Monday, February 21, 2011

7 children go missing every hour

7 children go missing every hour

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times

New Delhi, February 20, 2011: India's children are missing at a much faster rate than ever before with as many as 60,000 young ones below 18 reported missing in 2009 as compared to 44,000 in 2004 — a jump of 35%. What is more disturbing is that only 40% of them are traced, mostly through individual efforts by parents. It means that seven children, mostly from extremely poor families, go missing every hour with a count of 165 a day.

About 10% or 6,000 children, who went missing were infants less than a year old.

"The figure would have been higher had bigger states like Rajasthan, Orissa, Gujarat, Punjab and Tamil Nadu provided information under the Right To Information Act," said Kailash Sathyarathi, chairman of NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan, which filed the RTI applications 10 months ago.

Twenty-four children going missing from Noida's Nithari area in 2006 stirred the government to announce a R200-crore scheme for a database of all missing children in India.

Only two states — Delhi and Haryana —  have uploaded data on all missing children on Zipnet, a centralised database to help track them.

"There is not even 15% interest in implementing this good initiative," said PM Nair, an Indian Police Service officer, who had worked on child issues with the United Nations and National Human Rights Commission on its study in 2004.

The RTI replies filed by the states show the police investigates just 15 % of complaints it receives because of manpower constrains. Implications were apparent in case of three children from Delhi, who were found in a brothel, a roadside eatery and in a begging gang six months after they were reported missing. "In most cases investigation does not proceed more than 15-20 days," Nair said.

Courtesy_


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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Orissa is now Odisha, Oriya is Odia

Orissa is now Odisha, Oriya is Odia

IANS, Nov 9, 2010, 03.08 pm IST

NEW DELHI: The Lok Sabha on Tuesday cleared legislation seeking to rename Orissa as Odisha and the language spoken in the state as Odia from Oriya. 

The bill to alter the name of the eastern state was introduced in this year's budget session and was passed on the first day of the month-long winter session by electronic balloting. 

MPs overwhelmingly supported the constitutional amendment bill to do away with the legacy of British name given to the state. 

The central government had received a proposal from the Orissa government in 2008 after the state assembly moved a bill to change both names in deference to the manner in which the name of the state is pronounced in the local language. 

The state is called Udisa in Hindi and Orissa in English, and the language Udiya in Hindi and Oriya in English as per the constitution. 

This required an amendment to the constitution and had to be approved by two-thirds majority of the house. 

Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who moved the bill, said the house was honouring the wishes of the people of the state by clearing the legislation. 

Many Indian cities and states have been renamed after independence, including Kanpur (formerly Cawnpore), Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Mumbai (Bombay), Chennai (Madras), Kolkata (Calcutta), Pune (Poona), Kochi (Cochin) and North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) to Arunachal Pradesh.

Courtesy_


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Monday, February 7, 2011

A great tragedy at Sabarimala Hills

Death on the hills

R. KRISHNAKUMAR 
in Thiruvananthapuram

The tragedy at Sabarimala was one that had been waiting to happen.

RADHAKRISHNAN KUTTOOR 
THE TREK UP to the Sabarimala shrine along the grassy slopes of Pulmedu. Significant numbers of pilgrims may have chosen this route because of the security and traffic restrictions on the more popular routes.

THE pilgrim congregation around the forest temple at Sabarimala, especially in the climactic Makaravilakku season, offers a unique challenge to the authorities – of a phenomenal number of people flocking to an inadequate stretch of a dense, ever-green Project Tiger reserve forest in the Western Ghats within a brief span of time, staying on there and in the jungle tracks near by for an unmanageable while, and then leaving, often in random, unruly torrents.

According to the Travancore Devaswom Board, an autonomous body that administers the temple, nearly 50 million people visit the shrine during the two-month annual pilgrimage season from mid-November. The Board also often claims that there is a 20 to 30 per cent increase in the numbers every year. The estimate may well be an exaggeration, in tune with the commercial interests that inspire such approximations during temple festivals all over Kerala of late. A more reasonable estimate is nearly 10 million, perhaps, with the crowd certainly growing every year, and the largest numbers flooding the forest areas surrounding the temple on the day of the Makara Sankranti, usually on January 14.

H. BIBHU 
THE SITE OF the stampede that claimed 102 lives on January 14, at Pulmedu near the shrine.

The temple, believed to be of great antiquity, is dedicated to Ayyappa, an indigenous manifestation of Hindu worship in Kerala and venerated by millions as a divinity, a protector from evil and a giver of good fortune. Over the years, especially from the early 1990s, there has been an incredible inflow of pilgrims from the neighbouring States of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka – devotees who undertake two months of fasting, abstinence, and arduous treks along dangerous forest tracts and, eventually, wait in the tiring, serpentine queues before the holy steps for a glimpse of the idol at the shrine, year after year.

The temple itself is open for worship to people of all faiths irrespective of caste, creed or social status and is often cited as a symbol of religious harmony. However, young women are ritually barred from worshipping or entering the temple dedicated to the celibate hero of the legends, Ayyappa. An alluring aspect of the pilgrimage truly is the association of Ayyappa with forest myths, which are retold in the frequent pictorial depictions on the vehicles of pilgrims that show him as a smiling, handsome young man astride a tiger. The rituals associated with the Ayyappa cult are also widely considered as secular and unifying in their origins. Many consider a visit to a mosque at Erumeli and a church at Arthungal to celebrate Ayyappa's legendary association with an Arab pirate, Vavar, and a Christian, Veluthachan, as indispensable elements in a pilgrim's itinerary.

But despite the multitudes that arrive at the foothills every year, at any given time there is a limit to the number of people who can climb up the 18 narrow steps to the premises of the sanctum sanctorum, a ritual necessity for any devotee visiting the shrine. The longer the wait, the larger the crowds downhill, along the many jungle tracks (a number of them unsupervised), at the congested parking lots, and the three main traffic-jammed pilgrim routes from Nilakkal in south Kerala and Erumeli in the north (both leading to the Pampa base camp) and from Kumily and Vandiperiyar in the east to Uppupaara (and from there, to Sabarimala).

The jostling crowds are virtually unmanageable on Makara Sankranti, the day of the Makaravilakku, when immediately after the evening deeparadhana (worship) at Sabarimala, and under a bright star on a darkening eastern sky, a camphor-yellow glow is seen thrice, in between deliberate dark pauses, near the summit of a hill known as Ponnambalamedu, opposite the temple.

AIJAZ RAHI/AP 
M. LAKSHMIDEVI WITH her daughter after identifying the body of her husband who died in the stampede, at a mortuary in Kochi on January 16.

For millions of devotees, especially those arriving from neighbouring States, the glow is a "divine miracle" and witnessing the Makaravilakku is most gratifying for them after prayers before the idol at the temple. For others, the glow has rather down-to-earth origins. With a State Minister, several former Devaswom Board members, police, forest and Electricity Board officials confessing (some rather indirectly), an awareness is growing, especially within Kerala, that the light is man-made and that it is lit by the authorities "in order to continue an ancient tribal custom of offering prayers to Ayyappa from the distant hills of Ponnambalamedu (about 10 km across as the crow flies but over 100 km through an inaccessible, prohibited forest route) after the evening deeparadhana at the temple.

Kantararu Maheswararu, the Tantri, or the temple's chief priest, has since 2008 sought to maintain a distinction between 'Makaravilakku', which he says is "lit at Ponnambalamedu" and 'Makarajyothi', which refers to the "star that appears on the eastern sky on the day of the Makara Sankranti", and which has "more religious significance". Ramavarma Raja, a representative of the Pandalam royal family (which, according to legend, adopted Ayyappa and whose members therefore have ritualistic importance in the affairs of the Sabarimala temple) said in a television interview on January 20 that the name "Makaravilakku' originally only meant the 'Makara Festival' at the temple, with 'vilakku' being a common term for festivals in Kerala, and that it had assumed the meaning of the light (being lit) at Ponnambalamedu perhaps only in the past 50 years.

With no official confirmation or denial from the Devaswom Board or the State government, the secrecy surrounding the event had only added to the mystique associated with the Makaravilakku. For years it has continued to be the biggest draw for pilgrims, with millions congregating at Sabarimala and the hills and valleys surrounding it much before January 14, first to worship at the temple and then to catch a glimpse of the glow at Ponnambalamedu (more than the star in the sky) before the mad rush to the vehicles parked below overwhelms police and all other official arrangements meant to ensure a safe return journey for them.

Twelve years ago, on January 14, as many as 53 people, a majority of them from outside Kerala, died in a stampede at the Pamba base camp, caused, among other things, by the snapping of a rope and the collapse of the sides of a hillock ("A tragedy at Sabarimala", Frontline, February 12, 1999). The heavy rush of pilgrims for the Makaravilakku had forced many to remain at the Pampa base camp, another spot from where one could have a clear view of Ponnambalamedu. Immediately after the event, as the rush began, some pilgrims perched on a mound of coconuts slipped and fell, one on top of the other, a rope broke and the edges of a hillock collapsed. Later, a stay wire of an electric post reportedly snapped and a bus at the hilltop parking lot careened dangerously under the weight of frightened pilgrims on its roof. Panic ensued, and a stampede claimed 53 lives.

The recent tragedy, the biggest ever, to hit the Sabarimala pilgrimage, therefore, evokes a strong sense of déjà vu. As many as 102 Ayyappa devotees, a majority of them from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, died in a stampede at Pulmedu, a stretch of grasslands on the slopes of Uppupaara, and near an elevated roadhead about seven km from the shrine.

The scene of this year's tragedy, and the nearby hills and grassy slopes, though rather inaccessible, is a location from where the Sabarimala temple and the hills of Ponnambalamedu are clearly visible. Satram, a nearby place on pristine forest land, was reportedly among the chosen locations for the ruling family of Travancore to watch the Makaravilakku.

AFP 
DEVOTEES WORSHIPPING AT the shrine shortly before tragedy struck.

This year, pilgrims, mostly those entering the area through the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border near Kumily, had converged on this grassland gallery three days in advance to witness the Makaravilakku. One reason for their choice could be the severe security and traffic restrictions on the major vehicle/trekking routes to Sabarimala, which at times witnessed traffic holdups extending up to 45 km.

A whole new illegal industry of taxis, jeeps and autorickshaws, allegedly in cahoots with forest and/or police personnel allowing them to ply deep into the forest reserve without restrictions, had sprouted in the locality following the inauguration of the minibus services of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation from Kumily border town three years earlier. In this Makaravilakku season alone, according to one estimate, nearly six lakh people had travelled to the Sabarimala shrine through this unlikely and treacherous route. On the day of the tragedy, reports indicate, nearly 2.5 lakh pilgrims were camping at or near Pulmedu for three or four days.

Despite all this, the authorities had clearly neglected the area, which was away from the more popular routes to the temple. Soon after Makaravilakku at 7-07 p.m. that day, as pilgrims began their descent from Uppupaara, over 2,500 vehicles, including jeeps, cars and autorickshaws on hire, were blocking their way. They were parked right on the dark and narrow track, creating, along with a row of makeshift shops that were allowed to come up there, a bottleneck for the mass of humanity that was flowing downhill. According to initial reports, only a handful of policemen were present there when the stampede began. The stampede was triggered reportedly by a quarrel among vehicle drivers or pilgrims, haphazard parking or a mishap involving a wayward vehicle. There were no lights and no telephone or other communication facilities. Help, when it arrived, proved to be too little, too late. It is obvious that many people died because they did not understand what was happening in the dark. Medical help was unavailable and it took several hours for rescue workers to transport the victims to the small ill-equipped hospitals several kilometres away through traffic snarls.

Lessons not learnt

It has always been a tragedy waiting to happen. In each micro location around the temple, millions congregate where only a few thousands can be accommodated, especially during the Makaravilakku season, when the Devaswom Board's coffers are full with offerings from the devout and the government's treasury brims over with tax collections from various sources all along the pilgrim routes.

(The Devaswom Board is a statutory body that runs 1,208 temples in Kerala and employs over 5,000 people. A major part of the revenue from Sabarimala is used by the Board to run the other temples under it. Its aggregate revenue from the Sabarimala temple during the 2011 season was Rs.131.15 crore, until the day of the Makaravilakku. In 2009-2010, it was Rs.128.48 crore. In 2008-09, the Board's total revenue was Rs.113.23 crore during the two-month season. To give another example, the revenue obtained by the KSRTC from its Pampa-Nilakkal-Pampa chain service alone was Rs.4.55 crore during the period from November 13 to January 19, 2009.)

After the 1999 tragedy, the State government appointed a judicial commission to inquire into its causes and suggest remedial measures. The report and the complete recommendations of the commission are yet to be made public. Several committees, including those appointed by the State Assembly and Parliament, had drawn up proposals for making the Sabarimala pilgrimage safe for pilgrims and the environment. Political rhetoric since then has revolved around implementing the Master Plan for Sabarimala development, a suggestion repeated in every other committee report. However, the actual measures have been half-hearted and implemented in a tardy manner.

RADHAKRISHNAN KUTTOOR 
A VIEW OF the hill shrine.

To anybody who has ever been to Sabarimala during the seasonal rush, the solution is as evident as the problem itself: limit the number of people visiting the temple at any given time; develop transit camp facilities at various key locations downhill where the devotees can stay in between; and/or stretch the pilgrimage season itself, if possible. Several police officers have spoken to Frontline about the futility of trying to deploy policemen at each and every point in a large forest area where a devotee would decide to camp or climb. Instead, they argue, the pilgrims should be made to come to the police in a controlled manner through modern means – such as e-registration or yatra slips, similar to the ones adopted at Tirupati or the Vaishno Devi Temple in Jammu.

A recent trend has made matters worse: devotees tend to stay on for days near the shrine or in the surrounding forests, especially in the days leading up to Makaravilakku. A senior police officer said that pilgrims should not be allowed in areas where secure facilities are not available and that they should be encouraged to leave from the surrounding areas as soon as the 'darshan' at the temple is over. "A majority of Ayyappa devotees coming from outside Kerala consider witnessing the Makaravilakku an essential part of the pilgrimage. The Devaswom Board has a responsibility to create awareness among pilgrims about the truth, especially in the context of the recent stampede in which innocent people from neighbouring States became victims," he said.

On January 20, while considering the reports on the Uppupaara-Pulmedu tragedy filed by various government agencies before it, a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court asked the Devaswom Board to explain the difference between 'Makarajyothi' and 'Makaravilakku' and whether the Board considered it a divine phenomenon or not. When counsel for the Board argued that the Board had never claimed it was a divine phenomenon and that it was a matter of faith, the court observed that it was not objecting to the continuance of faith or rituals but was emphasising the right of the people to know the truth about it, especially in the context of the majority of the victims of the recent tragedy being from other States. At the time of writing this report, the Devaswom Board had convened a meeting of all stakeholders to consider what its reply should be.

Several eyewitness accounts from the scene of the tragedy mentioned the "unwarranted hurry" and irresponsible behaviour of the crowd with devotees running over fellow human beings, which resulted in the death of 102 people in a matter of minutes. The natural impatience and disorderliness of faceless crowds caught in such situations, along with the negligence of the official machinery, acted as a catalyst in the biggest ever tragedy involving pilgrims in Kerala. While discussing steps to prevent such tragedies, it is important to keep in mind that Sabarimala is not just a religious centre where millions congregate but, over the years, has become an ecologically sensitive hot spot crying out against extremely harmful human interventions. The time is ripe to consider: Is it not true that the hill tracts of Sabarimala are already attracting more people than they can bear?

Courtesy_

Saturday, February 5, 2011

President Dr. A.B.J. Abdul Kalam's 59th IDay address



Online edition of India's National Newspaper



President Abdul Kalam's IDay address

 

August 14, 2005

 

Following is the text of President A.P.J.Abdul Kalam's address to the nation on the eve of 59th Independence Day.

 

ENERGY INDEPENDENCE

 

"My Dear Citizens of India,

 

On the eve of the 59th Independence Day, I extend to you my best wishes for your happiness and prosperity. My greetings to all our people at home and abroad. Let us resolve, on this occasion, to remember with gratitude, the selfless and devoted services of our Armed Forces who are guarding our frontiers on the land, over the sea, and in the air. We are also grateful to the Paramilitary and Police Forces for preserving our internal security and maintaining law and order.

 

I met 137 freedom fighters from 27 States and Union Territories on 9th August 2005 at Rashtrapati Bhavan. I saw their enthusiasm even at their ripe age, to bring back the nationalism as a living movement. Today our country is free, because the freedom fighters gave their best to the nation in their prime of youth. Honouring the freedom fighters is honouring the independent nation and its spirit of nationalism. We must thank them with respect and make their lives happy.

 

Nature's Fury and its Management

 

While we are celebrating 59th anniversary of our hard earned political independence, we have to remember the sufferings of our people affected by the recent rain and flood in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka and Orissa. The city of Mumbai and other areas in Maharashtra bore the brunt of nature's fury. The people of these areas are meeting the challenge with courage and fortitude. The Prime Minister had visited some of the affected areas. I spoke to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra while he was visiting various places affected by the floods and I also shared my concern with other Chief Ministers. Maharashtra needs help at this critical juncture to mitigate the sufferings arising out of loss of life and properties inflicted by the fury of rain and flood. All the States need to express their solidarity with the people of Maharashtra in their time of distress and suffering, and collectively help in removing the pain of the people. Mumbai needs an urgent reconstruction to face unexpected heavy rain, as it happened this year.

 

Rainfall and Floods: Rainfall and floods are annual features in many parts of the country. Instead of thinking on interlinking of rivers only at times of flood and drought, it is time that we implement this programme with a great sense of urgency. We need to make an effort to overcome various hurdles in our way to the implementation of this major project. I feel that it has the promise of freeing the country from the endless cycle of floods and droughts. Also, as a measure for preventing flooding of the streets in the cities due to heavy sustained downpour, I would suggest the Ministry of Urban Development at the Centre and the State governments to mount a programme to rebuild and modernize the infrastructure and storm-water drainage systems including construction of under ground water silos to store the excess water. This water can be treated, processed and used at the time of shortage as practiced in many other countries. Fortunately India has adequate technology and expertise in making underground tunnels for metro rail system. This technology can be used for constructing underground water storage system.

 

Earthquake Forecasting: Another natural phenomenon that affects and causes damages of high magnitude without pre-warning in many parts of our country is the earthquake. To prevent heavy damage to the people and property, we need to accelerate research for forecasting earthquakes. Research work on earthquake forecasting is being done in many countries. We in India should have an integrated research team consisting of experts drawn from academia, meteorology and Space Departments for creating earthquake forecast modeling using pre-earthquake and post-earthquake data collected from various earthquake occurrences in our country. This can be validated periodically with the proven forecasting data available from other countries.

 

Earth Systems Science: Many of the countries in the world have experienced successive calamities driven by the nature. Till recently, the researchers world over had been pursuing research in unconnected ways, in Climate, Earthquake, Ocean Sciences and Earth Sciences, without realizing the latent but tight coupling between these areas. This new realization has prompted many countries to pursue the interdisciplinary area of research which is now known as Earth Systems Science. It is in fact fast emerging as an area of convergence between Earth, Climate, Ocean, Environment, Instrumentation and Computer Sciences. I strongly suggest that India should mount a programme in this emerging area of Earth Systems Science. This will call for a dedicated, cohesive and seamless integration between researchers in multiple areas and in multiple organisations. Further, Earth Systems Science doesn't obey political or geographical borders. It is truly a science and its intensive results would make our planet safe and prosperous.

 

Unlike research in strategic areas, wherein the nations have to maintain superiority over other nations, Earth Systems Science is the ultimate realization of the human kind to collaborate since no nation is safe if its neighbours are not. Nature's fury knows no borders.

 

Dear citizens, on 26th January 2005, I have discussed with you on the potential for employment generation in eight areas. I am happy that a number of actions are evolving.

 

Energy Independence

 

Today on this 59th Independence Day, I would like to discuss with all of you another important area that is "Energy Security" as a transition to total "Energy Independence".

 

Energy is the lifeline of modern societies. But today, India has 17% of the world's population, and just 0.8% of the world's known oil and natural gas resources. We might expand the use of our coal reserves for some time and that too at a cost and with environmental challenges. The climate of the globe as a whole is changing. Our water resources are also diminishing at a faster rate. As it is said, energy and water demand will soon surely be a defining characteristic of our people's life in the 21st Century.

 

Energy Security rests on two principles. The first, to use the least amount of energy to provide services and cut down energy losses. The second, to secure access to all sources of energy including coal, oil and gas supplies worldwide, till the end of the fossil fuel era, which is fast approaching. Simultaneously we should access technologies to provide a diverse supply of reliable, affordable and environmentally sustainable energy.

 

As you all know, our annual requirement of oil is 114 million tonnes. Significant part of this is consumed in the Transportation Sector. We produce only about 25 % of our total requirement. The presently known resources and future exploration of oil and gas may give mixed results. The import cost today of oil and natural gas is over Rs. 120,000 crores. Oil and gas prices are escalating; the barrel cost of oil has doubled within a year. This situation has to be combated.

 

Energy Security, which means ensuring that our country can supply lifeline energy to all its citizens, at affordable costs at all times, is thus a very important and significant need and is an essential step forward. But it must be considered as a transition strategy, to enable us to achieve our real goal that is - Energy Independence or an economy which will function well with total freedom from oil, gas or coal imports. Is it possible?

 

Hence, Energy Independence has to be our nation's first and highest priority. We must be determined to achieve this within the next 25 years i.e by the year 2030. This one major, 25-year national mission must be formulated, funds guaranteed, and the leadership entrusted without delay as public-private partnerships to our younger generation, now in their 30's, as their lifetime mission in a renewed drive for nation-building.

 

Goals and Policies Now friends, I would now like to discuss with you some goals, strategies and policies for a major national mission to attain Energy Independence.

 

Energy Consumption Pattern in India in 2005: We have to critically look at the need for Energy Independence in different ways in its two major sectors: Electric power generation and Transportation. At present, we have an installed capacity of about 121,000 MW of electricity, which is 3% of world capacity. We also depend on oil to the extent of 114 million tonnes every year, 75% of which is imported, and used almost entirely in the Transportation Sector. Forecasts of our Energy requirements by 2030, when our population may touch 1.4 billion people, indicate that demand from power sector will increase from the existing 120,000 MW to about 400,000 MW. This assumes an energy growth rate of 5% per annum.

 

Electric Power Generation Sector: Electric power generation in India now accesses four basic energy sources: Fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal; Hydroelectricity; Nuclear power; and Renewable energy sources such as bio-fuels, solar, biomass, wind and ocean.

 

Fortunately for us, 89% of energy used for power generation today is indigeneous, from coal (56%), hydroelectricity (25%), nuclear power (3%) and Renewable (5%). Solar energy segment contributes just 0.2% of our energy production.

 

Energy Independence in Electric Power Generation

 

Thus it would be seen that only 11% of electric power generation is dependent on oil and natural gas which is mostly imported at enormous cost. Only 1% of oil is (about 2-3 million tonnes of oil) being used every year for producing electricity. However, power generation to the extent of 10% is dependent on high cost gas supplies. We are making efforts to access natural gas from other countries.

 

Now I shall discuss another fossil fuel, coal. Even though India has abundant quantities of coal, it is constrained to regional locations, high ash content, affecting the thermal efficiency of our power plants, and also there are environmental concerns. Thus, a movement towards Energy Independence would demand accelerated work in operationalizing the production of energy from the coal sector through integrated gasification and combined cycle route. In 2030, the total energy requirement would be 400,000 MW. At that time, the power generated from coal-based power plants would increase from the existing 67,000 MW to 200,000 MW. This would demand significant build-up of thermal power stations and large scale expansion of coal fields.

 

Changing Structure of Energy Sources:

 

The strategic goals for Energy Independence by 2030 would thus call for a shift in the structure of energy sources. Firstly, fossil fuel imports need to be minimized and secure access to be ensured. Maximum hydro and nuclear power potential should be tapped. The most significant aspect, however would be that the power generated through renewable energy technologies may target 20 to 25% against the present 5%. It would be evident that for true Energy Independence, a major shift in the structure of energy sources from fossil to renewable energy sources is mandated.

 

Solar farms

 

Solar energy in particular requires unique, massive applications in the agricultural sector, where farmers need electricity exclusively in the daytime. This could be the primary demand driver for solar energy. Our farmers demand for electric power today is significantly high to make solar energy economical in large scale.

 

Shortages of water, both for drinking and farming operations, can be met by large scale seawater desalination and pumping inland using solar energy, supplemented by bio-fuels wherever necessary.

 

The current high capital costs of solar power stations can be reduced by grid-locked 100 MW sized Very Large Scale Solar Photovoltaic (VLSPV) or Solar Thermal Power Stations. In the very near future, breakthroughs in nanotechnologies promise significant increase in solar cell efficiencies from current 15% values to over 50% levels. These would in turn reduce the cost of solar energy production. Our science laboratories should mount a R&D Programme for developing high efficiency CNT based Photo Voltaic Cells.

 

We thus need to embark on a major national programme in solar energy systems and technologies, for both large, centralized applications as well as small, decentralized requirements concurrently, for applications in both rural and urban areas.

 

Nuclear Energy

 

Nuclear power generation has been given a thrust by the use of uranium based fuel. However there would be a requirement for a ten fold increase in nuclear power generation even to attain a reasonable degree of energy self sufficiency for our country. Therefore it is essential to pursue the development of nuclear power using Thorium, reserves of which are higher in the country. Technology development has to be accelerated for Thorium based reactors since the raw material for Thorium is abundantly available in our country. Also, Nuclear Fusion research needs to be progressed with international cooperation to keep that option for meeting the large power requirement, at a time when fossil fuels get depleted.

 

Power through Municipal Waste

 

In the Power generation Sector of the energy economy, we need to fully use the technologies now available for generating power from municipal waste. Today, two plants are operational in India, each plant generating 6.5 MW of electric power. Studies indicate that as much as 5800 MW of power can be generated by setting up 900 electric power plants spread over in different parts of the country, which can be fueled by municipal waste. The electric power generation and creation of clean environment are the twin advantages.

 

Power System Loss Reduction:

 

Apart from generating power and running power stations efficiently without interruption, it is equally essential to transmit and distribute the power with minimum loss. The loss of power in transmission and distribution in our country is currently in the region of 30-40% for a variety of reasons. Of about one thousand billion units of electrical energy produced annually, only 600 billion units reach the consumer. This is the result of transmission loss and unaccounted loss. We need to take urgent action to bring down this loss to 15% from 30-40% by close monitoring of the losses, improving efficiency, and increasing the power factor through modern technology. By this one action alone we will be able to avoid the need for additional investment of around Rs. 70,000 crores for establishing additional generating capacity.

 

Transportation Sector

 

The Transportation Sector is the fastest growing energy consumer. It now consumes nearly 112 million tonnes of oil annually, and is critically important to our nation's economy and security. The complete substitution of oil imports for the Transportation Sectors is the biggest and toughest challenge for India.

 

Use of biofuels: We have nearly 60 million hectares of wasteland, of which 30 million hectares are available for energy plantations like "Jatropha". Once grown, the crop has a life of 50 years. Each acre will produce about 2 tonnes of bio-diesel at about Rs. 20 per litre. Biodiesel is carbon neutral and many valuable by-products flow from this agro-industry. Intensive research is needed to burn bio-fuel in internal combustion engines with high efficiency, and this needs to be a urgent R&D programme. India has a potential to produce nearly 60 million tones of bio-fuel annually, thus making a significant and important contribution to the goal of Energy Independence. Indian Railways has already taken a significant step of running two passenger locomotives (Thanjavur to Nagore section) and six trains of diesel multiple units (Tiruchirapalli to Lalgudi, Dindigul and Karur sections) with a 5% blend of bio-fuel sourced from its in-house esterification plants. In addition, they have planted 75 lakh Jatropha saplings in Railway land which is expected to give yields from the current year onwards. This is a pioneering example for many other organisations to follow. Similarly many States in our country have energy plantations. What is needed is a full economic chain from farming, harvesting, extraction to esterification, blending and marketing. Apart from employment generation, bio-fuel has a significant potential to lead our country towards energy independence.

 

The other critical options are development of electric vehicles; hydrogen based vehicles, electrification of Railways and urban mass transportation.

 

Conclusion

 

By 2020 the nation should achieve comprehensive energy security through enhancement of our oil and gas exploration and production worldwide. By the year 2030, India should achieve energy independence through solar power and other forms of renewable energy; maximize the utilization of hydro and nuclear power and enhance the bio-fuel production through large scale energy plantations like Jatropha.

 

We need to evolve a comprehensive renewable energy policy for energy independence within a year. This should address all issues relating to generation of energy through wind, solar, geothermal, bio-mass and ocean. The nation should also work towards establishment of thorium based reactors. Research and technology development of Thorium based reactors is one of the immediate requirements for realizing self-reliance in nuclear power generation and long term energy security for the nation.

 

We should operationalize a 500 MW capacity power plant using integrated gasification and combined cycle route within the next three years from the existing pilot plant stage.

 

Bio-fuel research should be extended in collaboration with R&D Laboratories, academic institutions and automobile industry to make it a "full fledged fuel" for the fleet running in the country in a time bound manner. This should lead to a mission mode integrated programme encompassing various ministries and industries. Also there is a need to formulate a comprehensive Bio-Fuel policy from research, development, production to marketing.

 

Energy security leading to Energy independence is certainly possible and is within the capability of the nation. India has knowledge, natural resources; what we need is planned integrated missions to achieve the target in a time bound manner. Let us all work for self-sufficient environment friendly energy independence for the nation.

 

JAI HIND.

 

May God Bless you all".

 

Courtesy_

http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/nic/presidentiday.htm


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