Archive for March, 2010

India’s Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill: A Red Carpet to the US Companies

March 23, 2010

The sellout of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to US is continuing. This time it has readily fulfilled one of the important agendas of Hillary Clinton’s business trip to India[1] in July 2009 – to introduce a bill to ensure that a Bhopal-like disaster[2] does not trouble the US companies. The two Governments are committed to helping US transnational companies like General Electric Company and Westinghouse Electric Company, a subsidiary of Japan’s Toshiba Corporation, that are champing to supply nuclear equipment and lure India’s $175 billion nuclear market. India expects to set up 40,000 MW of nuclear power plants over the next 20 years.

The India-US nuclear Agreement not only links India more closely to US and its global interests, and creates market for US conventional weapons, but also boosts US trade in a profitable sector, nuclear industry. During her visit to India Hillary Clinton said that India had approved two sites for the construction of two US nuclear reactors. She said, “I am also pleased that Prime Minister Singh told me that sites for two nuclear parks for US companies have been approved by the government.” However, what was not clear at that time was whether India had agreed to the US’ demand for legal immunity to its companies in case of a nuclear accident.

The clearance by the Union Cabinet of the text of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill (For full text of the Bill, click in November 2009 for introduction in the Parliament, and the attempt by the government to introduce the Bill in the Parliament in March 15, 2010, though hastily withdrew in the last minute on account of strong opposition from majority of parliamentarians, unfolded its compliance to the US demand. Although the Congress-led government maintains that the Bill is crucial for all foreign companies, including Russian and French, the clearance of the Bill is important to the American companies. Because they are at a competitive disadvantage, as they are privately-owned, while Russian and French companies are fully or partly state-owned, and their accident liability is underwritten by their governments. The importance of the Bill for the American companies is very much evident in the report given by the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake to a US House committee: “We are hoping to see action on nuclear liability legislation that would reduce liability for American companies and allow them to invest in India.”

What stands out in the controversial Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill is the extent to which Indian government goes to address American rather than Indian interests. The Bill aids the business interests of the American reactor builders, and provides them legal immunity from any victim-initiated civil suit or criminal proceedings in an Indian court or in a court in their home country. In the process, it seeks to financially burden Indian taxpayers (including the victims of nuclear disaster) and impede the rights of victims of any nuclear accident.

The proposed Bill puts the responsibility, in case of a nuclear accident, on the “operator” of the facility and not on the supplier of the equipment or the builder of the facility. Clause 4 of the Bill says, “The operator of the nuclear installation shall be liable for nuclear damage caused by a nuclear incident.” The government of India, as owner of the nuclear reactors, will operate through its “operator”, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL). According to the Clause 6 of the Bill, the maximum financial liability, in the event of a nuclear accident, is set at the rupees equivalent of 300 million special drawing rights (SDRs), which is equal to $458 million (Rs. 2,087 crore). The NPCIL is liable for up to Rs. 500 crores ($109 million). Clause 17 allows only the operator (NPCIL), not the victims, to sue manufacturers and suppliers. The recourse taken by the operator will yield only Rs. 500 crore at maximum. This meager compensation will embolden the nuclear reactor manufacturers to choose the option of maximizing profits by reducing building and safety standards without fear of prosecution.

The Indian government is liable for damages, where the liability exceeds Rs. 500 crores, between Rs. 500 crores and Rs. 2,087 ($458 million) only. It is a move of the congress-led UPA government to get the Bill on capping civil nuclear liability in order to pave the way for the American transnational companies to export their nuclear reactors to India without having to bear the full liability on account of an accident.

In the US the financial liability for a nuclear accident is set at $10.5 billion. This gives a glimpse of how Congress-led UPA government values the life of Indian citizens.

Throughout the text of the Bill a mythical distinction has been made between the “operator” and the Indian government, since the “operator” (NPCIL) is the state-run and public funded Indian facility. That means, ultimately it is the Indian tax-payers (including the victims of a nuclear accident) who will pay when a nuclear accident occurs due to faulty design of nuclear installation or substandard equipment. The profiteering transnational companies will go scot free. Thus the legislation legalizes the principle: “Profits are private, accident-related liabilities are all public.”

The Bill also limits the time to make claim within 10 years. Clause 18 states: “The right to claim compensation for any nuclear damage caused by a nuclear incident shall extinguish if such claim is not made within a period of 10 years from the date of incident.” That provision was retained despite the Environment and Forest Ministry’s note of caution that the 10-year time limit was untenable. Because the nuclear damage to human and animal life and the environment are long-term, and damage to human health from a serious radioactive release “involves changes in DNAs, resulting in mutagenic and teratogenic changes, which take a long time to manifest.”

The Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979 and the Chernobyl accident in Ukraine in 1986 caused extensive damage. The Three Mile Island nuclear plant led to 14 years of clean-up, costing $1 billion. The Chernobyl accident not only resulted in several lives being lost, but also led to radioactive exposure of at least 6 lakh people living not only in Ukraine, but also in far off areas such as Belarus and Russia.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill denies the victims of a nuclear accident their right to take a legal action in judicial courts in India or the home country of the manufacturer or supplier. Because all nuclear damage claims will be dealt with by a “Nuclear Damage Claims Commissioner” whose verdict will be “final” and cannot be appealed in any court. According to the Clause 35 “No civil court shall have jurisdiction to entertain any suit or proceedings in respect of any matter which the Claims Commissioner or the Commission, as the case may be, is empowered to adjudicate under this Act and no injunction shall be granted by any court or other authority in respect of any action taken or to be taken in pursuance of any power conferred by or under this Act.” This is contrary to the provisions of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution: “Protection Of Life And Personal Liberty: No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”

Dr. E.A.S. Sarma, former Energy Secretary, says that finding a readily obliging partner in India, the US government seems to have no hesitation whatsoever in coaxing the Indians to sign the deal and open the floodgates to US multinationals to do business in India in such a hazardous activity. The pressure from the US government and transnational companies on the Congress-led government is immense. The US is hopeful and optimistic that India would “soon step up to its responsibilities” to get the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill cleared by Parliament, US ambassador to India Timothy J Roemer said recently. “We are hopeful and optimistic that this will happen sooner rather than later and India will step up to its responsibilities and obligation to complete this deal.” He said the civil nuclear deal was important for both India and the US and “part of this completion is for Parliament to press this Bill.”

Thus, the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill is designed specifically keeping the interests of the US multinational corporations in mind, not the welfare of potential victims (who elected the representatives of the government) of the disaster. Like the India-US agriculture trade treaty, Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture (KIA), which is designed to satisfy the greed of US Agribusiness companies such as Monsanto, the proposed Nuclear Damage Bill attempts to lay a red carpet for the US companies to make huge profits in India without any accountability in case of any disaster. The Congress-led government is doing this by promoting myths: “food security” in the case of the former, and “energy security” in the case of the latter.

 1. Kamalakar Duvvuru, “Hillary Clinton’s Business Trip to India,” in DissidentVoice (August 11, 2009).

2. One of the world’s worst industrial disasters in 1984, when a gas leak in a Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, India, killed an estimated 8000 people. The Indian government was severely criticized for accepting what was called a “paltry compensation” of about $470 million for the victims.



Church Is In The World

March 14, 2010

When you come into a church on a Sunday morning, you think that you have stepped from a real world into a fantasy world. What do I mean by that? You pick up a church bulletin or newsletter. It says, there is singing practice, youth meeting, women’s fellowship. It hardly mentions anything about what is happening in the community, society, state, nation and world. The faith preached in our churches does not relate to the world in which our church members live.

Church members come from the real world to the Sunday service with problems, issues and questions. When they leave the service after the benediction, they again enter into that real world. Our church members are wrestling with a host of issues and problems – rise of prices of basic commodities like rice, dal, sugar, unemployment, poverty, sickness, family problems, failure of crops, corruption, injustice, marginalization, discrimination, increase of the gap between the rich and the poor. Rich are becoming richer and poor are becoming poorer. The sermons and ministries of the church do not touch these things.

The OT prophets like Amos, Micah spoke about the prevailing situation in the society. They spoke about the ill treatment of the poor, widows, orphans. They spoke against corruption in high places. They related their faith in God to the concrete, contemporary problems and issues in the society in which they lived. Their intention was to make their society a better place.

Where is the prophetic voice of the church?

What does the church service on Sunday morning mean in general to the congregation?

  1. It means many things. One of the things the church service means is hope. Church service tells congregation members that there is hope in this life, like Psalmist in Psalm 27 says, “I would have fainted unless I lived to see the goodness of the right in this life.” There is hope for this society and the world. There is hope that this society and world will become a better place to live in.

In order to tell that there is hope in this life, the pastor or the preacher should know what the concrete problems and issues that the congregation members are wrestling with. That means, you should know what is happening around. Then only you can relate your faith in God to these problems.

The gospels and the epistles in the NT were written to particular churches or Christian communities, addressing their problems and issues. The gospel writers and the writers of the epistles knew the concrete problems and issues. They related the gospel of Jesus Christ and their faith in Jesus Christ to their specific problems and issues. In this process, they narrated the life of Jesus Christ, his teachings and deeds. That means, they made Jesus Christ, the gospel of Jesus Christ and their faith in Jesus Christ relevant to their present life and context.

This is what we need to do in our ministry. Know what is happening around you. Know the existing problems and issues in the society, you and your congregation members live in. Then relate faith in Christ to these problems.  

You give them hope in this life. That God is with us in our struggles. God is still in control. God can and will change the present situation to a better one. You move them from the state of despair to a state of hope, from hurt to healing. 

2. The second thing is, through your ministry you encourage them to go back and make a difference in their community or society. To strive to bring a positive change in their society. Not to leave that world and not to pretend that we belong to some sort of fantasy world. But remind them that we serve a God who has come into this world through Jesus Christ. He cares for this world. He is concerned about our problems, the challenges and issues we are facing now. This God is with those who are striving to make their societies better.

Christians should be committed to the kingdom of God and its values of justice, peace, love and unity. We should live an alternate existence of love and justice, offering prophetic witness and voice.           

Anything Precious is not Cheap

Jesus in his ministry used parables taken from the day-to-day life of people to teach deeper truths. It is said that one-third of his teaching is in parables. In Mt. 13 he used several parables to teach about the kingdom of heaven/God. In verse 44, he tells, Kingdom of God is like treasure hidden in a field; it is like the pearl of great value. Kingdom of God is something of great value. One has to search for it. Jesus, in Mt. 6.33 said: “Strive for the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”

The content of Jesus words and deeds is the kingdom of God or kingdom of heaven. His Galilean ministry started with the proclamation of the coming of the kingdom of God (Mk. 1.15). His miraculous deeds were the indicators of the presence of God’s kingdom. In Mt. 12. 22ff. when Jesus healed the one who was mute and blind, the Pharisees said that Jesus did that with the power of the Beelzebub. But Jesus responded by saying that “If it is by the spirit of God I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.”

What is this kingdom of God? Mt. 12.22-32 indicates that bringing healing and wholeness to the body of the person demonstrates the presence of the kingdom of God. In this passage Jesus says two things that are interrelated: binding the strongman and the healing of the person. It is already said that the sickness was caused by the evil spirit. Jesus is dealing with the cause that caused pain and suffering in the person. Jesus is making right the wrong done by the demonic and oppressive forces.  It is this transformative action of God in the lives of people that is evident in the ministry of Jesus Christ. It is to this transformative ministry that we are called for.

However, it needs commitment, persistence and sacrifice. The merchant searched for fine pearls and when he found one, he sold all that he had and bought it. Anything precious is costly. Establishment of the kingdom of God and its values of justice, peace, love and unity is costly. It demands commitment, persistence (I prefer this word to ‘determination’), sacrifice (here comes the priorities) or “willing to lose in order to gain”. Jesus says that “whoever wants to be my disciple let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

To be instruments of God’s transformative action demands a conscious, willful commitment to the mission, persistence in the work, and sacrifice (willing to lose).

Greed: The All-Consuming Epidemic

March 14, 2010

Changes are happening in India at a rapid pace. One of the changes is mushrooming of shopping malls and the crowds at the malls, particularly in urban India. The myth of American dream, which emphasizes on high consumption, compulsive acquisition and instantaneous gratification, has a strong influence on urban Indians. The deceptive notion that happiness lie in possession of things is uncritically embraced. I am not suggesting you to stop buying. But to buy carefully and consciously with full attention to the real benefits and costs of your purchases, remembering, always, that the best things in life are not things.

One thing most apparent is that in spite of possessing the things most desired, happiness and contentment still elude those infected with “affluenza”. “Affluenza”, according to the authors of the book Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic (John De Graff, David Wann and Thomas H. Naylor), is “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.” This metaphor of a disease is an apt characterization of a malignant condition that is eating into the entrails of urban India. People want to buy more and more things. This can cause stress. Stress can come from plain greed masquerading as the “noble” desire for a higher standard of living. In order to maintain higher standard of living, one has to work more time. So one is overworked and pressed for time. It is said, American couples have only 12 minutes a day (at an average) to converse with each other.

People have less time because they work more. They work more because they want more to maintain a higher standard of living. That means, as a society we are choosing money over time.

What are the consequences of this choice?

  1. We have new form of “homelessness”. We have people living under the same roof, but hardly have time to connect with one another. Someone wrote a book with a title “Is there a home in this house?”
  2. The most corrosive impact of consumerism is on human relationships. Consumerism thrives by promoting use-and-throw culture. Attitudes formed towards things (use-and-throw) eventually get transferred to people. As things are discarded after use, people are also thrown out once they lose the capacity to participate in the cycle of consumption. Because in consumeristic culture human beings in themselves do not possess value. Their value is directly proportional to their capacity to buy things.

Here the irony is, living beings find their value and worth and identity in non-living things.   

  1. The consumeristic culture, as a result, has promoted greed and hoarding – accumulation of wealth and material things. Mother Teresa said: “Suffering today is because people are hoarding, not giving, not sharing.”

In India it is evident that, although since 1990s there has been a period of sustained economic growth as the country moved towards a more market-oriented economy, the economic growth did not benefit all Indians equally. The benefits of globalization has created two Indias: India shining and India suffering. Middle and upper classes in urban areas have benefited under “India Shining”, but the poor have suffered a decline in living standards and rising food insecurity. Poverty and malnutrition, especially among women, children, and people who belong to scheduled castes and tribes, remain very high.

Large sections of Indian society suffer from gross poverty and deprivation, which co-exists with high and very high incomes and growth rates of income for a very small section. One-third of the world’s poor live in India. 83.6 crore Indians survive on less than Rs. 20 a day or Rs. 600 a month. Over 20 crore Indians sleep hungry on any given night. About 7000 Indians die every day of hunger.  India has the second highest poverty—after Nepal—among all Asian countries.

About 20 lakh children die every year as a result of serious malnutrition and preventable diseases. Nearly 50% of children suffer from moderate or severe malnutrition. This is one of the highest levels of child malnutrition in the world. Nearly 30% of newborn are underweight. 79% of children of age 6-35 months are anaemic.56% of married women are anaemic.

The apathetic attitude of the government towards the poor and the hungry is well sustained by the Indian society in general. As Jean Dreze, an economist and academic, said: “The government can’t get away with large-scale famine, but it can get away with chronic hunger. It has become an accepted part of life in India.”

Greed in Christian Religion

Greed has also entered Christian religion. Mushrooming of corporate churches, corporate Christian organizations and corporate Christian gospel reflect the mammonization of God and religion. The “gospel entrepreneurs” with their claims of unhindered direct access to God craftily unite God and Mammon with their make-rich-quick “good news”. These “gospel entrepreneurs”, particularly megachurches and televangelists, subscribe to corporate standards of operation with wealth as the highest “spiritual” value, and prosperity as their gospel. They advocate marketing approach to Christ and Christian religion and give optimistic messages intended to “make people feel good about themselves.” Their philosophy is to make the church as uninterfering and entertaining as possible in order to attract more “customers” into the “spiritual corporate company”. Their doctrine, known as Word of faith, is essentially that God rewards one’s faith almost always in the form of an abundance of wealth. They keep reminding the members the law of reciprocity: “Give generously and you will receive generously from God”. Consecration of wallets is their theology. This “spiritual culture” is not only in step with the corporate greed culture around, but also funneling crores of rupees annually into the coffers of these “spiritual corporate companies”. The number of God’s crorepathis is on the raise.

Some time ago I happened to meet a Christian real estate agent. She said, God is the greatest realtor, because he owns the entire universe. But what she forgot to mention was, the unique son of this “greatest realtor” once said: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Lk. 9.58).

Greed plays an important role in the fall of Adam and Eve. It is at the root of sin.

The desire in Eve for the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil did not arise till the intervention of the serpent. It arose only when the serpent “described them as desirable in order to be like God.” This awakening of her desire for the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is made clear in the text: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise” (Gen. 3.6). This was not “a momentary desire, but fundamental yearning.” Underlying the desire to possess what God possessed was the greed of Eve and Adam: to be wise like God.

Therefore, greed is at the root of sin. Greed is the essence of fallen human nature.

What are the consequences of greed?

  1. It promotes an egocentric outlook on life. What follows, then, is the neglect of higher ideals in the “icy water of egoistical calculation”, as the Communist Manifesto puts it. This is clearly evident from the fact that America has the world’s highest rate of divorce and, according to family counsellors, “arguments about money are precipitating factors in 90 per cent of divorce cases.” I was told by an Indian Christian leader who works among college and university students that the number of potential divorces among families where both spouses work in IT sector is raising alarmingly.
  2. “Chronic self-absorption”. The unremitting craving for things leaves people with little time and patience to think about others. Hence people become unmindful of the maladies of their society. For instance, how many of them know that 83.6 crore Indians survive on less than Rs. 20 a day or Rs. 600 a month. Over 20 crore Indians sleep hungry on any given night. About 7000 Indians die every day of hunger.

Mother Theresa once said: “One of the greatest deceases is to be nobody to anybody.” It is poverty to live for oneself ignoring your neighbor’s suffering, hunger and death. These neo-poor look with their eyes the suffering and hungry, but do not see. They listen with their ears the cries and agony of the poor and hungry, but do not hear. Because they are absorbed in self-gratification. This is the generation that the consumeristic culture creates.

Proverbs 1.10-19 says: “My child, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us wantonly ambush the innocent; like Sheol let us swallow them alive and whole, like those who go down to the Pit. We shall find all kinds of costly things; we shall fill our houses with booty. Throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse” – my child, do not walk in their way, keep your foot from their paths; for their feet run to evil, and they hurry to shed blood. For in vain the net baited while the bird is looking on; yet they lie in wait-to kill themselves! And set an ambush-for their own lives! Such is the end of all who are greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.”

Character, The Bedrock

March 14, 2010

One of the things that I am not tired of emphasizing is character. This is a rare commodity these days. People no longer talk about it. There is less emphasis on character in families, educational institutions and churches. Those in the ministry are struggling in this area.

However, it is character that communicates eloquently. As someone said, “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.”

Jesus emphasized on the importance of character: “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and they defile a person” Mk. 7.20-23. What you are inside is more important. Because from it flows attitudes and behavior.

1. Behavior flows from character

The way we behave is based on our inner character, the seat of values. We may try to change our behavior without changing our basic character. We may learn to speak nicely. We may learn to preach like a highly spiritual person. You may attend personality development programme to learn personality development methods and techniques to shape your behavior and attitudes. This might work for a short time. But it is not long lasting. It is like constructing a beautiful mansion without foundation. People may appreciate it for a short time. However, it does not withstand the trying situations or circumstances. It is like the house built on sand in Jesus’ teaching on two houses built on two different foundations (Mt. 7.24-27). You know what happened to the one built on sand. “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell.” Jesus says, “Great was its fall.” If there is no fundamental character strength, life challenges will cause true motives and behavior to surface. That will be a humiliating experience. Because our true colors have been exposed to public.

2. Perceptions flow from character.

Seeing flows from being. The way we view the world, things and other people is based on what we are inside. Our worldview and value system are based on our character.

How do we treat other people? Do we value a person based on what he/she possesses or on the baggage he/she carries? The baggage may carry education, social status, economic status, family background….

Read James 2.1-9 – Favoritism. Vv. 1-5: “My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here please,” while to the poor you say, “Stand there,” or “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?”     

Without transformation of our heart, we do not treat other people as possessing inherent human value and worth, or being created in the image of God.

That is why Jesus emphasized on being born again or born anew. As we surrender ourselves to God, God transforms our heart, our character and our being. Our minds will be renewed. This brings a change in our actions (Rom. 12.1-2, 9-21).