India Insight

Kudankulam’s neighbours weigh nuclear power fears against living standards

Rani enters her home for the first time in more than a week. She switches on the light, but it doesn’t work. Tsunami Colony, where she lives in the village of Idinthakari, has been deserted for months, and the electricity supply has been patchy.

The people who were living in the development fear that the police will return and ransack houses – as they reportedly have done to several places in the village. The residents prefer to sleep on the sand outside St. Lourdes church here in Idinthakari in Tamil Nadu, alongside people who have spent more than a year protesting the planned opening of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, which sits about 2 kilometres away.

There have been nearly 400 days of protests in the village. A plastic board outside the church tallies this number, every day. Villagers claim that their power supply has been irregular with long power cuts ever since they started protesting.

“The day we started protesting, our power began to be cut,” said Vinsula, a woman who lives in the village. “Our electricity is being cut, and then this backs up their claim of ‘power shortage’ which validates the nuclear plant.”

The people of Idinthakari find themselves in a strange opposition to not only the rest of India’s aspiring middle class, but themselves. They want a more prosperous life, one that depends on the kind of stable electricity supply that nuclear power promises. Nevertheless, they fear what a plant disaster and a resulting radiation leak could do to the quality of their lives and livelihoods.

Heavy-duty designs and a hint of Bollywood break Sunday slumber at Fashion Week

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Kanika Saluja Chaudhary shook fashion fans awake with her strong designs featuring metal work and elaborate headgear on Sunday afternoon, the second day of the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week in Delhi.

Chaudhary has dressed up Madonna, Nargis Fakhri and Chitrangada Singh, among others. Her designs at Fashion Week, she said, were for women who are creators, fighters and destroyers.

Anaikka (Chaudhary’s label) is known for metal, so we always focus on that. Metal represents strength, longevity and destruction, that’s our focus,’ said Kanika, “I believe metal is a shield, not only in the time of war, but in today’s time as well, it represents shielding, perseverance, strength.”

Cauvery River water fight paralyses Bangalore on Saturday

(This article was reported by Gokul Chandrasekar, Vineet Sharma and Bidya Sapam. Photos by Bidya Sapam)

The water was running in Bangalore on Saturday, but the buses were not.

“I have been waiting for a bus for over two hours now,” said Prabhat Kishan, 60, at the Majestic Bus Station in Bangalore.

India’s information technology capital shut down on Saturday over a state-wide “bandh,” or strike, that shut down shops, malls and restaurants. The bandh’s organizers paralysed the city to protest a decision by India’s Supreme Court to demand that the state of Karnataka allow the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu to get precious additional reserves of water from the Cauvery River. It is the latest episode in a dispute that has endured for years in a country that is facing alarming shortages of groundwater.

Kejriwal 2.0 not enough to change India’s political landscape

It wasn’t long ago that social activist Arvind Kejriwal called India’s parliamentarians “rapists, murderers and looters“. After making no bones about his hatred for India’s politicians during his anti-corruption movement, the former Team Anna member may soon be breaking bread and rubbing shoulders with the targets of his scorn now that he has decided to enter politics.

Kejriwal’s first test could be the assembly elections in Delhi next year. Will his rhetoric translate into votes? Will his party succeed in overthrowing a state government that has been in power for nearly 15 years in the capital? (Please participate in our poll on Arvind Kejriwal. Our question: will his new party be able to make a political impact? At the moment, “yes” votes outnumber “no” votes by nearly two to one.)

If you go by his “vision document“, the idea of a government run by the people gives an impression that parliamentary democracy is somehow a different thing. The former Magsaysay Award winner wants citizens to make decisions on budget, commodity prices and lawmaking. While there is no doubt that his ideas hint at a disorganized system of governance, it’s a college student’s version of idealism and it won’t transform India’s government.

Going vegetarian for Gandhi Jayanti

My Indian friends have assured me beyond all reasonable doubt that it is not novel to write that India’s liquor sales stop by law on Gandhi Jayanti, the national holiday celebrating the birth of Mohandas K. Gandhi. What was more interesting to me was a note that I read online on Tuesday from my friend Anoo Bhuyan:

“Today at a supermarket, I saw that the entire freezer section was covered in newspaper. A sign on it said, ‘Due to Gandhi Jayanthi,’ non veg not for sales.” (She was in southern India, which accounts for the “h” in “Jayanthi.”)

I wrote back to her: “And yes – have you seen this kind of thing before? Is it normal or widespread? That is, if I mentioned it, would every Indian reader say, ‘yes, of course?’”

‘Wives and victories lose their charm,’ just like the coal minister who said so

My colleague in the Delhi online newsroom asked me today if I felt offended by coal minister Shriprakash Jaiswal’s comment that “wives and victories lose their charm when they become old.” It’s like the remark that John Huston made to Jack Nicholson in “Chinatown” — “Politicians, ugly buildings and whores all get respectable if they last long enough” — but it’s not funny.

Jaiswal made his comment in Kanpur while talking about the Indian cricket team’s win over Pakistan at the Twenty20 World Cup, and predictably apologized and said that his comments were taken out of context.

As an educated woman with a job and an opinion, the answer is yes: it is offensive because it is the same thing as someone reducing you to a sex object whose utility diminishes with age.

Hindi, Tamil and English: linguistic lessons in pragmatism

Press Council of India Chairman and former Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju has lived in India all his life, but he made a two-part statement on Sept. 20 that sounds like the kind of innocent remark that would land a visitor like me in trouble.

Here is the gist of what Katju said in an op-ed in The Hindu:
“If (children) did not learn English they would only be fit to drive bullock carts (Hal chalane layak rah jayenge). I said I too loved Hindi, which is my mother tongue, but that did not mean I should behave like a fool.”

    “At the same time, people in non-Hindi speaking States such as Tamil Nadu should learn Hindi, because it is the link language in our country.”

This is, as you might suspect, a touchy subject. Hindi, one of the two official languages of India, is part of a group of languages spoken primarily in northern India. The group includes its many regional variations in the so-called Hindi Belt, its sort of twin sister Urdu, as well as Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi, Assamese, Nepali and more.

from The Human Impact:

In India, rapists walk free as victims “shamed” into suicide

Of course, it's hard to imagine being raped (and who would want to). But just for a minute try and think about it.

Imagine you are returning home from work, walking down a busy road in early hours of the evening, perhaps from the train station or the bus stop to your home as you usually do.

Suddenly a car pulls up slightly ahead of you and as you walk by, the rear doors open and two men get out. Without any hesitation, they grab you and bundle you into the back seat.

Political crisis in India: Mamata Banerjee moves out, UPA should move forward

It wasn’t unexpected. After more than three long years of association with the UPA II coalition government, key ally Mamata Banerjee is taking her name off the lease, packing up her things and getting ready to move out. Whether she has taken Congress’ chances for holding power in India with her depends on how strong — and willing — the party’s other friends are.

This move, precipitated by her anger at urgent government moves to fix India’s economy, is a case of better late than never. There is no point being part of a coalition if you don’t like how it works or the decisions that it makes.

Banerjee isn’t moving out just yet. After giving the coalition 72 hours to relook at its recent initiatives, she has given another 72 hours to the coalition before her ministers resign on Friday, Sept. 21. Her demands: rollback diesel prices, scotch a plan to allow foreign direct investment in India’s retail businesses and spend more money on keeping home cooking gas prices artificially low.

Anti-Islam film sparks second day of protests in Chennai

Chennai is dealing with a second day of protests against the United States over a film that Muslims say insults the Prophet Mohammad, following an attack on the U.S. consulate on Friday that prompted 86 arrests.

Close to 2,000 people mobilised by the Islamist group Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath reportedly gathered outside the Thousand Lights Mosque. That is less than a kilometre from the U.S. consulate, where protestors smashed windows on Friday.

“Avoid Mount Road stretch and Radhakrishnan Salai near US consulate,” wrote Hindu Business Line journalist Dinakaran Rengachary on Twitter on Saturday. “Heavy traffic jam due to protest by Muslim organisations. #Chennai”

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