The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: Before India expands its nuclear programme, problems at current plants must be fixed

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Nuclear woes

India on Wednesday embarked on the biggest expansion of its nuclear power footprint yet. The Union Cabinet cleared 10 new nuclear power plants, each with a capacity of 700 MW (mega watts of electricity). This will more than double India’s current nuclear power capacity of 6,780 MW.

The impulse for the expansion is obvious. In January, the draft national electricity plan of the Central Electricity Authority estimated that India’s peak power demand will increase to 690 GW (giga watts of electricity) by 2035 from the current 153 GW.

Nuclear power is widely regarded as a cleaner source of energy than fossil fuels like coal. Unlike renewable energy sources such as solar power which needs large tracts of land, nuclear plants work on a smaller area to produce larger amounts of power. They have been marketed as the cheapest alternative to coal-based generation plants.

However, the story of nuclear plants in India has been fraught with delays, opacity and large-scale local dissatisfaction. Nothing exemplifies this better than the Kudankulam facility in Tamil Nadu. The project was announced in 2002 and was supposed to produce electricity by 2007. Instead, the reactor began functioning only in 2012, five years behind its original schedule.

Not just this, the Kudankulam plant perhaps remains the most inefficient of India’s nuclear plants. As per official data, in 2014, the plant functioned for only half the potential hours it could have clocked up. Between April 2015 and January 2016, the plant worked at only 20% of its capacity. The performance of some other facilities has been equally poor.

In addition, India’s nuclear plants do not function transparently. Most technical information relating to the plants are beyond public scrutiny owing to security concerns. In 2016, for example, a leak was reported in the Kakrapar plant in Gujarat, but the extent of the leak still remains a mystery.

Finally, as witnessed in Kudankulam in 2011 , communities in many parts of India have rejected proposals to have nuclear plants constructed in their backyard. These protesters have been dealt with force and state action, with some even made to face sedition cases.

Without addressing the concerns about the safety and efficiency of India’s existing nuclear plants, the government’s large-scale nuclear expansion will only invite further distrust.

The Big Scroll

  • Nityanand Jayaraman writes on why India wants to import US reactors that even people in the US are not keen to use. 
  • Kumar Sundaram on the mystery surrounding the Kakrapar nuclear plant leaks in 2016. 

Punditry

  1. Nilanjan Ghosh in the Businessline says the lack of scientific data has hindered the Teesta water sharing accord between India and Bangladesh. 
  2. In the Indian Express, Khalid Anis Ansari explainswhy blanket reservations for Muslims in Telengana without considering the class differences within the community could be disastrous. 
  3. In The Hindu, Meera Srinivasan traces the history and political isolation of plantation Tamils in Sri Lanka – Indian migrants who crossed the water to work on tea plantations during British rule. 

Giggles

Don’t miss

Arunabh Saikia reports on how a rumour about spread of impotency through a vaccine caused panic in Assam.

“‘It turns out that the “news” Nooressa Begum watched was a video clip circulated via WhatsApp. ‘I received this video about an RSS injection on a WhatsApp group,’ said Samsul Haq, a resident of Hatigaon who works as a driver with an online cab service, referring to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Haq claimed that everyone he knew had received the same video. ‘My neighbour’s two girls have stopped going to school because the parents are scared,’ he added.”

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.