Saturday, February 11, 2006

L’Affaire Clemenceau

Most days, reading the morning papers is not a pleasant experience. It was not so some time ago. There appeared to be some hope. The reason was that one of the highest bodies in the country had recommended that the decommissioned French naval ship Clemenceau should not be allowed to enter India. That was very encouraging and heartening.

The behaviour of France has been deplorable. The trail of lies and obfuscations that have accompanied the ship is a shame on any country. Its pressure on the Egyptian government to let it pass through Suez Canal is mean high handedness. The estimate of the amount of asbestos still left on the ship has varied from 50 tonnes to a thousand tonnes. The attempt by France to block a move to get an independent assessment of the amount of asbestos is, in itself, a give away that it has something to hide.

Is this the same France with which we associate names such as, to name very few, Voltaire, Rousseau, Romaine Rolland? Is it the same country that gifted the statue of Liberty to the US? (Let us not think too much about how ironical it is, just now.) Why does it want to give such a gift as the Clemenceau to India now? Is this the same France, which represented a sane voice against the designs of the US in Iraq?

Alang is far away from Paris. The workers who break that ship are nameless and faceless and may soon become lifeless too due to the duplicity of the French government does not touch it.

What about India and Guajarat? The concerned minister in Gujarat claims that the asbestos presents no danger and the workers at Alang know how to handle it and all precautions would be taken. (“Are you serious?” as a Mc Enroe was wont to ask!) Obviously, the concern is for the few crores it brings to Gujarat and not the health of the workers who would be exposed to the ills of asbestos. He is, mind you, a representative of a party whose platform is national pride. How washing the dirty and poisonous toilet of France and risking the health and life of Indian workers contributes to national pride is beyond me.

The positives in this episode are that Greenpeace has taken the cudgels against France. Egypt did make a futile attempt to stop the ship. The committee formed by the Supreme Court did recommend that Clemenceau should not be allowed into India. Greenpeace in India too is striving to pressurise the government to block the ship. It is good to see that activists such as Swami Agnivesh and Nafisa Joseph have joined the protest.

Every one of us must add our voice to the protest and make it a big enough chorus so that we are heard. Alas, the voice of reason is soft. But enough soft voices together will, I hope, be heard.
Do something within your power to make things happen! Join the signature campaign started by the Greenpeace in India. Do something!


  1. hmmm.... we Indians can start something but sustainence is not our happens in many cases...some how we digres!!!!

  2. jayanth laxman6:23 pm

    The french vehemently denied any harm to Caledonia when they tested nuclear Explosions on the atolls there. It is SAFE they said. Well, in that case they could have done it under the louvre. Couldn't they ?
    See their equation : They come to India and drink Indian water they fall sick but indians dont. Asbestos is bad for them but good for the Indian perhaps ! And our Netas say " If there is no rice to eat, give them Asbestos"