Nobody has made a greater contribution to building such a grassroots movement than Medha Patkar who turns 60 on December 1. Patkar is best known globally as the leader of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, one of the world’s greatest ecological mass mobilisations. She is also the founder of the National Alliance of People’s Movements, comprising over 250 grassroots groups active in more than 15 Indian states on a range of civil-political and social rights issues.
Tag - Social Movements
in a judgment giving the green light to the Kudankulam nuclear project, our Supreme Court tells citizens, without a hint of irony, that they must put up with “minor inconveniences” such as exposure to radiation, which causes cancer or genetic damage and is always harmful, because enormous “economic scientific benefits” (sic) will come from nuclear power, which “remains as an important element in India’s energy mix”. “Minor inconveniences”? Tell that to the families of the estimated 34,000 people who died from Chernobyl, to the mothers of thousands of babies which have early thyroid disorders thanks to the Fukushima disaster, to the 80% plus French people who oppose new reactors, or to the countless protestors against Indian nuclear projects, including Kudankulam (Tamil Nadu), Jaitapur (Maharashtra), Mithi Virdi (Gujarat), Kovvada (Andhra Pradesh), Fatehabad (Haryana) and Chutka (Madhya Pradesh).
Even the most zealous supporters of nuclear power generation should logically concede three things to their opponents. First, after the grave disaster at Fukushima, it is natural for people everywhere to be deeply sceptical of the safety claims made for nuclear power, and for governments to phase out atomic reactors. That’s exactly what’s happening in countries like Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and now Japan.
The movement against the Koodankulam nuclear power project in Tamil Nadu has entered a new phase with a Jal-satyagraha following the repressive police action of September 10. More than 120 eminent citizens from different walks of life have signed the following statement expressing solidarity with the protesters, and calling for serious engagement with them on vital issues of safety. The signatories include former Chief of Naval Staff L Ramdas, former Cabinet Secretary TSR Subramanian and former Planning Commission member SP Shukla, former Atomic Energy Regulatory Board chairman A Gopalakrishnan, former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court AP Shah, former Ambassador to the United Nations Nirupam Sen, scientists PM Bhargava, D Balasubramaniam, Satyajit Rath, MV Ramana and Suvrat Raju, social scientists Romila Thapar, Sumit and Tanika Sarkar, Rajeev Bhargav, Amit Bhaduri, Manoranjan Mohanty, Gyanendra Pandey, Achin Vanaik and Zoya Hasan, writers Adil Jussawalla, Arundhati Roy and Arvind Krishna Mehrotraq, dancer Leela Samson, artists Ghulam Shaikh, SG Vasudev, Vivan Sundaram and Sheba Chhachhi, and many other scholars and social activists such as Vandana Shiva, Aruna Roy and Ashish Kothari.
India’s former President APJ Abdul Kalam brought himself no credit by visiting the Koodankulam nuclear power project in Tamil Nadu, and declaring it “100 percent safe”. The idea that any technology, especially a complex hazard-prone one like a nuclear power, is “100 percent safe” is patently unscientific. All technologies carry finite risks. The more complicated, energy-dense, and dependent on high-pressure high-temperature systems they are, the higher the risk.
If Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wanted to insult the people agitating against the Koodankulam nuclear reactors at India’s southern tip, he could have found no better way than agreeing to meet their delegation on October 7— only to have Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) Secretary Srikumar Banerjee lecture them on the virtues of nuclear power.
In an unusual move, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to halt construction of two nuclear reactors at Koodamkulam in Tirunelveli district, where more than 100 local residents have been on a hunger-strike against the project since September 11, supported by tens of thousands.
Team Anna must show some humility instead of imposing its will on society. It doesn’t hold a monopoly on understanding how to make governance more inclusive, clean and people-responsive. It must recognise that, finally, it is Parliament that prevailed on the Lokpal legislative process, and that’s how things should be, says Praful Bidwai.
Corruption doesn’t occur primarily, as Team Anna holds, because there’s a “lack of an independent, empowered, … anti-corruption institution”. The real reasons include a neoliberal policy regime that encourages privatisation of common property resources through sweetheart deals and a politician-bureaucrat-businessman nexus; the rise of greedy entrepreneurs; an increasingly compromised civil service; poorly monitored public service delivery; and a dysfunctional justice delivery system.
Hazare’s success in mobilising the normally apolitical middle class speaks of a strong revulsion against corruption and shows up huge flaws in the system. But it can also harm democratic politics.
If Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan thought he could convince the people of Jaitapur, in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district, of the virtues of the giant nuclear power complex which is being built there, he must have been sorely disappointed by his February 26 visit to the area. He harangued and taunted the 8,000-strong crowd, told people they were being misled by “outsiders” who “don’t want to see India progress”, and unleashed the aggressive, abusive industries minister (and former Chief Minister) Narayan Rane upon them. Rane had earlier declared: “No outsider who comes to Jaitapur to oppose the project will return (alive).”
The first thing that strikes the visitor to Jaitapur-Madban in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district, about 400 kilometres from Mumbai, is the sheer beauty of the place. The second thing that strikes you is the profusion of posters, banners and slogans which say “Areva Go Back”, “NO to Nuclear Power” and “Radiation Kills” in Marathi. These are the work of a grassroots movement against a project. This is planned to be the world’s largest nuclear power station.
Jaitapur's French-built nuclear plant is a disaster in waiting, jeopardising biodiversity and local livelihoods
The Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace, of which I am a founding member, recently sent a team to Jaitapur, in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district, where the world’s largest nuclear power station is proposed to be built. The people of Jaitapur strongly oppose the project and have sustained a strong and peaceful movement against it for four years.
We went there to assess the strength of the people’s opposition to the project, to inquire into the state’s violations of their civil liberties, and to express solidarity with the people’s movement.
CNDP has produced a booklet on Jaitapur, whose PDF file is linked below. This will be printed with a four-column colour cover this week. If you would like copies, please write to: Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) A-124/6, 1st Floor, Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi-110 016 I Telefax: 011-26968121 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
CNDP decided at its Tenth Anniversary Convention in December 2010 to participate in and intensify people’s struggles against nuclear power, which is being forcefully promoted by the Indian government after the completion of the India-US nuclear deal and its endorsement by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group.
Courting Nuclear Disaster in Maharashtra: Why the Jaitapur Project Must Be Scrapped A report published by Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (authors: Praful Bidwai, Bhasha Singh, S P Shukla, Vaishali Patil, Rafeeq Ellias) 42 Pages (PDF) January 2011
India is obsessively pursuing nuclear power generation and imposing it upon an unwilling public, which doesn’t treat nuclear reactors as good neighbours. Inevitably, the government is getting into direct and imperious opposition to the people, with terrible consequences for democracy, which at minimum must respect the right to life with dignity, and the right to reject projects that are destructive of the environment and livelihoods. This is nowhere more evident than in Jaitapur in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district, on the Konkan coast, where Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd is erecting six giant (1,650 MW) reactors designed by the French firm Areva. Jaitapur is touted as the world’s largest nuclear station, generating 9,900 MW (India’s present nuclear capacity, 4,780 MW).
Business must fulfil these obligations in real, substantial, measurable ways—not with vague promises of corporate social responsibility. As the Bhopal case and its toxic aftermath shows, CSR means very little. It is time Indian business rose above the sordid social standards it has long taken for granted.