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Saturday 15 October 2011

10,000 protesters lay siege to Tamil Nadu nuclear plant site

10,000 protesters lay siege to Tamil Nadu nuclear plant site
Published: Thursday, Oct 13, 2011, 18:00 IST
By Kumar Chellappan | Place: Chennai | Agency: DNA
The agitation against Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant near Tirunelveli reached a feverish pitch on Thursday with more than 10,000 activists laying siege to all the entry points to the project site.
More than 700 scientists and technicians who reached the KNPP for their morning shift could not enter the reactor premises which broughtroutine works to a grinding halt.
“The maintenance works were carried out by the staff on overnight duty who could not come out of the plant because of the road block,” a senior executive of the KNPP told DNA.
This is the first time in the history of the country that the works in a nuclear reactor were affectedfollowing agitation by the local residents.
The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy intensified their agitation within 12 hours of the Prime Minister’s letter to chief minister Jayalalithaa reached the Fort Saint George.
In his letter Manmohan Singh asked Jayalalithaa to help the union government to implement the project as scheduled. He also offered to depute a group of experts to address the legitimate concerns of the people in Kudankulam.
But Pushparayan, the second-in-command to Udaya Kumar , who heads the PMANE, declared that the agitation would continue in a peaceful manner till the reactor was shut down.
“Today morning’s road block is an indication that our agitation has entered into a critical phase. We will not allow anyone to enter the KNPP premises. Today’s blockade has instilled a moral fear in the minds of the KNPP staff,” said Pushparayan.
The road block which began at 8 am in the East Coast Road was shifted to vantage points near the KNPP. “Ours is a Gandhian style agitation and we do not want to create any inconvenience to the people. But this agitation will continue till the government orders the closure of the plant. We do not want the nuclear reactors,” he said.
Even N K Balaji, project director, KNPP could not go inside the plant. “I was asked by the district administration to stay put in my house since the roads have been blocked by the agitators,” he said. Both the Tirunelveli collector and superintendent of police wereunavailable. “Both of them are busy with election duties and conferences ,” said thepersonal assistant to the collector.
Balaji feigned ignorance when asked whether the unit 1 of 1000 MW of the KNPP could be commissionedin October as scheduled. The Prime Minister in his letter had told Jayalalithaa that Tamil Nadu is entitled for 925 MW power once both the units are commissioned.
Intelligence officials said that the agitators resorted to road block because Jayalalithaa was campaigning in the district in connection with the election to the local bodies. “Though she has declared that her support was with the agitators, we are not giving any significance to it. Let her walk the talk for us to believe her assurances,” said Pushparayan.
Meanwhile, a former top intelligence bureau official expressed apprehensions over the agencies behind the agitation. “The possibility of some invisible forces working in a systematic manner to undermine national interests is quite likely. It will, however, require an intensive probe, for which one only wonders how much the present government has the capacity, time and commitment,” he told DNA.

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