Pradnya Samant

My visit to my native place Malvan in the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra, was arousing another curiosity in me. Jaitapur, just 70 kms from Malvan and 28 kms off the NH-17, was an easily reachable site. The setting up of the largest Nuclear Power plant in Jaitapur, had suddenly placed this quaint sea-side village on the national map. Having studied in depth the controversial subject of Nuclear Power Generation in India and its socio-political and economic effects on the State, and having come so close to the place, I could literally feel the place giving me a call. Without a second thought, I decided to visit Jaitapur despite the news that there were police restrictions, section 144 applied etc. etc…

The site work was on in minor stages. Probably the leveling of the site and setting up of quarters for working staff was in progress. There was no sign of any police cordon or any other signs of friction between the civilians and the NPCIL. I later visited the activists of the Konkan Bachao Samiti. I had a full one hour talk with them at the house of one of the activists in Madban, understanding the nuances of the subject. From the whole conversation, I gathered some information and thereby came to certain conclusions which I would like to share with my readers….

 

First of all let me make it very clear that I am still in support of the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant and also other utility projects like dams, mining, housing, airports etc. These are factors which will propel the country’s growth. Having said that, let me also make it clear that while the Government of India undertakes to set up these projects, somehow, somewhere it lacks the sincerity, honesty and national perspective while it executes the same.

Decision making : As we have a Parliamentary Democracy, the decisions on issues of national importance have to be taken by the executive, and we have to abide by them. It cannot be left to the imagination of a few individuals or the so called civilians to dictate the national policy.

Selection of technology : If we stick to the subject of Power Generation, then the decision in the selection of what type of plant or technology should be utilized, should be the sole prerogative of the Government. There will be a lobby against each type of technology and finally the elected representatives of the people should be vested with such powers. That the Govt. will chose the technology, where they can mint money, though does not seem far-fetched, still has to be overlooked, failing which we will never come to a consensus.

Selection of the site : The place, the location, the site selection for the project again should rest with the government. Though there is an argument that government takes decisions in it’s own interest, rather than the society at large, let us not move away from the fact that there are strategic, political, national and international considerations in taking such decisions. No matter who sits in the seat of power, their actions will always be guided by such considerations.

The Human Quotient : The most important factor here is the human displacement. In the last 25 yars of project history of India, it is most shameful that not a single project can claim to have done justice to the displaced population. The contracts or the terms of employment offered by the Government are very vague and ambiguous. The terms vaguely spell that the locals will have to take the jobs as offered by the Govt. This is not in principle with the Govt. playing the role as a protector of the state. Every citizen deserves and has a right to be the beneficiary to the welfare actions of the state. The jobs offered by the Govt. should be in commensuration with the qualifications of the person who is being displaced or his next kin. Human rehabilitation should be on top in the priority list, but unfortunately we find this factor at the bottom of the list.

Acquisition of Land and the Compensation Offered : The compensation for the acquisition of land for national projects is another issue of core dispute. The Jaitapur case is a classic example of the goof up by the government. How on earth can the govt. offer Rs.50000 an acre, and then under public pressure, raise the band to Rs.10 Lakh an acre? This defies all logic. Also it is a matter of investigation whether the compensation actually reaches the displaced. In my opinion there has to be a permanent committee to have a dialogue with the locals and the Govt. and certain guidelines have to be followed while deciding on the compensation. The landowners should neither be underpaid nor overpaid. Also as in Stock Markets, an Escrow account has to be opened and all monies towards compensation to the displaced should be deposited in this account before the start of the project. The mismanagement in the distribution system should attract criminal liability for the administrators.

Transparency regarding the cost factor : Till this day nobody knows at what cost are we going to get the electric supply. If it reaches a mammoth scale say Rs.50 per unit, then is the govt. going to tell the public “ take it at this cost or stay in the dark?” Is that how a responsible and fair administration is expected to perform?

Transmission Losses : India suffers 30% transmission losses as against International figure of 10%. What is being done to reduce this, as it is a total waste of energy.

Theft of electricity : It is also a known fact that electricity is stolen on a mass scale. The figures quoted are a whooping 30 %. If this is curtailed the Electricity boards can work more efficiently.

Disparity in power distribution : While urban population has the privilege of unlimited use of power and also waste, the rural population suffers power cuts for major part of the day and night rendering them handicapped in basic utilities and commercial utilities of pumps, irrigation and machine operations.

Security Concerns : In view of Chernobyl and Fukushima, it is important for the Government to disclose their safety measures, just like they demonstrate in a flight. They have to educate people of the expected risks and the strategy and management that NPCIL has in place to counter any such disaster. The transparency and conscious efforts in public education, will help dispel the unfounded fears of the people.

Exact requirement of Energy for the State : Even after having several thermal and hydro power projects, right in the Konkan belt, the entire konkan region has a massive deficiency of power supply. Why? What happened to the Dabhol Power project. Is it working at optimum capacity? To my knowledge it is not. Then why efforts are not made to generate maximum production from existing units? I guess a white paper has to be presented in the Assembly on this matter.

To sum up, I will reiterate that the Government of India has lacked the necessary skills in public relations and has turned the tide against itself. DR. Kakodkar may be a scientist par excellence, but in this matter he is playing the devil’s advocate. Even if the Government has to start from scratch, it should come forward with a fair and judicious solution to the Jaitapur project. Is the government listening???

 

 

This article is lifted from blogger and entrepreneur Pradnya Samant‘s  note on facebook.