Sunday, 26 February 2012

Gujarat Grief, Gujarat Guilt : Ten Years Old on 28/2/2012

The original blog contained poems reproduced from 'After Gujarat and other Poems' by Seeme Qasim - without permission. Seeme's poems authenticated my imaginations of Gujurat violence; they pained  my waking days and scattered nightmares into my dreamless nights.
With apologies to Seeme, I have now deleted her words.

Whatever caused this...

also deliberately caused this...



Lest we forget....

...we are all born 
from ashes 
of the same stars 
that celebrate our nights, 
and are children 
of the same Sun 
that warms our days... 
We are all the same 
and also the One - 
the Universe 
and also its illusion
We are all One.                           ---- Arati Chokshi
** all images are taken from a google search for 'gujarat riots'

Saturday, 25 February 2012

A Citizen’s Response To Dr. Manmohan Singh’s Interview in Science, 24-2-2012

Mr. Prime Minister,

I was shocked to read of your interview in Science Magazine on Feb. 24, 2012.  While drawing attention to India as a democracy, you have failed to respond to the legitimate and widespread democratic concerns of citizens on issues of genetically modified foods, and India’s aggressive nuclear expansionist policies. To sideline serious concerns over the safety and merits of both these programs as merely vested by funds from outside, is incorrect, and does not befit a person in your office. One might cast similar aspersions on the many ‘partnerships’ entered by GoI with foreign nations, which might not be considered by all to benefit our nation.

I ask GoI to respond to safety concerns posed by the independent expert committee report on Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP). Besides these particular safety issues with the KNPP project, there are also high health risks associated with radiation exposures for communities living around any nuclear plant. Two studies carried out in Germany and more recently in France show a spike in incidence of leukemia in children around nuclear power plants – a result that should not be taken lightly.

In any democracy, the voice of opposition or dissent – if heard and responded to seriously, strengthens the democratic process and yields solutions that are more representative of people’s needs and concerns. Yet, you have dismissed all opposition to your individual vision for the nation as effectively ‘non-thinking’.

India is at a serious crossroad – to subserve a State-Corporate nexus by siphoning off all national resources with processes such as SEZs, commodification of water resources, industrial energy subsidies, encouraging GM of our food security and promoting FDIs, or, to reassert the true sovereignity of the citizens of this socialist, secular, democratic republic, so that even the highest appointments of the State must first represent and serve people’s interest.

I ask that you do not resort to potentially slanderous, repressive tactics to gag discussions on nuclear or any other ‘development’ issues using any un-mandated powers of your office, but instead adopt a consultative approach with people of India, to resolve their issues and concerns.  While this process may be slow, we must remember that we are not China, as you pointed out in the interview to Science.


Arati Chokshi

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Fields Will Fly

I have always been drawn to maps. Maps are launching pads for imaginations to distant places, different people, geographies, nature, culture and color. 

A couple of years back I attended a set of three workshops titled "Maps for Change".  This lead to, via a series of learning exercises, a project of layering map of  newly opened Bangalore International Airport over the fields, villages, lakes, communities that once existed there. The result is given below.

(click on image for a full page view)

It was with sorrow and shame that I acknowledged the tragedy of individual and collective loss - as green gave way to gravel, concrete and steel - all in the name of development.

Today, as a part of my study into land acquisitions by state, creations of land banks, and industrial parks, I came across this.  I realised that development was spreading its tentacles all around the region.

(click on the image for a full page view)

Now I no longer had to work illustrating conversions of our green farmlands into a variety industrial estates, each stream lined to do a particular task - the State was already doing it for us; and, it did not balk at the horror of the image it had created. Lands being cleaved into seamless zones of industry after forcefully displacing people, appropriating water, resources, rights - all to develop  and progress.

Now, Fields will Fly...Flights will Land....

Saturday, 4 February 2012

GIM in Bangalore, AGAIN??

In 2010, the Yeddyurappa government organised a large Global Investor's meet, GIM, in Bangalore (June 4,5 2010). The State was following Modi's model of Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit that had attracted a large capital influx of Rs 7.5 lakh crores in a variety of "development" projects to Gujarat. The Bangalore event was organised at a whopping cost of 200 crore with large international lobbying to advice and attract global investments to the state.In a span of 2 days, the State Govt had signed MoUs worth Rs 4.7 lakh crores and promised away 1.5 lakh acres of land to its GIM partners along with generous provisions for water and energy (2500 MW). In return 890,000 new jobs were to be created in the state with "hopes of economic revival not just for the State, but also the nation" .The largest investments with 58 MoUs came from the Steel industries valued at Rs 2.2 lakh crores.

Meanwhile, Karnataka State is once more gearing up to host a second GIM, in July 2012. Before matters get too far, it is time to take a stock of realities and curses of the previous boon, i.e. what and how much else we lose besides land for industrial projects invited to the State by the previous GIM. 

Most industrial developments rely dominantly on power and also on water. This is especially true for the steel based industries that formed a substantial fraction of the MoUs signed. The table below summarises a district wise breakup of contributions and costs of GIM 2010. The data are taken from here.

(Click on the image for clearer viewing)

Looking at the Totals in the last line, one realises that for investing about Rs. 4 lakh crores, and a promised employment of about seven lakhs (lets not even check the quality of this employment for most), we in return promise Eighty thousand acres of land, a whopping 3700 MW of power, and an unforgivable 3 million kilo litres per Day - or 1218 billion litres per year or 43TMC!!! 

Lets now imagine what these numbers mean. First the power; Karnataka state's power production capacity is abut 6500 MW. This falls sufficiently short of our needs to require routine power cuts for domestic consumption, for farming, for significant drop in production of small scale industries due to lack of power. It requires a constant and continuous drive to insanely increase state's power production - via nuking (add additional reactors to Kaiga nuclear power plant), burning (thermal plants like highly questionable UPCL), and damning dams.  All efforts towards renewable and sustainable energy remain meager or just token efforts - like a 350 MW for solar projects in the state's new energy policy. 

Lets take a look at water. The requirement of the GIM 2010 industries is the same as the total capacity of the gigantic Almatti reservoir in the upper Krishna basin - every year! Are we willing to empty out, each year, an entire reservoir of water to provide for a few hundred industries without asking, what of the land? what of the people? Lets look at Bagalkot itself. The industries coming to the district will require about an eighth of the water of This reservoir - really.

All this resource squeeze has been calculated just for GIM 2010 industries. In its bid to continually and mindlessly attract foreign investors, GoK is equally focusing on agribusiness , textiles, tourism, even while it continues to plan a next spree of vast resource transfer with GIM 2012. 

I can think of only one way to respond  - PROTEST!