Industry enriches bosses but endangers life and the environment
Nuclear deal with US provokes crisis
All essential commodity prices in India have sky-rocketed, while the foreign exchange reserve is at its peak. But that does not alter the hunger and squalor facing millions of Indian poor. There is an unprecedented growth in the macro economy indices, but the social index of people is abysmally low. The majority of Indians do not have access to clean drinking water or decent health services. Complete literacy is still a dream for most of the population.
While this is the situation for the majority, the ruling classes of India are engaged in an exercise to satisfy the energy needs and the hungers for profits of the few wealthy by signing a nuclear energy deal with the US. This is a conspiracy, of sorts, made on the backs of the Indian working class and downtrodden.
The proposed nuclear deal between India and the US has suddenly pushed the Indian government into an unstable situation. There are heated debates on this deal, though they are very superficial and couched in nationalistic terms.
It is a known fact that nuclear power is a most dangerous invention, which is detrimental to the humans and the environment. But, in spite of this brutal awareness, the Indian ruling classes intend to go ahead with the nuclear deal, on the basis that the electricity produced by nuclear sources would be very important for the “growth” of India.
The ruling classes are adamant on this issue despite the fact that nuclear power is neither cost-effective nor ecologically clean. It is increasingly becoming clear that use and consumption of electricity for domestic use by the working people is minimal compared to the energy extravaganza of the industries and the multinational companies. Today, tens of thousands of watts of electricity are consumed for the profits of big shopping malls, multi-story buildings, Information Technology industries and Business Process Outsourcing. The present government, which is in the service of the rich, is pushing nuclear power production.
Science and capitalist society
Today, science has advanced to the extent of extracting clean sustainable energy from natural sources, such as wind, solar and tidal waves. If priority of resources and research was given to these types of viable alternatives, dangerous, environmentally damaging nuclear power would not need to be considered.
Building nuclear reactors, and maintaining and running them, are not only a dangerous proposition but also involve prohibitively huge costs. It is estimated that the primary expenditure to build a nuclear reactor would cost around two billion US dollars. Maintaining a nuclear reactor would be equal to the water needs of an entire city. Also, nuclear waste from the reactors is highly toxic. There is no way to contain poisonous radiation from nuclear reactors.
Many countries in the West use nuclear energy, as a source for electricity. The US, France, Sweden, Britain and other countries, have nuclear power reactors. All these countries face one common problem: how to dispose the nuclear waste after energy is produced. Chernobyl and the Three Mile Island disasters ignited huge anti-nuclear movements in the West, resulting in many Western governments pursuing alternative energy sources. For example, since 1973, no new nuclear reactors were commissioned in the US. Most of the energy requirements of the US come from the coal. From the year 2000, 50% of the US’s electricity arrived from coal sources. France, which is an erstwhile proponent of nuclear power, shutdown some of its reactors after accidents at a plant. Many of the advanced capitalist countries saw the disastrous consequences of using nuclear reactors.
In recent years, however, some nuclear powers, like Britain, facing long-term fuel supply difficulties, and not wanting to be too reliant on Russian oil and gas, are discussing, once again, redeveloping nuclear industries. Current non-nuclear powers, like Australia, are also looking to develop the industry, also for fuel and geo-strategic reasons.
Huge profits motivates nuclear decision
But why is India is going for this unsafe nuclear energy now? The country already has gone quite far in the research and development of safe, alternative sources of energy, such as wind and solar, etc. Therefore, it is not mandatory that India should now depend on destructive nuclear power. India has vast mineral and natural resources. It has coal reserves which can last for 200 years. Among the countries which produce maximum electricity out of wind sources, India stands fourth. It has already got a productive capacity of 7,500 megawatt from wind sources, whereas nuclear power produces only 3,120 megawatts. If solar energy is properly utilised it can produce same amount of electricity in 15 minutes that a nuclear reactors produce in one year.
India has the potential to produce 500 trillion kilowatts of electricity through solar power. Even if 1% of the land is utilized for solar energy, 1,000 gig watts of electricity could be produced. But the capitalist ruling classes do not have interest in investing in these projects, as they are not money-spinners.
Big investment is needed in the research and the development of clean and abundant energy sources. Hydro, wind, and solar power should be developed.
Today, there is a growing need for an international co-operation to develop scientific research on safe and renewable energy sources. But as the world is under capitalist mismanagement, a rational, planned co-operation is not possible under this profit-led system. Capitalist governments around the world do not put enough resources in alternative sources of energy. They would rather rely on nuclear energy, with the full knowledge that it is dangerous, as it rakes in huge profits. Hence, the Indian capitalist class is also bent upon the nuclear deal with the US.
The invention of nuclear power is a by-product of the invention and development of nuclear weapons. The nuclear industry was never intended as a civilian industry. It was only in the 1960’s and 1970’s that the military industrial complexes fully exploited the commercial aspect of the nuclear industry. Since then, the powerful nuclear energy lobby came into being, down playing the dangerous outcomes of nuclear energy. It is the short sighted policy of global capitalism that allows the nuclear industry to get huge amounts of money and resources spent on it, to keep the industry afloat.
Both the resident and non-resident Indian capitalist class has at stake in getting this disastrous nuclear deal through. They have spent huge amounts to influence the decisions of the US senators. For US capitalism, the deal opens up more of the huge 1.1 billion population Indian market. According to the American-India Business Council, the proposed nuclear deal provides $ 150 million trade contracts for US companies.
Though superficially this deal between India and America is much touted as a ‘civilian nuclear deal’, there are many inherent military aspects to it. Anyway, whether it is used for civilian or defense use, the nuclear reactor spews out heavy water which is plutonium abundant. ‘Agreement 123’ throws very little light on the reprocessing aspect of heavy water. Given the military dynamics of this nuclear-enabled region, there is a danger of an escalation of a nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan. Tensions were high between the two countries, in 1998, when they tested nuclear bombs.
Geo-political situation since 9/11
Since 9/ 11, the geopolitical situation changed dramatically, including the US’s use of military and economic power. The India-US nuclear deal is part of that process. US imperialism sees the need to counter the growing military and economic clout of China in the region. And Pakistan’s cozying-up with China to develop nuclear weapons is a headache for the imperialists.
The US wants to cement an ‘Asian NATO’ in the region, along with Japan and India. This is a factor in the US allowing India an ‘easy deal’ like the 123 Agreements.
Paradoxically, in the name of the “war against terror”, and regional peace and stability, the situation in the region could deteriorate and become dangerous. Growing co-operation between the US, India and other regional powers could lead leading to rifts in the region. In the longer term, even small clashes along borders in the Asian continent could lead to the danger of nuclear war. The ruthless actions of imperialism could lead to the division of the continent into new spheres of influence and power.
Today, almost the entire spectrum of the political establishment of India, from the right, the center and the left, are vying with each other as to who is more nationalistic and patriotic in regard to the nuclear issue. While the Congress government trumpets its surrender to the interests of the international nuclear lobby as a ‘historic achievement’ in the ‘national interest’, the communalist-based BJP, and the other communal forces, want to take the wind out of Congress’s sails by claiming the deal was their brain child. But the paradox of the situation is that the left, lead by the CPI (M), opposes the deal but from a very nationalistic point of view, arguing the ‘sovereignty’ of India is at stake. The CPI (M) cites the technical clauses of the Hyde Act, which can starve nuclear reactors of uranium, at a future date, if the US wanted. The CPI (M) argues India should have a free hand to carry out more nuclear tests, if it so wishes.
So, fundamentally, none of the political parties, proponents or opponents of nuclear power, take the interests of the working people of India into account.
For a socialist global planning
While socialists stand resolutely against the nuclear armaments of any country, at the same time, we oppose the development and commission of the nuclear reactors for so-called ‘energy needs’.
We urge opponents of the nuclear deal not to stop at the technicalities of the deal but to oppose the deal because of its potential threat to human life and to the environmental. We urge the left to declare its total opposition to both nuclear bombs and nuclear energy. We do not agree that the introduction of nuclear energy is ‘inevitable’, as some of the leaders of the CPI (M) want people to believe. There are other clean, human-friendly, renewable sources of energy, such as solar wind and tidal.
We oppose the so-called ‘energy needs’ of the growing economy of India, and ask in whose benefit the Indian economy is growing. 15 years of the ‘liberalised economy’ has not lifted the majority of the population from hunger, squalor and disease. According to a recent survey of the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS), a government-affiliated body, 836 million Indians live an on half a dollar a day.
Capitalism looks at every aspect of life from the point of profits. Hence, the working masses and their lives are not safe under this bosses’ system. The US/India nuclear deal has pushed the entire world a step further towards disaster, particularly South Asia.
The capitalist industrial lobbies, both Indian and multi-national, have already recklessly exploited the use of fossil fuels and endangered lives and the environment. It proves capitalism, as a system, is unplanned anarchy and disastrous. We need a socialist planned global system, under which the planned use of fuels, energy sources are guaranteed, with overriding protection of the environment. We need to have environmentally-sustainable production of goods and services. Only a genuine socialist planned system can guarantee such an ‘eco-friendly’ society.
This article is a version of an article originally written in Kannada for the newspaper of the CWI in India,
Nirmala Krishna, New Socialist Alternative (CWI India), Bangalore