K.Ramachandran

K. Ramachandran is a pioneer anti-nuclear activist of India and has been among the leaders of the Peringome struggle in kerala where people’s resistance suceeded in getting a nuclear power project scrapped.

Ramachandran is now associated with Public Health Forum, Payyanur;Kannur Dist, Kerala. He can be contacted at: [email protected].

The unprecedented obstinacy with which a nuclear empire is being thrust upon the Indian people, has the overtones of turning the country virtually into a techno-fascist one. The government’s enthusiasm and galloping ambition to nuclearise  the country within a decade on an unheard of scale tempt it to suppress all opposition to nuclear plants, mounted by affected populations all over the country .People’s apprehensions are genuine and they are protesting peacefully, using their  democratic rights, assured in our constitution. Yet, the state seems to be adamant. When all the world is trying to phase out existing nuclear plants gradually and not to construct a new one, especially after the Fukushima catastrophe, India is Going ahead full steam with its unabashed nuclear energy programme. Nuclear projects approximating an installed capacity of 63,000 MW are proposed to be built! India is going to usher in a nuclear utopia within a decade, assisted by the Russian, French and US masters! A country which has built just a capacity of 4780 MW with all out effort for the past Fifty years is now in for a giant leap, facilitated by the Indo-American nuclear pact ,which has kindled hopes of ending the international ostracism in nuclear related issues. Freed of former illusions, independent nations of the world reject the offers of the nuke industry. It is here that India readily rushes in, promising a multibillion dollar business to project-hungry reactor traders, whom no other country is willing to entertain or promote in their own territory. Now they can sell their reactors to India, retaining all the benefits exclusively to themselves and shifting all the negative externalities on to the shoulders of India. They can dictate their terms and demand their pound of flesh even when nuclear disasters could occur eventually and the Indians suffer the tragic consequences.

The renewed vigour with which the nuclear option is being pushed, is to be understood in the larger context of the transformation that Indian society is undergoing in the present liberalization, privatization and globalization scenario. It can be noticed that India is gradually shedding all its pretentions to democratic propriety and accountability and over time turning into a plutocracy. The super-rich and powerful elite have taken the government to ransom. They call the shots and compel the government to adopt policies, suitable to or most profitable for themselves. All the concern for the poor and even lip service to social welfare measures have been dropped from the political discourse, in favour of the competitiveness of the market and resilience of the economy. Socialism, envisioned in the constitution, and used in the past for rhetorical effects at least, has been given a silent burial by our politicians in power. There is what they call ‘double digit’ inflation. Food prices are soaring sky high, though farmers do not derive any benefit out of it. Petroleum companies are allowed to hike prices as they like, even when oil prices are slashed in the global market. The stock market is booming with bullish trends based on speculative trade. The ‘shining India’ is getting richer and richer while poor farmers commit suicide in thousands all over the country. Children are dying for want of vaccines, which were produced by the public sector earlier, but now to be bought from ruthless multinational drug companies, who decide what drug is to be sold where, when and at what price. Forest lands are being leased out to mining companies, ousting poor forest dwellers and tribals from their means of livelihood. If people resist, the government’s military might is deployed against them, branding them ‘Maoists’ or terrorists. Public resources are being transferred to private companies on a gigantic scale either at throwaway prices (eg: 2g spectrum, Mukta Panna oilfields etc) or heavily subsidizing their financial activities (establishing SEZs with special export import regulations , granting tax exemptions, concessions etc to selected industrial houses, entrusting companies to collect tolls for roads and bridges etc) consequent to the new theology of globalization. This is when allocation for food subsidies, education, public health and other welfare measures is cut drastically in our budgets. In its eagerness to keep up its international obligations and contract agreements, and to show their loyalty to the corporate agenda for profit, the state has become impervious and callous to the sufferings of the majority. Journalists such as P.Sainath have demonstrated the fact through their well researched out articles. To add insult to injury, the superb manthra of “development” is chanted continually, and all the anti people policies, evictions and genocides for implementing projects are justified in the name of development.”A few people have  to suffer for the sake of development; we can’t help it’’ is  always the refrain. The sufferers have never been the rich or the powerful. The result is that the democratic façade is more and more exposed for what it is. Yet the people in power are at pains to establish that they have the consent of the majority to go ahead with their pet projects.

When countries such as Germany, Austria, UK , Switzerland and Italy are up  to shed their nuclear burden by 2030, India has decided to establish nuclear plants all over the country, with reactors supplied byRussian, American and French companies: At kudankulam in Tamilnad; Jaitapur in Maharashtra; Fatehabad in Haryana; Mithi Virdi in Gujarat, Kovvada in Andhrapradesh; Haripur in Bengal;Chutka in Madhyapradesh, and Pattisonapur in Orissa. The proposed plants, along with the existing 20 reactors and other nuclear facilities for mining uranium, fuel production etc will literally put our country under a nuclear umbrella. All of us are going to be enveloped by highly radioactive routine emissions from these

nuclear power projects, in spite of claims by authorities that they discharge radioactivity only  in quantities much less than natural background radiation

There is no need of an accident to occur in nuclear plants to endanger lives around. Even in the normal routine of operation they release, for example, considerable quantities of radioactive Tritium into the environment. Tritium is a hydrogen isotope and the danger is that it can replace hydrogen atoms in water molecules. Tritium which is emitted through the tall smoke stacks of the plant will get mixed with atmospheric water vapour and come back to earth as rain and snow . We have no means to distinguish between water and radioactive water. It seeps into the earth, gets into plants, animals and humans through the food chain. Studies and health surveys around areas near nuclear plants such as Rawathbhatta(Rajasthan), and Kalpakkam ( Tamilnad) have demonstrated beyond doubt that the incidence of thyroid cancers, congenital deformities, and several other adverse health effects are very much higher there than in areas away from nuclear facilities. Routine discharges of radioactive water into the sea has caused drastic reduction of marine organisms in wide areas and subjected fish to radioactive contamination. Respiratory diseases, hormone disorders and child leukemia are rampant in nuclear facility premises including mining, reprocessing and power generating areas.

If a major accident such as TMI, Chernobyl or Fukushima occurs for some reason, it will destroy the entire tracts of land coming under the radioactive clouds, moving along with the wind speed and direction. In fact, even though the Chernobyl accident was hushed up by the plant authorities first, It was in a nuclear plant at Sweden, 6000 KM away that very severe radioactive contamination was detected and reported to the  Russian government. Similarly, when Fukushima disaster happened, radioactive Iodine-131 causing thyroid cancer was found in tap water supplied in Tokyo, 240 Km away from Fukushima. Now, Cesium- 137 another highly radioactive poison, released by the Fukushima plant has been found at several locations in the US that is thousands of kilometers away across the Pacific, from Japan. Radioactive contamination doesn’t recognize any national or geographical boundaries or difference of pollution- spreading medium such as air, water or earth.

If a major accident occurs (Nobody can rule out this possibility in the case of nuclear reactors. That is why no company offers  insurance for them; that is why there is so much hue and cry about the nuclear liability provisions and the compensation to be paid in the event of an accident), it will destroy the entire country and its so- called ‘vibrant economy’ altogether. Japan is now struggling with the aftermath of Fukushima. Indian nuclear Establishment claims that our reactors are 100% safe, as they have several redundant safety mechanisms, with the latest technical sophistications ( It is worthwhile to remember that the Fukushima authorities also made such a  strong claim, even a year before the accident). Our former president Mr. Abdulkalam,  a former technocrat and the architect of the Indian bomb has assured south Indians that Kudankulam is totally safe. This assurance is after dismissing altogether the apprehensions of thousands of people living in its vicinity, who have to bear the brunt of the complacency and callousness of the nuclear lobby even after the bitter experiences of Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents. The nucleocrats and their political patrons have never been ashamed of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl  or Fukushima, and have never apologized for their  cynical role in perpetrating the nuclear menace on humanity. They have always tried, immorally, to take cover under some amorphous entity called`science’ or “national interest”. The nuclear experts continue to treat people as fools or idiots, who can be pacified easily by frequent assurances from ’scientists’ and technocrats of the Department of Atomic Energy. According to them, People are so gullible as to trust only these sarkari scientists and to disbelieve thousands of other scientists who have been persistently warning them against the dangers of the nuclear option and the irrevocable consequences it would cause to the environment and future generations for thousands of years. Scientists are also the ones who point out that there are numerous other options which are less expensive, safer and more reliable for generating electricity. The final disposal of nuclear waste continues to be an insurmountable task even today; loss of coolant accidents and melt downs cannot be ruled out in spite of all those redundant safety precautions in reactors. Accidents are, in fact, quite frequent in the chequered history of our nuclear empire, even though most of them have been kept under veils of secrecy, with the least regard for democratic propriety or social justice by our emperors. Our nuclear scientists are still complacent, with their smug assurances! This is just because they presume everlasting political patronage for their monumental follies and their optimism about their own ability to thwart democracy through lobbying.

People are naturally scared of their threatened livelihoods. It is not simply possibility of accidents that motivates them to protest against nuclear plants, though accidents too are a prime concern. They have learned from experience about the health hazards around nuclear plants such as Rawathbhatta and Kalpakkam and the Uranium mining site at Jadugudda. The unprecedented incidence of thyroid cancers, child leukemia, Down’s syndrome, genetic disorders etc  in the neighbourhoods of these facilities have shocked them into awareness about the reality, in spite of official efforts to misinform them by ascribing other causes for these problems. They have understood how discharges from Kalpakkam affect marine life and fisher folks’ livelihood. The people of Kudankulam are no more foolish enough to trust Kalam when he promises prosperity from the KKNPP. Anywhere in the world, none other than the priests of the nuclear monastery believe any more in the efficacy of their own bogus claims and the Goebbelsian brainwashing they can do to make us crave for a nuclear heaven.

The hell let loose on millions in Hiroshima and elsewhere and the studies on the biological effects of nuclear war have not deterred our nuclear experts or the governments who patronize them from their attempts to pile up nuclear weapons with potential to destroy this world several times. Similarly, advocates of nuclearisation have not learnt any lesson from the catastrophes at Chernobyl or Fukushima. Their blatant lies have been exposed over and over again throughout the world- most recently, in Fukushima. Still, they can put the blame for nuclear disaster on tsunami, earthquake, human error and what not; they escape the wrath of the people as they are always resourceful enough to cook up some ‘scientific-sounding’ excuse to save their face. They will encourage building reactors and making this world unlivable. Just as values such as truth, reason, justice etc never pierce into the dark hearts of the blockheads who build bombs and nuclear arsenals under the pretext of ‘defense’ and ‘national interest’,  concern for reason , sanity  or human justice  never enters into the callous and impenetrable hearts of our nucleocrats. In spite of this, quite surprisingly, they are considered “ scientists ”by most people, even though bombs and destructive technologies have been their highest ‘scientific’ achievement(This is probably because of the patronage or collusion they  invariably receive from the state,  without which the nuclear adventure will be impossible. The state has been traditionally assigned the role of a benevolent patriarch, even though, in many instances, it has changed its role over time to become the worst oppressor of the common people.).At the same time, people who oppose nuclearisation on rational, environmental and humanitarian grounds are dubbed ‘fundamentalists’or traitors who commit `sedition’ !

Everything is  strange, upside down or topsy -turvy in the absurd make-believe world of the  politico-nuclear establishment, in which natural logic  or people’s concerns never get any consideration. It is a sinister world where ambitious men clamor for more and more power, by intrigue, treachery, treason and a gross disrespect for human values and democratic principles. The history of nuclearisation itself is sinister and tragic; it has numerous scapegoats like Karen Silkwood, who had to sacrifice their lives on the nuclear altar. In the mad nuclear endeavor to conquer the world, innumerable people, including sincere scientists have been victimized. We should not forget that the great thinker and peace activist Bertrand Russell was imprisoned by the ‘democratic’ British Government, as he protested against war. The establishment can become ruthless and utterly unreasonable when its nuclear ambitions are thwarted. This is something our activists have to take into account and be alert about. In the present globalised scenario, companies and corporate interests are what matter most; governments are simply reduced to the role of “facilitators” for them.

Governments such as India, China and Korea are now trapped in a Faustian bargain- with the international nuclear traders, who call the shots. Energy has become a pretext for amassing huge quantities of the hellish element plutonium, to threaten many with death and destruction. The so-called “ developed’ nations or ’ Nuclear club members’ have relaxed their stipulations on civil nuclear facilities, without compromising on safeguards against proliferation so as to gather plutonium without risking the lives of their own people by outsourcing nuclear production in docile foreign countries. The enthusiasm on the part of our government to amend our nuclear liability/compensation provisions on the basis of pressure from US or Russia can be understood better, if we take the interests of the “big Brothers” also into consideration. People are just being turned into disposable`things’ or just ‘collateral damage’, as the war parlance has sanitized it. Our warlords have Mammon and Mephistopheles as their Gods. Voices of wisdom are stifled and the persistent myth of ‘development’ is rammed down the throats of the masses. They have men and means to manufacture consent for any anti human project, in the name of `development.’ Development, apart from being the inspiring manthra to mesmerize people, have at last been virtually turned into a synonym for mass suicide, genocide and  irrevocable environmental destruction, executed with the exclusive agenda of providing huge profits for the corporates at the expense of our resources.

The nuclear path, ‘civil’ or ‘military’, as we may choose to describe it, is ultimately a suicidal one for humanity. It will inevitably precipitate catastrophe. Those who warn about the inherent dangers of nuclear technology face the risk of being ridiculed as ‘alarmists’, ‘prophets of doom’ or anti-science Luddites. Yet, unless we are alert and earnest in our attempts to dissuade our rulers from this dangerous path, there is no chance of putting a curb on the nuclear monomaniacs obsessed with total power and dictatorship turning the future of this world into a nightmare.  However, the antinuclear struggles going on in Kudankulam and elsewhere give us hope; as the protesters have courage, conviction and commitment to their struggle; as they reckon the larger interests of humanity at stake even while fighting a battle on their own home ground. If Kudankulam anti- nuclear movement wins,- I fervently hope, it will win-the battle-it will be a victory for the people of India; perhaps, it will compel our secretive and haughty nucleocrats to sit up and introspect a little about their past misdeeds and not to be rude enough  anymore to dismiss altogether the concerns of ordinary people;  however, it will shake the very cornerstone of the mighty edifice of their nuclear dreams and ambitions. It can turn our country back from the path towards nuclear fascism towards the path to real democracy. This is why the battle of Kudankulam becomes crucial and decisive in the war against the nuclear Empire.

Tailpiece:-Many in the struggle have been nabbed and kept behind bars. Many have been charge sheeted with `sedition’, for having led a peaceful agitation against the Kudankulam nuclear plant! Even the fig leaf of democracy has been given up and police raj is unleashed . People are being subjected to repression as if it is a war situation. At the same time a dole of Rs 5oo crore has been allotted to appease the villagers. The inspiring news is that many Panchayats have been bold enough to reject the dole and  to demand justice instead of money. The struggle thus continues; this is sure to create history,