Koodankulam: Former Power Secretary’s Letter to the PM

Dr. E A S Sarma


Former Union Power Secretary, Govt of India

Know more about Dr. Sarma HERE.


Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister’s
Dear Dr. Manmohan Singh,

Subject:- Undemocratic and inhuman handling of Koodankulam protests- Latest incidents a matter of shame

I heard that the Tamil Nadu government has behaved in a highly undemocratic and inhuman manner in dealing with the people protesting against K00dankulam nuclear power plant. One precious life has been lost and several persons have received injuries. I express my anguish, distress and condemnation at this in no unclear words. Such incidents constitute an indelible blot on our democracy.

It is unfortunate that, despite appeals from several responsible persons representing a wide range of sections of the civil society, DAE in collusion with the State government, has chosen to ignore all democratic norms of governance and resorted to repression.

Post-Fukushima, protests against nuclear power have become a global reality and the protestors against Kudankulam are not alone. There are several countries who have boldly announced an embargo on nuclear power, knowing its risks and costs.

Senior persons from PMO have repeatedly flaunted their customary “foreign hand” theory to belittle such protests, forgetting that ours is a democracy, not a despotic system. I have just lodged a formal complaint before Election Commission of India (ECI) to prosecute all those political parties who have violated the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) by accepting donations from “foreign” companies. It is difficult to find political parties who are not guilty of this offence. Many such donations involve quid pro quos. Moreover, those who look to foreign sources of election funding pose a threat to the integrity of democracy in India. It is ironic that those who violate the law of the land and openly solicit foreign contributions should belittle genuine voices of dissent that form an essential characteristic of any civilized democracy!

I have separately requested C&AG and other agencies to look into the indiscriminate manner in which DAE has gone about placing orders without any competitive bidding for the purchase of imported nuclear reactors that will cost the nation dearly. The additional costs on this account for a 60,000 MW nuclear adventure would impose a cost burden of more than Rs.4,00,000 crores, more than twice the cost of the coalgate scam. Perhaps, one should appropriately call it the “nucleargate”!

As if not satisfied with this, your Department has enacted a civil nuclear liability law that has effectively exempted the foreign MNCs from assuming responsibility for the bulk of the liability in the event of a Fukushima-like accident as a result of a defective design of the reactors they would have supplied. In effect, most of the liability would devolve on the citizens of India. On the basis of Fukushima, such a contingent liability would work out to Rs.39 Crores per MW! More important, your government has introduced an element of moral hazard that would certainly encourage the MNCs to cut the corners in the design of the reactors and thereby compromise safety.

It is ironic that UPA government should cite shortage of funds for providing a 100% food security cover for the poor at a meagre cost of Rs.1,00,000 Crores but display no hesitation in doling out subsidies, several times more, to the nuclear MNCs.

Sometimes, I cannot help but wonder as to who is being influenced by the “foreign hand”!

The people living in and around Kudankulam have been agitating against the project since 1988, as stated in my letter of November 12, 2011 (enclosed). Neither the successive State governments nor the successive Central governments had the time and the inclination to listen to them. The well established “precautionary principle” places the burden on the government, not the people, of proving that nuclear power technology is safe beyond all reasonable doubt. DAE has all along conducted the operations in and around Kudankulam in utmost secrecy and kept the people in the dark. Unfortunately, it was the disaster at Fukushima that woke up the world about the potential dangers of nuclear technology. Those living around Kudankulam watched Fukushima with horror and helplessness. Is it their fault to oppose something that could disrupt their lives? Are they to be blamed if they apprehend a threat to their health and the health of their children, both born and yet to be born? Those who usually ignore this reality and go eloquent on the virtues of nuclear power are those that live in their ivory towers, far away from the nuclear power plants, ensconced in their air-conditioned confines.

Even at this belated hour, may I appeal to you, Dr. Manmohan Singh, to step out of the narrow confines of DEA and restore democratic processes at Koodankulam?

Yours sincerely,

Former Secretary to GOI

Join discussion: leave a comment