Science sans Humanity: India’s Pursuit of Nuclear Energy
KUDANKULAM ANTI-NUCLEAR SATYAGRAHA, INDIA, 10 Dec 2012
In this materialistic age of ours the serious scientific workers are the only profoundly religious people. There is nothing divine about morality, it is a purely human affair — Albert Einstein
The United State’s Department of Energy in 1991 commissioned a team of six experts- an architect, anthropologist, material scientist, linguist & archaeologist to design a marker for the nuclear waste repository that was proposed to come up in Yucca Mountain, Nevada desert whose facilities would house waste at 1000 ft deep amounting tens of thousands of metric tons of nuclear waste.
The challenge for the team was that the marker should last for at least 10,000 years & it should convey the following meaning
” No esteemed deed is commemorated here. Nothing of value is buried here. This place is a message & part of a system of messages. Pay attention. We are serious. Sending this message was significant for us. Ours was considered an important culture.”
(strong opposition from the local communities & revelation of inconsistent reports caused US government to roll back its plan in 2009)
Ten thousand years!
Is it such a long time? Yes indeed! About 10,000 years ago we were living as a hunter-gatherer community. Back then, there was no language, no writing, no currency, no bank, no capitalism, hence no exploitation of weaker sections of society. The life was filled with love, compassion, affection and sharing that was harmonious with the other life forms of the world. No one would have dreamed then, that this human race would one day pose a serious threat to the only habitable planet in the solar system. Thanks to industrialization & capitalism of 21st century.
When a country like USA admits publicly the amount of nuclear waste produced in their plants & discuss with independent experts of the country to come up with a solution to protect their people from the radiation for next 10,000 years & bring in a fair amount of transparency in their dealings, our India is busy in labeling the people who are questioning them as fools, illiterate and anti nationals funded by foreign NGOs.
The root of the problem might lie in the projection of modern science as reason of state. Science in India is advertised & sold, in the way consumer products are sold in any market economy, as a cure for all the ills of Indian society. In 60s & 70s it was atom for peace & green revolution, now it is turn for nuclear power plants and FDI. The common people are made to believe that science is the only reliable source for information. People have started thinking that even if the politicians are not to be trusted & their newspaper are inaccurate, the scientists & science, at very least will provide them a correct perspective. But the problem is science can’t do that.
Science is something that is alive & evolving. Scientific theories are inherently falsifiable. That is what makes them scientific & not religious or moral proposition. History has shown us that scientists are no more exempt from the corruption of power than any other human being. Under right political conditions scientists claimed the right to experiments on black men, use poor people for medical trials as guinea pigs & torture Jews. The technologies are projected as an escape route from the dirtiness of the politics. Many sociologists agree that Science as a reason of state is inflicting violence in the name of national security or development.
The nuclear science establishment in India has taken advantage of the anxieties about the national security & developmental aspirations of this nation to gain access to power & resources. The poor records of the NPCIL and UCIL’s on protecting the people’s democratic rights and providing the necessary health care in Ketholai and Jaduguda speaks for itself. Their mainstream scientists have often been the most vigorous critics of civil right groups struggling for protection against the hazards of callous nuclear establishment.
The government’s recent flip flops on filing affidavit about the proposed nuclear waste repository in kolar gold fields & subsequent reactions of the Karnataka people and politicians makes two things clear time and again,
1. Politician’s double standard. The very same parties (DMK, ADMK, BJP) which supports Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu, opposes in Karnataka. Similarly the left party, which opposes plants in Jaitapur and supports the Koodankulam plant.
2. Aam aadmi’s selective resistance to the draconian policies (i.e.) opposing a policy only when it affects them, otherwise not bothering about that. People of Karnataka didn’t care about the fate of the nuclear plant until they came to know that nuclear waste is going to be stored in Kolar fields. Similarly the Kerala people who opposed the proposal for nuclear plant in their place didn’t bother to follow up. Now when they realized that plant in Koodankulam poses threat to them, they are fighting back.
The same can be said about the issues like FDI in retail price. Unless the emphasis is based on the draconian policies rather than its implementation in some particular locality, any protest will eventually help in strengthening the crony capitalism, making a mockery of our democracy, as we have seen in case of anti-nuclear agitation. If we agitate that we don’t want the plant in our locality, the government will simply change the location to a place where people are more ignorant.
In a democratic country like ours (?), people’s duty and responsibility doesn’t stop at electing their representative. Constant vigilance and honest criticism only can keep the spirits of democracy high. Today’s education system is trying to rob this spirit by isolating the individuals from the society, so much that the so called intellectual elites of our country (sometimes true!) “IIT-ians” themselves are unaware that they are being exploited. The tax payer’s money is spent on these elite institutions only on the hope that they will solve the problems that is plaguing this country.
But what is the reality? In my IIT Kanpur campus, mess workers are being randomly fired without any due compensations, 2 construction workers died due to inadequate safety measures in span of month. But the majority of the student community is ignorant about this. Even if they knew , they thing it is not their problem. Their goal being getting good grades and landing in MNCs which offers fat salary. Their idea of contributing nation is paying taxes (source). The students are not the one to be blamed. The society and government failed alike to educate them with social consciousness.
The culture of modern science in India has built an inverse relationship with culture of open politics & has began to produce new forms of secrecy, centralization, disinformation & authoritarian organizational structure. The way our present education system is designed & the way the mainstream media is controlled by corporates and political parties, without bringing this undemocratic coterie down, there is no hope of improvement in narrowing the gap between haves and have nots.
As Mahatma Gandhi said, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, politics without principle are the seven blunders that has the potential to wipe out the human race from the history of this planet. lets not make these mistakes and be responsible for bringing Armageddon to this planet
1. “About a mountain ” by John D’agata.
2. Science as a reason of state by Ashis Nandy.
Pradeep is an M Tech final year student in Aerospace Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He can be contacted at spradeepmahadeek @ gmail.com.
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