India: thousands arrested during Jaitapur protests
World's largest nuclear park is planned in Jaitapur, in Ratnagiri district on the coast of southern Maharashtra, India. The park would comprise up to six large EPR nuclear reactors bought from the French nuclear giant- Areva. In addition to the inherent hazards of nuclear power, the project threatens the livelihoods of about 10 000 farmers and fishermen and their families.
On October 29, despite preventive arrests, prohibitory orders and road blocks more than 3000 villagers' courted arrests, as part of their 'Jail Bharo' agitation. By 6 pm, the police requested the leaders of the agitation to stop the flow of people. The agitation was primarily in response to the government claim that the villagers were quiet and only a handful of outsiders were leading the agitation against the proposed 10,000 MW Jaitapur nuclear power project in the village.
The agitation started peacefully at noon at Bhagwati temple in the village. Hundreds of women including the elderly queued up to be arrested, followed by the men folks. The police had arranged for four buses, but they failed awfully short, as villagers of Madban and the neighboring villages continued to pour in.
The 250-strong contingent of policemen came prepared with riot gear and rifles, but there was not even slogan shouting. "This is a show of strength and the government must now realise that we cannot be taken for granted," Pravin Davankar of the Janhit Seva Samiti, which has been opposing the project for the past five years.
The villagers were angry because the government was refusing to tell them the truth and releasing information in bits and pieces. "After all, we are the ones to be directly affected," said Sanjay Gavankar, a villager, who runs a cashew nut factory. The local people are against forced acquisition of their land by the government. They consider their land to be of much more value than a job at NPCIL and some money in lieu of the land. The local people have unanimously rejected the compensation package offered by the government and even lit bon fires with it.
Satyajit Chavan, an activist protesting in Jaitapur, said: “It seemed more like a police state, where emergency measures are evoked to apparently maintain law and order. The state seems to act against wishes of its own citizens.”
Retired High Court judge B G Kolse-Patil, who had being served orders preventing him from entering Ratnagiri District, flouted the ban and attended the rally. While the police were looking for him on the road, he took a different route and appeared dramatically in the temple at 3 pm. "I will oppose this sort of high-handedness by the state tooth and nail," he said. The police had to physically carry him off to arrest him. Retired Admiral L Ramdas and retired Supreme Court Judge P B Samant, who were coming to the rally, were stopped by the police on the Highway. The Jaitapur project is characterized by shocking neglect – from the choice of an earthquake-prone and ecologically valuable site, to a timetable that leaves insufficient time to review the risks of the nuclear reactor design, not yet in operation anywhere in the world. Because of these and many other flaws the reactors would entail unacceptable hazards.
A joint report by Greenpeace and European solar panel manufacturers showed earlier this week that solar power can deliver electricity at a competitive cost by 2015. This is 3 years before the first planned reactor could be in operation in Jaitapur. Wind power and biomass can do that already now. There is no need to import dangerous and destructive nuclear reactors.
Sources: Blogpost by Karuna Raina, Greenpeace India, 29 October / Times of India, 29 October 2010