Jaitapur N-Power Plant: Land For Power
For two days last week, large swathes of Ratnagiri district—home to the world-famous alphonso mango—shut down after unprecedented violence. April is when fishermen remain busy and orchard owners pack the best pick of the mango for Mumbai and beyond. This year, however, April brought death. Tabrez Sayekar, a 30-year-old fisherman from Sakhri Nate village, took three bullets and died on April 18 when police fired to quell a huge mob protesting against the proposed 9,900 mw nuclear power plant in Jaitapur.
The death marked a watershed in the sustained five-year history of local agitation against the plant; the area had not witnessed vandalism and violence on such a large scale all these years. Incidentally, for the first time since Ratnagiri villagers began agitating against the project, the Shiv Sena claimed ownership and leadership of the agitation.
On April 18 morning, about 400 protesters from villages that will be affected by the project, led by Shiv Sena MLA Rajan Salvi, marched to the site of the plant, hurled stones at the policemen on guard, ransacked office sheds and set fire to some machinery. The police resorted to a lathicharge, injuring many. Policemen also fired in the air and arrested about 30 of the protesters. About the same time, another mob of about 350 people converged on Nate police station, demanding the release of those held. After a war of words between police officers and agitation leaders, the mob ransacked the police station and prepared to torch it. A lathicharge and firing followed. Sayekar lost his life, and some 80 people were injured, including 30 policemen. The following day, Ratnagiri district shut down in protest.
As vandalism and violence took over this green coastal belt, Salvi’s leader watched from a safe distance. Uddhav Thackeray, executive president of the Shiv Sena, had toured the area in early April, canvassing for a complete halt to the project and addressed a large public rally on April 9. In the intervening days, the state home department received intelligence that the area might witness violent protests, a fact home minister R.R. Patil admitted in the assembly. But as Salvi led Sena activists and locals on Monday, Thackeray, who still finds time for his hobby of wildlife photography, was taking in the sights of the Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh with his political aspirant son Aditya.
Thackeray is treading on precarious ground. It’s difficult, as some analysts point out, not to see motives in the Shiv Sena parachuting into the five-year-old local agitation. It needs to recover lost ground in the Konkan belt and could do with the political mileage accruing from a popular agitation. The party lost some of its hold over the region after Narayan Rane switched loyalty to the Congress six years ago. This was Uddhav’s best moment to put Rane in place and reclaim leadership in the Konkan. Also, with local body elections ten months away in prestigious Mumbai and Thane—which have large numbers of migrants from the Konkan—the Sena needs to demonstrate its concern for the area.
Contrast the April 18 protest with the one in December 2010. Then, nearly 6,000 protesters had marched across the villages calling for a total halt to the Jaitapur project. There was sloganeering and singing. There were sit-ins at police stations and no less than 1,500 of the protesters were arrested. But the anti-government sentiment had not resulted in vandalism.
In his cynical attempt to score points, Uddhav has caused damage to the agitation itself: one, he stymied a Hazare-type agitation in New Delhi planned by local organisations and may have fractured the anti-Jaitapur agitation into Sena and non-Sena-led ones; two, he introduced a needlessly violent strain into a legitimate protest that had been relatively calm even in the face of severe repression through all these years.
Justice B.G. Kolse Patil (retd), former judge of the Bombay High Court, who led the December march and was held for five days, says: “We completely disagree with the kind of agitation the Sena is spearheading. No one can take the law into their hands.” Vaishali Patil, convenor of the Konkan Vinashkari Prakalp Virodhi Samiti, one of the four organisations agitating, says the people’s struggle could turn “violent and communal if political parties began to cash in”.
However, post-agitation too, the Sena suffers from a confidence deficit in the region, for hardly anyone here has forgotten its flip-flop on another mega power project of the 1990s. “After vowing to throw the Enron project into the Arabian Sea, it renegotiated and augmented the project when it came to power in 1995. How do we know Uddhav won’t do the same with Jaitapur?” asked Patil.
Besides, its agitation record is flawed. The Sena has led violent agitations against a power company for “inflated consumer bills”, toll road operators for high rates and private hospitals for not admitting poor patients, but always withdrawn before resolving the issue.
The violent turn the Sena has imparted to the Jaitapur agitation has put its ally, the BJP, in a quandary. Eknath Khadse, BJP leader and leader of the opposition, raised the issue of police violence in the legislature this week but even he knows he cannot go far. For, after an internal study in late January, the BJP decided it would support the nuclear plant. At the centre too, the BJP has supported nuclear energy initiatives and its government in Gujarat has planned two such plants.
Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh and Maharashtra chief minister Prithiviraj Chavan have since said “there will be no rethink” on the project itself but compensation could be reconsidered. Chavan’s repeated attempts to win over villagers have been rebuffed. He is conscious that several Congressmen in the state have privately questioned the project, especially after the Fukushima disaster. Protesting villagers, who heard Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi ask on television if the government should stop the project only because local villagers don’t want it, say the project is “a test for a government that claims to be for the aam aadmi”. Jaitapur is on the boil, and nuclear energy has everything to do with it.
Your article Jaitapur, Level 7 (May 2) doesn’t touch on what the project would mean for power-starved Maharashtra. A succession of corrupt netas have ruined the state and this power project would inject some long-needed energy into the state’s veins. For power-hungry Maharashtrians, it is now or never!
/// Is it that we do not need to address our needs for energy? ///
Off course we need to address our needs for energy. But why a 9900 MW plant at one place, the biggest in India and one of the biggest in world. Cannot we go for smaller ones. There are many other places in India where nuclear energy plants are proposed to be built. They are small. Did you hear anything against them.
Why is it not possible to have a N-plant and to do so with safety of people's life?
Is it that we do not need to address our needs for energy?
BJP should be complimented for not exploiting this issue. Our energy needs are very real for our sustained economic growth. A bilateral approach on issues of vital national interest is good.
/// For god sake this party has to be banned for using God's name (Shiv) in a political party.’///
Here are some some parties having a name on religion or community (List is very long)
State political parties (State wise list)
Muslim League Kerala State Committee
Registered unrecognized parties
All India Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam
All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen
Muslim Majlis Uttar Pradesh
These parties be banned and not a party having the name of ‘SHIVAJI’ the warrior (not God).
I would like to give Manmohan Singh his due in these adverse conditions. His focus on energy security is commendable.
In my understanding the whole nuclear deal with US was in fact his quest in this same line.
I understand the concern of local population regarding this Jaitapur power-plant. But if you remember few years back in Maharashtra itself, there were massive rally against wind farm in Konkan coast. Someone said it will change the flow of wind and nothing will grow there.
Not every protest is justified.
Not sure how many people know that there is plan to build massive solar farm in Rajasthan desert. Which is good thing also. I am sure in near future we will see some locals from that area protesting for one reason or other.
No I am not being hypocrite. My own village is going under water in a hyro power station in Uttarakhand.
I grew-up there and know how bad is this feeling of loss. But it serves the larger purpose, and I am ready to sacrifies my bit.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT