IS INDIA UP FOR GRABS ?

NOT SO LONG AGO, BEFORE THE JAPANESE PREMIER, Shinzo Abe, embarked on his much publicised trip to India, the Mayors of the cities Nagasaki and Hiroshima had written to him requesting a reconsideration of the proposed nuclear deal with India.  Aside of the burden of historical memory that these cities carry, the Mayors were only highlighting the risks associated with nuclear technology at a time when nearly 77% of Japanese have supported the phase out of nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima catastrophe.

The Hindu NEWSPAPER OF TODAY carries a very timely and thought provoking analysis titledThe Strange Love for Nuclear Energy”  co-authored by physicists M.V. Ramana and Suvrat Raju who are associated with the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament.  Even allowing for bias of the writers’ association with a campaign, India could ill afford to ignore the warnings they raise in their article : India is on the verge of constructing untested and expensive reactors; the technology is not at all likely to be cost effective even after allowing for the so called reduction in construction costs in India under the so called Made in India campaign – itself a distant reality as far as the nuclear project is concerned.  The authors point out that a reactor that costs USD 11.6 Bn in Europe is likely to yield a first year tariff of about Rs 19/unit of electricity (compared   with Rs 4.50 and Rs 5.50 per unit for electricity generated using coal and solar power respectively).

THE AUTHORS ALSO DRAW OUR ATTENTION TO THE fact that the proposed Indo-Japanese nuclear deal is only meant to clear the way for Japanese corporates to sell their wares in India which are unwanted elsewhere in the world given the serious downturn in the nuclear industry.  Westinghouse (where Toshiba owns a majority stake) which is the vendor for the reactor to be installed at Mithi-Virdi in Gujarat has accumulated losses of USD 290 mn since 2006 when Toshiba took a stake in the company. Likewise, Areva which is installing its equipment at Jaitapur in Maharashtra is virtually bankrupt and is poised for a takeover by the French state electricity company and Mitsubishi. And GE has aligned with Hitachi for supply of its reactor to Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh.  The authors point out that nearly 50 years ago, Japan had succumbed to pressure from nuclear suppliers and had even passed a law to indemnify them , as a result of which, the authors allege,  GE was fully protected for design defects that arose in the reactors they had installed at Fukushima. The cost of the entire clean up at Fukushima estimated at USD 200 Bn was entirely borne by Japanese tax payers !!  The authors also warn that none of the reactor designs  for aforementioned Indian locations are operational anywhere else in the world and that they distinctly run the risk of escalating project costs year after year.  They cite the examples of the reactors currently being built in Georgia, U.S., and in Flamanville, France,  where the costs have escalated from USD 14 Bn to USD 21 Bn and from Eur 3.2 Bn to 10.5 Bn respectively !!

WHILE PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI’s keenness to see India in the forefront of technology and economic development is laudable, it cannot be at the cost of India’s safety and security.  The speed at which environmental clearances are given merely to project India as an industry friendly country does not augur well for the country either.

THE PROPOSED INDO-JAP NUCLEAR DEAL cannot be implemented in haste and there is every opportunity for India to do business on its terms vis a vis the Japanese Vendors after instituting adequate safeguards and guarantees. We also need to pay heed to the financial resources required.  High profile projects do not really solve India’s problems in the long run.  As with the nuclear projects, the high speed rail project for bullet trains may not actually be the one that India badly needs now.  The resources contemplated for the Shinkansens (bullet trains) in India could be easily redeployed to attend to the more crying needs of Indian railways such as the renewal of rakes and passenger safety.

INDIA CANNOT BE UP FOR GRABS for multinational vendors who think they can exploit the Indian anxiety to be in the big league.  Business with such vendors should be on our terms.  India rightly stood its ground at the recently concluded Conference of Parties on climate change in Paris and its stance at the WTO is robustly correct.  The same logic should guide our dealings with MNC businesses.

 

THE CURIOUS CASE OF SANJIV CHATURVEDI

SANJIV CHATURVEDI, AGED 40, an electrical engineer from National Institute of Technology, Allahabad, originally belongs to the Indian Forest Service.  After a series of transfers, he was eventually posted as Deputy Secretary holding additional charge as Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) of the All India Institute of  Medical Sciences (AIIMS).  During his stint as CVO, Chaturvedi initiated action in about 200 corruption cases.  Punishment was imposed in 78 cases, charge sheets filed in  87 and more than 20 cases referred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for further inquiry.  He has since been removed from the above position and his services have reportedly been sought by the Delhi Administration to be in charge of its Anti Corruption Bureau.

DURING HIS TENURE AT AIIMS, Chaturvedi was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay award for “his efforts in painstakingly investigating corruption in public office”.  The award carries a prize money of USD 30,000 (say Rs 1.98 million) which he promptly donated to AIIMS to be spent on poor patients.  AIIMS however rejected  his donation, reportedly at the behest of the Health Minister Nadda who apparently held a grudge against Chaturvedi for his earlier expose of the misdeeds of officers close to the Minister while Chaturvedi served in the Haryana Cadre.  Surprised by the non-acceptance of his donation, Chaturvedi  sent in the money to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.  He has also sought an appointment with the Prime Minister for conveying his anguish and anxiety on the plight of honest civil servants in the country (Read Raghav Ohri’s report in The Economic TimesDecember 8, 2015)

IT IS PERTINENT TO NOTE THAT CHATURVEDI  had earlier pleaded for a Central Government deputation in 2010 after he was fed up with the harassment he faced in the discharge of his duties while posted in Haryana. He was transferred as many as twelve times.  The harassment was intense in the extreme to the extent that even his father-in-law filed a case against him and his marriage ended in divorce.  Between 2008 to 2014, the President of India had passed as many as four orders in his support quashing the Haryana Government’s orders that were issued to him.

ONE PRESUMES  THAT THE MEETING between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chaturvedi has either already taken place or will take place soon.  Narendra Modi had cleared the earlier appointment of Chaturvedi while chairing the Cabinet Committee on Appointments and in fact, the Ministry of Environment and Forests proactively pushed for acceptance of his request for deputation to the Central Government when  the Haryana Government was refusing to relieve him.

THE CURRENT CONTROVERSY surrounding Sanjiv Chaturvedi  may take an interesting turn given the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi  himself trusts his small coterie of civil servants that he transplanted from Ahmedabad to New Delhi than his ministerial colleagues to implement  his agenda.  The civil service was once described as the sheet anchor of the Indian republic and although the description was attributed to the Indian Civil Service (ICS) established by the British when they ruled India, it still holds good for the homespun Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and other allied services such as the Indian Revenue Service, the Indian Police Service, the Indian Audit & Accounts Services and the Indian Forest Service – the last mentioned being the cadre where Sanjiv Chaturvedi’s baptism by fire began.

THERE ARE A HANDFUL OF CIVIL SERVANTS LIKE CHATURVEDI  who may carry on with the diligent discharge of their duties unmindful of the harrassment they face while serving their political masters.  India is however critically poised at a juncture where the commitment of its civil servants for implementation of national agendas matters most.  If officers like Chaturvedi are relentlessly subject to  harassment,  the civil service will no longer attract talent that could change the face of India but only draw elements purely for enjoyment of  the power and privilege civil service jobs carry.  Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to warn his ministerial colleagues to treat their officers with dignity and respect.  Already the secretaries in the key ministries of finance and home were subject to abrupt transfers  and change of postings and this has sent unwholesome signals to the bureaucracy that is not in India’s best interests.