalists.
NJ: Sir, I am a normal journalist. There are a lot of rumours doing the rounds. I merely wanted to confirm that there was an incident at Koodankulam.
RSS: What did you say your name was?
NJ: Nityanand Jayaraman.
RSS: I don’t know you. Who do you write for?
NJ: I’m a freelancer sir. I write opinion pieces and have published in Yahoo, The Hindu, Tehelka and have written extensively about Koodankulam.
RSS: I only speak to journalists I know.
NJ: Obviously, you can’t know all the journalists. How can I get a confirmation then?
RSS: You go speak to someone else. Speak to Corporate Communications.
NJ: You seem very angry with the media sir. Any problem?
RSS: No problem. There is nothing. i don’t know you. That’s all.
NJ: But you are not likely to know many of the international media either. How can you speak to them then?
RSS: I cannot speak to international media. I cannot speak to you.
NJ: I am not from the international media. I am a Chennai based freelancer. I just wanted a simple confirmation sir. Did any incident take place at Koodankulam today?
RSS: You come on the land line.
NJ: Can you give me the land line number sir?
RSS: You speak to Corporate Communications.
NJ: Can you give me their number sir?
RSS: No. I don’t have it. You call on the land line.
NJ: Can I have the number sir?
[Hands it over to assistant]
Assistant: Take down sir. 259718.
NJ: Area code sir?
Assistant: 04637
NJ: Who should I speak to sir?
Assistant: You just call that number?
NJ: Who should I ask for?
Assistant: Speak to the person who picks up the phone.
[Hangs up]

It makes one wonder, especially when the person who picks up the phone when I called says cryptically that “All the injured are in conscious condition.” If it is a “small incident” as stated by Mr. R.S. Sundar to NDTV, why all this cloak and dagger. If the plant has a sound disaster/emergency response system, why did they have to drive more than 1 hour on bad roads to Nagercoil to treat the injuries from a “small incident.” Clearly, NPCIL does not have a disaster management plan in place, and its corporate communications itself is a disaster that has to be managed.

Click to read Of small incidents and big disasters, Tehelka.com

Wednesday’s accident did not involve radiation. Burns and broken bones are common workplace injuries. It is precisely the commonplace nature of this incident and how it was handled that expose how the Koodankulam set-up has all the ingredients required to bungle the handling of major emergencies. These ingredients are: poor and non-transparent communication, lack of emergency response infrastructure, non-compliance with operating procedures, lack of quality assurance of equipment and personnel…

Shared by Nityanand Jayaraman, a writer and volunteer with the Chennai Solidarity Group for Koodankulam Struggle.

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Sterlite Closed

30 March, 2013 — The Tamil Nadu Government has relented to public pressure and shut down Sterlite Industries’ copper complex today. According to a worker, officials from 10 government departments arrived by the vanload in the plant last night at 8 p.m. The management then called a meeting of all staff and workers, and announced that the plant was shutting down. Sterlite requested time till about 12 midnight for phased closure, and this was conceded by the Government. By 1210 a.m. all plants except the smelter were shut down. Electricity connection to the copper complex has been disconnected.

On March 28, 2013, more than 5000 people from Thoothukudi — led by the Anti Sterlite People’s Struggle Committee — marched towards Sterlite to shut down the plant. Nearly 1000 people were arrested. The rally was prompted by a toxic gas leak on March 23. Sterlite has been a controversial company since the time that it was proposed in 1994. In its 20 years of operation, it has been shut down twice by the Madras High Court — once by way of an interim order, and in September 2010 through a final order. Sterlite appealed the High Court’s closure order in the Supreme Court, and the plant that was shut down last night was operating on leave from the Supreme Court.

A verdict on the Supreme Court case is expected on 2 April, 2013.

from Nityanand J.

The Big Lie: The Secret Chernobyl Documents

from Dianuke.org (click to read full article)

English: House of a village near Pripyat, Ukra...

House of a village near Pripyat, Ukraine – abandoned after Chernobyl accident.

In the night of 25-26 April 1986, there was a catastrophic explosion in the fourth unit of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. In 1990, Ukranian journalist Alla Yaroshinskaya came across secret documents about the Chernobyl catastrophe that revealed a massive cover-up operation and a calculated policy of disinformation. She writes (in 2006),

“It is well known that after the Chernobyl accident, the Soviet government immediately did everything possible to conceal the fact of the accident and its consequences for the population and the environment: it issued “top secret” instructions to classify all data on the accident, especially as regards the health of the affected population.
Then came instructions from the ministry of health and the ministry of defence to classify the radiation doses received by the general population, the “liquidators” (scientists and others involved in firefighting and containment work at the stricken power-station and in clean-up operations of the contaminated area immediately after the event) and military personnel. These regulations demanded that medical staff must not enter a diagnosis of “acute radiation syndrome” in the files of liquidators from the armed forces but must substitute some other term. 
These classified documents were not accessible for many years. Only in 1991, when the Soviet Union was collapsing, was I able to get hold of secret protocols and other documents of the operative group of the Politburo. These minutes revealed the numbers of persons irradiated and hospitalized during the first days after the accident.” 

The state and party leadership had knowingly played down the extent of the contamination and offered a sanitized version to the outside world. In 1990, five years after the accident, a series of laws were adopted to ‘protect’ the victims of radiation; now, scientists have begun to find serious flaws in these too. As recent studies show, the human and environmental damage shows no signs of abating. Yaroshinskaya closes her report with this quote,

“Chernobyl is a word we would all like to erase from our memory,” said UN secretary general Kofi Annan… “But,” he added, “more than 7 million of our fellow human beings do not have the luxury of forgetting. They are still suffering, every day, as a result of what happened.” The exact number of Chernobyl victims may never be known, he said, but 3 million children require treatment and “many will die prematurely”.

Also read:

From the Archives (2006)- Chernobyl, not Peristroika, Caused Soviet Union Collapse: Mikhail Gorbachev

Fukushima is not Chernobyl? Think Again! (11 March 2013) – Sarah D. Phillips

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Radioactive Wolves

English. 52 mins 09s.

What happens to nature after a nuclear accident? And how does wildlife deal with the world it inherits after human inhabitants have fled? The historic nuclear accident at Chernobyl is now 25 years old. Filmmakers and scientists set out to document the lives of the packs of wolves and other wildlife thriving in the dead zone that still surrounds the remains of the reactor.

Is your experiment time travel?

by samyuktha pc.

*

Forty kilometres,

one foot after another, another one of mine,

in front of one foot, then another foot of mine,

it only takes one lakh and twenty thousand,

one foot after another, my foot after another,

walking away from my two-storey-two-TV house,

to the nearest nuclear power plant.

Uranium and Plutonium, however travel faster than me.

 

Three continuous days of rain,

and the one road that envelops my house,

it’s empty plots on either sides,

now are filled with water, knee-deep,

so one foot after another is a bit hard to count,

beautiful crabs and snakes distract me.

Then why would I want the main road,

where the buses speed in plenty?

 

“Leptos Pirosis”, someone warns me,

from inside the tiles of the house,

“Elephantisis”, I thought. “Dengue”, they say.

“SARS was many years ago”, a friend knocks my head,

“TB just might be your fate.”

“No cancer is not out of fashion.”

 

Forty more kilometers to go,

one foot after another, my foot after another,

Six hundred and ninety four kilometers,

one foot after another, my foot after another,

one foot after another, my foot after another…

phew…

one more nuclear power plant!

 

Thyroids and bladders in danger,

invisible half-lives floating around.

My stomach has been crying for days,

“Take me away from all of this,”

it craves.

 

Constitutions and nations too hard

for my four chamber stomach to mulch.

In a week, I’d be sitting

in colorful camps by governments

to scan irises,

deploy vaccines,

run emergency drills,

copy fingerprints,

build barbed wire fences,

maybe even shave our heads.

Biometric bullshit

inside my house, inside my head,

inside inside yours and mine,

inside every tube and cell.

 

Just that this is not new,

reaching this cow a little too late,

when parts of it just fall away,

inside its breath, inside its balance,

inside its sexual common sense,

not able to place any foot after another.

The cow and I stand still.

 

It takes a cold glass of buttermilk,

some prolonged sleep, and no other humans

asking it questions. Then, they, my organs, agree with me.

On this planet, third away from the sun,

maybe no longer the only one with life or diamonds,

(believed to be rare), we shall be our next dinosaurs.

 

Like the rusted seas of years ago,

now the iron we swallow,

Like the ice age remnants,

that NY uses to reach high skies,

Like the million histories, we each,

try to convince each one of us, individually,

each to be convinced, maybe that those

planes can’t crash down on

all of this and more.

No, we will all go.

 

Not together. Just disappear.

You will remember me for a few days.

Remember the post-mortem details,

and the new incinerator that burnt me up,

maybe even a biometric unique i.d.

but how would you know

how my mind decayed…

for everything we release

is invisible now.

*

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coke – pepsi Quit India!

* excerpts from a publication by Lokayat

Multinational corporations are huge. They are so big that they can gobble up entire countries. Of the largest 100 economies, 51 are corporations, 49 are countries.

Just a handful of MNCs now control global production in virtually every sector of the world economy. The 200 biggest MNCs account for over a quarter of the world’s production. Of the 200, nearly half are US-based MNCs, and they account for over half the sales of the top 200’s total sales. As Henry Kissinger, US secretary of state under Presidents Nixon and Ford, candidly remarked in a speech in 1999, globalization is another term for US domination.

**

Coca Cola and PepsiCo make their billions by capitalizing on the most basic human physiological need – thirst. Coca Cola says:

“All of us in the Coca-Cola family wake up each morning knowing that every single one of the world’s 5.6 billion people will get thirsty that day. If we make it impossible for these 5.6 billion people to escape Coca-Cola, then we assure our future success for many years to come.”

(from Coke’s Annual Report, 1993)

**

The story of how Coke-Pepsi became big

Coca Cola was invented in 1886 by John Pemberton, a pharmacist. Soda water was very popular in the US those days. Shopkeepers would add various extracts to the mineral water they sold at their soda foundations so as to please their patrons. Pemberton came up with the idea of mixing the extract of coca leaf – known to be an ideal nerve tonic and stimulant, with the extract of cola nut – another powerful stimulant said to invigorating and able to cure hangovers, and gave his product the name Coca-Cola. The combination of two powerful stimulants, accompanied by a massive advertising and sales drive – in 1913, the company sent a whopping $1.2 million on advertising and was adjudged the best advertised product in the United States. By 1929, Coke dominated the US soft drink market and was among the 125 largest US companies in terms of sales.

Pepsi was invented by Caleb D Bradham, also a pharmacist and a soda fountain owner. Sometime in the 1890s, he came up with a mixture that he labeled Pepsi-Cola as he felt that the drink could relieve dyspepsia (upset stomach) and the pain of peptic ulcers (hence the name). The drink never really became popular and the company went bankrupt in 1931. It was acquired by Charles Guth, who adopted a new marketing strategy to challenge Coke, and then he priced it in such a way that the customer would get the same amount of Cola at half the price. It was the years of the Great Depression. With Coke unwilling to lower its high prices because of its monopoly position, Pepsi’s pricing strategy clicked with customers and its sales took off. By the end of World War II, Pepsi’s sales were nearly one-third that of Coke. Having become big, it now abandoned its “Twice as much for a nickel” campaign; since then both giants have not indulge in price wars.

**

**

Coke-Pepsi become MNCs

At the end of World War II, the US emerged as the most powerful economic and military power on earth. The world was in turmoil. A powerful Soviet bloc had come into existence. Also, a wave of independence struggles was sweeping across the colonial countries. To keep the newly independent countries open for its trade and investment, the US adopted the strategy of: (i) military intervention, as in numerous Latin American countries, and (ii) giving loans and grants, to keep the atmosphere favourable for US investment. US Corporations, including of course Coke and Pepsi, now began to spread their tentacles worldwide, backed by a string of US military bases spread across the globe. In the 1980s, the Soviet bloc collapsed. The third world countries became entrapped in foreign debt crises, as a result of the loans shoveled down their throats. The US seized the opportunity to pressurize all these countries to full open up their economies to foreign investment – the so-called ‘globalisation’ of the world economy began.

Today these two corporations control over 70% of the world’s carbonated soft drink market, and their global sales exceed $50 billion. Since their profits depend upon making people drink more and more soft drinks, they use every trick in the book to make people drink more, with the consequence that the global soft drink market has been rising by 5% every year. Global annual consumption of carbonated soft drinks topped 186 billion litres in 2003, implying each person in the world drank an average of 30 litres per year.

**

Hyper-Consumerism

In 1877, Chief Sitting Bull of the Lakota nation (in what is now the United States) said of the European invaders who were destroying his people and their way of life,

“The love of possession is a disease with them.”

Disease is an apt term, because the desire to possess more and more is not inherent to the nature of human beings, it is acquired. Prominent US historians have written of American Indians:

“they are all equal… Neither is richer or poorer than his companion and all unanimously limit their desires to that which is useful and precisely necessary, and are contemptuous of all other things, superfluous things, as not being worthy to be possessed…”

Despite what neoclassical economists may tell us, people do not have an inherent, insatiable desire to acquire more and more goods, to consume without end. The desire to possess and consume limitlessly is not inherent to the nature of humans, it has been artificially created, it is a product of capitalism. Anthropologists studying primate societies have found very different human relation and human nature than the highly competitive, dog-eat-dog, selfish characteristics that have dominated during the capitalist period. Ever since capitalism came into being 500 years ago, cooperation and sharing inherent among human beings has been downplayed, while aggressive competitiveness has been promoted so as to create the conditions for the growth of a system whose central feature is accumulation, accumulation and even more accumulation of profits. This in today’s world of monopoly capitalism has taken on a newer form, hyper-consumerism – to purchase, possess, consume, more and more without any relation to basic human needs or happiness. Buy, buy and buy, so that MNCs can make more, more and more profits…

**

Coke and Pepsi in India

Coca Cola came into the country in the late 1950s, when it used to be free at seminars to promote its taste and thus create a demand. By the 1970s, it had established itself in the Indian market. It was kicked out of the country in 1977, due to its refusal to accept Indian laws under which had to dilute its ownership stake in its Indian subsidiary to 40%. Since the 1990s, Delhi’s rulers have changed policies, and decided to allow corporate armies to trample over the country’s honour and dignity. So, Coca Cola too re-entered the country, in 1993. Once again it refused to comply with any of the conditions imposed on it by the government, such as diluting 49% – yes, only 49%, and not majority holding – in its bottling operations to resident Indians. The government bhaktifully bowed: in 2003, it diluted the conditions imposed on Coke.

Pepsi entered India in 1988, during the years when the country’s rulers were preparing the ground for globalization. It made several promises, such as that it would create 50,000 jobs, that 74% of its investment would be in food processing, that 50% of its production would be exported, and that it would set a farm research center in Punjab. Not one of these promises has been fulfilled; the government has meekly swallowed the insult.

**

It takes 9 litres of water to make 1 litre of Coke/Pepsi. Coca Cola and Pepsi companies have set up 90 bottling plants in India. Each plant draws on the average 1 million litres of ground water a day. (FREE. It’s a return to the good ol’ colonial days again). Such massive extraction of such a precious and scarce resource is causing ground water levels to fall, creating water shortages for people living in the regions where bottling plants are located. Wells are going dry. Hand pumps no longer work. On top of it, these giant corporation with callous disregard for the environment have indiscriminately discharging their toxic waste water into nearby fields and rivers, polluting the ground water and the soil, rendering the water unfit for human consumption. Coca Cola has even been distributing its solid toxic waste as free fertilizer to farmers.

**

Tests carried out by the Pollution Monitoring Laboratory of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in Delhi of 12 leading drinks produced and marketed in India by Coca Cola and PepsiCo, showed that all samples contained residues of four extremely toxic pesticides – Lindane, DDT, Chlorpyrifos, and Malathion – at levels as high as 30 times those allowed by the United States and European Union standards. Following this report, in January 2004 the Indian parliament banned the sales of Coke as well as Pepsi products in its cafeteria. But not in the country! The people can go on drinking it. In fact , the quality of soft drinks manufactured by these corporations is so bad that on May 19, 2005, the US Food and Drug Administration barred a shipment of Coke products made in India from entering the United States. The grounds: the products were “unsafe” and “not conforming to U.S. laws”.

**

From Kala Dera near Jaipur in Rajasthan to Badauli near Panipant in Haryana, from Mehdiganj and Ballia and Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh to Patna in Bihar, from Mandideep and Peelukhedi near Bhopal to Sivagangai and Gangaikondan in Tamil Nadu, from Kudus in the district of Thane in Maharashtra to Plachimada and Puduserry in Kerala, tens of thousands of people living in these regions are waging militant struggles, demanding closure of the bottling plants and compensation for the destruction caused to their health and their lands. the servile state governments have intervened on behalf of the corporations, and people have been subjected to intense police repression.

**

Pepsi-Coke Quit India!

Friends, Coke and Pepsi are symbolic of all MNCs. Multinational corporations are seeking to acquire control over what we eat, what we drink, what we read, what we see, what we think, so that they can maximize their profits. We must throw off this yoke of mental slavery.

We must join the boycott of Coke and Pepsi:

–          Not just because they are harmful to our health;

–          Not just because through their manipulative advertising techniques they entice people into drinking their toxic brew;

–          Not just because they are destroying the livelihoods of thousands of people in Plachimada, Mehdiganj, and other places;

We must support the movement to throw Coke and Pepsi out of India, also because:

–          We need to assert that water is common property; giant cash rich corporations cannot be allowed to acquire control over it;

–          We need to affirm that Right to Water is a fundamental right.

Let us join this struggle and:

1. Boycott all Coke and Pepsi cold drinks.

2. Organise campaigns against Coke and Pepsi in our schools, colleges, offices, workplaces, residential colonies.

3. Impose a ban on Coke and Pepsi in our college canteens, office canteens, union offices, etc.

4. Organise cycle rallies, form human chains, and adopt other such forms to reach out to people in the city we live in.

**

Lokayat is a social activist group based in Pune. The aim of Lokayat is to bring together like-minded people, ordinary people who wish to take some initiative, who wish to do their bit for transforming society for the better, and to take up various activities with their co-operation. Thanda Matlab – Coke-Pepsi Quit India! is a publication written by them to raise awareness and bring together people against the atrocities of the Coca Cola Company and Pepsi. It is written by Neeraj Jain. DOWNLOAD the PDF to know more.

These excerpts have be chosen and presented in acknowledgement of the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License, which Lokayat has chosen for this publication. Graphics by Chai Kadai.