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Sunday 23 November 2014
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Is Kudankulam protest motivated?

S Venkataraman

These protestors do not have the capacity to grasp the intricacies of nuclear issues.

Anti nuclear protestors have been getting publicity around the world disproportionate to their number, courtesy the media support. However, they have not been successful in halting the new nuclear projects though some projects have been stopped in the USA and Austria.

The number of nuclear projects worldwide have been steadily increasing every year with new projects now being planned in the West Asia, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India apart from developed countries like USA and Russia.


Germany has advanced the date for suspending the operation of nuclear projects to 2020 but even in this case there are considerable doubts as to whether this would really happen, since German government has not so far evolved any convincing alternate energy plans. The alternate energy plans would be difficult for Germany, since in that case the anti nuclear protestors would be replaced by anti coal based thermal power project protestors.

If such options would go away due to any reason, Germany may revert to its nuclear power plants. 2020 is still far away and one has to wait and watch. Let’s take the case of Kudankulam nuclear power project in India. For the last three months, the commissioning of the Kudankulam plant with a capacity 1000 mw with Russian collaboration could not be carried out due to agitation by the local people, demanding that nuclear plant be scrapped. This is an interesting case study as to how Kudankulam nuclear plant is being halted, whereas the nuclear protestors in other parts of the world have not been able to do so in their respective regions.

Safety issues
Kudankulam is a small rural area, largely inhabited by fishermen and most of them belonging to the Christian community. Most of the protestors except perhaps the leaders of the movement belong to lower income group who do not know as to where their next meal would come from. The protestors include aged people some of whom live in orphanages and school children in the age group of 10 to 15. Certainly, these protestors do not have the capacity to grasp the intricacies of the safety issues relating to installation and operation of nuclear power plants.

The local churches are playing a leading role in motivating the people to involve themselves in the protest and the priests in the church have done it openly and have not concealed their objections to the nuclear plant. It is repeatedly reported in the media that even during the mass in the churches, the local people have been advised to participate in the protest.

There are other leaders involved in the protest movement, who seem to be highly motivated and determined people with good international connections. They manage the media very well and constantly ensure that their voices are heard. Some of them have even attended the meetings organised by the pro nuclear group and disrupted the proceedings.

Many people wonder as to how the protestors are able to sustain the movement for such a long time, particularly since a large number of poor people are involved, who cannot afford to go without working even for a day to earn their income for survival. Obviously,  they have to be fed every day and also given transport facilities for travelling to the protest site from their dwellings which are several kilometers away in many cases. The question arises as to who finance the protestors.

A Union minister has openly said in the meetings that the protestors have been getting funds from abroad and Government of India says that it is investigating into their source of funds.  The question is as to who would fund them and why should they fund them.  These are all unanswered questions as on date leading to several speculations.

Clearly, there is vote bank politics in this issue where the provincial AIADMK government does not want to antagonise the local people, to ensure that it would not lose their votes in the elections. Some sections of the people demand that the protestors should be forcibly removed but the local government does not want to take this calculated risk and the Central government cannot act without support of the Tamil Nadu  government.

Senior nuclear scientists in India with considerable reputation have been explaining about the safety standards of the Kudankulam nuclear plant. Even the former President Dr A PJ Abdul Kalam who visited the plant and explained to the local people about his satisfaction with regard to safety aspects.

In any case, the local people who protest in Kudankulam are not those who can analyse the safety issues of the nuclear plant, but they are being carried away blindly by the skillful campaign of their leaders, who appear have an agenda of their own.

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