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India – Government Power vs People Power

While at least fifteen people fasted against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant and thousands protested, the work at the plant returned to normal Tuesday, 20 March. This was a day after the Tamil Nadu government gave the go-ahead to restart work on the stalled Indo-Russian project, with officials saying the first unit would be commissioned, ‘as soon as possible.’

On that day, as the Jayalalithaa government gave the green light to the plant management, police and disciplined forces simultaneously cracked down on the protesters.

Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Sukumar Banerjee told the media that there was no damage to the plant despite that work had come to a standstill following the eight month-long protests by locals, spearheaded by People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) over safety concerns. “We are very happy work has started again and there is full force today. The plant is definitely very safe. There is no damage to the plant,” he said.

However, that is not the opinion of PMANE convener S.P. Udayakumar and associate M. Pushparayan. According to India’s *Economic Times*. They, along with others, have been on an indefinite fast in Idinthakarai, the epicentre of the protests, opposing the arrest of 10 of their fellows on Monday. Police arrested around 180 protesters since Monday.

Angered by the ‘all-clear’ given to the plant, Udaykumar said people in the 30-km radius of the nuclear plant have not had any disaster or evacuation training. If the government decide to load the fuels rods without preparing the people they would be violating the rules of the Atomic Energy Regulation Board and other international stipulations,

Security in and around Kudankulam and nearby villages has been stepped up and several state police units have been pressed into service to ensure smooth functioning at the plant. Prohibitory orders have also been enforced in Radhapuram Taluk where the plant is located. Police were holding talks with the locals, confident of persuading them to withdraw their agitation against the project.

Small hope that!

The people of the area have had plenty of time to discuss the issues surrounding nuclear power and Fukushima disaster is still fresh news. Things have changed radically since ‘Bhopal’.

Proof of this was seen in the interview of Prof. Achin Vanaik, that was part of “Cracking the Nuclear Labyrinth” International Forum 2012, held in Hong Kong (***) 10th March. Recently retired as Professor of International Relations and Global Politics in the Political Science Department of Delhi University, Mr Vanaik introduced in some detail the anti-nuclear movement against Kudankulam Power Plant (located in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu that has run into trouble with activists and locals staging massive protests citing safety concerns in the wake of the Fukushima disaster) telling of the mass participation, hunger strikes, and how the action spread through various Indian communities. India is exporting non-violent activism!

The government is forcing an unsafe nuclear plant on the people of Kudankulam. Their own Chief Minister, Jayalalitha, has betrayed them. Their fellow protestors have been arrested, yet they have not given up.

Nuclear power, contrary to the government statements, is extremely dirty, of limited supply, and unsafe thus unreliable. One explosion contaminates all of our Earth, and has done. The nuclear waste storage pools are more dangerous than the operations of nuclear power stations – they have to be constantly kept cool – for thousands of years… There is no such animal as a safe nuclear power station!

Finally, and in reality, of the most pressing concern is the inextricable link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Without nuclear power there can be no nuclear weapons and for this reason alone nuclear power should be absolutely shunned.

(see story on Pressenza – http://world.pressenza.org/npermalink/no-nukes-forum-cracking-the-nuclear-labyrinth)

About The Author

Tony Henderson is a freelance writer working in Hong Kong, since 1980, and previously Japan, for seven years following two years in Mauritius after a year in Libya. Long time participant in the Humanist Movement and spokesman for Universal Humanism in Hong Kong. Also, Pressenza Hong Kong Bureau Chief.

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