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Villagers up the ante against Jaitapur N-plant

January 18, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Nikhil M Ghanekar in Tehelka

January 18, 2011

Panchayat heads resign, activists and villagers boycott meeting with Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan

In an effort to awaken the Maharashtra government to take notice of the growing opposition to the proposed Jaitapur Nuclear Park, panchayat heads of 10 villages, along with 80 other elected members, have decided to resign. The panchayat heads of Madban, Niveli, Karel, Mithgavane, Ansure, Padve, Nate, Sakhari Nate, Dale and Jaitapur issued a statement to Ratnagiri Chief Executive Officer Dinesh Doke stating their opposition to the nuclear plant.

Local residents and environmental activists have been opposing the plant on grounds of radiation, environment and bio-diversity concerns. The plant, which will be the biggest in the world, will produce 9,900 MW of energy.

“We want the government to understand the severity of our opposition,” says Dr Milind Desai of the Janhit Sewa Samiti, Madban. “The panchayat heads of the villages surrounding the plant are never taken into confidence about administrative processes, so why should they continue to be in that position? The government has never wanted to know our stand. Our resignation will lead to a stagnation of the Gram Sabha and eventually they will have to listen to us.”

Desai says 25 more panchayat heads will join the protest and residents of these villages will make a request for a joint Gram Sabha to hold a referendum on the project under Section 7 of the Bombay Village Panchayat Act, 1958.

“We have collected nearly 600 signatures from local residents and more will be taken in a door-to-door campaign to petition against the project,” says Nate sarpanch Sanjay Bandkar.

On 18 January, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan organised a meeting with the affected people, activists and officials of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and the Atomic Energy Commission to discuss the apprehensions about the plant. However, members of the Konkan Bachao Samiti, Konkan Vinashkari Prakalpa Virodhi Samiti, Janhit Sewa Samiti, Ratnagiri Jilha Jagruk Manch stayed away and sent a letter to Chavan explaining their reasons for the boycott.

“The locals are being treated as hardened criminals,” alleges Adwait Pednekar of the Konkan Bachao Samiti. “Externment orders and Section 37(3), (1), 144 (unlawful assembly) have been constantly promulgated in the area to prevent exercise of democratic rights. Why then are they asking them to come to Mumbai? All the locals, activists and protesters have consulted with independent bodies, nuclear scientists like Surendra Gadekar and Sanghamitra Gadekar, AEC, Ministry of Enviroment and Forests) and the AERB to arrive at the decision to oppose the plant. Our approach has always been scientific. Unlike what the state government thinks, we do not have any misconceptions and apprehensions about the project that we want to clear. Thus we abstained from attending this meeting.”

Pednekar added that if the government genuinely wants to discuss the issue, the police repression should be stopped, the land acquired forcibly should be returned, the reasons behind selecting Jaitapur as the site be explained and a suitable atmosphere should be created for dialogue.

The letter says there has not been any disclosure on crucial issues like the capital cost of the project, electricity tariff, design approval of the reactors, operational safety in the public domain.

Meanwhile, residents of Madban and neighbouring villages will once again gather in numbers for the annual Bhagwati Jatra this week and decide on their future course of action.

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