Kudankulam; the facts nation should know

Posted by Ajmal Khan
July 3, 2017

When Republic TV journalists carried a so-called sting operation on S.P Udayakumar, one of the leaders of the movement against Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project in Tamil Nadu, Kudankulam once again featured prominently in the news.

There are two allegations that people who were protesting the Kudankulam power project under the umbrella of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy have faced time and again. The first is, they are getting foreign money to protest against the project and those who are protesting against the project are protesting against the interests of the nation, hence they are anti-national. S.P Udayakumar has already moved to the Press Council against Arnab Goswami and Republic Channel, stating the harassment faced by him and his family.

As far as the allegations of foreign money are concerned, it’s evident from the video footage that S.P Udayakumar is asking from the person and her family to contribute to his political party, the Green Party. He even said that he would be providing a receipt. It is a very normal practice in India. However, he is not asking money for the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy that is leading the protests. Hence, it’s baseless to accuse them of asking for money for the protests.

This is not a new allegation for the Kudankulam protesters. It was alleged that the Kudankulam protest is backed by the church and foreign countries on the basis of the funds that the church gets for charity activities in the region. One should visit the villages and see the hospitals, schools and other basic amenities here provided by the charity organisations where the ‘development’ of the government has not yet reached. The funds that they get for charity were identified as the ‘foreign hand’ without any evidence. People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy has made it very clear again and again that they have not received and would not like to receive any money during the course of protest from any local or international NGOs. It has been running out of the contributions from the local people who will be affected in Kudankulam, Idinthakarai and other villages.

However, there are a few other developments that have taken place in Kudankulam which is has not been covered much by the media. The foundations of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project was laid in 1989. But after long years of delays, uncertainties, irregularities, illegalities and repeated protests at the project site, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, inaugurated the first 1,000 MW unit of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) last year, dedicating it to the nation. According to NPCIL the reactor in Kudankulam has started generating electricity. After this, the ASE Group, a subsidiary of Russia’s ROSATOM State Atomic Energy Corporation, has also announced that the foundation of unit three of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP), will be laid by the end of June or beginning of July.

In another development, India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has announced that it has given its nod to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), the nuclear reactor operator of the country, for the first pouring of concrete for the third and fourth units at Kudankulam. It is said t t, the clearance to the third and fourth units at Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) was granted based on a detailed safety review and satisfactory compliance to regulatory requirements. However, it’s an illegal move from The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) which went ahead giving clearance to the construction activities.

Para 2.4 (b) of the Criteria reads: the basic goal of NPP siting is to locate the reactor in a relatively low population zone. For this purpose, the population around the plant shall be controlled as follows:

The following are the criteria for granting permission for Nuclear power plants:

(i) Population density within 10 km of the site shall be less than 2/3 of the average population density in the state;

(ii) There should be no population centre of greater than 10000 persons within 10 km of the plant;

(iii) There should be no population center of more than 1 lakh persons within 30 km from the plant; and

(iv) The total population in the sterilized area should be small, preferably less than 20,000.

However, in the case of Kudankulam, Within a distance of 5 km from the site for KKNPP Units 3 to 6 (sterilized zone) there are three villages. Kudankulam, Vijayapathi, and Erukkandurai have a combined population of 23,060 (as per 2001 census). The criteria mandate that the population should not exceed 20000 in the sterilized zone. As per 2011 census, the population of these villages is 28,397. Since the sterilized zone’s population exceeds the limit under the Criteria, the AERB ought not to have granted the FPC clearance to the units in question.

The Coastal Zone clearance granted to units 3 to 6 of Kudankulam is based on an Environment Impacts Assessment done by Engineers India Ltd, an unaccredited agency to do EIA for Nuclear Power Plants. It is under Supreme Court review, and in such a context granting the clearance to the new reactors should also be questioned.

People in Kudankulam, Idinthakarai and other villages have not yet forgotten the state violence throughout the opposition movement in Kudankulam. Those who were protesting against the plant were arrested and cases were charged on them including sedition and waging war against the state. There were around 8000 people charged for sedition, the highest number of sedition cases charged in independent India. Many people gave their lives in Kudankulam against the power plant. The first ever victim was a young man of 19 called Ignatius in May 1989, a year after plan for the plant were first announced. A peaceful rally in Kanyakumari was dispersed by police firing leaving one family without their teenage son. Many fisher men also injured in the police firing, later in 2012 when police fired to a solidarity protest to clear a highway blocked by demonstrators nearby Tuticorin in Manapadu village, 44 year old Anthony John, a fisher men was killed. The third martyr was 42 year old Sahayam during Jal sathyagraha (Sea-based Civil Disobedience) in Idithingari, he had claimed on a rock on the coastal line to participate in the protest, suddenly an air craft on the air force which was keeping vigil of the protest swooped dangerously low in that Sahayam lost his balance and fell on the rocks and to water and later declared dead in the hospital at Nagercoil. Hundreds of people including women, children and elder people were injured out of police atrocity; the crime they committed was just opposing the irregularities of the nuclear establishment and peacefully questioning the development model that the Indian state was imposing on them. This movement which got international attention and mass support from all over the country had posed serious threat towards the nuclear expansion of India hence, the nuclear establishment in India want to break the movement and want to suppress any dissent. It’s important to note that, apart from the existing illegalities, violations of procedure, new reactors are illegally going to be constructed in Kudankulam, government and the nuclear lobby wants to ensure no protest takes place against this. Hence, the leaders against the project has to be silenced, this is the context Republic TV claims to expose the leader of Kudankulam protest. There were around 8000 people charged with sedition, the highest number of sedition cases charged in independent India.

Many people gave their lives in Kudankulam against the power plant. The first ever victim was a young man of 19 called Ignatius in May 1989, a year after plan for the plant were first announced. A peaceful rally in Kanyakumari was dispersed by police firing leaving one family without their teenage son. Many fisher men were also injured in the police firing. Later in 2012 when police fired to a solidarity protest to clear a highway blocked by demonstrators nearby Tuticorin in Manapadu village, 44 year old Anthony John, a fisher man was killed. The third martyr was 42 year old Sahayam during Jal sathyagraha (Sea-based Civil Disobedience) in Idithingari, he had claimed on a rock on the coastal line to participate in the protest, suddenly an air craft on the air force which was keeping vigil of the protest swooped dangerously low in that Sahayam lost his balance and fell on the rocks and to water and later declared dead in the hospital at Nagercoil. Hundreds of people including women, children and elder people were injured out of police atrocity; the crime they committed was just opposing the irregularities of the nuclear establishment and peacefully questioning the development model that the Indian state was imposing on them. This movement which got international attention and mass support from all over the country had posed serious threat towards the nuclear expansion of India hence, the nuclear establishment in India want to break the movement and want to suppress any dissent. It’s important to note that, apart from the existing illegalities and violations of procedure, new reactors are illegally going to be constructed in Kudankulam. The government and the nuclear lobby wants to ensure no protest takes place against this. Hence, the leaders against the project has to be silenced, this is the context Republic TV claims to expose the leader of Kudankulam protest.

Reference

Criteria for Regulation of Health and Safety for Nuclear Power Plant Personnel, the public and environment, Issued in June, 2001, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board Mumbai 400 094.

(Ajmal Khan is researcher based in Mumbai)

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