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Drama, tension at Jaitapur interaction

February 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Swatee Kher in Indian Express

February 27, 2011

Much drama and tension ensued throughout Saturday morning and during the two-hour interaction between Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and villagers in Jaitapur opposed to the power project.

The local people were asked by the police before Chavan’s arrival to remove their black badges that stated they did not want the project. Janhit Seva Manch activist Vaishali Patil was asked by the police to step out of the pandal erected to hold the public interaction as the chief minister was reportedly against having “outsiders” attending the interaction meant for local people. As Patil refused to budge, she was supported by the local women. Police later asked Patil and those supporting her to leave the premises. However, Chavan arrived during this interaction and said Patil could stay.

A miffed Narayan Rane asked local doctor Milind Desai to stop talking when the latter said it was shameful that the government was giving the residents a compensation totalling Rs 14 crore. The chief minister said it was not true and the compensation would go up to Rs 400 crore, but it was not a question about money.

Rane also asked local Sena MLA Rajan Salvi not to talk against the government when the latter accused it of betraying residents. “They cannot do such dadagiri. I had seven points to present, but I was asked not to. Why have they called us here then?” Salvi said.

Chavan bats for Jaitapur project, faces protests

February 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Sanjay Jog in Business Standard

February 27, 2011

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and opponents of the 10,000-megawatt Jaitapur nuclear power project on Saturday came face to face near the plant site in Ratnagiri district.

Chavan, also a member of the Atomic Energy Commission, appealed to the locals not to believe the “factually incorrect information” about the project, but extend cooperation in its development. However, the opponents, who had gathered under the banner of Janahit Seva Samiti, made a strong pitch for the cancellation of the project, return of land and withdrawal of all police cases.

This was the first time Chavan, along with industries minister Narayan Rane, rehabilitation minister Patangrao Kadam and Nuclear Power Corporation officials, visited the project site and listened to the opponents’ arguments.

The interactive session was marred by slogan-shouting and verbal duel between Rane and Shiv Sena legislator Rajan Salvi. While Shiv Sena is against the project, its electoral ally BJP has extended a conditional support.

Meanwhile, Union agriculture minister and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar batted in favour of the project.

“Power will be available at a cheaper rate and it will not have adverse impact on the environment. I have already talked to former Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar and other agricultural scientists to understand project details. They are of the view that the project is clean,” he said at a party meeting in Navi Mumbai. He, however, said affected people should be given adequate compensation.

Chavan said some leaders were deliberately misleading people of Jaitapur for gaining political mileage. However, he assured the villagers that the government was ready to hold discussion on each and every objection being raised in this regard.

He said the project would not damage the environment, horticulture and fisheries, as it was based on nuclear power. The project entails an investment of Rs 1 lakh crore and it would help expedite the development of the region, according to him. The environment ministry has cleared the project with 32 stringent conditions.

Praveen Gavankar, a senior member of the Janahit Seva Samiti, alleged the project would be in violation of the Coastal Regulatory Zone norms though technically exempted.

A European misleading locals against Jaitapur nuclear plant: Prithviraj Chavan

February 27, 2011 Leave a comment

From the DNA

February 27, 2011

Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on Sunday said “a European man” was involved in a false propaganda against the upcoming Jaitapur nuclear power project in the coastal Ratnagiri district.

“Some European man was showing a video film to the locals, so that they oppose this prestigious nuclear power project,” Chavan told reporters here.

Chavan, who had visited Jaitapur yesterday to meet the local people who are opposed to the project, said here that the government was pursuing development and he put this point across to the local people.

By show of hands and strength, villagers register protest

February 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Meena Menon in The Hindu

Februaru 27, 2011

Why don’t you take nuclear project to Baramati, Samiti asks Chavan

Maharashtra Industries Minister Narayan Rane on Saturday briefed Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on the Jaitapur nuclear power project and its opponents at the Madban village site. He asked Konkan Inspector-General of Police Parambir Singh why outsiders were allowed to attend a public meeting addressed by the Chief Minister. The only outsider in question Vaishali Patil of the Konkan Vinashkari Prakalp Virodhi Samiti was then told by the police to come out of the meeting for a while. She was also asked to remove her black badge. However, she refused and when the police tried to evict her, women rose in her support and created a scene. In the end Ms. Patil was allowed to attend the meeting. The police already issued an externment notice against her some time ago.

Mr. Chavan walked into a scene of chaos which was quickly brought under control and for a while he heard locals speak about the project. The local people had boycotted an open house called by him in Mumbai in January. On Saturday Pravin Gavankar from the Janhit Seva Samiti (JSS) of Madban assailed forcible land acquisition by the government, and said no democratic norms were being followed. He alleged that the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited was spreading lies about the project, saying on television that pregnant women would not be harmed if they worked in a nuclear power plant.

Mr. Gavankar said the people did not simply boycott the open house, they had sent a detailed list of reasons. Even if the compensation package was increased to Rs. 10 lakh an acre, no one would be interested. Mr. Gavankar said he had recently visited Tarapur and he did not see any great development, but fishing was almost finished there. “Why don’t you take this project to Baramati, instead of spoiling a historic site which had Shivaji’s Vijaydurg fort in the vicinity.” The Chief Minister should be sympathetic, scrap the project, return the forcibly acquired land and drop charges and chapter cases against the protesters, he demanded. Madban, which had 14 freedom fighters, now faced repression, Mr. Gavankar pointed out.

Milind Desai of Mithgavane said the government did not take into account the people’s objections. The project was worth Rs. 1 lakh crore but the government’s package was worth Rs. 15 crore. “Isn’t the government ashamed,” Dr. Desai asked. This provoked Mr. Rane into reacting violently. As a result, Dr. Desai had to cut short his speech. Amjad Borkar, who represented the fisherfolk, spoke about the impact of rising water temperatures on fishing. He said no study had been conducted on the impact on fishing and creeks.

A project proponent, Raja Patwardhan was booed by the crowd, while Rajan Salvi, Shiv Sena MLA from Rajapur, was prevented from speaking by Mr Rane. He had to be content with handing over a seven-point memorandum to Mr. Chavan, who later said there was no truth in any of the contentions raised therein.

Prakash Waghdare from Madban asked the people opposed to the project to raise their hands and almost everyone did so. He said the government had to respect people’s feelings and cancel the project. While repeated appeals for peace did not work, Mr. Rane, in his speech, said people had to show respect to the Chief Minister and not insult him.

He asked the people to decide who their real benefactors were and not be misled by false information. This was a national project and people should support it, he said, and all questions would be answered by the Chief Minister who was willing to give time and who had also expressed a desire to visit Sakhri Nate. Mr. Rane told the agitators that they should not stretch matters beyond a point.

Chavan visits Jaitapur site

February 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Meena Menon in The Hindu

Feb 27, 2011

Attacks protesters for their lack of awareness about science

If Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had any doubt about people’s opposition to the Jaitapur nuclear power project, it was set at rest at a public meeting on Saturday. However, Mr. Chavan took an aggressive stance, attacking the protesters for their lack of awareness of science and warning them not to be misled by outsiders and their propaganda.

The Chief Minister came to visit the Jaitapur project site, address the public meeting and hear those opposing the plant. He promised to discuss the issue in future to clear all doubts.

Even before the meeting began, the police went about asking the men and women, who had assembled in strength, to remove their black badges, which while welcoming the Chief Minister, also said ‘no’ to nuclear energy. The police also dissuaded people from carrying banners.

Mr. Chavan, who spoke after listening to the opponents and supporters of the project, said memorandums submitted to him did not have names or signatures and the issues they raised were misleading. Some foreign powers did not want to see India progress, but he was confident that India would overcome the challenge. He warned people not to be swayed by propaganda and said he was ready to hear their side of the story.

Not a single point raised by the opponents was true, Mr. Chavan countered, adding it was 100 per cent false propaganda. He said he had heard everyone’s opinions, some of which were harsh, but this is bound to happen in a thriving democracy and he was proud of that. The Jaitapur project was cleared as per law, there was a public hearing last year and over 900 grievances submitted were addressed. Yet unscientific information about cancer, and project’s impact on pregnant women were being spread. As the project had all clearances there was no need to even have this discussion since everything was legal. He said as Chief Minister he too was worried about the citizens. He expressed disappointment that despite being invited for the open house in Mumbai, people they did not turn up. He said he was even willing to send a vehicle for them.

He said compensation could go up to Rs. 400 crore. However, it was not an issue of money, it’s a question of misunderstandings that were being aired, he said.

There is a feeling that fishing will be impacted, so deep is the level of misunderstanding, he pointed out. He said the concerns raised in the memorandums were so wrong, especially regarding water temperatures. “If there is a one per cent truth in your allegations I will solve them,” he said. Touching on the outsider aspect to the agitation, he said he was keen on hearing local people in Mumbai, but some political forces have kept them back. He said while he did not want to dwell on technical issues, such a huge investment would not come to India again.

Defending nuclear energy, Mr. Chavan said while solar energy was offered as an alternative, if one had to build a plant of the same capacity as Jaitapur, about 20,000 hectares will be needed. Who is going to give this land? he said. He said, solar energy was heavily subsidized and coal energy was highly polluting. As far as hydel power was concerned, he said it led to submerging forest land. In this country 50 per cent did not have electricity and increasing capacity is important, Mr. Chavan said.

People affected by Jaitapur project to meet Chavan

February 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Meena Menon in The Hindu

February 26, 2011

In a last-minute change of plans, protesters opposed to the Jaitapur nuclear power project will now meet Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Saturday and address the public meeting. Till Friday evening, they had decided to boycott the Chief Minister’s meeting to show their staunch opposition to nuclear energy.

However, at a meeting in Madban near the project site, Pravin Gavankar from the Janhit Seva Samiti and members of various anti-nuclear groups decided not to boycott the meeting and in turn have been allowed half an hour to make their points.

The meeting will take place at Maneshwar temple at Karel village, one of the project affected villages. Mr. Gavankar said the police had visited the village and warned people against shouting slogans or carrying banners. Local rickshaw drivers have been asked to remove anti-nuclear stickers from their vehicles.

Mr. Gavankar said that about 2,000 people would attend the meeting. He was released on bail recently after a chapter case was filed against him. Police has filed chapter cases against several protesters who took part in the jail bharo agitation last October and December.

A public invitation to attend the meeting was issued by a local official on Friday. Prohibitory orders, put in place to prevent protests, have been lifted. Mr. Gavankar and others will submit a memorandum to the Chief Minister stating their firm opposition to the proposed nuclear power project.

Coinciding with the meeting on Saturday, project affected people in Tarapur near Mumbai will stage protests against their incomplete rehabilitation after 40 years. The Tarapur nuclear power project displaced people and those who were given jobs in the plant were on contract. Some 200 people are now jobless.

Jaitapur won’t relent

February 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Sandeep Ashar in Times of India

February 26, 2011

MUMBAI: Opposition from local villagers to the Jaitapur nuclear power plant is unlikely to recede even as chief minister Prithviraj Chavan visits the site on Saturday. Despite efforts by the government to win support of the locals for the project, most villagers are united in their demand for its cancellation.

The project, which will have a power generation capacity of 9900 mw after being fully commissioned, is the biggest taken up in the country till now and will be implemented by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL).

Locals have been protesting against the project since 2006, when the state government initiated the acquisition of land process. Over 938 hectares from Madban, Niveli, Karel, Mithgavane and Varilwada villages had been acquired.

Villagers claimed the acquisition was “undemocratic and unjust”. Only 126 of the 2,335-odd families, whose land is under acquisition, have agreed to the compensation offered by the government. The protests gained ground in last year with villagers from neighbouring villages joining in. Concerns regarding loss of livelihood and the impact on health have been raised and fishermen and farmers have joined hands.

The Janhit Seva Samiti (JSS) and Konkan Vinashkari Prakalp Bachao Samiti (KVPBS) may hand over a charter of demands to Chavan. The foremost demand will be for the project’s cancellation, said Dr Milind Desai, a JSS member. He said, “The project is being imposed on villagers even though over 90% people are against it.” He demanded a public poll among villagers on the issue.

NPCIL project director C B Jain said many villagers supported the project, “but they are being threatened”.

Ramesh Kajve, another JSS member and local Congress leader, rubbished Jain’s contention. “Let there be a secret ballot. Let the truth come out,” he said.

JSS is likely to ask Chavan to schedule a meeting on technical issues with expert panelists of both sides debating it.

Jain remarked that political vendetta was behind the agitation. The outfits meanwhile accused the state administration and NPCIL of using pressurizing tactics to stem the opposition.

Meanwhile, arrangements for Chavan’s visit went in overdrive mode on Friday. Roads were improved, helicopter landing paths drawn. Officials from the police and collector’s office interacted with villagers and urged them to retain peace during the event. Suspecting that outsiders would be brought by the Congress for the event’s success, locals have plans to wear badges and carry identity cards.

‘Pressure ploys being used to deflate opposition’

Locals have accused the district administration of using oppressive means and pressure ploys to rein in the opposition to the project.

Janhit Seva Samiti, an outfit representing local villagers, has claimed that threats were being issued to some of those spearheading the protest. The JSS has said that protestors were being tried in false cases. Another local said water pumps which were being to draw water in one of the villages were severed a few days back. Pravin Gavankar, a local activist, claimed that, “Over 191 people had been subjected to preventive arrests since the protests began in 2006.”

Sub divisional magistrate Ajit Pawar, who was accused of being behind pressure ploys, refused to comment on the issue. “I am not authorized to speak to the press,” he said, adding, “You please talk to the collector.” TOI tried to contact the collector, but he was unavailable for comment. Mangesh Kaskar, another local, said in some cases, villagers were also being made tall promises on development and infrastructure to gain their support. Officials from the district administration dismissed the charges.

Tarapur locals to join in

Even as chief minister Prithviraj Chavan interacts with people affected by the Jaitapur nuclear power plant project on Saturday, demonstrations have been planned by around 300 people affected by the atomic power plant in Tarapur. Lochan Chaudhary, who will spearhead the protest, said, “We have been suffering for four decades. But we are yet to get jobs promised to us. There are also issues regarding infrastructure and development of the region. No one from the government has cared to visit us.” Another activist, Ajit Mhatre, said, “There are health issues too. The CM has doled out a package for Jaitapur following the protest, but nothing was done for us.” NPCIL officials denied the charge.

Supporters being boycotted

Meanwhile, those who support the project have to face the wrath of locals. Many are being disowned by villages and are not being invited to social functions. Sayli Waghdhare, whose husband Sanjay accepted compensation, said they had to shift from Madban to Mirzod.