Duty of Centre, State to respond to fears over Kudankulam plant

Rejecting Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's remarks blaming the Centre for failing to convince the people about the safety of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, social activist Medha Patkar on Monday said it was the collective responsibility of both the Central and State governments to respond to the genuine apprehensions of the local community living close to the upcoming nuclear reactors.

“The Union government alone cannot be held responsible for the establishment of the project as it was the Tamil Nadu government that facilitated the project by way of giving land and other assistance to the Centre and hence it is the collective responsibility of both Central and State governments to ensure the safety and sovereignty of its citizens,” said Ms. Patkar, who met the people observing fast at Idinthakarai, a coastal hamlet near the plant site.

As news of Ms. Jayalalithaa's statement reached Idinthakarai, the organisers, led by coordinator S.P. Udhayakumar discussed the gist of her letter to the Prime Minister and her appeal to them to give up their nine-day fast. Ms. Patkar reached the spot shortly after noon and joined the discussion.

Dr. Udhayakumar later said the anti-KKNPP protest, which started at Idinthakarai on September 11, had since spread to other parts of Tamil Nadu, with various organisations holding different forms of protest against the nuclear power generation programme. “Any decision on the future course of the protest can be taken only after consulting all these leaders,” he said. A decision was likely on Tuesday, he added.

Solidarity

After the indefinite fast commenced at Indinthakarai, leaders of various political parties, including Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam president and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Vijayakanth, met the agitators and expressed solidarity with their cause.

With almost all local families taking part in the agitation, the villagers have started centres at Uvari, Kudankulam and Vairaavikinaru to prepare gruel and feed the children and the aged.

Initially, 127 protesters went on an indefinite fast, but 23 of them have since been hospitalised, leaving 104 continuing their hunger strike.

Ms. Patkar said the people had started questioning the safety of the nuclear power programme after sensing the risks involved in it following the Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima accidents and the adverse impact on the land, air and water being caused by such programmes. Though several conditions would be laid down initially for project clearance, none of these assurances would be honoured at the stage of execution.