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By show of hands and strength, villagers register protest

February 27, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

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.

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