Agitation against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) has intensified just as the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) began the work for loading nuclear fuel into reactors. Those who criticise the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), which is spearheading the agitation, have based their arguments either without understanding the concerns of people of the region or to simply vilify the movement and discredit it. National media had to take note now because of the never say die spirit of the peaceful agitators. Yesterday, 11 September, on CNN-IBN debate, Dr. Subramaniam Swamy, said: Maoists and LTTE are leading the agitation, it is foreign funded, KNPP is founded on a solid rock above sea level unlike Fukushima and faces therefore no threat from tsunami, the violent agitators must be *firmly dealt with and calm restored* before their fears and misapprehensions could be addressed, and A P J Abdul Kalam has endorsed that KNPP is safe -QED. In a nutshell he has summarised all that the detractors of the movement have had to say.
Lie #1: Detractors impute to PMANE an ulterior motive of sabotaging the KNPP when it is about go on-stream. They say, why did not PMANE raise the issue earlier?, Why now? and Isn’t this anti-national behaviour when so much money has already been sunk? The fact is that people of the region including S P Udaykumar, leader of PMANE have been opposing the project right from the day it was signed in 1988. Ever since independence, the sovereign Indian State, acting on behalf of *we the people of India*, has behaved as if it knows what is best for the people, and has arrogated the right to acquire any land and natural resources, displace people, destroy their traditional livelihoods, and do all this in the name of growth and development for *greater good*. Almost without exception the people who paid the price for this *growth & development* were the most destitute and marginalized sections of the society like Adivasis, marginal farmers, landless agriculture labourers, small fishermen, and in general poor villagers. Forget participation in the *pie of development*, even the meagre compensation promised to these project affected persons (PAP) did not reach them in time or in full or at all, in case after case. While victims of development have always protested the injustice meted out to them, in the early decades of our nationhood it was seen as necessary sacrifice (by someone else) to be made for the greater good of the country. Over the years however it started becoming clear that while benefits are reaped by one section of the society, the others were made to sacrifice. The inherent dichotomy of this development paradigm has snowballed into a consciousness that has sprouted today many grass-roots level people’s movements across the country. (The dam affected villagers protest below)



One of the reasons why the *invisible protest* of 1988 against KNPP has now become so visible and spread wide now.

Lie #2: Evidence cited for LTTE participation in the KNPP protests is the support given to the agitation by some smaller parties from Tamilnadu, who have also supported LTTE in the past. On the other hand, what is ignored is that both mother in law and husband of current Congress President and UPA chairperson, Sonia Gandhi, had funded, trained, and supported Tamil armed resistance groups like TELO, EPRLF, PLOT, EROS and LTTE; and so had Jayalalitha -current Chief Minister of Tamilnadu and Karunanidhi. Since Man Mohan Singh and Jayalalitha are ardent supporters of KNPP and are in power at centre and state, doesn’t now it transpire that LTTE has an hand in KNPP? As far as the other outfit is concerned, not even attempt was made to justify Maoist link, because in the current political discourse it is not needed. Suffice it is to brand anybody Maoist. The onus of proving that one is innocent of Maoists rests with the accused. Less said the better about such *evidence*.

Lie #3: On the issue of foreign funding of the PMANE and others participating in the agitation, even Man Mohan Singh had put his reputation, now in tatters, at stake by picking up the accusation. The whole might of the State at his command, such as Intelligence Bureau- Research & Analysis Wing- Directorate of Enforcement, was made to weigh in on the issue since early this year. But, so far the government has failed to find even a shred of evidence to back its accusation. Yet the fact that a notice was issued under the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) is taken in itself as evidence of some vague wrongdoing, though subsequent investigations by the concerned agencies has yielded nothing to prove the trumpeted charges. There are other dark insinuations too of *foreignness* based on religion. The people in this region are Christians. Some priests in the region too have joined the struggle concerned as they are for the welfare of the people among whom they serve. The opposition to the project is not on religious grounds. It is for the colossal risks it entails and is being driven from a secular platform. The religion of the protesters is incidental.  Does their religion make them any less Indian? If yes, then let the Indian state give up its hypocrisy and say  so openly. If not, then stop these dark hints. (See the face of *foreign funded* KNPP protesters):


(And now see the real face of foreign funded entity).

Lie #4: The KNPP plant was safe, and is safe even after the audit conducted in the wake of Fukushima disaster and the *lessons learnt* from it. Even without getting into technical issues, and poor safety record as well as the culture of silence and secrecy that plagues Indian (even world) nuclear establishment; there are key issues that are gravely worrisome. According to Gopal Krishnan (GK), a previous chairman of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), a list of corrective measures and modifications prepared by AERB after the Fukushima disaster would take in some cases 6 months to 24 months in other cases to implement. NPCIL gave a sworn undertaking about a month back at Chennai High Court that it would load the fuel at KNPP only after all the measures listed by AERB are implemented. Since the loading of nuclear fuel is to take place in few days, it is quite clear that either NPCIL is going back on its sworn affidavit or GK has got the timetable wrong. Knowing the past record of each and every authority in India, may be central or state governments or local bodies or public & private corporations; it is quite obvious that GK must be right and NPCIL has lied. GK made another damning revelation on CNN-IBN yesterday: When he was the chairman of AERB he had prepared a report on safety of nuclear plants, but when he submitted it, it was marked top secret and confidential and that was the last anyone ever heard of it. Disaster Management in India has been among the worst disasters. Reams upon reams are written after every disaster, natural or man made; but once the pain caused by the havoc subsides so do evaporate all the pious averments made in its wake about the mitigation and prevention plans. Case after case can be sighted, but won’t be necessary. As not one soul would believe in any claim, however modest, made by government about disaster management. Add to that the horrifying fury visited by the 2004 tsunami in this region and colossal damage it caused to life, livelihoods and victuals. The residents know what havoc tsunami can cause and have not forgotten the lessons. They are also well versed with the fact that Fukushima disaster was also caused by the tsunami in 2011. Together, any person in her senses would be fearful of the consequences of another tsunami; unless of course he is far away from the *ground zero*. Japan had to close down all nuclear power plants (NPP) after Fukushima. So did Germany bowing to popular will. Is it the case of Indian establishment that their scientific and technological prowess is superior to that of aforementioned nations? And, even if it is its claim, who would believe it?

Lie #5: The agitators have turned violent. The protests against the KNPP have been on for more than a year now and have been going on peacefully. Why would they turn violent now? Many eyewitness accounts tell of what transpired and how police resorted to *violence* first against peacefully assembled protesters. Such ham-handed tactics are used to provoke a confrontation so that it can be *justifiably* repressed. In the heat of the moment, some among the gathering do fall for the bait. But, that cannot said to be the abiding character of the movement.

Lie #6: Kalam is the final word. A P J Abdul Kalam may be a great scientist, but the fact remains that his expertise is not in nuclear science, it is in space science and later in management of missile programme. His opinion is valued, but is not a clincher, no one person’s is. The issue is of such grave importance that it should not only be debated nationally but even internationally.

Nuclear lobbies have always claimed that it is a clean and safe source of energy. Keeping *clean* aside today, let us look at the *safe* aspect from risk analysis perspective. Insurance cover is taken out for each and every commercial and industrial activity, whether of repetitive nature or not. It covers myriad risks that are quantifiable. Even space programmes like satellite launches involving cutting edge science and technology are insured. Quantification has two basic dimensions. First, the probability function of a range of possible scenarios that are likely is mapped. Then the resulting damage from each of the likely occurrence is estimated. Together these give insurance analysts good idea of probable losses arising out of insuring a risk and whether to offer a insurance product and at what premium. Now, nuclear industry also boasts of hundreds of reactors in *successful operation for decades. Then, why hasn’t it been able to convince insurance industry to provide a comprehensive cover for its nuclear plants including occurrences of melt-down disaster. The people who know how to make money by betting on risks would not be gullible folks to insure a NPP.

Jayalalitha has appealed to people for maintaining peace when actually her police force has breached it. ^^Reassuring that Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant was ‘safe’, chief minister J. Jayalalithaa on Monday evening fervently appealed to the people to maintain peace and not indulge in violence. “There is no threat to the fishermen’s livelihood from the Koodankulam nuclear power project. I appeal to the fishermen not to fall prey to the ‘illusion’ of anti-nuke lobbyists,” she said^^. Her assurances like that of the centre are too late too little.

There is no point talking at people. People of the region are genuinely scared for their safety and future. Need of the hour is to stop forthwith the KNPP start-up, announce the same, and then sit down with the people for honest discussion. Treat them as equals. Stop vilifying them as foreign funded or misguided. Either convince them of nuclear safety, and proper rehabilitation and inclusion in project benefits; or else get convinced that nuclear energy is not a viable option. Not confrontation, but consultation is the only way forward. After all, government should be of them, by them, and for them.