Press release issued in the press conference in new Delhi today which was addressed by Aruna Roy, Praful Bidwai and Soumya Dutta

We are dismayed by the violent and repressive actions taken by the Tamil Nadu police against local residents who are protesting the Kudankulam nuclear plant.

Police action has claimed the life of one person, and led to the hospitalization of several others. Even from afar, we are shocked at the pictures coming from the area, which show police and paramilitary forces literally driving people into the sea. Reliable reports state that, on 10 September, the police invaded the village of Idinthikarai, terrorized its people, and desecrated places of worship.

The concerns of the local population are valid. The recent admission by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Boad in the Madras High court, that it has failed to implement the recommendations of its own review committee, has only served to heighten these apprehensions. The AERB effectively refused—against the recommendation of its own committee—to revise various safety parameters or consider the possiblity of a larger-than-expected Tsunami. The Nuclear Power Corporation has not even made arrangements for a backup mobile Diesel Generator set for essential functions, simply promising to do so in the “long term.” Nor has it constructed adequate backup sources of water to cool the reactor in the event of loss of normal cooling.

The Government has promised to completely indemnify the Russian company Atomstroyexport in the event of an accident. This is not consistent even with the weak Indian liability law, and runs counter to the absolute liability principle laid down by the Supreme Court. The Government has repeatedly refused to reveal its exact clauses.

The electricity-benefits of the Kudankulam plant have been vastly exaggerated. Even a cursory glance at the figures shows that this plant will not resolve the problem of electricity-shortage in Tamil Nadu, let alone the rest of the country. Rather, it seems clear that the Kudankulam project—like the project in Jaitapur—is being pushed to fulfill a controversial foreign policy agenda, where the purchase of expensive nuclear plants is used to buttress relations with world powers.

The tragedy on 10 September is just the latest in a saga where the Government has ridiculed the concerns of the local population and resorted to the use of strong arm tactics. The local population was against the plant even in 1988, when it was first conceived and, even then, the Government responded by firing on protesters. At the public hearing to discuss the environmental impact assessement, the one occasion when the government provided a formal venue for people to express their opinion, there was overwhelming opposition to constructing reactors at Kudankulam.

We hope that despite this sordid record, the Government will, at least now, recognize and engage with the demands and concerns of the protesters in a democratic manner.