ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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People's Struggles vs Political Opportunism

The struggle against the Jaitapur nuclear power project is being hijacked for narrow political ends.

What irony that the central government should choose the 25th anniversary of theworld’s worst nuclear disaster in Chernobyl to announce its determination to go ahead with its nuclear energy programme, including the nuclear power project at Jaitapur in Maharashtra’s Konkan region. By doing so, it has virtually stated that it considers the determined opposition to the project as of no consequence, this despite the wise counsel by specialists to exercise caution in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. Thousands of people around Jaitapur have been fighting a pitched battle against it. They are concerned about the safety of nuclear power plants; they have resisted offers to surrender their land; and, in the last weeks, they have faced police bullets leading to one death. Yet, in the end, none of this has made any difference. The government has reiterated that it will go ahead with the project, has dismissed opposition to it as being politically motivated, and has offered enhanced compensation for the acquired land as a poor sop. It has also promised to set up an independent nuclear regulatory authority to replace the discredited Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. Whether such a body is ever formed, and will have real autonomy, remains to be seen.

Despite the government’s latest stance, it is unlikely that the struggle against the Jaitapur project will die down. The reason is rooted in the history of past struggles in the verdant Konkan belt. In the early 1990s, people around Ratnagiri successfully forced Sterlite Industries to relocate its copper smelter plant to Tamil Nadu because of apprehensions that pollution would affect the horticulture on which the area’s economy depends. At around the same time, in an area north of Ratnagiri, local communities expressed their opposition to the Enron-backed Dabhol Power Project. Although they failed to stop the project, their struggle informed and alerted people about the environmental fallout of locating a thermal power plant in the region.

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