A three-day Tarapur-Jaitapur anti-nuclear plant yatra was stopped the moment it began and hundreds of activists were detained at Boisar in this district on Saturday.
Activists and supporters, including Justices (retired) B G Kolse-Patil and P.B. Sawant, social activist Vaishali Patil, and Admiral (retd) L Ramdas, were whisked away in police vans from Panchmarg Tarapur, where they had addressed a public meeting in the morning. They were brought to the Boisar police station around 4.30 p.m., along with 135 protesters, and detained under Section 68 of the Bombay Police Act.
While Justices Patil and Sawant were released, the rest continued in detention till late evening.
Chandrakant Pavaskar, Additional Superintendent of Police, Thane (rural), told The Hindu that since the activists were at the police station, “We can continue to detain them under Section 68 for violating prohibitory orders. We have kept them since they are planning to go to Jaitapur.”
Heavy police bandobust was in place. The small lane where the meeting was held was lined with police vans and vehicles. Twice the protesters were prevented from going ahead and at this they sat in dharna on the road, blocking traffic. After much deliberation, they agreed to proceed to the police station.
The agitators sought an assurance that their yatra would be allowed to continue but the police gave no such word. “Why is the government stopping us from going to Jaitapur? Because it does not want the other side of nuclear energy to reach the people,” Justice Sawant told the meeting.
“We are always being told that nuclear power is clean and pure. It's a complete lie. Who are the people telling it? It's the scientists who need jobs, postings on nuclear energy boards and state honours,” he said.
The accidents at Fukushima, Chernobyl and the Three Mile Island were known to the world only because the governments could not keep them a secret, whereas minor accidents were a daily feature at nuclear power plants, he said.
“At least 30,000 minor accidents have taken place and many have lost their lives, but we don't know. Leaving aside the accidents, the spread of radioactivity in the air itself is the cause for many diseases.” Since nuclear energy threatened the people's right to live in security and with dignity, a public interest litigation petition by a section of society was on the cards.
Justice Sawant saw market forces as being behind the push towards nuclear energy. “After the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island incidents, the demand for nuclear energy plunged worldwide. This dealt a blow to the nuclear power market. Even when there are no takers for this power, the Indian government is pushing it.”
Justice Kolse Patil said the government was repeating a lie over and over again so that it would sound true. He accused Maharashtra Industries Minister Narayan Rane, who has a stronghold in the Konkan, of going to great lengths to crush the andolan against Jaitapur.
Activist Vaishali Patil said there was a “nuclear science mafia” in India.
Ashok Rao from Delhi said India embarked on an “insane” programme of generating energy. He read a statement from the former U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, which advocated diversification of India's energy sector to ease the competition between India and the U.S. “for scarce carbon-based resources.” As for Jaitapur, “the reactors are not used anywhere in the world. So how can you say they are safe? The government bent before a foreign power during the Bhopal tragedy, [so] how can you expect it to deliver justice if there were a nuclear accident?” he asked.
Many scientists were also part of the meeting. C.R. Neelakandan, formerly with the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, said the reactors used in Tarapur and Fukushima Daiichi were the same.
Slogans, songs and placards decrying nuclear power voiced strong opposition to the government's nuclear programme.
Affected persons from Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal were also part of the yatra. “We are there because of land and water. We have come here to give and take support,” said Sandeep Sinha from Haripur, West Bengal, who is opposing a nuclear park to be set up by Russian company Rosatom.
Navratan Dubey from Madhya Pradesh said, “We lost our lands to the Bargi dam and now a nuclear power plant in Chutka village. How many times are we going to be displaced?”
The activists demanded promotion of alternative sources of energy — wind and solar. They questioned the development model that risked people's lives.