Nuclear liabilities

A devastating earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale, followed by 30-foot-high waves of a tsunami, and then a series of nuclear accidents due to the overheating of reactors. Human casualties are still not fully accounted for, damage from exposure to radiation is not yet known, and now, climatic conditions are creating further complications. Japan is truly living its worst nightmare.

Though the resilient Japanese are doing everything possible to contain the situation, this catastrophe has brought the entire global community to its knees.
The situation is changing on an hourly basis and though there are hundreds of experts who are giving us different assessments, they all lack credibility because, I suspect, it’s all conjecture.
No one can raise doubts about the quality of technology used by Japan as it was of the highest standard. Yet, the failure of the nuclear power plants’ cooling systems is a very serious issue and the entire technology associated with this process needs scrutiny. The future of nuclear energy plants and new technology must be subjected to a safety audit once we are able to understand the extent and impact of radiation.
The debate about the safety of nuclear plants has already started in India and while there should not be any panic reactions, we have to pay greater attention to the doubts and liabilities associated with nuclear power generation.
We can appeal for calm and restraint but contradictory statements from nuclear experts make this difficult. We need not dwell on doomsday theories but can anyone predict the climatic conditions in the future? The reality is that a powerful earthquake with close to 300 aftershocks has shattered the second largest economy of the world.
The nuclear menace has pushed into the background the harsh living conditions in many parts of Japan. Millions are affected as the power supplies are erratic, temperature is below zero, supermarkets have run out of food and essential items and fuel supply is almost non-existent. The situation is particularly dire in north-eastern Japan. While relief teams are doing what they can, strong winds and rain can spread the fear of radiation in a scenario where there is already a lurking fear of further seismic eruptions.
Nearly 25,000 Indians live in Japan. I hope that a situation doesn’t arise where India will have to evacuate them like we had to do in Libya.

THE DEVASTATION in Japan has relegated the volatile situation in West Asia to the back pages. The politics over crude oil and power equations in West Asia are beginning to prevail over the battle for freedom, human rights and people’s yearning for democracy. We have a civil war kind of situation in Libya where thousands have perished as Col. Muammar Gaddafi and his well-armed force try to recapture cities.
In Bahrain, civil war seems scarily imminent. Since the king Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa imposed a state of emergency a day after calling in foreign troops, many people have died and hundreds were wounded in clashes between anti-regime protesters and Bahrain’s security forces.
I am not surprised that in Yemen anti-government demonstrators clashed with supporters of Yemen’s long-time ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh and his riot police. Similar action may take place in other nations of West Asia and north Africa. In countries where dictators have been overthrown the future is still not certain; no one knows who will come to power and whether the people will get the freedom they agitated for.
As the United States, along with the United Nations, deliberates on events and everyone says all the right and righteous things, support for existing power regimes in West Asia will continue. Remember, the security of Israel and “oil supplies” are crucial issues. But by doing this, global superpowers will only push moderate dissenters to take hardline positions in the future.
Leaders of the West must bear in mind that the battle for greater freedom is far from over.
The demographic makeup of the dissenters also determines their attitude and the youthful pattern indicates that we can expect a protracted struggle.
Nonetheless, it was naïve of many to think that the transition to a democratic structure would be peaceful. While many in the global society will persuade the rulers and dictators to initiate political and economic reforms and give greater democratic rights to their citizens, this may not work in the long term as many innocent people have perished in the struggle and beyond a point the politics of divide and rule based on religious majority and minority factions will not work.

AS WE gear up for the quarter-finals of the cricket World Cup, I hope India wins today’s crucial match against West Indies. In the last match we performed poorly against South Africa and lost nine wickets for just 29 runs. But I was not surprised as India had shown signs of weakness in the match against England. Also, the wins over both Ireland and the Netherlands came after a struggle.
Skipper M.S. Dhoni has done us proud on several occasions but it was difficult to understand why he did not farm the strike in the last 18 balls against South Africa as both Ashish Nehra and Munaf Patel were no match for Dale Steyn, who is a good pace bowler.
No team can be said to have a definite edge over others. The dramatic swings in the performances of all teams and the unpredictable results will make the bookies very rich (I wish we could legalise betting).
Experts will know better, but I cannot understand why Virat Kohli is shifted up and down the batting order despite being in excellent form. Similarly, Yusuf Pathan is best at number seven. I wish we could have rested Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar for a match before the quarter-finals. If India is to progress beyond the quarter-finals it needs a team effort to deliver.

Arun Nehru is a former Union minister

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