Villagers' demands include uninterrupted power, creation of infrastructure

Discontent is brewing among the villagers of Puthupattinam abutting the Kalpakkam nuclear power plant in Kancheepuram district. The villagers, mostly fishermen, are not worried over possible disasters of a nuclear power plant. But their concern is more about denial of employment opportunity to local youth and the depleting natural resources, which they believe, is a result of the nuclear plant operations over the years.

Years of simmering discontent have now evolved into a charter of demands that include uninterrupted power for the village, suitable employment for educated youth in the locality and creation of basic infrastructure, police sources said on Monday.

With the villagers often gathering to discuss further course of action, the Kancheepuram Superintendent of Police S. Manoharan held discussions with them last fortnight. Even on Sunday evening, he visited the village and spoke to the community representatives.

“I had to intervene because some kind of discontent was brewing among the villagers. The local people wanted jobs for eligible persons, power supply from the nuclear power plant, potable water etc. I have conveyed their grievances to the Madras Atomic Power Station authorities. They have promised to take up the issue with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd.,” he said.

According to the Puthipattinam panchayat president Kaliaperumal, a majority of employees in the Kalpakkam nuclear plant and atomic research station belonged to other States.

“Though there are hundreds of educated youths in our village, they are never considered for a suitable job. Thousands of our people are employed as daily wage workers in the plant and are paid Rs. 150 per day…we are demanding that their services be regularised,” he said.

Sustained suction of water had caused depletion of the groundwater table.

“The groundwater level which was 10 feet some 20 years ago is more than 120 feet now. At least 30 varieties of fish have vanished along the Kalpakkam coast. Hundreds of fishermen have lost their livelihood. We are not protesting against nuclear energy…we are only saying give us some facilities,” he said.

Another resident of Puthupattinam said the local people had given lands for the plant and supported all its activities.

Generating employment for the local community and providing basic amenities such as power, water and roads is the fundamental principle of any major industry. “Now they are supplying nuclear power to other States while we are living in darkness due to prolonged power cuts. In the event of any eventuality owing to the nuclear power plant, we will the first to suffer. If the same situation continues, we will have no other option but to take the agitation to the next level,” he said adding that the district SP had held several rounds of talks and the local people were confident that he would take up their grievances at the appropriate level.

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