Rashmi Kohli

Near enough 200 people met on Monday (26 March) in Mumbai to express their solidarity for people under police repression in south India and protest against the Koodankulam and Jaitapur nuclear reactors. Almost 5,000 leaflets were distributed at this city’s busiest junction, Dadar, at prime commuting time. Activists sang songs and chanted against central government, the Indo-US nuclear deal, Jalayalitha (‘Go away and eat Fukushima fish’ is probably the most memorable), whilst passerbys hung around intrigued by what was going on. Those city-dwellers new to the topic walked away with the knowledge that whilst the city needed power, nuclear power was not the solution – it was expensive, dangerous and even after pumping crores of rupees into it, it could barely provide 3% of the country’s power needs, paling next to the much cheaper wind generators at 5%.

I met up with renowned filmmaker, Anand Patwardhan, at the demonstration to talk about the nuclear politics of India:

‘What’s happened in Koodankulam is completely shocking. A peaceful non-violent movement is being crushed by the state. The mass movement shows very clearly that local people are completely opposed to the plant.

The government has conducted dirty tactics against these people. They first said it’s US-supported as if an anti-nuclear movement could be with the US. The US supports pro-nuclear India. The US made deals with India by which sanctions were lifted for nuclear trade. When that tactic didn’t work, they’re now calling them Naxalites. One day they’re pro-US. The next day they are Maoists! It shows nothing but the desperation of the Indian state.

The reality is that after Fukushima, Indian people can see for themselves that the nuclear plant can be a disaster. Disaster in terms of accidents and there is always some radiation. People in Koodankulam are very close to the power plant. After Fukushima it became obvious that anything close to the coastline is dangerous – there could be tsunami, earthquakes can happen.

The nuclear establishment is living an old dream that has failed. Everywhere in the world people are closing nuclear power plants. In Germany. In US they are decommissioning. We’re getting second-hand Chernobyl type reactors and untried technology from Areva in France. We’re just defying logic.

City-dwellers don’t really care. They’re more worried about electricity, and worried about power cuts. The truth of the matter is that already more power is created from wind generators, more than nuclear plants. The potential for renewable energy is huge. This is a country which has no shortage of sunlight. Apart from that, if our goal was to reach the poorest of the poor, this can be done through smaller projects, check dams, for instance. The truth is that the electricity is meant for industrialisation and urban life. They’re not interested in the poor, only in the super-rich who are big guzzlers of electricity. We need decentralization of the economy and electricity that is environmentally sound.

On the whole, the economy is automobile or petrol driven which is mad for a country this size. Already the city is clogged. As soon as a flyover is built it becomes clogged. Unless they talk about mass transport and change, their thinking is just going to destroy the planet. Nuclear is the fastest way to destroy the planet. So maybe they’re just taking a short-cut.

Nuclear people are born liars around the world. In America, they made people fly through the mushroom cloud…Every country has lied to its own people about nuclear power. This country is no different.

We have ‘nuclear scientists’ who are not even scientists. Kakodkar is not qualified as a nuclear scientist. He’s a mechanical engineer. Abdul Kalam is also not qualified. He is a PR man.

Nuclear India will become a fascist India. As more and more people oppose nuclear power, the government can only use repression to clear the land. The Jaitapur movement is closer to us. But we have to stop Koodankulam in its tracks if Jaitapur is also to be stopped. Once it’s commissioned, it’s too late. They don’t have the expertise to decommission, not here, not anywhere in the world.’