The relay hunger strike at Kovvada in Srikakulam districtt of Andhra Pradesh has its run of 365 days. After Jaitapur and Koodankulam it is the turn of the people at Kovvada to resist the upcoming Nuclear-Power Plant. The hunger strike was started on 18th Dec 2012, to revoke the land acquisition GO.42, which was issued in Nov. 2012. The proposed Nuclear Plant has a capacity of 6000 MW (6×1000), it is said to be increased to 10000 MW. To accommodate the Plant, 2075 acres of land to be acquired of which 1476 acres of land is State owned, and 599 acres to be acquired from people, which is spread over five villages, namely Ramachandrapuram, Gudem, Kotapalem, Tekkali and G. Kovvada of Ranasthalam Mandal. According to M. Polisu, leader of Kovvada Anti-Nuclear Protest and Sarpanch of G. Kovvada Panchayat, about 10,000 people would be alienated from their living and livelihoods, in case of acquisition.
The resistance is not just about these 10,000 people been affected, but it is against the very idea of Nuclear Energy that emits radiation polluting the land, water and air. One need not wait for nuclear accident for radioactive material to pollute, but every stage of nuclear cycle endangers the earth with radioactive materials. Even in their safe operation of nuclear plants there are always leaks and permitted levels of radioactive emissions. Though, within the ‘permitted levels’ still it is dangerous for health and environment. There is an increase in number of Cancer patients and deformed babies being born around all our Nuclear Plants and mines, though there are no reported accidents. According to J. V. Ratnam of Green Climate, in case of any accident at Kovvada, immediate danger of radiation can reach upto the radius of 170 km. Visakahapatnam, Kakinada, Srikakulam, Ichapuram from Andhra Pradesh and Gopalpur, Berhampur, Raighad, Koraput and Jaipur from Odisha fall in this radius. It was against this background people of Kovvada and surrounding villages took to resistance. Locally, M. Polisu along with another local activist, M. Ramu is slogging to keep the movement on go. Experts like E. A. S. Sarma, Secretary, Ministry of Power, Government of India(Retd.), Capt. J. Rama Rao, Prof. K. Babu Rao, regularly share technical information to the people of Koovada to carry on the resistance. Through the day of protest, Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Lalita Ramdas and Medha Patkar had visited Kovvada to express their solidarity with the people.
Relay Hunger Strike to be called off:
M. Polisu, leader of Kovvada Anti-Nuclear Movement and Sarpanch of Kovvada Panchayat, during a meeting to mark 365 days of Anti- Nuclear Hunger Strike announced that the Hunger Strike would be called off from tomorrow. He declared that it has to be called off due to financial problems and lack of unified support. He said, “There are many who oppose the Plant, but no one comes forward to take financial responsibility, mostly all are busy taking care of their own livelihoods and I have to spend from my own pocket. Find it difficult even to look for volunteers for hunger strike”. As observed, the people in those five villages are divided on Party lines, while supporters of TDP oppose, and others, supporting YSRCP and Congress Party welcome the Nuclear Plant. So, there is no unity among people. Many are ready for easy money. During the campaigns against Nuclear Energy, in surrounding villages, several people had accepted of being given money by officials and politicians not to join the agitation. M. Polisu, the leader of the Kovvada Anti-Nuclear Protest is also the member of TDP. So, Party politics and prejudices play on to divide and weaken the movement. In addition, people of Kovvada mostly a migrant community lost their livelihood of fishing due to pollution of seawaters by local pharmaceutical companies. Now, they go all over India, earning their livelihood. So, many fail to be part of the protest.
It is time that the leadership and participation in the movement should go beyond political party polarities. Wish, the realization to be united and being together can carry forward the movement. Only intense campaign and conscientization of local people in and around the villages would save the movement.