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Protest against Jaitapur nuclear plant

March 16, 2011 1 comment

Siddharth Gadkari in Pune Mirror

March 16, 2011

With Japan’s nuclear power plant explosions, locals and activists have intensified their agitation against the proposed Jaitapur nuclear power project in Ratnagiri.

The Lokshasan Andolan strongly condemned the project, terming it a fascist onslaught on people meant to crush their resistance. Lokshashan Andolan’s Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) Lokayat held a press conference to address this on Tuesday.

Former Justice P B Sawant, founder of the organisation, criticised  the state saying, “Till before the Japanese  nuclear meltdown, India’s nuclear authorities said that if that earthquake-prone Japan could operate nuclear reactors, then India could definitely do so. However, this disaster clearly shows what could happen in Jaitapur.”

He also said that if a major accident were to take place at Jaitapur-Madban, then the western region of Maharashtra, including Pune, would be radiocatively contaminated even 25 years later.

Quite a large area would also have to be permanently evacuated. “Are we ever going to allow this,” he asked. While  addressing MLAs and MLCs in the central hall of Maharashtra Legislature on Monday, former Atomic Energy Commission chairman, Anil Kakodkar said, “Indian nuclear reactors have ‘engineered safeguards’ which would be activated automatically in case of an emergency.”

Niraj Jain of Lokayat replied with, “Nuclear experts worldwide have described India’s nuclear power plants as amongst the ‘most dangerous in the world’. There have been at least 300 accidents at India’s reactors, for example the accident at Narora in Uttar Pradesh in 1993 and Kakrapar in 1994. How can Kakodkar guarantee the safety of the Jaitapur plant?”

As retired judges, academicians and scientists who support the struggle have been barred from entering Ratnagari, activists plan to stage a Dharna on Thursday, March 17, outside the Pune’s Collectorate, demanding the Jaitapur Nuclear Plant be scrapped.

The government said additional environmental safeguards at the proposed Jaitapur plant can be considered. “What has happened is horrendous. Japan, which is best prepared to deal with earthquakes to lose so much life and property and particularly the nuclear catastrophe is a great concern for all of us,” Jairam Ramesh said in Delhi earlier today.

Jaitapur project: State ropes in clerics to bring fishermen around

March 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Rakshit Sonawane in Indian Express

March 7, 2011

Leaving no stone unturned to push the nuclear power project at Jaitapur in Ratnagiri district, the state government has decided to rope in Muslim clerics to convince the predominantly Muslim fishing community in the region that is opposing the project.

The fishing community in Nate and Sakhri Nate villages is apprehensive about curbs being imposed on movement of their trawlers and damage to marine life once the project goes critical. According to officials, over 30 per cent of fishing along the Ratnagiri coast is done by fishermen from Nate, using about 350 trawlers. The entire population is Muslim, while the Sakhri Nate village has a mixed population of about 800.

With NGOs and political parties opposed to the project like the RPI and Shiv Sena active here, fishermen from both villages had aggressively opposed the project during Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s visit on February 26. They had joined residents of other villages opposed to the project, such as Madban, Niveli, Karel, Mithgavane and Varliwada.

“Muslim clerics right from Chiplun to Nate have been contacted,” sources said. “A meeting of all clerics was also held recently… They were asked to convince the fishing community that the project would not affect marine life or impose any restrictions on the movement of their boats.”

The clerics, who are in touch with locals daily, have also been asked to talk about the safety factor and convince them that the project would not harm them. Industries Minister Narayan Rane has also met the clerics.

When contacted, Rane said: “Technically, Nate and Sakhri Nate residents are not PAPs (project affected persons). They are outsiders because they are not losing their land or houses. But we have worked out a package for them. It includes construction of a fishing jetty, creation of cold storage facilities, finance for trawlers, besides desilting of the Musa-Kazi fishing jetty and provision of nets and vessels to fishermen.

Cops bar Jaitapur activists from holding meeting citing prohibitory orders

March 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Sandeep Ashar in Times of India

March 7, 2011,

The Ratnagiri police on Sunday barred activists from protesting the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant (JNPP) project onT grounds that “such an event could disturb public tranquility”.

On Sunday morning, representatives from various outfits, who are a part of the project, were to meet in Pawas, which is situated 60 km from the N-plant site. The meeting was organized to discuss police action against some of the activists opposing the project and decide the future course of the movement.

The police action began around midnight on Saturday when three activists, namely Justice (retd) PB Sawant, Justice (retd) BG Kolse Patil and Vaishali Patil, were stopped by the police from entering the Ratnagiri district. The three activists had reached the district border, when the police asked them to refrain from entering. The Rajapur executive magistrate had issued an order last week which imposed restrictions on the movement of the three activists inside the district on grounds that it could disturb peace and tranquility in the region. The order was issued under provisions of Article 144(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

The police also detained a few other activists, including Dr Vivek Bhide, Satyajit Chavan, and a retired ACP. , as a prohibitory measure They also staged naka bandis and patrolled railway stations to dissuade locals from attending the meeting, which later had to be cancelled.

Terming the police action as an attempt to “suppress” the voice of the protesters, Justice Sawant (retd) said, “The activists will file a writ petition challenging the prohibitory orders issued against me and two others.” He said, “The Constitution gives everyone the freedom to right to speech and expression.” Pravin Gavankar, another activist, alleged that the action was an attempt by the state machinery to force villagers to withdraw their opposition to the plant.

Pradeep Raskar, superintendent of police, Ratnagiri, defended the action. He said it was needed to maintain law and order. Raskar said that all the actions had been taken in keeping with the law. The orders have affected the protesters’ plans of holding a people’s tribunal at Mithgavane village to highlight “injustice to locals”. The hearings have been put off. . The state administration has been maintaining all possible public consultation steps and fair means had been taken before going ahead with the project, the protesting camp however disagrees with this observation. Meanwhile, there were reports that a delegation of MPs from the Left Parties was likely to visit the site sometime this week and meet the project affected people, these however could not be confirmed.

Show cause notice to environmental activist

March 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Anusha Subramanian in Business Today

March 4, 2011

Vaishali Patil, an activist with an organization that fights environmental destruction in the Konkan region, has been served a show cause notice on Friday morning by the Rajapur Executive Magistrate of Ratnagiri district. According to the notice, Patil, who works with the Konkan Vinashkari Prakalp Virodhi Samiti, has been asked to give an assured guarantee of Rs 50,000 and also sign a bond of Rs 50,000 which promises that she will not break the peace in Jaitapur for at least one year.

The show cause notice has been issued to Patil on the grounds that she has been instrumental in provoking the people of Jaitapur to oppose the proposed Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant (JNPP) and the fact that she herself has participated in all the protests. Patil says she will challenge the order in court.

“This is how the authorities have been laying legal trap on all those opposing the JNPP project. So that we are running pillar to post trying to get out of the legal shackles,” she says. This show cause notice follows up several arrests that took place early this week. The police arrested Dr Milind Desai, a resident of Mithgavane village, and 10 others in a two-month-old case on charges of rioting, attempted murder, breaking the peace in Jaitapur and several other such charges. But villagers say Desai was arrested because he opposed the project and spoke against the state government. Desai had lashed out at the government by calling it ‘Shameless’ during Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s visit to Jaitapur on February 26, 2011.

Patil has been a target for some months now. During the CM’s visit, Narayan Rane, the State Industries Minister, was particularly angered by Patil’s presence and asked Konkan Inspector-General of Police Parambir Singh why outsiders were allowed to attend a public meeting addressed by the chief minister. Patil is from Raigad district and was instrumental in the protest against the Reliance SEZ project.

Rane then ordered the IG to ask Patil to leave the meeting. She and others were also asked to remove their black badges. Patil refused and when the police tried to evict her, women from the project-affected villages who were present at the meeting rose in her support and created a scene. Fearing there could be violence, the police did not act further and Patil stayed through the meeting.

While protestors did not resort to violent behaviour, tempers were running high and there was slogan shouting. The people made it clear to the government that they were against the JNPP.  At the public meeting in the presence of the CM, Prakash Waghdare from Madban village asked the audience to raise their hands if they opposed the project and nearly everyone in the audience did so. He said the government had to respect people’s feelings and cancel the project.

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.

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.