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July 2010

Wrong call on nuclear liability

The government is set to move the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010 in the current session of Parliament after withdrawing its earlier draft on March 15 without explanation. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology headed by Congress MP T Subbirami Reddy has since heard various proponents and opponents of the Bill.

While the former mainly comprise Department of Atomic Energy officials, who stress the importance of moving the legislation quickly so as to encourage investment in the nuclear power programme, the objectors are a more plural group, including “official” experts such as former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) A Gopalakrishnan, and independent experts and activists from the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), Greenpeace India and the Delhi Science Forum, as well as political parties.

The opponents have raised a number of issues of vital public importance. The Standing Committee must faithfully and earnestly incorporate their suggestions and the government must pay heed to them if there is to be an informed and intelligent debate on the Bill. Any attempt to rush the Bill through would be thoroughly misguided.

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Kashmir: defusing the crisis

The protest wave that gripped the Kashmir Valley has abated with the calling in of the army. But public anger against the killing of 15 young Kashmiris, including a 9-year-old boy, isn’t likely to vanish soon. The restoration of order has claimed a high price: the army had to be called into Kashmir for crowd control for the first time since the azaadi movement erupted in 1989.

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To rebuild lives

The Group of Ministers' proposals fall short of recommending the minimum the victims of the Bhopal gas disaster deserve in reparation.

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Terminal folly

Delhi's ecologically unsound new airport terminal does not represent progress; rather it marks the Indian elite's dependence on false symbols of grandeur.

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Double standards on aid

Indian leaders trumpet their nation’s recent global ascendancy in a variety of ways. They: highlight the importance of India’s membership of the G-20, claim a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and demand India’s inclusion in what they for long, derisively, termed “cartels” like the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group. Not least, they build gigantic, spectacular, exorbitantly expensive projects like Terminal-3 at Delhi airport. In line with this is their boastful aspiration to transform India from an aid recipient to a donor.

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A perverse notion of modernity

The subcontinent’s leaders never learn from mistakes—their own, or one another’s. Nawaz Sharif’s White Elephant M-2 expressway was one of the greatest scandals in global infrastructure development history. Now, India is about to produce its match—in aviation, by building a $4 billion (Rs12,700 crore) new terminal at Delhi airport. Terminal-3, to be opened soon, is claimed to be the world’s fifth-largest airport terminal, and bigger than Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and Singapore ’s Changi. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh euphorically described T-3 as signifying the “arrival of a new India , committed to join the ranks of modern, industrialised nations …”.

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Isolated Israel Eases Gaza Blockade: Victory for civil society and Palestine

When Israel launched a commando attack on the Freedom Flotilla carrying humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip, its leaders could scarcely have imagined that they would have to beat a retreat on the Gaza blockade issue in less than three weeks. Yet, such was the global public revulsion at the murderous assault on the Mavi Marmara in international waters—even among Israel’s allies and supporters—that Israel had to relax the blockade. The blockade banned more than 2,000 items, including cement, glass, paper, iron, pencils, cancer medicines, toys, chocolate, fabrics and fruit juice.

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