The first bugle of revolt against the proposal to set up a 6000 MW capacity nuclear power plant at Jaspara-Mithi Virdi village in Bhavnagar district in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat was sounded on Friday.

The village panchayats of over 50 coastal villages in the district, which apprehend direct impact if the nuclear power plant is set up, took a “do or die” pledge at a public meeting at Mithi Virdi village not to allow the government to acquire their “fertile land” to set up the nuclear plant.

Leaders of different political parties extended their support. Cutting across party lines, leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, its breakaway group the Mahagujarat Janata Party (MJP), the Congress and several Gandhian voluntary organisations addressed the public meeting and were witness to the villagers taking the pledge.

“Not a solution”

The villagers maintained that selling the land that provided them the sustenance was no solution to any problem as they were likely to squander away the money received in compensation. “Even if we accept a few crores of rupees for the land, we will end up frittering it away. How can we think of selling the land,” the villagers said.

The villagers' opposition to the move to set up a nuclear power plant gobbling up their fertile cultivable land had been brewing for sometime. But the resolve to fight till the last against land acquisition by the government or private companies for industrialisation received a boost from anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare, who on a visit to the State on Friday announced the launch of a nation-wide stir against the “forcible land acquisition” for industrial purposes. Mr Hazare had also stated that he proposed to launch the campaign against land for industrialisation from Gujarat after his current mission for the Jan Lokpal bill was completed.

The septuagenarian former State Finance Minister and former Congress member of the Lok Sabha, Sanat Mehta, challenged the contention of the Nuclear Power Corporation that nuclear power was the safest source of energy. “If that is so, why don't they set up the nuclear plant in Delhi or Gandhinagar?” he said.

The former Minister of State for Home in the BJP government, Gordhan Jhadaphia, presently the president of its breakaway group, the MJP, was camping at Mithi Virdi for the last four months or so for mobilising and educating people against the nuclear power plant.

He said the success of the public meeting and the pledge by the village panchayats owe it to the people. “It is a spontaneous people's movement and cannot be crushed either by the Central or the State governments. The villagers are now ready to face any consequences, come what may, but will not part with their land,” he said.