Term ‘highly inappropriate' his remarks against those opposed to GM crops, nuclear plants

Taking strong exception to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's remarks against NGOs who opposed genetically modified crops and nuclear power plants, a group of eminent citizens said that it was a “highly inappropriate misrepresentation of facts.”

In a strongly-worded letter to him, the group led by the former Supreme Court Judge, V.R. Krishna Iyer, and including the former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, A. Gopalakrishnan, said it was the government and not NGOs which were working against the interests of the country.

“In reality, what we are all working against is indeed a foreign hand operating at the behest of and from within your government, supported by Indian and foreign commercial entities, to corporatise Indian agriculture and farming practices and the energy sector, without in-depth and impartial analyses.”

“The prominently visible foreign hand of the U.S. in these two greatly important issues with ramifications for our country far into the future [and with regards to GM crops, irreversibly so], is squarely created and abetted by the UPA [United Progressive Alliance] government.”

Criticising the Prime Minister for his view expressed in an interview in international journal Science, that the thinking segment of the Indian society was for GM crops and nuclear power plants, the group said, it “betrayed an inappropriate distinction” between thinkers and non-thinkers solely on the basis of agreement or disagreement with government policy.

Emphasising that informed dissent and a healthy response to it by the government through dialogue was vital for a functioning democracy, the letter also alleged that concerned citizens and groups had sent several communications to the Prime Minister's Office highlighting gaps in safety and liability surrounding GM crops and nuclear power plants over the past two to three years, but the PMO has not even acknowledged their receipts.

The group urged the Prime Minister to initiate a “truly inclusive” process of deliberations with all stakeholders in civil society to help formulate a “rational” public policy with regard to the two technologies.

The letter was signed among others by former Union Power Secretary, E.A.S. Sharma, former Chief Election Commissioner, J.M. Lyngdoh, former Chiefs of Naval Staff, Vishnu Bhagwat, L. Ramdas and R.H. Tahiliani, activists, Medha Patkhar, Aruna Roy and Prashant Bhushan, historian, Romila Thapar and writer, Praful Bidwai.

Copies of the letter have been sent to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.

Addressing a press conference, Prof. Bidwai said anti-nuclear activists across the country would organise conferences, workshops and other such programmes on March 11 to mark the first anniversary of the Fukushima disaster in Japan and follow it up with a “Kudankulam chalo” programme on March 15 to express solidarity with activists and NGOs protesting against the nuclear power plant there.

Emphasising that the agitation at Kudankulam had remained peaceful, he strongly refuted allegations that it was being promoted by foreign powers who were against the plant, which was being constructed in collaboration with Russia. “Anti-nuclear agitations are not confined to Kudankulam. Similar campaigns are on in other places also, where nuclear power plants are proposed to come up in collaboration with France, the U.S. and other countries.”

More In: National | News