Jaitapur protests fast turning into anti-nuclear storm

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Mumbai: The protests against the Jaitapur nuclear power plant – dubbed to be the biggest in the world – appeared to be heading for a showdown with the government in no mood for a “rethink”.

The situation in Ratnagiri district, where the 9,900 MW project power project is proposed to come up, turned for the worse after one person was killed in police firing after the protests turned violent with agitators setting ablaze a police station.

Anger is brewing in the area following Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh's statement last Friday ruling out a "rethink" on the project.

And, with the Shiv Sena coming out against the project, the whole issue has turned political and would continue to simmer for some time. The saffron party has even called for a Ratnagiri bandh Tuesday to protests against the police firing.

Besides the Sena, other opposition parties like the BJP and the MNS have also joined the bandwagon and have accused the government of not taking seriously the protests against the proposed facility.

The opposition is accusing that the authorities are putting pressure on the locals to accept the compensation and threatening them with dire consequences if they refused.

However, Jairam Ramesh has decided to hit back, especially against Shiv Sena. Speaking to a news channel today, he said that the Sena is trying to make it a political issue without having any knowledge about the “suggestions” that he has submitted to the government for consideration.

Referring to the Enron controversy of the 1990s, Ramesh pointed out that Bal Thackeray had said that when they come to power they will throw Enron into the Arabian Sea but they signed the contract after assuming power, adding that Thackeray’s words should not be taken too seriously.

Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan is also worried that the state might lose the project to other states if protests from various quarters against it continue.

Chavan has valid reasons for the worry as it’s not just the political parties that are opposing the project, a number of other organisations and eminent anti-nuclear activists from across the country are up in arms against the Indo-French JV project.

The protestors will undertake a road yatra from Tarapur to Jaitapur along Coastal Konkan in Maharashtra from April 23.

"Aiming at increasing the pressure on both Centre and state government against the proposed six plants of 1650 MW each, the activists will travel roughly 500 km (in vehicles) from Tarapur to Jaitapur demanding complete scrapping of the project," Vaishali Patil, Convenor of Konkan Vinashkari Prakalp Virodhi Samiti, said.

"We will also demand scrap of all new nuclear power plants and ask the state government to end reign of terror in Jaitapur area," she said, adding that the activists will also demand large investment in renewable energy technology sector.

Environmentalist Vandana Shiva, former Minister of State for Home Affairs Bhai Vaidya, Journalist Praful Bidwai, Educationist Anil Sadgopal, admiral Vishnu Bhagawat, are some of the prominent activists expected to participate in the yatra. Project-affected people from places like Tarapur, Haripur (West Bengal), Kakrapar (Gujarat) are also expected to join the rally, she said
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