It is not very surprising that the Jaitapur Nuclear Project has turned out to be so controversial. We all know about how our government has, over the years, taken up many such projects, and what that has led to. Civilians have suffered greatly due to the projects pushed through by our so-called ‘democratic’ government. Farmers have lost acres of fertile land, and people have been left without even shelter. People have lost their sources of livelihood and the environment has also suffered. These are just a few outcomes of the promises that the government has made to us.
As far as Jaitapur is concerned, it is currently a very hot issue in Maharashtra, with the government giving some arguments and the activists at the opposite end. Some of us from our college, who were keen to understand the exact scenario, attended a meeting on 13th June organized at the Nehru Center, Mumbai, on the “Safety Aspects of Nuclear Power in India”. This was addressed by the ex-Atomic Energy Chairman, Dr. Anil Kakodkar and Dr. Balram, an Indian scientist.
Dr. Kakodkar’s presentation was on why nuclear power is safe and one of the best sources of energy generation. He talked about the Fukushima incident, and how the construction was not adequate to save it from the 14 m high tsunami wave which struck it. He said that there were no casualties due to radiation and that no worker was found with a high level of radiation. As far as the Chernobyl disaster is concerned, he said that there were only 62 deaths, and not over 9 lakh as claimed by some. He talked about how we are exposed to high radiation due to natural phenomena. He claimed that to become a developed country, India needed an average per capita of 5000 KWH of energy annually, while right now only less than 700 KWH was available. He strongly asserted that nuclear energy is environment friendly.
Dr. Balram spoke diplomatically, initially supporting Dr. Kakodkar. However he also pointed out how a layman is confused by data provided by different committees. He stressed that the unrest was due to the secrecy of the government regarding the nuclear plant. He quoted Mark Twain, “There are three types of lies – lies, utter lies and statistics.” I wonder whether that was addressed to Dr. Kakodkar?
The so-called discussion was an utter misnomer. The audience was not even allowed to ask questions orally. They were asked to write them down, and even though one activist insisted that all should be at least read out, we know that that was not done.
At the end some people, who had come all the way from Jaitapur, angrily clamoured that they were not given a chance to express their views. They insisted that their fertile land was forcibly taken away from them, and not barren land as Dr. Kakodkar claimed.
After the formal meeting, we had an interaction with an activist, Dr. Vivek Monteiro who is a scientist himself, a physicist formerly from the TIFR. He explained how the statistics provided by Dr. Kakodkar were wrong and untruthful.
After all this, we felt that why is the government holding such “discussions”? Why were so many top cops present, including retired officers, as well as those armed with AK 47 and AK 56? A disaster in Jaitapur would not affect just a few people, but would affect generations of people, as well as people all over Maharashtra and even Karnataka! Along with Dr. Balram, we also want to know why the government is keeping so many things secret. When so many people are opposing, why is it going ahead with its plan? When the activists are challenging the government experts for a fair public debate, why are they running away? And if it is an energy project, it all boils down to “Energy for whom?”
By Hrishikesh, Prathamesh and Shrijit