Anti-nuke groups slam PM remarks

Anti-nuke groups slam PM remarks

Ex-secretary rubbishes foreign hand theory

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s remarks that some foreign NGOs were behind the agitation against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) were rubbished by a former energy secretary at the Centre and drew a strong backlash with anti-nuclear groups organising a big rally in Chennai on Sunday.  

Singh’s remarks in a TV interview that some US and Scandinavian NGOs obstructed India’s nuclear energy programme in the backdrop of the seven-month long agitation the nuclear power project in Tamil Nadu drew a sharp retort from former Union energy secretary E A S Sarma in Vishakhapatnam. He trashed the Prime Minister’s talk of “foreign hand” and made out a strong case for suspending the works on nuclear plants in the interests of the country’s future and safety.

The anti-KNPP group led by S P Udayakumar met in Chennai in a clear indication that the protests against the Russia-aided nuclear plant were no longer confined to the coastal hamlets of Kudankulam and Idinthakarai near the plant site, but a state issue.

“I don’t know whether it has reached a flashpoint; but it is no longer a local issue; we want the people of Tamil Nadu to take a stand as the coastal livelihood of this state and Kerala will be worst hit if the KNPP is allowed to start,” Udayakumar told Deccan Herald.

“Let them arrest us, we will do all we can to protect our people’s interests,” he asserted.
Describing Singh’s remarks “as very unusual coming from a prime minister to belittle a people’s movement,” Udayakumar said he was considering suing Singh, as being the movement’s convener he felt the allegations targeted him.

Udayakumar denied that his NGO, in which his wife Meena and he are trustees (of SACCER), affiliated to the Sweden-based Institute of Democratic and Electoral Alliance (IDEA)’s Reconciliation Resource Network, took any money from the NGO. He could account every paise collected from local fisherfolk, he said.

Udayakumar said they had no faith even in the latest state-appointed panel led by Dr M R Srinivasan, Atomic Energy Commission former chief, who gave a “clean chit” to the KNPP even before giving his report to the state government.

The anti-Kudankulam plant rally was also a point of convergence for several pro-Tamil, and even some pro-LTTE groups like “Naam Tamizhar” led by Tamil film actor-director Seeman, various speakers gave a twist to the protests saying “it is now a Tamils’ livelihood issue.”

Sarma told Deccan Herald from Vishakhapatnam: “The prime minister’s statement was ill-advised, devoid of a realistic appreciation of the ground realities and lacked appreciation of the genuine public concern over the potential dangers of nuclear technology as reflected by the catastrophic explosions in the reactors at Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima 2011. It amounts to belittling the voice of dissent in a democracy like ours,” he said.

The “foreign hand” argument perhaps applies more to the government than to the people, Sarma said. “Is it not the foreign hand that was responsible for compelling the UPA government to push through the Indo-US nuclear deal to serve the commercial interests of another country more than promoting self-reliance? Has not the country been pushed into a permanent state of dependence on imported nuclear reactors and imported fuels for no compelling reason?” he asked.

* Anti-KNPP groups’ rally in Chennai protests PM’s remarks

* Former power secretary E A S Sarma trashes Singh’s remarks

* ‘Foreign hand led UPA govt to push through the Indo-US n-deal, he says

* KNPP stir leader says he will sue Prime Minister Manmohan Singh