Adhik Bhadrapad Krishna 30 Vik Samvat 2069. Yugabda 5114: September 16, 2012
1. FESTIVALS: Sharadiya Navaratra commences on Aśvina Śukla Pratipada, falling on October 16 this year, and culminate in Durga Puja and Dussehra. In the west, particularly in Gujarat, Navratri is celebrated with the famous Garba and Dandiya-Raas dance. The last four days of Sharad Navaratri, in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa and Assam in the east Bharat are celebrated as Durga Puja. Exquisitely crafted and decorated life-size clay idols of the Goddess Durga depicting her slaying the demon Mahishasura are set up in temples and other places. Sharadiya Navaratra is also popular among Bharatiya communities around the world including the UK, Canada and USA.
In Goa, zatra begins during Navratri; entire Antruz (Ponda) is highly ornated. The Dasha Maitrikas of Goa) are taken out to worship – namely, Shantadurga, Aryadurga, Mahalasa, Katyayani, Mahamaya, Kamakshi, Vijayadurga, Bhumika, Mahalakshmi and Navadurga. In south Bharat, people set up steps and place idols on them. This is known as golu
. In Karnataka
, Ayudha Puja, the ninth day of Mysore Dasara
, is celebrated with the worship of implements used in daily life such as computers, books, vehicles, or kitchen tools. In Kerala
, three days: Ashtami, Navami, and Vijaya Dashami
of Sharad Navarathri are celebrated as Sarasvati Puja in which books are worshipped. In Telangana
region of Andhra Pradesh
, people celebrate Bathukamma
festival over a period of nine days.
2. YOG SANGAM IN CALIFORNIA: ‘Yog Bharati’ celebrated its tenth anniversary and Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birth anniversary by hosting Yog Sangam (International Yog Conference) during Sep 8-9 in Palo Alto. More than 400 people attended the conference. The conference had three tracks – Health, Philosophy and Research. There were hands on session on Meditation and Yog for Stress. The philosophy track included Swami Vivekananda’s vision and its application, Bhagavad Gita, Patanjali Yog Sutras and application of Yog in Management.
The cultural program in the evening featured a special yog dance performed by Yog Portuguese Confederation and a grand play on the life of Swami Vivekananda performed by over 100 children and young adults of Yog Bharati. In a grand finale, all actors and volunteers were on stage holding lights and waving the flags of all the nations represented in the conference including Bharat, USA, Germany, Portugal, Turkey, England and Poland symbolizing Yoga’s power to unify the world as Swami Vivekananda has envisioned.
More than 30 speakers from various parts of the world shared their knowledge and experience. They included NV Raghuram, founder of Yog Bharati, Dr HR Nagendra, the Vice-Chancellor, VYASA (Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation), Bangalore, Dr Sat Bir Khalsa of Harvard University, Dr Shirley Telles, Director Research at Patanjali Yog Peeth, Haridwar, Spiritual heads of Sivananada Ashram (Grass Valley, CA), Chinmaya Mission (SJ), Sambodh Society USA and Swami Amruta Suryananda Maharaj of Portugal.
3. YOGA SCULPTS GOLDEN STONE: Yoga helped a British cycling hero who suffers from cerebral palsy win gold in the London Paralympic Games on September 8. “Yoga calmed me down — I was an angry child,” David Stone told The Telegraph after winning the Mixed T 1-2 road race riding a tricycle.
This is not the first time Stone, 31, has won a medal but he had taken time off after the Sydney Paralympics to come to terms with his cerebral palsy and spent time at the Munger School of Yoga, around 200km from Patna.
4. IDEA EXCHANGE INTERACTION WITH MOHAN JI BHAGWAT: Loksatta, the Marathi daily, arranged an Idea Exchange of prominent journalists with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Sarsanghachalak Dr. Mohan Bhagwat in Mumbai on September 4. The session was moderated by Loksatta Executive Editor Girish Kuber. Replying to the questions Dr. Bhagwat said that a country’s future does not depend on its leaders, political parties, government or establishments. It depends on the quality and merit of the society and the extent to which it is organised. For a society to organise itself and progress, people have to come together on the basic principle of ‘self’. Even while learning from different people and cultures, the individual should realise his own nature and create a vision for society. While doing so, if merit has to be brought into society, the mind, heart and body must work together. The Sangh’s functioning has been based on these principles.
On Sangh vis-à-vis politics, Dr. Mohan Bhagwat said that Sangh does not hide anything because it has always maintained that it has never wanted to enter politics. Politics, today, is all about breaking and dividing the society into vote-banks. If we were to get into this mess, how would we work towards our goal of organising the society? We have always allowed swayamsevaks to be a part of political movements and agitations, temporarily. We do not try to hide this.
In reply to a question on Sangh as ‘an organization for the Hindus’ Dr. Bhagwat said: When we use the word ‘Hindu’, we refer to everyone in the Bharatiya society—be it Hindus, Muslims or Christians—since it is a word that gives us our identity and nationalism. There are no non-Hindus in this country, according to us, since we are all children of Bharat Mata. We do not support divisions based on caste and creed. We have been trying to change the basic mindset of our people and unite them as Hindus. Removing these separatist emotions by imparting values is our constant pursuit.
About reservation, he said our country has a history of discrimination on the basis of caste, not religion. A person belonging to any religion can and has achieved great heights in this country, to the extent of being Rashtrapati of the country. Hence, reservation is required where societal discrimination is high.
About Swadeshi, he said our stand is that each country has its resources, its people and their aspirations. The purpose of development is to make individuals independent and self-reliant. If I can make something at home, I will not buy it. I will only bring from outside that which is not available in my country and not possible to make, yet is necessary for life, but on my conditions.
5. GEORGIA – ORTHODOX CHURCH LOOKS ASKANCE AT PROLIFERATION OF YOGA STUDIES: Over the past two years, yoga has gone from a largely unknown Eastern tradition to a popular fitness routine in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. Georgian National Yoga Federation President Giorgi Berdzenishvili, a passionate practitioner for the past 15 years, called the trend a “dynamic” process that started under former Soviet leader Mikheil Gorbachev’s glasnost’ policies in the late 1980s. Today, yoga’s popularity is at an all-time high, instructors say. Classes are full, leading to the opening of several new studios in Tbilisi over the past year.
6. COW URINE CAN CURE CANCER: CSIR APPLIES FOR PATENT – The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has applied for patent of cow urine, as it has scientifically been found higly useful in curing cancer. Union Minister of Health Ghulam Nabi Azad recently informed the Lok Sabha in a written reply to a question that the CSIR has conducted many experiments on the cow urine and the results have been found very encouraging. The application seeking patent based on the results of those experiments has jointly been filed by Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP), Lucknow and Go Vigyan Anusandhan Kendra, Nagpur. Both these organizations are associates of CSIR.
7. 6,000 NEW GOUSHALAS COME UP AFTER GOU GRAM YATRA: After the Vishwa Mangal Gou Gram Yatra, about 6,000 new goushalas have been started in different parts of the country and work on many cow-based industries and projects, both in rural and urban areas, has begun. Shankarlal, Akhil Bharatiya Gou Sewa Pramukh of the RSS said the work on setting up Swavalambi Kamdhenu Nagar is going to begin in many cities of the country. In such Nagars, multi-story buildings will be built where the supply of maximum cow-based things including milk, curd, ghee, organic foodgrains, fruits, vegetable, etc will be ensured. There will also be plants for energy generation from waste and Gochikitsa Kendras in such localities.
Shankarlal also pointed out that the work on creating Gou Abhayaranya (cow sanctuaries) in different parts of the country has started and one such sanctuary has already been created in Shajapur district of Madhya Pradesh. Gosewa Kendras have been started in prisons of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. Cow research centres are being set-up in all the states and efforts are being made to liberate the encroached gochar land in different villages.
8. BHARAT’S MILKMAN V KURIEN IS NO MORE: The father of ‘white revolution’ Dr Verghese Kurien, who transformed Bharat from a milk-deficient country to the world’s largest milk producer, passed away early on September 9 at Muljibhai Patel Urological Hospital, Nadiad after a brief illness. He was 90 and is survived by wife Molly Kurien and daughter Nirmala.
Through Kurien’s efforts vide the Amul model, the country’s milk production shot up from a mere 20 million metric tonnes (MMT) per annum in 1960 to a whopping 122 MMT last year.
In his condolence message, RSS Sarsanghachalak Dr Mohan Bhagwat, described Dr. Kurien a thorough patriot firmly rooted in Bharatiya ethos and culture. It was his sincere love for the nation and society that brought him in close contact with the second RSS Sarasanghchalak Sri Golwalkar (Guruji). Dr. Kurien cherished his friendship with Guruji and fondly and reverentially remembered about it in his autobiography ‘I too had a Dream’.
9. ‘SATYEN BOSE SHOULD HAVE GOT THE NOBEL PRIZE’: ROLF HEUER: Rolf Heuer, director general of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) said in Kolkata on September 3 that he believed that Satyendra Nath Bose, the physicist in honour of whom a family of particles in the Standard Model of particle physics is named, should have been given the Nobel Prize. “He has certainly contributed to our understanding of particle physics on the level of other Nobel Prize winners,” Dr. Heuer told journalists on the sidelines of a public lecture on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiment. Dr. Heuer said there were many people who had made significant contributions to science, but had not received the award and Satyendra Nath Bose was one of them.
10. TREE PLANTATION IN MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA: A team of Sewa volunteers numbering more than 50 including seniors suffering from various physical disabilities, most of them above 80 years of age, and children of Melbourne Balagokulam Shakha aged 8 to 15 years and ladies participated in Community Welfare Project – Tree Plantation sponsored by the Dandenong City Council on September 1. The number of Sewa Internatinal volunteers exceeded the participants of all other ethnic communities in Melbourne. The Lord Mayor and Councillor appreciated the contribution of Bharatiya community.
11. A RECORD MEDITATION BELL FOR THE HINDU MONASTERY: A huge bell, cast at the Poli Vittorio Veneto Foundry for the Hindu monastery at Altare in Savona province in the Liguria region, has arrived in Castegnato, Italy for final polishing and detail work. The bell is 2.85 meters (9.3 feet) tall and 2.10 meters (6.9 feet) wide at the base. It weighs in at 12,342 kilos. The bell’s clapper alone weighs almost 600 pounds! The bell will be placed outdoors not far from a similar but smaller bell that the Sistis produced for the monastery in 2002.
12. HINDU YUVA, SJSU SUSWAGATAM FALL-2012: Suswagatam is an on-campus project organized by Hindu YUVA, SJSU (San Jose State University shakha) every semester for new students coming from Bharat. New students are provided airport pickup, temporary accommodation and are helped to acclimatize to the new environment. This fall semester Hindu YUVA, San Jose State University – SJSU shakha helped around 63 students with temporary accommodation, airport pickup (SFO and SJC), course guidance, and other help in getting familiar to the university campus. “We started on July 29 from Chennai and we missed the flight in Frankfurt. So, we had to wait for one day. I do not recollect the exact time I called the Hindu Yuva team. I later realized that it was past 2:00 in the night. We came to San Francisco by 7 in the evening. I could not find anyone in the airport. So, I called and informed them. Within 5 minutes two of their volunteers showed up. I do not know what magic they did because it felt like I was in home.”
13. FIJI HINDU GROUP REJECTS CHRISTIAN STATE CALLS: Calls for Fiji to become an officially Christian state have been rejected by one of the country’s main Hindu groups. It comes after the president of Fiji’s Methodist Church said on September 5 the country was ceded to God by the chiefs and was therefore a Christian nation. Vijendra Prakash, general secretary of Sanatan Dharam, told Radio Australia his members would prefer Fiji be a secular state where religion does not mix with politics.
14. HINDU CHARIOT PROCESSION BRINGS STREETS ALIVE: The 8th annual chariot festival took place on September 2, in Burlington Road, South West London organized by the New Malden Murugan Temple. Thousands gathered to watch the procession pass through the streets. Stephen Hammond, MP for Wimbledon, attended the festival. Stephen Alambritis, leader of Merton Council called it a very gracious event which contributes to community cohesion and a sense of wellbeing and happiness in the borough.
15. OBAMA NAMES IITIAN TO KEY POST: US President Barack Obama has named IIT-Bombay alumnus Romesh Wadhwani as a general trustee of the Board of Trustees of the prestigious John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. Announcing his intent to appoint Wadhwani and nine other general trustees of the centre; Obama said, “These dedicated men and women bring a wealth of experience and talent to their new roles and I am proud to have them serve in this Administration.” Set up in 1971 as a living memorial to former President John F Kennedy, the centre is the busiest performing arts facility in the United States and annually hosts approximately 2,000 performances for audiences totaling nearly 2 million. A White House release said that Wadhwani has been actively involved in Kennedy Center initiatives, having served as Co-Chair of the Maximum India Festival in 2011 and as a supporter of the 2010 Honors Gala.
16. ISRO SCORES A CENTUM: A Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C21) blasted off from Sriharikota on September 9 and placed two foreign satellites in orbit, accomplishing the Indian Space Research Organisation’s 100th mission, a milestone in the country’s space journey. In the textbook launch, it carried SPOT-6, a 712-kg French earth observation satellite and injected it into an orbit of 655-km altitude, inclined at 98.23 degrees to the equator. Proiteres, a 15-kg Japanese microsatellite, was put into orbit as an additional payload. With this mission, the ISRO has launched 62 satellites and 38 rockets. It has so far injected 28 foreign satellites into orbit, beginning with Germany’s 45-kg DLR-TUBSAT aboard the PSLV-C2 in 1999.
17. INDUS TEXT SHAPED MODERN SCRIPTS: Two papers on the findings that the text used in the Indus valley may have shaped the southern and northern Bharatiya languages, have been published in the July and August editions of Current Science. They have traced the origins of Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Prakrit and Devanagari scripts back to the Indus Civilisation and its writing, giving a new dimension to the conventional belief that Bharatiya scripts owe their origin to the Brahmi script.
“A need to invent signs for zodiac symbols would have arisen when the Indus folk needed to cast horoscopes. References to such practices abound in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Also the Indus folk may have used the seven basic notes [of music]. We suspect the exposure to these musical note signs would have led to the intrusion of the note signs into the early Tamil-Brahmi writings,” the paper says.
18. SACRED VAISHNAVITE LAMP PUT JORHAT ON WORLD MAP: A sacred lamp in a Vaishnavite monastery in Assam’s Jorhat town has been burning continuously for the past 484 years, the Guinness World Records. A Hindu scholar, Madhabdeva, the chief disciple of Assamese saint and socio-religious reformer Srimanta Sankardeva, lit the lamp first in 1528 at the Dhekiakhuwa Namghar Temple.
A temple priest explained the objective behind keeping the ancient lamp lit for hundreds of years. “Light is burning only for religious persons, for the peace of the world and Assam,” said the chief priest. Temple priests along with the locals have shown their devotion by keeping the lamp lit for well over four centuries now, leading to massive popularity amongst devotees.
19. VASUDEV (BABURAO) TELANG PASSES AWAY: Vasudevji, then called Babu, was among the first swyamsevaks who joined the first Sangh shaakhaa in Mumbai at the Marawadi Vidyalaya in Girgaon. He did his OTCs in three consecutive years – 1938, 1939 and 1940. He had the fortune of listening to Doctor Hedgewarji’s baudhiks during all the OTC’s. In 1940 Doctorji was ill in Pune and Baburao accompanied him in his last travel to Nagpur to attend the OTC. He listened to Doctorji’s last bauddhik in the third year OTC sitting in the front row.
Baburao was born on November 18, 1918 and was 93 years age at the time of his demise. He remained saghachaalak of Girgaon nagar until he came to USA to stay with his daughter Bansi Dhananjay Joshi in Wheaton, Illinois, in 1990. He is survived by his son Vivek – an attorney in Washington DC, and two daughters Nutan Jai and Bansi Joshi.
20. DEPORT B’DESHIS TO SAVE ASSAM: The North East Students’ Organisation (NESO), the apex students’ body of the northeast, called a 12-hour bandh in all states of the region barring Assam where it took out a massive protest march on September 6 demanding the deportation of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. It was ‘total’ in Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh and partial in Tripura.
In Guwahati, over 20,000 people, from all states of the region, took part in the protest march amid tight security arrangements. The protestors shouted slogans: “Bangladeshis go back”, “Deport Bangladeshis, save Assam”, “Update the National Register of Citizens”, “Implement all clauses of the Assam Accord” etc.
Speaking on behalf of the North East MPs’ Forum, Rajya Sabha MP Birendra Prasad Baishya, said infiltration by illegal Bangladeshi migrants posed a serious threat to the region. “Given the seriousness of the issue, we have been raising it all along in Parliament. We all must have to save Assam to save the north east,” he said.
21. ANCIENT IDOL AND MONASTERY UNEARTHED IN ODISHA: An ancient statue of Gautam Buddha and remains of a Budhha Vihar (monastery) have been unearthed in Kesharaipur-Hatikhol village in the vicinity of the world famous Lalitgiri Buddhist site in Odisha’s Jajpur district. An idol of Buddha in meditating pose, made probably during post Gupta period, and earthen items like bowls, spout jars and broken potteries were found from the spot.
“The unearthed stone image is called Bhurisapta Padmapani, an incarnation of Lord Buddha. The idol is made of Khondolite stone and its height and width is 3 feet 2 inches and 2 feet 1 inch respectively. While one of its hands is seen in blessings posture, another hand holds a lotus,” said noted Buddhist researcher Harischandra Prusty.
In addition to the Buddha image, a monastery has been discovered on the foot of Kesharaipur-Hatikhol hill. “The monastery is 30 x 30 metres in size. There are four rooms each measuring 10 feet x 9 feet each. It has been probably built in the eighth century under the patronage and propagation of a king of the Bhaumakara dynasty that flourished between eighth and the 11th century in the state,” said Prusty.
22. GANDHI WAS COMMUNICATOR PAR EXCELLENCE, SAYS KALAM: Emphasising on Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of ‘One World’, former President of Bharat APJ Abdul Kalam said internet was an effecting tool of connecting the world. Highlighting the relevance of Gandhi’s vision and thinking in the present context, Kalam said he used communication as a tool to connect to the masses in Bharat and in South Africa to bring about a revolution and liberate people from oppression. Kalam was speaking at the release of Sudheendra Kulkarni’s book Music of the Spinning Wheel: Mahatma Gandhi’s Manifesto for the Internet Age in Delhi on September 4. Speaking on the occasion, senior BJP leader LK Advani described internet as the basis of literacy and education in the present context and insisted that the spread of electronic communication in Bharat would actually mean spread of Gandhi’s philosophy.
23. 12,000 PARTICIPATE IN 3-DAY SAMSKRITOTSAVAM IN CHENNAI: A three-day samaskrito-tsavam was organised in chennai from august 18 to 20. The event witnessed an unprecedented response from Sanskrit enthusiastic people. Three different events balotsava on first day, samajotsav on second day and yuvotsav on the last day were organized where 12,000 students from 85 schools and colleges and about 70 judges of different courts participated.
It was for the first time in Chennai that students participated in bhaashanam, katha kathanam, katha kalakshepam, vyaktigeetam/samuhika geetam – in Sanskrit. About 720 Sanskrit lecturers, teachers and Sanskrit speaking parents participated in the event. A book in Sanskrit, stories from life of swami vivekananda, was also released.
24. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Visitors: Rajneesh Gadge, USA, Vinaykumar and Pramod Chaudhary – Nepal. Pravaas: Dr. Sadanand Sapre, sah samyojak Vishwa Vibhag would visit Singapore and Myanmar.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Work unto death. I am with you, and when I am gone, my spirit will work with you. This life comes and goes. Wealth, fame, enjoyments are only of a few days. It is better, far better to die on the field of duty, preaching the truth, than to die like a worldly worm. Advance! – Swami Vivekanand
JAI SHREE RAM
AN INDIAN IN EVERY CHIP
It is said that every time Bharatiyas got a corner in Silicon Valley in the 1990s, they cranked out a start-up. By 2000, there was rarely a start-up in the Valley that did not involve Bharatiyas. “The definitive smell inside a Silicon Valley start-up was of curry,” Michael Lewis wrote in The New New Thing, a bestseller on the US digital economy that chronicles the story of Netscape’s Jim Clark and the founding of Healtheon/WebMD, with Pavan Nigam, a Bharatiya whiz he teamed up with. The first Bharatiya “techies” began coming to San Francisco in the 1960s. The term Silicon Valley was yet to be coined. In the 1980s, the trickle became a stream that turned into a torrent in the early 1990s, and then into a flood at the turn of the century. By 2000 the US boasted of attracting 25,000 IIT engineering graduates. That number was a quarter of all graduates produced by the IITs since its founding in 1950.
Numerically Bharatiyas were not at the top of the list in digital America, but the fact that they were a white-collar workforce, knew English, and had an accomplished education made them highly regarded. By 1990, immigrants made up a third of the scientific and engineering workforce in Silicon Valley. By 1998, Chinese and Bharatiya engineers were senior executives at a quarter of Silicon Valley’s new tech businesses. Some 25% of the nearly 11,500 high-tech firms born in the Valley between 1990 and 1998 were founded by Chinese or Bharatiya entrepreneurs. In 1998, US government figures disclosed that Bharatiyas got 44% of the 65,000 H1-B visas issued for the year.
From the time Intel’s first microprocessor was introduced to the age of the Pentiums — confected by Bharatiya chip technologist Vinod Dham with millions of transistors on a single chip — and thereafter, this cradle of enterprise and innovation has seen unmatched technological renaissance. The transistor was an East Coast creation born in 1947 at Bell Labs, another tech crucible that would be led by Bharatiya engineer Arun Netravali at the turn of the century. A few years on, a young Sikh Narendra Singh Kapany, created fibre optics. In 1967, Kapany took his seven-year-old Optics Technology public, arguably making him the first Bharatiya entrepreneur to do so.
In 1964, Amar G. Bose, professor of electrical engineering at MIT, founded Bose Corporation. Disappointed to find a stereo he purchased came with speakers that failed to reproduce the realism of a live performance, Bose conducted extensive research in speaker design and psychoacoustics, achieving breakthroughs in sound reproduction. Kapany’s effort and Bose’s success sent a frisson of excitement among the earliest Bharatiya techies. Bose became a cult hero for many, including Suhas Patil, a young IIT-Kharagpur graduate who studied under Bose at MIT. “The way he (Bose) parlayed his academic and research knowledge into a business made a deep impression,” says Patil, who like his idol also aborted a teaching career to go into business.
Kapany and Bose’s exploits emboldened Bharatiya newcomers. In 1973, Farouq Arjani, a young Parsi entrepreneur from Mumbai, founded Artec International, a pioneer in word processing. A few years later, Thampy Thomas, a Keralite from BITS Pilani, found Elxsi, among the earliest Valley ventures to make mainframe computers.
In 1981, miffed at being laid off from three jobs, IITian Kanwal Rekhi decided to build his business with fellow IITian Inder Mohan Singh. They founded Excelan, a computer network management company, that sold to Novell in 1987 for $ 200 mn, a record then for an immigrant-founded company.
By far the most celebrated success was Vinod Khosla’s. A Pune-born IITian, who came to Stanford for graduate studies, Khosla stepped out into Silicon Valley and started computer applications maker Daisy Systems with a bunch of Israelis in 1980. Two years later, he cranked up Sun Microsystems with others to revolutionise the concept of open workstations, large computers that could be connected to each other.
Sun remains the biggest and most-lauded Bharatiya landmark in the American hi-tech space. By the turn of the century, Khosla would sustain and nourish a score of cutting edge hi-tech companies worth more than $ 200 billion and earn the accolade “the greatest venture capitalist of all time.” — The Times of India, September 1, 2012
THORIUM HOLDS KEY TO BHARAT’S ENERGY SECURITY
The Government has allowed private companies to develop virtual monopolies in the mining of minerals. And as in the telecom and the coal sectors, no auctions were held to distribute these valuable national resources
As Diwan of Travancore, Sir CP Ramaswami Iyer struggled desperately with the departing colonial rulers to prevent the kingdom’s riches, including its thorium deposits, from falling into the hands of the Congress, whose leadership he did not trust. Thorium’s importance has been known since the early 20th century when a German chemist scouted it for the gas mantles industry. The French also knew its worth and bought beach sand from Kerala.
In fairness, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru banned the export of thorium after setting up the Department of Atomic Energy. Since then, many rare minerals have been found in Bharatiya beach sands — ilmenite, rutile, garnet, zircon and sillimanite. Thorium is critical to our nuclear energy security and strategic deterrence policy. Bharat’s huge reserves are in the form of placer sand complexes along both southern coasts. Manavalakurichi at Kanyakumari has 30 per cent of the world’s known reserves. Other important sites are Aluva and Chavara (Kerala), Sand Complex (Odisha), Vishakhapatnam and Bhimunipatnam.
These can be accessed with bare hands; most other nations’ reserves are embedded in rocks and involve costly and laborious extraction. Thorium from monazite sand can be converted into an isotope of uranium and used to feed nuclear reactors; it can be used multiple times to generate electricity, thus creating an endless cycle of fuel availability. Thorium cycles are feasible in existing thermal and fast reactors without major changes in engineering systems, reactor control and reactivity devices. A publication of the International Atomic Energy Agency, 2005, says the thorium fuel cycle can complement uranium fuels and produce long term nuclear energy with low radio-toxicity waste. The transition to thorium can be done through incineration of weapons grade plutonium or civilian plutonium.
As more countries follow Japan in shutting down uranium power plants after the Fukushima disaster, thorium is being seen as the route to safer nuclear energy. Japan is researching new thorium-based hydride fuels for advanced Minor Actinides and plutonium burners with high-safety features, and has just concluded a 15-year agreement with Bharat for supply of the rare mineral. Washington DC’s Nuclear Energy Research Initiative project has developed an innovative fuel matrix comprising thorium, and is buying all available thorium from Bharat. Recent reports suggest that from 2004 onwards, over two million tonnes of monazite, equivalent to 1,95,300 tonnes of thorium at 9.3 per cent recovery, has vanished from the Tamil Nadu and Kerala coasts. At a conservative estimate of $100 per tonne, the scam exceeds Rs 48 lakh crore. Under public pressure, Tamil Nadu police have registered a case of lifting sand from temple land controlled by the Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment. Officially, the beach placer mining sector was opened to the private sector in 1998, and beach sand export escalated after 2005. Even radioactive minerals were allowed to be exported unchecked.
In 2006, the UPA Government de-listed heavy minerals like monazite and ilmenite from the proscribed substances list vide SO 61(E), to facilitate export by private companies, with the provision that they comply with the Atomic Energy Rules of 1984. But the key officer overseeing the process is reportedly close to some private placer mineral industrialists, and thereby hangs a tale. Despite this, last year when RTI activist Kodikunnel Suresh asked if monazite export violated the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board rules, Minister of State, PMO, V Narayanasamy said beach sands with heavy minerals were exported, but monazite and thorium were proscribed for export under the Atomic Energy Act. The Bhaba Atomic Research Centre produced the world’s first thorium nuclear reactor, Kakrapar-1 (Surat, Gujarat), in 1993, using thorium rather than depleted uranium to achieve power flattening across the reactor core.
This was part of a three-stage fuel cycle plan with the ultimate goal of using thorium-based reactors to meet 30 per cent of our energy demands by 2050. Thorium can theoretically generate 40 times the energy per unit mass compared to uranium; this fuel cycle is slated to begin in 2016. Post-Pokharan, BARC scientists developed a fast breeder reactor using thorium — the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam; later a 500 MW fast breeder reactor was started at Kalpakkam. This means the bred plutonium has dual use as nuclear fuel for another reactor, or for nuclear-tipped weapons as part of our strategic deterrence.
As Bharat ranks among only four nations with thorium nuclear technology competence (after the US, France, Japan), and can potentially export fast-breeder thorium-based N-reactors, it should immediately declare its thorium reserves as a strategic asset, not for export. The Centre should ban private sector mining of thorium-producing placer minerals like monazite, ilmenite, rutile, zircon, and mineral complexes such as thorite, thorianite, and uranium minerals under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, and Indian Atomic Energy Act 1948. These should form part of the Central List of Part XI of the Constitution.
These minerals should be mined exclusively under the control of the Atomic Energy Commission. This will not only protect the fragile coastlines from erosion triggered by reckless mining, but prevent illegal mining in Government lands beyond the area specified in the licenses. Existing private leases for mining ilmenite and monazite lack controls to ensure that the thorium contained in such extractions is deposited with the AEC. A startling fact brought to light by this controversy is that Indian Rare Earths Ltd has been allocated very limited areas for conserving and extracting thorium-rich minerals from placer deposits of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, while private parties have been permitted to exploit vast areas.
In fact, Government officials and agencies have facilitated certain individuals and companies to develop virtual monopolies in the mining of valuable mineral resources like ilmenite and monazite. And as in the telecom and coal sectors, no auctions were held while bestowing such valuable national resources on crony capitalists.
Worse, reports suggest that in some of the thorium sand containing areas, the private operators have set up a virtual parallel regime where their writ alone runs and the law and order machinery is kept at bay, as happened with iron ore mining. Most of these areas are currently inaccessible to scientists and researchers. This is a grim confirmation that minerals or areas not covered in the lease contracts are being mined and exported. We urgently need a national policy that treats all natural resources as sovereign national wealth, not to be indiscriminately exploited by the private sector.
— The Pioneer, September 11, 2012