It was only yesterday that the Congress led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) – the ruling party in India – was negotiating the Nuclear Deal with the United States, in an attempt to boost the country’s Nuclear Power sector. And now that the deal is set and ready to be signed, the Government is itself struggling to stay in power. Energy and ‘Power’ have indeed been closely associated in the recent past and politics is known to be governed by the energy sector. But when the world’s largest democracy faces a political crisis over an energy policy, we can safely conclude that in the climate constrained world of today, the only way to stay in power is to get the energy policy right!
The issues raised on the Nuclear Deal (also popular as the 1-2-3 Deal) are however not purely environmental. Though the deal is said to strengthen India’s energy independence, sovereignty and autonomy by putting an end to the sanctions that seem to have crippled the country’s nuclear efforts, political parties opposing the deal have raised concerns over compromising India’s independence in managing its nuclear program and taking autonomous decisions required to be taken for safeguarding national security.
The 1 of the 1-2-3 deal states that at a time when India faces crippling energy shortages, and when our nuclear plants are short of uranium, the nuclear deal assures us the supplies we need to power the future. However, there are groups who have pointed out the crippled conditions of people working in the existing plants in the country. As if Chernobyl and the Three Mile Island aren’t examples enough, citizen groups opposing the deal are also reminding the Government about what happened during the Bhopal Gas disaster over 20 years ago. Nuclear waste is the next issue raised.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist), which was until now supporting the coalition Government stay in power has not just withdrawn its support but has also launched a nation-wide agitation against the Government’s decision to sign the deal. With them gone, the Government now faces not just the agitation but also a no-confidence motion in the Parliament anytime now.
The Government is also trying to gather public support for the deal through the media by placing public service messages in the newspapers. One such message remarks, “The Nuclear Deal is in India’s Future” and urges the people to “think of tomorrow and support the agreement today”. What this short sighted ad grossly overlooks is not just the radioactive-full tomorrow but also the option to switch to renewables.
Image Source: The Economic Times, July 4 2008