Thursday, July 24, 2008

Open Mike 22: "the deal" (discussion)

Thursday Open Mike 22 (now on Tuesday)
Topic: Indo-US Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, aka "the deal"
July 22, 2008 [Tuesday]
@ 8PM in Gaurav's House.
1781 Spyglass Drive, #244
Austin TX 78746

Participants: Gaurav, Murali

Here is a broad summary of what we discussed:

* the status of the deal (the UPA govt had won the trust vote, the politicians had largely failed to distinguish themselves in the debate though), the sordid and blatant corruption deals in the attempts to achieve the success or failure of the trust motion etc.

* does India need more nuclear power? the power shortage is real and important. but what about other alternatives - coal, oil, gas, hydel, wind, solar? and then we discussed how the govt could instead incentivize innovation and local production/consumption of cleaner energy like wind and solar through subsidies that would cost far less than nuclear plant construction. and contribute to more sustainable development initiatives like "green" (less-energy intensive) farming, construction, public transport etc.

* safety issues surrounding the operation of nuclear power plants and disposal of radioactive wastes: and we also discussed how these concerns are heightened in a poor country like India where human rights are much less important than developed nations like the US where human rights and safety are given a lot more prominence. If the Bhopal gas victims still have no justice, then why will a possible radiation leak disaster be any different?

* the rise of Mayawati and what that may mean: one interesting consequence of the whole trust vote saga has been the elevation to prominence of Mayawati, a dalit woman. How important this is can be gleaned by Laloo's quote during the debate (paraphrased): "...why are all these people saying Mayawati for PM? Will the upper-caste BJP ever support a dalit woman as PM?". We also talked about how our first reaction to Mayawati is usually that of a megalomaniacal woman and that is typically the only image portrayed by the media, and perhaps the truth is a lot more complex. In any case, having a dalit in the PM can at worst, only continue the status quo, and at best, can achieve a lot for the uplift of oppressed people.

An excellent article on how earth-shaking this rise of Mayawati is by MK Bhadrakumar, a format Indian diplomat:

History never ceases to surprise. What began as the "Great Middle East" strategy in the minds of a neo-conservative Connecticut Yankee from Texas may end up in the democratization of India. Yes, paradoxically, the legacy of the George W Bush era for South Asia may turn out to be that the 60-year old democratization process in India took a quantum leap.

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