No Kalam effect on Kudankulam row

Activists hail probe into fund source

At the coastal hamlet of Idinthakarai, abutting the local Catholic Church, where the protest fasts by the local villagers, mostly fisherfolk, entered the 27th day on Sunday in its third phase, schoolchildren are enacting a play in Tamil.

As children play their part and speak their words in shrieking agony against the KNPP plant, nobody is spared, from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Union Minister V Narayanasamy to former President A P J Abdul Kalam, who vigorously described the KNPP as “totally safe.”

Even as the schoolchildren take a dig at the pro-nuclear energy political biggies, a week after Kalam’s by-now famous visit to the Kudankulam plant, the mood among the people is still grim and angry. If the former president made a big splash coming here to assuage people’s fears, sadly, the “Kalam effect” is virtually mil.

“Kalam sonnathai makkal nambavillai (People do not believe what Kalam said about the nuclear plant being totally safe),” cries out Melret, wife of fisherman Raj at Idinthakarai.  “For the last three months we are on a protest fast (in phases), but they are now harassing us by asking us the source of funds,” she fumed.

“Kalam, though respected for his passion for science, is seen here as having spoken more for the government. Much of what he said did not bring about any change in our awareness of the issues,” remarked Sundaram, who runs a small business in the nearby Radhapuram town.

Wondering how Kalam could make such a quick assessment of all the safety aspects of the KNPP, S P Udhayakumar, convener of the People’s Movement Against KNPP, spearheading the agitation, said, as a “statesman,” Kalam should have visited the fasting people and tried to allay their fears.

“But, instead, even before he reached Kudankulam, Kalam wrote an article defending the project in a leading English daily, and our heart sank as it only showed his intentions,” Udhayakumar told Deccan Herald here. Even worse was he (Kalam) announcing a Rs 200-crore development package, which “sullied” his intentions more, argued Udhayakumar.

“This Anu Ulai (nuclear reactor) can start operating only on our bodies,” asserted a shopkeeper at Kudankulam village.  All this resentment against the plant came even as the KNPP launched a counter-campaign on the plant’s safety here.

Joining issue with the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, V Narayanasamy, that the Centre had initiated a probe into their source of funds, Udhaykumar refuted the “foreign hand” charges, saying they were ready to account for their funds spent on the agitation.

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