News Wrap


Local residents and activist groups have been protesting against the Jaitapur (Maharasthra) Nuclear Power Project. But even the contract for the two European Pressurized Reactors (EPRs) between state owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd and France’s Areva SA is signed in the current calendar year, the controversial Jaitapur Power Project may be commissioned by 2021, at the earliest. Critical issues need to be resolved, such as India’s Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Bill, credit arrangements for the construction, and the final cost of the project. The 7 billion euros general framework agreement between India and France in December 2010, deals with the supply of two EPRs, each with a capacity to produce 1650 mw of electricity and Uranium supply for a period of 25 years, for the Jaitapur Project. These units are the first of six that are proposed to be constructed at Jaitapur. The complex will eventually have an overall capacity of 10,000 mw. While the Union Government of India has been trying to downplay the security concerns on the EPRs, the crippled Fukushima Nuclear plant has sprung another radioactive water leak. The world’s first EPR is still being built in Olkiluoto in Finland and Taishan-I and II EPRs are under progress in China.

Tribal Protests
Jagrut Adivasi Dalit Sangathan spearheads tribal protests in Badwani, one of the most backward districts in Madhya Pradesh. Madhuri Krishnaswamy, alias Madhuri Bahen, a highly educated history student from Delhi University in her mid-40s, has been agitating for causes covering lack of health facilities, delayed payment of wages under MNREGA, and food security. The Sangathan now has 13,000 registered members. Government reports accuse Madhuri of promoting Naxal ideology, instigating people to target government employees and causing anarchy. But she highlights issues that affect the police and their families too. The government had earlier issued an externment notice, later withdrawn, on the social activist for protests, gheraos and manhandling of government officials. Turned away by a primary health centre, a pregnant woman had delivered her baby on the road in Badwani, in 2008. Madhuri who was passing by, found her, and stopped a government ambulance to shift her to a hospital. She was later charged with obstruction of government work. Tribals are protesting over government action, and Madhuri refuses bail. There are demands to strengthen local governance fixing responsibility and removing inadequacies in the Janani Surakha Scheme.

Vanishing Rice
The Bihar State Government in 2011-12 had taken over paddy procurement from the Food Corporation of India, and had purchased 21,08,375.16 metric tons of paddy, worth Rs 2200.11 crore, through the Primary Agriculture Credit and Co-operative Societies, and directly from the farmers at Rs 10,800 per metric ton. The State Food Corporation distributed the paddy to 963 mills across the 36 districts of Bihar, for being processed into rice. The private rice mills that were given paddy, to process have defaulted, and did not supply the rice they owed the state government company. Hence, the Bihar State Food and Civil Supplies Corporation Ltd faces a loss of Rs 535 crore. Recovery proceedings have been initiated in Aurangabad, Buxar and certain other districts. The mill owners have reaped windfall gains due to faulty or failed transactions, between the government and the defaulting mills. The State Food Corporation did not ensure that any advance rice was deposited by even a single mill, before new paddy was released for processing. A mill is supposed to get 100 quintals of paddy, if it deposits 68 quintals of boiled rice or 67 quintals of raw rice. Of the 963 mills chosen to process paddy, less than 500 are registered with the state industry department, and comply with pollution control norms. About 50 mills, including 10 in Buxar, exist only on paper.

Austerity Cuts
For over two years, European Union countries have experienced consecutive month’s rise in the eurozone jobless rate, which has now hit 12.1% and exceeds 60% for the under-25s in Greece and Spain. Since May Day 2013, demonstrations have been taking place across Europe, attacking austerity cuts. Protesters claim that cost-cutting had ground down their economies. Mrs Angela Merkel of Germany has been thrown on the defensive, with warnings from many quarters that all-out austerity has pushed the south of the currency bloc to the edge of endurance.

USA’s gross domestic product growing at 2.5%, reflects a $1.4 trillion growth deficit. Consumer spending is driving about 90% of the GDP growth. Housing growth is around 12.6%, compared to 12.1% growth in 2012. Business spending on plant, machinery and computers is at a 2.1% pace, which suggests continued tough times for workers ahead. Government spending is declining at 4.1%. Expiration of the payroll tax holiday has reduced personal income by about $30 billion. The US long term jobless have been the earliest to be hit by the recent automatic spending cuts. There are 3.8 million Americans who have been unemployed for more than six months. Protesters have been gathering in Washington and other US cities to demonstrate against cuts to jobless benefits, and demand action to create jobs.

Vol. 46, No. 1, Jul 14- 20, 2013

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