Put Indian citizens before profits of international corporations, initiate a national debate on nuclear energy – S P Udayakumar

 Eminent Gandhian activist Dr. S P Udayakumar, who has been leading the grassroots protest in recent years against the Koodankulam nuclear power project in Tamil Nadu, addressed a press conference today in Chandigarh. He flagged the growing protests against nuclear projects as a reflection of people’s justifiable dissent against the political apparatus in India, which stands totally divorced today from the real needs of the country and serves the vested strong interests.

Highlighting the long-term and irreversible dangers to life and environment that the nuclear power poses, Dr. Udayakumar made an urgent call to demand transparency and accountability and asked that the government should initiate a broad-based debate on this crucial policy impacting lives of millions of farmers, fisherfolk and common people in India. If the Indian government is confident about the safety and desirability of these nuclear projects, it should be forthcoming and open to discussion. India is engaged in a massive expansion of nuclear projects at a time when there is a global trend of moving away from nuclear and adopting more sustainable and eco-friendly forms of energy generation. Particularly after Fukushima, countries like Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, Italy and France have decided to phase out and reverse their nuclear projects.

Dr. Udayakumar was joined by activists from Fatehabad in Haryana, where the NPCIL is setting up 4 reactors at Gorakhpur village. He highlighted the absurdity of establishing power plants near a small canal, where there would not be enough water to cool down the reactors in case of an accident. The canal water, which has been a lifeline for farmers in the region, would be snatched away for these reactors. The Gorakhpur project also threatens the rich wildlife, including the black bucks that are revered by the local Bishnoi community.

Dr. Udayakumar asserted that the struggle in Koodankulam is still on, and people are demanding crucial documents like Site Evaluation Report, Safety Analysis Report and Emergency Evacuation Plans that the NPCIL is refusing to share. The question of liability in case of an accident also haunts Koodankulam, where the Russian company has refused to take any responsibility. He strongly demanded that the plans to construct Reactor No. 3 and 4 in Koodankulam must be scrapped.

Touching upon the broader issues of evolving a comprehensive energy policy for the country and redefining ‘development’ which is currently just corporate-centric, Dr. Udayakumar emphasized that as citizens of India we love our country, we also want its development but that development should put our people at the centre, and not succumb to the global corporates’ pressure who are bent on selling their outdated and dangerous technology for which there are no takers in their own countries.

Dr. Udayakumar was joined by Kumar Sundaram of Coalition of Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) who gave an overview of all the anti-nuclear protest across the country and reiterated Dr. Udayakumar’s demand for an open, transparent and democratic debate in India on nuclear future before we proceed with these plans. Yashveer Arya and Dharmpal Tyagi of the Azadi Bachao Aandolan, Subash Poonia, Adv. Rajiv Godhara, Kavaljeet Singh of CPI-ML and Devraj Tyagi of the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi also spoke at the occasion and highlighted the dangers that the project poses to local farmers.

The press conference was chaired by eminent Gandhian Prof. V C Nanda who contextualized the anti-nuclear protest as a genuine people’s agitation questioning the short-sighted policies and wasteful lifestyles that we have fallen for. He urged that we must revisit Mahatma Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj to build a just, sustainable and non-violent India.

Contact: Yashveer Arya, 09416195523; VC Nanda, 9256253955