We are South of India

via Enna Da Rascalas

Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, English (with subtitles). Just 4 minutes 18 seconds

In eighth standard geography classes, we were made to practice drawing rivers, mountains, and colour all the states on blank physical and political maps of India. Suddenly one day, we had to learn to draw Chattisgarh and Jharkand because they weren’t printed yet. (Reminder: I must learn to draw Telengana)

My naivety of understanding this map of the country I was born in to and therefore belong to, has taken a lot of reading, travel and conversations to fade away. I used to think Madrasi was a compliment and words like Mallu, Golti were non-offensive. I was after all born in a Madras that became Chennai. I didn’t realize until my Malayali friends, Telugu friends, Kannadiga friends, and friends from the rest of Tamil Nadu were also called Madrasi. I felt they were robbing my identity. Well, I thought a lot of stupid things like this about Kashmir, Bihar, the North-east of India and the rest of the map. We are usually taught such naivety and are encouraged to maintain it. It’s like how so much of the world believes Africa’s a country.

I don’t know if more south Indians watch this song and laugh, or if actually people up north are watching this video and understanding We are the South of India… not Madrasis all padoses… I hope more of the latter is happening. Nevertheless, this is a kick-ass song created by the Stray Factory monkeys of Chennai, that must travel far and wide.

Enjoy, share, and subscribe to them here.

sam pc.

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Update: Police terrorize villagers affected by Nemmeli Desalination Plant

29 August, 2013. Chennai. 9 a.m.
(As told to Nityanand Jayaraman (9444082401. nity682@gmail.com)

Five male residents of Sulerikattukuppam were picked up in a midnight
raid by Kanchipuram police in a bid to intimidate the villagers who
are protesting the disruption of fishing livelihoods by the 100
million litres per day desalination plant. The plant’s marine
structures have eroded nearly 75 metres of beach in front of
Sulerikattukuppam. Several community buildings have been swallowed by
the sea, and the villagers have lost the space to park their boats and
nets. Rocks dumped by Metrowater inside the sea have created pockets
of turbulence and danger for passing boats. Over the last three
months, at least two accidents have occurred claiming one life and
seriously injuring another. On both instances, the villagers filed
police complaints against Metrowater. But no action was taken.

The plant is currently under shutdown because of slush/silt
accumulation in the intake pipeline. Yesterday’s midnight raid was
prompted by a complaint by a Metrowater Chief Engineer Mr.
Sabarinathan alleging that six fishermen on a boat armed with sticks
from Sulerikattukuppam disrupted marine survey work by a Metrowater
team that was trying to fix the intake pipeline problem. The work was
being carried out using two mechanised boats from Chennai and a fibre
boat from Mammallapuram. The complaint named Ravi, Nityanandan, Kumar,
Ruban, Lakshmanan and Kadumbadi as  offenders. Sulerikattukuppam
villagers say that they had spoken to the Mammallapuram fisherfolk and
requested them and other fishing villages to not cooperate with the
Metrowater until their justified demands are met. Angered by this,
Metrowater has filed this false complaint, they alleged.

Yesterday, around 5.30 p.m., a team including the SP and DSP of
Kanchipuram visited the fishing village and did the rounds of all
streets. Apprehensive of an imminent police action, the men left the
village for the night. Around 500 police are reported to have swooped
into the village at around midnight. Door-to-door searches were
conducted, and five men and three boys were picked up. After the women
pleaded with the police and produced the college ID cards, the three
boys were released. The five arrested persons include one person who
was visiting his relative V. Raghu. The other four are fishermen,
including G. Vijayamoorthy, aged around 35, H. Madhavan, aged around
42, Manibalan, aged around 35, and Jagadeesan, aged around 65. None of
them has any complaints against them, and not one of them was among
those named in the Metrowater police complaint.

In June 2013, 21 people from the village were released on bail after
spending a month in jail for demanding compensation for loss of
livelihood due to sea erosion caused by the desalination plant.

The plant, which was set up at a cost of Rs. 500 crores, has not
functioned at capacity since it was commissioned in February, and has
been beset with serious malfunctions. A retired chief engineer at
Metrowater has alleged serious irregularities in executing the project
as per design. In May 2013, Chief Engineer (Retd) C.R. Rajan wrote to
the Chief Minister complaining that the contractor and Metrowater
engineers had violated design stipulations and laid the seawater
intake pipeline at a wrong location incurring an additional cost of
Rs. 4 crores and exposing the plant to frequent shutdowns on account
of entry of slush and silt in the pipeline. See
http://www.deccanchronicle.com/130526/news-current-affairs/article/engineer-faults-nemmeli-plant-design-petitions-jayalalithaa

Like in Koodankulam, where police force is being used to divert
attention from irregularities in the plant construction and its
failure to operate as promised, villagers fear that here too the
police action is meant to shield corruption in the design and
construction of the plant, and to deny compensation to the villagers
affected by the desalination plant.

At the time of writing, the villagers arrested last night were still
in police custody.

Call Mr. Vijayakumar, Superintendent of Police. Kanchipuram. 9443884395

Update: Fisherman dead in boat capsize near Nemmeli Desalination plant

20 July, 2013 — V. Balasekar, 42, of Sulerikattukuppam was washed ashore early today on the beach near the Nemmeli desalination plant. The fisherman’s kattumaram (a light surf-riding boat made of tied logs), capsized and he drowned after he got snagged in his own net. Villagers say that the rocks dumped into the sea by the desalination plant may have caused the mishap. Chennai Metrowater and its contractor VATech Wabag had constructed a pier by dumping rocks into the sea during the construction of the 100 mld reverse osmosis desalination plant. Villagers say the structure had eroded their beaches. They said the steep shoreline caused due to the erosion had increased the intensity of the surf, and made beach landings hazardous. Metrowater had removed many of the boulders dumped in the sea, but a section of it closer to shore was yet to be removed. Fishing boats returning from sea had to make a risky passing over these boulders. On July 10, 26-year old Chittibabu of the same village was seriously injured after his fibre boat capsized over the boulders. Till date, the Mammallapuram Police Station have refused to register an FIR in Chittibabu’s case.

– from Nity.

Chennai Desalination Plant Draws First Blood

10:08 p.m. Many of you may have read about the ill-advised Nemmeli desalination plant set up in Sulerikattukuppam village, Kanchipuram district. This 100 mld desalination plant was set up despite and overriding the objections of local fisherfolk who feared that the plant’s marine structure will erode their beach and render them without a means to practice their livelihood. More problematically, they feared that the erosion caused by the plant will make them more vulnerable to the vagaries of the sea. Their protests were met by police action. On June 23, 2013, as the nation was awash with stories about Uttarakhand, 19 fishermen begged their way to bail after spending a month in jail. Their crime: Voicing their fear that the desalination plant will pose a danger to their lives and livelihoods.
Read: http://kafila.org/2013/06/30/the-greater-common-omelette/

Today, July 10, 2013, R. Chittibabu, aged around 26 and recently married, was the first casualty in Chennai’s new and mindless quest for water. The beach around Sulerikattukuppam has virtually disappeared because of the erosion triggered by the structures constructed in sea by Chennai Metrowater’s desalination plant. Over the last two years, nearly 75 metres of beach has disappeared from Sulerikattukuppam. This morning, Chittibabu’s boat capsized over the rocks dumped into sea by Metrowater at around 7.30 a.m. Chittibabu was grievously hurt after he hit the rocks and is now awaiting an expensive operation in a private hospital.

This October, if any cyclone strikes this part of Tamil Nadu, Sulerikattukuppam would be badly hurt. Let’s not blame the killer rain or climate change. Chennai’s media has celebrated the setting up of the desalination plant in Nemmelikuppam as a technological feat. Our experts at the Ministry of Environment and Forests have approved the plant and stated that the illiterate fisherfolk’s fears are unfounded. Now, we’re beginning to see casualties.

Koodankulam, Cheyyur, ILFS, SRM, Nagapattinam, Thoothukudi — I don’t believe the experts. They may be educated. But they lack spine. And they lack integrity.

– Nityanand J. 

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.

Kalpakkam Update: 129 People Jailed for Protesting Against Kalpakkam Reactor

29 March, 2013 — In a bid to intimidate fenceline communities living around the Kalpakkam nuclear reactors, the Tamil Nadu Police has jailed 129 people of the 650 that were detained in wedding halls yesterday. Those detained were protesting to highlight that the nuclear complex in Kalpakkam was all threat and risk to the local community with no benefits either in the form of jobs or electricity.

A peaceful protest involving more than 1000 people was broken up by the police. Nearly 650 people peacefully boarded buses to court arrest. Given the peaceful nature of the protest, and the cooperation extended by the people to the police, those detained would normally have been released by evening. However, the Police invited a magistrate to the wedding hall where 129 people were detained, and filed two separate cases against them — one case naming 27 people (mostly leaders and organisers); and another naming 102 people.

Prominent among those arrested are leaders of the Manithaneya Makkal Katchi and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

The  police has slapped the following charges against the villagers:
Section 143 IPC: Punishment for Unlawful Assembly
Section 147 IPC: Punishment for rioting
Section 148 IPC: Rioting, armed with deadly weapons
Section 158 IPC: Whoever is engaged, or hired, or offers or attempts to be hired or engaged, to do or assist in doing any of the acts specified in section 141, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.

or to go armed. or to go armed.– and whoever, being so engaged or hired as aforesaid, goes armed, or engages or offers to go armed, with any deadly weapon or with anything which used as a weapon of offence is likely to cause death, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both. 

Section 353 IPC: Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty.– Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any person being a public servant in the execution of his duty as such public servant, or with intent to prevent or deter that person from discharging his duty as such public servant, or in consequence of anything done or attempted to be done by such person to the lawful discharge of his duty as such public servant, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

All above sections are to be read with Section 7(1)(A) of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1953:

with intent to cause any person to abstain from doing or to do any act which such person has a right to do or to abstain from doing, obstructs or uses violence to or intimidates such person or any member of his family or person in his employ, or loiters at or near a place where such person or member or employed person resides or works or carries on business or happens to be, or persistently follows him from place to place, or interferes with any property owned or used by him or deprives him of or hinders him in the use thereof, or. . .

update from Nityanand J.

News coverage of Kalpakkam protests:

458 held for token Kalpakkam protest (The New Indian Express 29 March 2013)

Fishermen lathi-charged at Kalpakkam nuclear plant (Deccan Herald. 26 March 2013)

கல்பாக்கத்தில் அணு உலையை முற்றுகையிட்டு பொதுமக்கள் போராட்டம் (Dinakaran. 25 March 2013)

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Vedanta-Sterlite: Dangerous by Design

(from Kafila.org)

by Nityanand Jayaraman

A toxic hotspot in the backyard of a house in Therkuveerapandiapuram, a village adjoining the Sterlite factory.  Dangerous levels of iron and arsenic were found in the soil here. (Picture by Nityanand Jayaraman)

A toxic hotspot in the backyard of a house in Therkuveerapandiapuram, a village adjoining the Sterlite factory. Dangerous levels of iron and arsenic were found in the soil here. (Picture by Nityanand Jayaraman)

On 23 March, 2013, a toxic gas leak from Vedanta-subsidary Sterlite’s copper smelter in Thoothukudi spread panic and discomfort for several kilometres around the plant. The leak once again highlighted the increased potential for major catastrophes due to an atmosphere of collusion between regulators and polluters. The company, which was shut down for maintenance, resumed operations in the early hours of 23 March. Within hours, people in the nearby areas complained of suffocation and eye and nose irritation. A 35-year old Bihari contract labourer, who was working at Sterlite’s thermal power plant nearly a kilometre away, reportedly succumbed to the effects of the toxic gas. Irate residents rallied to the District Collector’s office demanding permanent closure of the offending factory.

The District Collector suggested that sulphur dioxide may have been the culprit. But anyone who knows the history of this plant would lay the blame not on this gas or that, but squarely on pliant regulators, and perhaps the judiciary.

The 1200 tonne per day (tpd) copper smelter was constructed in two phases – both with dubious legality – with active support of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) and the chairperson of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee (SCMC). In September 2004, when SCMC visited Thoothukudi, it found that Sterlite had constructed a 900 tonne per day copper smelter complex without obtaining an Envirnomental Clearance from the MoEF. Neither did the plant have the mandatory Consents to Establish under Air and Water Acts.

Citing poor pollution management, the SCMC recommended that clearance should not be given. It ordered the TNPCB to verify the illegal constructions and take action. Contrary to recommendations, clearance was given a day after of the Committee’s visit to Sterlite. TNPCB inspected and confirmed the illegal constructions, but did nothing more.

On 7 April, 2005, a director at the MoEF wrote to the chairperson of TNPCB urging her to grant a Consent to Operate to Sterlite. “The directions issued by SCMC in this regard has (sic) been discussed with Chairman, SCMC, who has desired that TNPCB may now decide regarding granting consent for expansion to M/s Sterlite Industries India Ltd (SIIL) Tuticorin, Tamilnadu,” she wrote. The Air and Water Acts do not have any provision for legalising units constructed without a valid Consent to Establish. TNPCB obliged and issued a consent on 19 April 2005.

Sterlite went on to expand its capacity to 1200 tpd. To get its licenses, Sterlite exaggerated the extent of land in its possession. In 2007, Sterlite submitted an Environment Impact Assessment report that suggested that it had greened 26 hectares of its 102.5 hectare plant site. It claimed that it had sufficient lands – about 176 ha — in its possession to accommodate the expanded capacity and the resultant pollution (solid waste, air emission and effluents). It promised to plant 43 hectares with pollution-abating trees. Subsequent inspection reports by the TNPCB even state that the company had greened 25 percent of its 176 hectare land holding.

On 28 September 2010, the Madras High Court ordered closure of the copper plant. One key grounds for closure was the industry’s failure to comply with the condition requiring the development of a 25 metre greenbelt around the factory. TNPCB was chided for arbitrarily reducing the greenbelt requirement from 250 metres to 25 metres in response to Sterlite’s lament about high land costs associated with the wider belt.

The Madras High Court had rightly held that the failure to comply with greenbelt requirements was a crippling lapse. Indeed, had a thick belt existed, the effects of the recent gas leak would not have reached the city.
When Sterlite was shut down by the High Court, the factory was running without valid licenses under Air and Water Acts. Two days later, the Supreme Court stayed the High Court order and unwittingly authorised the unlicensed operation of a disputed facility.

In May 2011, Sterlite’s non-compliance of greenbelt requirements and its land fraud came to light in a report submitted by NEERI to the Supreme Court. Against a requirement of 176 hectares for the 1200 tonne plant, Sterlite had only 102.5 hectares, the report found. Also, less than 13 hectares – as against 43 hectares – had been greened.

Since October 2010, Sterlite has functioned on leave granted by the Supreme Court. During the apex court’s watch, at least 8 hazardous incidents were recorded where 3 workers were killed, four more injured. Several hundred people in the vicinity of the plant have been gassed.

Under the circumstances, faith in the rule of law is not an easy belief system to sustain.

UPDATE

Thoothukudi Gears up For Major Showdown with Sterlite

27 March, 2013. Thoothukudi – Residents of the coastal Tamilnadu town of Thoothukudi are gearing up for a major showdown with Sterlite on 28 March, less than a week after a massive gas leak injured hundreds of people for kilometres around the company’s controversial copper smelter. Numerous groups, cutting across political lines, will march from the city to Sterlite’s gates demanding its permanent closure. In the 20 years that it has functioned, Sterlite has been blamed for numerous mishaps, deaths and injuries. It has been closed twice by the Madras High Court, including in September 2010 when the High Court shut it down through its final order arguing that the company had violated siting setbacks, pollution norms and licence conditions.Tomorrow’s rally is gathering massive support as the Tamil Nadu Federation of Merchants led by Vellian, and the Esakkimuthu Conch Divers Association have said they will participate in the strike. The call for the strike was originally given by Vaiko, a political leader of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, who said that this was an issue that transcended politics, and that the residents are united in their desire to rid their city of Sterlite’s Bhopal-like factory. Other prominent Thoothukudi-based workers organisations too have committed their support to the strike. The Anna Bus Stand Taxi Drivers Association, and the Anna Bus Stand Auto Drivers Welfare Association with nearly 200 auto drivers as members have said they will boycott work and join the residents demanding closure of Sterlite. Many more organisations and political parties are expected to join.“We are very angry. We have seen numerous such agitations start and then stop. We want an end to this nonsense. Sterlite must be shut down,” said 55 year old M. Shanmugavelu, Presidents of the Auto workers Association.34-year old M. Kishorekumar, who is the president of Taxi Drivers Association clarifies that they are not opposed to industries. “We want good industries to come to Thoothukudi, to Tamil Nadu. But Sterlite is not good for us. It is a dangerous factory. We have to think about our futures too,” he says. “My 11-year old son suffered because of the gas leak. It is now three days since the leak, and he is still complaining of head ache, eye and throat irritation, a bitter taste in his mouth and has no appetite. I have had to take him to hospital for three days. He has to go to school with all this because it is examination time,” Kishorekumar says.

List of Hazardous Incidents at Sterlite Industries between October 2010 and March 2013 during the time the plant has run on leave granted by Hon’ble Supreme Court.

Compiled by Nityanand Jayaraman, based on reports by Sterlite workers

Total: 3 dead; several injured in 8 incidents

Date

Incident

Number Dead/Injured

8.3.2013

Amalan, 30, sustained serious injuries after an electrical fire broke out at Motor Control Room of Phosphoric Acid Plant.

1 injured

18.3.2013

Swaminathan, 50, killed after falling into Phosphoric Acid tank. Due to the poor light conditions, the worker tripped on the scaffolding and fell 15 metres into an open and empty tank.

1 dead

23.3.2013

Massive gas leak, suspected to be Sulphur dioxide or trioxide, causes suffocation and panic around the Sterlite Copper plant. One Sterlite contract worker, Shailesh Mahadev, 35, reportedly succumbed to exposure to the gas.

1 dead; several injured

23.8.2011

One North Indian worker, sourced by labour contractor Lohit, and employed by Mahesh Engineering was injured while working in the Phosphoric Acid Plant. Workers, who said very little information was available about his condition and what actually happened. He is reported to have had 5 stitches.

1 injured

17.8.2011

A white gas (suspected to be Sulphur Dioxide) escaped for about 45 minutes at ground level throwing a scare among Sterlite workers, after a power outage caused a shutdown of the Copper smelter and sulphuric acid plant at around 10 a.m. today (17 August, 2011). The wind was blowing from East to West and carried the smoke away from the highway and the Milavittan village.

13.8.2011

Thangapandi, a 32-year old contract worker, engaged by OEG Ltd to work in Sterlite’s copper smelter factory sustained first degree burns due to an electrical accident. Thangapandi is a resident of Pandarampatti.

1 injured

31.5.2011

Amalanathan, a 28-year old crane maintenance mechanic, was electrocuted and killed in Vedanta-subsidiary Sterlite Copper’s premises today. According to workers, Amalanathan died on the spot at around 11.30 a.m. As of 3.30 p.m., the police had not yet registered a First Information Report. According to a Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) party worker, it was only after the communist unions and MDMK intervened by staging a road blockade did the Police even enter the scene. Amalanathan, who was married barely 3 months ago, is a resident of a locality called 3rd Mile, near Sterlite.

1 dead

3.3.2011

Ratheesh, a young contract employee from Sterlite, sustained 30 to 35 percent burn injuries on chest and hand. He was admitted to Apollo Hospital, Madurai, and underwent treatment until 24.3.2011. Inpatient Number: 205688. Referred by Dr. Vanitha Stephen, Tuticorin.

1 injured

 

Nityanand is a Chennai-based writer and environmental activist.

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