Saturday, August 16, 2008

The P.M.'s Independence Day Speech - Misinforming the people?

The Prime Minister of India made the Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort on 15th August 2008. Apart from the usual hyperbole, a good part of the speech was devoted to extolling the virtues and achievements of his Government and at the same time adroitly making it known that everything that had gone wrong or was going wrong during its tenure so far could be attributed to others, including external factors.

Many of those who heard his speech must have gone away satisfied and suitably impressed that the country was indeed blessed to have a wonderful Government that was doing so much for the Aam Admi.

It is unfortunate that the occasion of an Independence Day speech of the Prime Minister was utilized to provide misinformation on some major issues to the people.

Reference is made to two of the points from his address.

Nuclear Deal

The Prime Minister stated:
“All over the world, there is growing realization of the importance of atomic energy to meet the challenge of energy security and climate change. It is a clean, environmental friendly and renewable source of energy.”

In the first place, there are differences of views on whether nuclear energy can be truly regarded as ‘clean and environment friendly’. For example, as one such differing view highlights:

“Whatever benefits nuclear technology may provide through decreased air pollutants are more than made up for by large and unresolved environmental problems. As of 2000, Canada has 35,000 tonnes of highly radioactive nuclear waste, with nowhere to put it.” (See here) Also read here and here,

But more significant is the Prime Minister’ assertion that nuclear energy is “…renewable source of energy.” This is not entirely accurate as nuclear energy is not regarded as a renewable resource, despite the efficiencies of breeder reactors.

The Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy defines renewable energy resources as under:

“Renewable energy resources are naturally replenished in a relatively short period of time. They include biomass, hydropower, geothermal energy, wind energy, and solar energy.” (See here)

The primary material for nuclear energy Uranium, like fossil fuels is a finite resource and is not replenished or re-grown. Nor is it regenerated as much as is consumed.

In describing nuclear energy as a renewable resource in order to justify the Nuclear Deal, the Prime Minister has presented a view that is not universally accepted despite assertions by scientists like Prof. Bernard Cohen. It is interesting to know that it was none other than President George W. Bush of the USA who, while promoting nuclear energy within his own country, began describing nuclear energy in almost similar terms that the Prime Minister has used.

Bush had said: “Nuclear power is safe and nuclear power is clean and nuclear power is renewable,” and again “Nuclear power is renewable, and there are no greenhouse gases associated with nuclear power”. See here and here. Also read this.
Considering the background of events and the heavy influence of USA leading to the Nuclear Deal, it is not surprising that the Prime Minister echoed the exact thoughts of President Bush in his speech.

But in fact, soon after President Bush began describing nuclear energy as a clean and renewable resource, nearly 50 environmental, business, anti-nuclear, sustainable energy, and energy policy organizations openly disputed his statement in a letter to him. see here and also read here.

Furthermore, said the Prime Minister: “the nuclear agreement…….will open up new opportunities for trade in dual-use high technologies and nuclear materials and equipment, opening up new pathways to accelerate industrialization of our country. It will enable us to provide electricity to meet the needs of our farmers, our artisans, our traders and our industry.”
For the benefit of the people, the Government needs to inform in details what the “new opportunities in trading” and “new pathways to accelerate industrialization” are and their precise concrete benefits and the costs. As to the claim that the agreement will provide electricity to meet the needs of our farmers etc. it is misleading and a half-truth intended to convey as if all or a substantial part of the country’s electricity needs would be met as a result of the nuclear agreement.

The nuclear deal is now on way to being finalized. The Government must have felt itself justified in pushing it through. The desperation might have come also because of critical shortage of Uranium and non-availability of equipment likely to cause an imminent disruption even in the existing program. If that were to happen, it would cause great embarrassment. Whatever were the urgent or larger reasons, the deal is practically fait accompli and there is little to be gained from continuing to argue about the same. But the Prime Minister seems to have unnecessarily tried to provide information that is debatable, in order to justify the deal.


On inflation, the Prime Minister was happy to dutifully repeat the information provided by the Sage of Sivaganga Chidambaram who revels in misleading the people at every opportunity to hide his own failures. The Prime Minister declared:
“The inflation we have seen this year is basically due to external factors. All over the world and in global markets the price of food, fuel and other commodities has been rising. In many developing countries the rate of inflation is double that in India. Our Government has worked hard to ensure that in India the rate of inflation is not as high as in many other countries. We have also taken special measures to insulate the poorer sections of our society from the full impact of rising food and fuel prices.”

These misleading arguments and alibis about external factors being largely responsible for the inflation and about India’s inflation being half of many developing countries have already been dealt with in an earlier article here. (see section: “Excuses, Blame Games and Buck passing”).

While the impact of rising oil prices over which the Government indeed does not have control, is understandable, the rising food prices abroad can hardly be used to justify inflation in the country when in the same breadth the Government claims to have record production of food grains. If imports had to take place, they were the result of the mess in agriculture sector due to lack of attention and faulty policies. It should also not be forgotten that it is this neglect and faulty policies that have cost over Rs. 71,000 crores in loan write-offs out of public funds. The WPI comprises of 435 items. For how many of these items does the Government hold the world responsible? How can the people be misled in such a brazen manner?

The Prime Minister also sadly parroted the Finance Minister’s deliberately misleading alibi that the inflation was lower than many countries. In this context, it was mentioned in the earlier article, "...inflation happens in all countries and some have low inflation while some others have higher inflation. Such comparisons cannot be used at will as justification for high inflation in our own economy. The inflation in each country is determined by a host of factors to which it is subject and if it is higher in some countries than in India, it gives no solace to the people. Such misleading and fallacious reasoning does not wash." Does the Government's alibi also mean that the country should rejoice and be grateful to the Government that it worked hard to ensure that the inflation is not high as in Zimbabwe? And precisely how has the Government 'worked hard', pray? It is not out of place to mention that while the Finance Minister and other so-called economists were shedding tears over the external factors and sitting helplessly, it took a maverick like Amar Singh to suggest making using of the dollar reserves to appreciate the rupee and bring down the rupee cost of imports. Even if an appreciation of the rupee has implications for exports and other considerations, at least in the short run it might bring some relief and that is what the RBI is understood to be trying to do now.

As for the Prime Minister’s proud assertion that "We have also taken special measures to insulate the poorer sections of our society from the full impact of rising food and fuel prices.”, should the country feel obliged for these small mercies on the “poorer sections”? And how should the "not-poorer" - the poor and not so poor sections be bailed out? Does the Government not owe any responsibility to all the people in the country?

It seems that the Government is intent upon persisting with its policy of misinforming and misleading the public, hoping that the gullible people will gulp down whatever it chooses to thrust down their gullets.


At August 17, 2008, Anonymous Ranjit Singh, Delhi said...

These are just minor points about which they can't be bothered.

If they do not feel any shame even after winning the trust vote by bribing the MPs, they are least concerned. Such misrepresentations cannot any more harm them. They have alredy lost the trust of the ppl.

At August 18, 2008, Blogger Suresh Chandra Gupta said...

There is a saying in Hindi -'doosron ko nasihat, khud miyan fajiihat'.

At September 17, 2008, Blogger chaaichaai said...

There is a wide gap between the rich and the common man and rural poor. PM did not bother to mention about it. None of the political leaders mention about it or suggest a way to fix it.

Currently the middle class is getting bit more buying power than a few years ago. But once a deep recession comes, the current middle class will have tougher time to cope with the recession then than with the current status as the cost of living would get higher and higher.

So the question is: Growth for whom and for what? Poorer are slipping down the ladder while rich and influential are galloping up.


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