Kudankulam protests: Hijacked by the church and the foreign hand?

by Kaipullai

Generally our Prime Minister rarely opens his mouth and, even then, he speaks little. When it came to Kudankulam our Prime Minister went back to the 1980s vintage, ‘Foreign Hand’ theory when he railed against the protest. This time however, for a change, he made sense.

The story actually begins in 1974. The year in which Indira Gandhi decided that India needed some nuke bombs. Let us say the US was as benevolent towards India after that nuclear test as the US today is towards Iran.

In line with the US policy of benevolence, India was slapped with a trade embargo, which among other things, prevented us from getting something called uranium. And without the uranium, the entire nuclear infrastructure in the country at that time went into panic mode. The reactors were scaled down and power generation was cut because we did not have sufficient fuel.

Since India refused to sign the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, no uranium-rich, decadent western country was willing to sell it to us. According to them, if India ever got uranium, she would peddle it to the first crackpot dictator who wanted to build a bomb.

India was effectively placed in a quarantine, and denied access to anything that was remotely related to ‘Nuclear’.

The status quo continued till 2006, when George W Bush arrived in India. Amidst all the despicable things George W Bush has inflicted on this world, he has to get credit for one thing. He was the only guy who got Manmohan Singh to talk. In fact ‘Dubya’ Bush is singularly responsible for Manmohan speaking up for something that did not have the word Gandhi in it.

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If you are wondering if I’m making that up, here is a clue: do the words INDO-US NUCLEAR DEAL mean anything to you?

Well, for Manmohan Singh, it meant a lot. Hell, it meant so much that, MMS flipped the normal protocol of ‘Madam Tell, Me Follow’ upside down. He allowed India a brief glimpse of a part of his anatomy called the spine. For the first and the last time as a PM, in 2008, he opposed a major coalition partner, stood his ground and got something done.

MMS single-handedly ended India’s three=decade-long nuclear isolation.

But there are no free lunches in the capitalist world.

When the US guys told us they will take care of that NPT thingy and get us all the uranium we need, as a quid pro quo, they demanded a major slice of the Indian nuclear power pizza. In fact they wanted the whole pizza. You see, the whole point of this generous nuclear deal was to ensure the US derives the maximum economic benefit out of our inevitable nuclear boom.

The major hurdle in the quest for that pizza: Kudankulam Nuclear Plant.

You see, the reactors used to generate electricity in Kudankulam, the aforementioned VVER-1000 reactors, are a direct competitor to General Electric’s Advanced Boiling Water Reactor. If the VVER-1000 is successful, India might opt for more of these reactors to satiate her power demands, which are projected to go north.

If that happens, the US would become the guy who did everything possible to impress a girl, only to see a direct competitor walking away with the credit and the girl on a first date.

Just think about it:  the other nuclear project announced after the deal was signed was Jaitapur. It was a French one.

In short, the US has every reason to pray for the failure of Kudankulam. Mostly because if Kudankulam is successful, the US will be the biggest loser.

After the PM’s accusation (about foreign NGOs creating a hurdle) in the Science Magazine interview, the Home Ministry moved quickly to freeze the accounts of four NGOs - Tuticorin Diocese Association (TDA), Tuticorin Multipurpose Social Service Society (TMSSS), People’s Education for Action and Liberation and Good Vision Trust.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, they were misdirecting the funds meant for social work to fund a political protest. This is explicitly stated as wrong. See Image I.

Image I Screengrab from Kaipullai's blog

The Ministry of Home Affairs, has an amazing web-page. It lists all the transactions made by NGOs that receive more than Rs 1 crore a year.

Here is the 2010-2011 account statement of the Tuticorin Multipurpose Social Service Society (TMSSS). Click on link to see Image 2 for details.

Notice that the maximum money has been spent in activities mysteriously classified as ‘Others’. No explanation has been given on what activities 'Others' constitute. Now, this particular NGO has received more than Rs 42 crore in foreign donations, over the last five years.

But the NGO doesn't even have a website of its own. A website where they can publish detailed accounts of what they are doing with all the money. Introduce some modicum of transparency. Now, why is that?

Similarly, the other NGO, the Tuticorin Diocese Association, received Rs 22 crore in the same period. It too does not have a website or a statement.

So this mysterious money trail leads to a dead end. But that is not the only problem. On 6 February, the Home ministry stated that these very NGOs received Rs 54 crore from sources abroad.

Now, with a very minimum knowledge of economics, I think Rs 54 crore is quite a lot of money. According to the Home Ministry, the NGOs do not have the accounts to show for it. And no person from these two NGOs has come out and given a convincing reply to the Home Ministry’s accusation.

In fact, the two NGOs in question are headed by the same guy, one Bishop Yvon Ambroise. Since the day the report was published in The Hindu, this person has gone underground. I mean, if you are so honest about your financials, why this mysterious silence?

Similiarly, the home ministry also alleges that Dr Udayakumar received Rs 1.5 crore in his account to fund this agitation. In typical Udayakumar style, he countered it aggressively, even claiming dramatically that he was ready to be hanged if it was established that he had received money. And his NGO, the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), released its own account statement to prove its innocence. This is what it said:

Total fund collection: Rs 25, 17,991. Collected Rs 200 from every household in Idinthakarai with additional help coming from fishermen, beedi workers etc, who contributed 10 percent of their earnings.

Continues on next page..

Total expenditure: Rs 17,64,233. Spent on hiring transport, diesel genset, marquees, and supply of water to the people who congregate at the protest fast venue.

As usual, no specifics have been given. Also, PMANE does not have a website where it can publish a detailed report. Our media, as is the norm, didn’t bother to verify this statement.

Turns out that the village of Idinthakarai has a total population of 3,996. Assuming 3 members per household, the total number of households in that village is only about 1,332.

Going by Udayakumar’s assertion and assuming every household contributed, the total amount collected comes to: Rs 2,66,400.

Where did you get the rest of the money -  Rs 22,51,591 - from, Dr Udayakumar? Are you telling us that the fishermen and beedi workers from Kudankulam contributed this amount??

Or is the Prime Minister right when he says foreign money is at play?

Paying protesters to campaign against a venture by your competitor is an old tactic in India. Every industrialist worth his or her salt has done it at some point of time in his/her life.

But in this case, I am unduly worried because this protest has taken a direction that does not augur well for the security of our country.

The whole protest is religiously motivated.

Remember  Bishop Ambroise in the previous paragraph?  Well, he is on record, with his opposition to the Kudankulam Nuclear Power plant. Now this person is not some layman voicing his views on this subject. He is a bishop, a very senior person in the hierarchy of the church.

Why is a representative of the church, that too a Bishop, taking an active part in the protest?

There’s not even the usual excuse that he is acting out of his own free will. The Roman Catholic Church is an organisation that is proud of its chain of command. No church member, I believe, can act independently without the sanction of someone from above. And when the guy leading this protest is a senior functionary in the church, it can mean only one thing: The anti-Kudankulam protest has  blessings from the highest levels of the Church hierarchy.

Now, why is the church taking a pro-active interest in a nuclear power plant, somewhere down in South India?

The involvement of the church cannot be dismissed lightly. In rural Tamil Nadu, for most of the villagers, the voice of reason happens to be the local parish priest. And all the parish priests in and around Kudankulam are heavily against the establishment of the power plant. They make no bones about their stand on this issue, and they don’t even have a choice. The person right on top of the church pyramid has made his stand very clear.

When a priest, in his Sunday mass and service, exhorts the villagers to join the protest, what are they  going to do?

Most of the people in and around Kudankulam are joining the protests, not because they believe in the cause. They are turning up because their priest asked them to. And they are admitting it openly.

This means that what was supposed to be a peaceful public protest has, as the Indian Express put it brilliantly, been hijacked by the local diocese and the church. And that is not a good sign.

Not for a country that calls itself secular.

The only thing that has irked me more than this shameless religious takeover of the movement is our mainstream media’s turning a Nelson’s eye  towards it. Why aren’t there more damning articles, like this one, on the role of the church in the Kudankulam agitation?

Why this thing is not the ‘Burning Question’ on Times Now? Why is it not on Face The Nation? 

And finally, where is Digvijay Singh?

I mean, when people from the RSS, a Hindu group with no connection to the inner sanctum of Hindu religion, participated in a secular, public movement against corruption,  this dude wasted no time in painting the entire movement with a saffron brush. According to him, ‘communal forces’ were attempting to use the ‘platform’ of a ‘public movement’ to ‘threaten the social fabric of the country’. Or some nonsense like that.

But here, people who are high up in the Church hierarchy, representing the church, are actively aiding and abetting this unreasonable protest.

So, why is this guy quiet? Why the hell is everybody quiet?

Unfortunately, I do not have answers to these questions.

Read more by the author at www.kaipullai.com

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Updated Date: Mar 26, 2012 18:15:54 IST

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