Protest never ends at Indian
nuclear plant By K S
KUDANKULAM, India - An
indefinite struggle continues against the
Kudankulam nuclear power plant in the southern
Indian state Tamil Nadu despite a government
crackdown on protests.
village in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, has
become the hub of a mass agitation which started
on August 16, 2011. Hundreds of men, women and
children from a group of 12 villages are leading a
campaign to stall operation of the nuclear plant.
The public agitation intensified after the
disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.
The villagers say they have been facing
false propaganda through the media, foreign money,
threats from goons, prohibitory orders
against meeting in public
places, harassment from officials, abuse from
policemen, cases of sedition in courts, and arrest
The movement has become a major
headache for the government, S P Udayakumar,
leader of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear
Power (PMANP) told IPS. The sit-in-protest at
Idinthakarai has now continued more than 500 days.
"The goons of the establishment threatened
my family members and destroyed my school near
Nagercoil in Kanyakumari district. The government
wants to arrest me to shatter the mental strength
of the Kudankulam villagers. The central
government has portrayed me as an American agent
to isolate me from the rest of the supporters."
Fearing constant snooping by national
intelligence agencies and arrest by the Tamil Nadu
police, the front leaders of the PMANP are staying
at undisclosed areas.
Rajalakshmi, a woman
living at Kudnakulam, said that senior leaders of
the movement did not attend weddings and funeral
prayers for fear of arrest. "It is a risk for
leaders to be present at functions."
backbone of the Kudankulam agitation are the
fishers, who believe that the plant is a threat to
"The fishermen have had
to borrow millions of dollars from banks to stay
alive and feed their families as they have stopped
going to sea," Tamil writer Joe D'cruz from Uvari
village told IPS. "The allegation of foreign funds
sustaining the agitation is false propaganda meant
to malign the people's movement."
have been particularly active in the protests.
"Even though police are continuing their threats,
women protesters are going to every house to
canvas people," said Balammal from Chettikulam
On August 13 last year, children
marched to the district collector's office and
complained that the Nuclear Power Corporation of
India has not followed disaster management norms
in the construction of the plant.
strongly oppose the plant which will destroy our
coming generation," Arun, a 10-year-old boy told
Teachers say anxiety has crept into
schools. "They have strong views against the
plant. The stress has affected a few students'
performance in the examination," said a teacher at
the St Anne's Higher Secondary School at
Gopal, a young protester from
Kuttappilli village, said that some who are
protesting today were the children who
participated in the agitation in 1988 when India
signed a pact with erstwhile Soviet Union to
construct a nuclear plant at Kudankulam.
Protesters recognize their limits. "We are
ordinary people and hold strong peaceful protests,
but we cannot do much to oppose the
establishment," said Udayakumar.
International researchers into the health
effects of radiation say the protest is justified
because of geographical factors. V T Padmanabhan,
well-known scientist and member of the European
Commission on Radiation Risk, points out that the
power plant is situated on a volcano site.
"Geological studies show that there are
many possibilities of a tsunami in the Gulf of
Mannar region which is very close to Kudankulam,"
he told IPS. "Another important threat is the
using of sea water instead of fresh water as a
coolant element in the nuclear reaction
The agitation has won wide
support from environmentalists and independent
groups from the neighboring states Kerala and
The commissioning of the 2000
MW nuclear power plant at Kudankulam has been
delayed due to undisclosed technical problems.
Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission R
K Sinha has said there is no major issue behind
the delay. But he declined to give any specific
date for commissioning.