Former plant director backs demands for compensation and jobs
Agitating residents of villages in the vicinity of the Kaiga atomic power station have got support from unexpected quarters.
The former project director of the plant, Paramahamsa Tewari, who helped to set up the installation in the early 1990s, has expressed support for the demands of the ‘struggle committee of villagers within five km of Kaiga plant,' whose protest at Karwar entered the 65 day on Tuesday. “I also plan to write to the authorities about this issue,” he said.
Among the demands are that the land be acquired by the government at reasonable compensation and a job given to each of the displaced families, on the basis of a report submitted by the Nuclear Power Board in 1986. The report categorised the area within five km of the plant as a ‘sterilised zone.'
Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Tewari said: “These demands are justified. It is true that the villagers were assured that their land would be acquired when I was in charge [of the plant]. But after I retired, these promises were not fulfilled.”
However, he did not see merit in the claims of the residents that they have contracted diseases and sustained crop losses because of radiation. “The plant is completely safe. There is no need to worry on that count. After retirement, I, too, have built a house just outside Kaiga.” But he stressed the need to reduce human habitation around the plant to as little as possible. “It is, after all, a high-security zone.”
Mr. Tewari also expressed concern at the living conditions in, and the development indices of, the villages within five km of the plant. “They are planning to invest thousands of crores in the upgrade of the plant but local residents do not have enough to eat because there is no source of employment. This is absolutely wrong.”
A visit to the villages substantiates Mr. Tewari's point. The district administration has not permitted the setting up of any small and medium-scale industries in these villages owing to security concerns. To supplement their income, most farmers work as wage labourers on the land of upper caste landlords near Yellapur and Malavalli. The wage ranges from Rs. 80 to Rs. 120 for men and Rs. 50 to Rs. 100 for women.
“We dare not ask for higher wages as most of us owe money to the landlords,” says Hasibu Kunbi, 30, a member of the Kunbi tribe at Haroor. He borrowed Rs. 20,000 in 2010. “I have been paying Rs. 1,200 towards interest every month.”
Keywords: Kaiga atomic power station