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Jaitapur won’t relent

February 26, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

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.

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