News Wrap


The 1000 mega watts Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) in Tamil Nadu was restarted, the first unit of the plant, at end January 2016. The plant was earlier shut down since 24 June 2015, allegedly for annual maintenance. On 04 February 2016, the plant was generating 715 mw power, below full capacity of 1000 mw. The same night the plant was closed down. The earlier shut down by June 2015, was much before the expiry of the warranty period. The government of India has so far spent about Rs 25,000 crore on the first phase of the KKNPP. The actual production so far has been less than 20% of the rated capacity of producing 48 million units of electricity a day. The second unit of the project was cannibalised to make the first unit, and in the process the second unit was virtually abandoned. Units 3 and 4 are estimated to cost Rs 45,000 crore. Almost all components of the reactor were manufactured in the 1980s, and rendered surplus due to post-Chernobyl cancellation orders for more than two dozen reactors. A Hyderabad-based private contractor had surreptitiously overhauled the Russian made turbine, two years before its grid connection, because it was found faulty. Normally a turbine is overhauled after working for five to ten years. For the one year period the turbine remained connected to the grid, there were 14 shutdown-trips, two outages and one major accident in the fuel water system, which kept the reactor idle for 175 days.

The non-performance of Unit 1 is causing production loss of 24 million units of electricity a day, financial loss of 10 crore daily, besides the interest on the capital invested. With approval from Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) has signed for units 3 and 4, with units 5 and 6 in the pipeline. France and Germany are phasing out their nuclear power plants, and other advanced countries have stopped constructing nuclear power plants. But the earlier Manmohan Singh Congress government, without waiting for competitive bidding process, reserved three coastal nuclear power parks for three foreign suppliers of reactors. Jaitapur in Maharashtra for Areva (France), Mithi Virdi in Gurajat for Westinghouse (USA), and Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh for GE (USA).

Muslims in Bengal
The 9.2 crore Muslims in West Bengal, account for 27% of the state’s population. A report titled ‘‘Living Reality of Muslims in West Bengal’’ was compiled in beginning 2016, on the basis of survey conducted by Association SNAP and Guidance Guild, in association with Amartya Sen’s Pratichi Institute. The survey reveals 80% of rural muslim households in West Bengal live on a monthly income of Rs 5000 or less. Only 3.8% of such households earn Rs 15000 or more, a month. The Muslims in West Bengal are disproportionately poorer, and more deprived in terms of living conditions. 97,107 muslim households, with a cumulative population of 463,904 spread across 325 villages in 81 blocks and 73 wards in 30 municipalities, are covered by the survey.

38.3% muslim households in rural Bengal earn Rs 2500 or less, per month. 41.5% of rural muslim households own some land other than homestead land. Only 23.5% own cropland, besides the homestead land. 1.55% household’s main earner is a school teacher. Public sector accounts for the income of only 1.54% muslim households, private sector accounts for income of only 1% of muslim households. 13.2% adult muslims do not have voter cards. Only 12.2% of muslim households have provision for drainage, against a total of 31.3% in West Bengal. 14.5% of muslim children aged between 6 and 14 are out of schools, and of the around 15%, 5.4% dropped out and 9.1% never enrolled. West Bengal has an average of 10.6 secondary and higher secondary schools, for every 1 lac population. In the three minority-dominated districts it is much lower, viz in North Dinajpur (6.2), Murshidabad (7.2) and Malda (8.5). Among muslims in the state, there is a heavy reliance (82.1%) on ‘‘informative persons’’ in the locality and political people (40.3%), for information. Muslims do not have a high reliance on newspaper, television and radio for information and breaking news. West Bengal has a level of urbanisation of 32%, whereas among muslims it is 19%. The average size of a muslim family is 4.8 in rural West Bengal, compared to 4.5 for the general population, 5.2 in urban West Bengal, compared to 4.4 for general population. The Sachar Report (2005), based on secondary information, also painted a dismal picture. The poverty information report of Pratichi, related to muslims, is based on primary research, data collection and analysis. Literary rate of muslims surveyed is 69.5%. 47% of muslims on jobs are day labourers. 27% of roads in muslim-dominated villagers are water-logged, 18% are unmetalled, only 9% are black-top, and 4% concrete. 94% of muslim dominated villages depend on publicly provided tubewells. Only 36% villages have government supplied tap water. 15.2% muslims have access to tap water, compared to 25.4% of general population. 35% of muslim villagers need to travel at least 4 km to reach a primary health care centre, 8% of muslim villages have no electricity. 3% of villages with population of at least 1000 do not have any school. 10% of villages do not have any Indian Child Development Scheme (ICDS) Centre.

Purging The ‘Unwanted’
Hardliners are on the ascendant in North Korea, after the country claimed it had tested a hydrogen bomb, fired a ballistic missile to launch a satellite, and shut down its only commercial venture with South Korea, and talked of a ‘‘declaration of war’’. General Ri Yong-ho disappeared and died in 2012. The successor army chief, General Ri Yong-gil was arrested at a meeting of 6000 party and army officials on 02 February 2016. Mid-February 2016, government sources in Seoul have claimed that Ri, who was in his sixties, had been executed for ‘‘factionalism and corruption’’. President Kim Jong-un’s boldest strike came in 2014, when he ordered the arrest and execution of his uncle by marriage, Jang Song-Thaek, widely seen as the regime’s second most powerful figure, and as China’s man on the politburo in Pyongyang. Since then purges have swept away 40% of the senior officer crops, and 30% of cadres in the ruling party. Major-general Ryom Chol-Song was demoted from lieutenant general in 2013. General Pyon In-Son, head of army operations, was executed in January 2015, for daring to disagree with Kim. Kim Yang-gon, who was entrusted with conducting sensitive negotiations with South Korea, was killed in December 2015 in a car crash, on one of North Korea’s all but empty roads. He has just been replaced as head of the United Front Department of the Workers’ Party of Korea, by an extreme military hardliner, Kim Yong-Chol.

Vol. 48, No. 42, Apr 24 - 30, 2016