Dr K S Parthasarathy responds to Dr Arun Mitra of Indian Doctors for Peace and Development

Rediffmail .com (December 1, 2014) published an article titled “Foreign NGOs fuel India’s anti uranium lobby” by Dr K S Parthasarathy

This article can be accessed at:

http://www.rediff.com/news/column/how-foreign-ngos-fuel-indias-anti-uranium-lobby/20141201.htm
Dr Arun Mitra General Secretary of Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IPDP) published a response titled “DOCTORS DUTY BOUND TO PROMOTE HEALTH OF PEOPLE LIVING AROUND JADUGODA URANIUM MINES AND TO MAKE THE PUBLIC AWARE OF THE HAZARDS OF URANIUM MINING” in the website of IDPD.

Dr K S Parthasarathy publishes below a point to point response to the comments made by Dr Arun Mitra. I am grateful to him for responding to my article, though belatedly. It gave me a chance to respond.  I had to shorten many points in my original article. I elaborate them here.

Admittedly Dr Arun Mitra and I may not have many meeting points; however the discourse should continue.

Dr Arun Mitra, IDPD:

I was amused as well as saddened to read the article by Dr K S Parthasarathy, former secretary of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board which I came across recently in the http://www.rediff.com as a commentary on our study on Health Status of People Living Around Jadugoda Uranium Mines. Since many misgivings have been reported by the author in his article, it is my duty as the General Secretary of the Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD) to clarify the stand of our organization. I was amused because the study was conducted nearly eight years back, but how come there is renewed interest in this now?

My response:

I earnestly believe that Dr Mitra did not read my article

I am equally amused and saddened to note that the IDPD or its office bearers did not notice the fact that I raised concerns on their “study” in leading news papers in 2008 itself. I took it up promptly with the Ploughshares fund and the Royal Institute of Medicine. I believe that these agencies queried IDPD on my criticism. An office bearer of the Ploughshares Fund, after protracted correspondence, clarified that the “IDPD presentation was clearly described as a health survey and not a detailed, scientifically robust epidemiological study”.  During every presentation, IDPD representative thanked Shri Prakash a videographer for making a short documentary which enhanced the effectiveness of the message IDPD wanted to convey. The documentary covered the alleged health effects of radiation in Jaduguda. The authors knew that their study is not scientifically robust and no peer reviewed standard medical journal will publish it; but the documentary played an important role “ to support public education campaign, policymaker education and media work around the proposed expansion of uranium mining in India for purposes of nuclear energy and weapons expansion and the related public health impacts.’, the officially stated objective of their project funded by the foreign agency.

Recently, I found that  Shri Prakash, the same videographer  is appointed as the South Asia Director of the International Uranium Film Festival (IUFF), another,  dedicated, foreign agency- funded – anti uranium mining activity  in India, IUFF was held at  several Indian locations in  2013 and 2014. IUFF is expected to carry on the activity in 2015!

The annual report (2014) of IUFF makes a few points clear:

 “..the IUFF is…. for all those passionate film-makers who are or have been making documentaries on the nuclear industry or radio-active issues….

.”…..In fact, it is an open declaration that this festival extends whole- hearted support to the existing and budding filmmakers working on nuclear issues..”  

The relevance of IDPD “study” and reason for discussing it in my article is obvious. The foreign NGOs through the example of the IDPD “study”  identified that the project gave value for the money; never mind whether the study was scientifically valid or not! They may also be able to recruit new crop of activist-photographers more effective in influencing public opinion than doctors!

The response of IDPD to my article in rediffmail.com was delayed by one and half months probably because they had to get inputs from the foreign agency. Dr Mitra’s response had some common points with the message I received from Mr John Loretz an employee  of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), the foreign agency which inspires IDPD in its anti nuclear and anti-uranium activities.

Dr Mitra:

Is it that the new BJP government at the centre is even more vociferous than the previous one about the atomic energy and is singing loud on the  tunes of  the  international  atomic energy lobby ; many people in our country are out to please their new masters!

My response;

Policy on any area which is strategically crucial and economically significant must be based on national interest .This has been the policy followed by successive governments. I do not feel flattered if Mr Mitra includes me as one of the people out to please their new masters!

Dr Mitra:

IDPD is an organization of the medical professionals concerned about the health status of the people in our country. Ironically our country is one among those with poorest health indicators in the world. Our spending on health is as low as Sierra Leone and Haiti. Unfortunately the government has further cut the health budget by 20% recently. It is our duty to study different aspects of health status and create awareness about the health scenario in the country and based on these to demand changes in the government policies so as to meet the goal of health to all.

My response:

While I greatly appreciate the declared mission of IDPD in so far as the need for improving human health in general is concerned, its effort to highlight potential health impacts of uranium mining in India is grossly misplaced. I have access to the data on the environmental releases of radioactivity in Jaduguda including scientific papers in peer reviewed scientific journals and technical reports from specialists. These reports are available since 1967 when the facility started operating. These reports show that the radiological impact of the mine and mill to the environment is insignificant. These specialists and the regulatory bodies have been carrying out their assigned responsibilities competently. It is amusing to note that an agency which has no domain knowledge in the area except inspiration from foreign NGOs are demanding changes in government policies in the area

Dr Mitra:

Therefore we have performed our medical duty by carrying out this epidemiological study.

My response:

IDPD “study” was a so called health survey carried out by IDPD at the behest of a foreign agency to scare the public and the innocent villagers in Jaduguda and appears unfortunatelyto be a part of the well orchestrated anti uranium mining activity funded by the agency.

Dr Mitra:

There is a strong voice being raised throughout the world against the nuclear weapons and the raw material used in their production. Uranium is the most important component in this process. Uranium mines throughout the world have created serious health hazards to the people living in their vicinity. Ours is an independent study but the findings are similar to other studies conducted earlier. As medical professionals we demand changes in the government policy towards the people living around uranium mines who should be given special attention at every step.

Apathetic attitude of the managements and the officials towards the workers in different industries particularly the hazardous industries in our country is not hidden from any one. Similar is true for Jaduguda Uranium mines. This is evident from the tailings (waste material from mining) lying here and there. Moreover I have not come across any regular annual epidemiological study of the health of people living in that area, which the government is duty bound to conduct medically, ethically and morally.

When the governments and the managements show little concern, it is the duty of the medical fraternity to stand with the oppressed people and to raise voice for their betterment. Such voice for a public cause need not be limited to medical journals. Our study is based on statistically significant P value and is not a cherry picking as blamed by Dr Parthasarty. We have repeatedly asked the government to carry out epidemiological study around Jadugoda Uranium mines by some independent credible organization without any duress. I request Dr Parthasarthy to join us in this demand.

My response:

There is no credible study published from any country which shows the types of health effects claimed by the NGOs in Jaduguda;

My apologies to Dr Mitra for including a long explanation detailing all the background information. This is to convey my conviction to him that there is no further need for carrying out a health study and I am unable to join him in that demand.

Any one closely reading the IDPD study will understand why I called it a cherry picking exercise. For the study, the researchers developed a structured questionnaire which was “introduced on the heads of the families of each household by a team of investigators, each comprising of a male and a female. The investigators, 34 in number, were men and women from the vicinity of Jadugoda and were imparted classroom and field training by a team of doctors from IDPD. Two supervisors from IDPD monitored the investigator teams throughout the period of data collection. The supervisors and the investigators used to facilitate freewheeling Focused Group Discussion (FGD) with villagers in each village at the end of data collection. Responses to some of the variables in few of the interview schedules were not found to be satisfactory and such responses were not considered for data analysis”. If this is not cherry picking what else is?

The most charitable explanation is that the researchers decided to educate the public about the harms of uranium mining. Plough shares fund recorded the objective of the study thus:  to support public education campaign, policymaker education and media work around the proposed expansion of uranium mining in India for purposes of nuclear energy and weapons expansion and the related public health impacts.” The process of ‘education’ of the villagers appears to have preceded data collection;  whenever the collected responses were not favourable as found out during the Focused Group Discussion  the researchers  brazenly admit such responses were not considered for data analysis” I  leave to the readers to decide whether the study results were cherry picked or not?

When allegations on health effects in villages were made by NGOs, the Central Government carried out a number of studies. In fact, teams of medical doctors, some of them from outside the Department of Atomic Energy   examined every individual from the nearby villages. I have explained these studies and their conclusions partly in my article in rediffmail.com and in another article published as a feature, by the Press Trust of India and reprinted by Political and Business Daily  (Dec 21, 2014)

This can be accessed at: http://pbdodisha.in/epapers/2014-12-21/Page05.pdf 

(I regret to note today -Novemebr 18, 2015- this url is not accessible. My apologies for the inconvenience caused.)

I request you to see the text of this article at:

https://ksparthasarathy.wordpress.com/2015/11/18/health-effects-in-villagers-in-jaduguda-not-radiation-related/

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) taking suo motu cognizance of a report published in The Times of India dated May 25, 2001, directed  the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India to undertake a fact finding survey. After reviewing various documents, the fact finding team consisting of experts in the field set up by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, expressed the view that there is no need for any survey by another fact -finding team since most of the facts are already available in the report of the Department of Atomic Energy. On October 12. 2001, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare conveyed this view to the National Human Rights Commission.

A report on Jaduguda appeared in OUTLOOK magazine dated January 15, 1999. Based on this report, Dr.B L Wadehra filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India. He claimed that those living in the villages around the Jaduguda uranium mine are suffering from “cancer, tuberculosis, impotency, physical deformities and constant fevers and body pains rendering the whole area unfit for human habitation”. Among the grounds the petitioner also claimed that “90% of the population living in then danger zone around the said mines etc suffer from arthritis”

The petitioner also filed a rejoinder annexing a report from the Green Peace, a well known anti nuclear agency. He prayed that the Hon’ble Court may be pleased to direct the respondents to have the effects of the effluent arising out of the operation of Jaduguda mine studied scientifically by the teams of international experts and submit their report once a year.

The petitioner prayed that the Hon’ble Court  may issue necessary direction to set up at Jaduguda a hospital of appropriate standard to investigate and treat free of cost any employees or members of the public residing in the area of 25 km radius around the Jaduguda mine.

His further prayer included direction from the Hon’ble Court to the respondents to pay suitable monetary compensation to the heirs of the employees and the general public around the Jaduguda mine who may have lost their lives because of the radiation related diseases.

After reviewing the submissions from the petitioner and the affidavit filed by the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, which stated that adequate steps have been taken to check and control the radiation arising  out of the uranium waste, the Hon’ble Supreme Court dismissed the petition on April 15, 2004 as the court did not find any merit in the petition.

More recently, on September 25, 2010, The TEHELKA/CURRENT AFFAIRS carried a news story titled “Jaduguda High Grade Energy, Low Grade Safety”. The article alleged that the native population living in the neighbourhood of Jaduguda has been suffering from several diseases due to radiation from uranium mining. Acting suo motu, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) sought a report from the Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy. The Department of Atomic Energy submitted a detailed report dated 8.11.2010. The report was not, however, found satisfactory by the NHRC as some of the facts referred to in the report were based on studies conducted in 2003-2004. The NHRC therefore, requested the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to conduct a scientific investigation and report whether the radiation level in that area is causing problems to the residents or to the employees working in the mining area of Jaduguda.

Since the allegations made in the ‘TEHELKA/CURRENT AFFIIRS’ were on a survey conducted by the publication, ICMR asked for a copy of the survey conducted by Tehlka. Thereafter, NHRC have repeatedly asked the Director, TEHELKA/CURRENT AFFAIRS to send a copy of the survey report, but, the Director, Tehelka has not responded. Since the petitioner has not sent the survey report which is required by ICMR for conducting the investigation in spite of repeated reminders, the NHRC concluded that it will not be possible to conduct a meaningful inquiry. The NHRC therefore closed the case on November 28, 2011.

I am happy that Dr Mitra as a member of the medical community considers it  his duty to raise his voice compassionately for what he considers as “the oppressed people”. What worries me is his comment that  “Such voice for a public cause need not be limited to medical journals”.

My submission is that the IDPD “study” should have been submitted to a reputed peer reviewed medical journal first before being presented to the media. Also Dr Mitra as a physician, should have attempted to review  the available  reports including the records of medical examinations of villagers carried out by other members of the medical community before rushing to the media. Officials at the Ploushares Fund and the Royal Institute of Medicine appreciated my objections on this count and made inquiries with the project proponent.  Presently, the IDPD “study” can be considered only as a fear mongering  exercise carried out at the behest of a foreign agency 

In summary, the claim of radiation-related adverse health effects in villages near Jaduguda due to uranium mining and milling has no scientific basis. This is a settled issue. To be fair to Dr Arun Mitra and IDPD, let me state that they may not be aware of the sequence of these developments. I earnestly believe that if they review these, they also may not ask for further studies, even when the foreign agency demand more studies.

Dr Mitra:

I am sure Dr Parthasarthy is a strong protagonist of the globalization and supports the foreign direct investments in our country even in the defense sector. Why then is he so much upset on foreign funding to carry out scientific health study? He must speak up against millions of dollars being flooded for several unscrupulous activities in our country.

My response:

I fail to understand when and where I supported globalization and FDI even in the defence sector as suggested by Dr Mitra. I searched the relevant literature and discovered that Dr Mitra mistook me for Shri G Parthasarathy. According to some news paper reports, Shri G Parthasarathy seems to support FDI in defence sector (Bloomberg News May 17, 2014). It seems to be like confusing Amit Mitra for Arun Mitra

Dr Mitra:

It will be naive to think that Dr Parthasarthy is not well versed with the fact that the developed countries which have used the nuclear energy for electricity generation earlier are now phasing it out and shifting to renewable energy resources. They are dumping this failed technology in our country. The worldwide opinion against uranium mining is growing. This worries the uranium lobby and they put forward the opinions in their favour through media using interested journalists and some of the so called scientists. I am saddened that Dr Parthasarthy has not written a word in his article showing empathy towards the poor ailing people in Jadugoda.

My response:

The energy requirements worldwide will grow; mercifully it will not depend on the naivety of Dr K S Parthasarathy or Dr Arun Mitra

The only country which has phased out nuclear power partially at least is Germany. Germany has made notable progress in harnessing renewable energy.  But that nation is able to manage partly because of its dependence on coal power regrettably by burning brown coal. Also Germany depends on France and Czech Republic for base load power, the latter is reported to operate one nuclear power plant exclusively to export power to Germany!

Japan shut down all its reactors; but it seems to be a temporary measure.

USA is presently constructing four nuclear power reactors. But availability of cheap natural gas is coming in the way of nuclear and other modes of power generation. USA is making substantial contribution to develop small modular reactors.

France recently took a political decision to reduce the share of nuclear electricity to 50%.Recently, France decided to replace its ageing fleet with new reactors (Reuters, Jan 13, 2015).

Russia and China continue its nuclear programme vigorously. Both, like India are developing fast breeder reactors as well. UAE continues its nuclear power programme. It may become a game changer as South Korea which constructs the reactors has the technology and UAE has the needed funds. S Korea has beaten France by winning the contract in UAE. While it is true that some developed countries do not look benignly at nuclear power, developing countries are going forward steadily

The World Nuclear Association published the following data:

  • Numerous power reactors in USA, Belgium, Sweden and Germany, for example, have had their generating capacity increased. 
  • InSwitzerland, the capacity of its five reactors has been increased by 13.4%.

In the USA, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved more than 140 uprates          totalling over 6500 MWe since 1977, a few of them “extended uprates” of up to 20%.

  • Spainhas had a program to add 810 MWe (11%) to its nuclear capacity through upgrading its nine reactors by up to 13%.  Some 519 MWe of the increase is already in place
  • Finland boosted the capacity of the original Olkiluoto plant by 29% to 1700 MWe. The Loviisa plant, with two VVER-440 (PWR) reactors, has been uprated by 90 MWe (10%).
  • Sweden‘s utilities have uprated all three plants. The Ringhals plant was uprated by about 400 MWe over 2006-11, and plans will take it to 660 MWe uprate over 25 years. Oskarshamn-3 was uprated by 21% to 1450 MWe and a 27% uprate of unit 2 is in progress. Forsmark 2 had a 120 MWe uprate (12%) to 2010.

The status of nuclear power is so complex that both pronuclear and anti nuclear groups can draw their own conclusions using the right data.

I believe that India must make all out effort to promote renewable energy. Government of India’s policy is in the right direction. I personally believe that electric power must not be used to warm water. Solar is handy most of the time.

It is very naive to argue that our country will be a dumping ground for failed technology. Indian scientists and engineers are competent to identify appropriate technology .We shall be accepting only Generation III plus reactors. Many Generation III reactors have been operating safely. India’s nuclear scientists and technologists may demand a few additional passive safety features as they did it for Kudankulam nuclear power plants.

 The following production figures for uranium (in tons) worldwide does not show that opinion against uranium mining is growing

2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012  2013 
9444 41282 43764 50772 53671 53493 58394 59,370

Dr Arun Mitra is unhappy that I am not showing empathy towards the poor ailing people in Jaduguda. I trust conclusions of medical specialists that the health effects seen in Jaduguda is not caused by radiation .The problems they have in Jaduguda can be seen in any village in India with similar socio-economic condition.

I am saddened to see that without any sound scientific evidence Dr Arun Mitra, himself a physician, believes that the villagers in Jaduguda are suffering from the impact of uranium mining

Advertisements

About ksparthasarathy

I am a former Secretary of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. I am a former Raja Ramanna Fellow in the Department of Atomic Energy. Free lance journalism is my hobby
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Dr K S Parthasarathy responds to Dr Arun Mitra of Indian Doctors for Peace and Development

  1. Sunil Kumar Sahoo says:

    I fully agree with Dr. K. S. Parthasarathy regarding the significant role of nuclear energy in Indian scenario. After the 50 years of nuclear power programme in India, there is no discernible impact of radiation on the environment and population residing around the nuclear facilities.

    Like

  2. Nuclear power enthusiasts must attempt to convey the message more extensively. A very proactive communication programme is the need of the hour. They must convey the facts about the Indian nuclear power programme to every one including decision makers and lay public.There is a large constituency of professionals who sit on the fence primarily because they do not get the correct information. Anti nuclear rhetoric dominates the discourse.This can change only if every one with domain knowledge must make it a mission to be a part of the strategy.Also there is a need to evolve bipartisan politics on this vital national activity

    Like

  3. Dear Dr KS Parthasarathy. Superb blog!! I’m a huge admirer of your engagement with anti nuclear critics. I’ve been a proponent of the Indian nuclear program since Kudankulam and at that time had given a strong verbal sendoff to a French anti nuclear activist and evolved the slogan: “Japan main hua pralaya par India ne srishti ki, Nuclear oorja, India ka oorja” . I use solar water heaters at home and would love to be involved in the research/marketing of renewable energy products and with my contacts in the film industry in s proactive communication program.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s