Tion cases. Is this a free coun­try?

Tehelka - - KOODANKULAM -

of a peace­ful move­ment. Khur­ram Pervez, a civil so­ci­ety ac­tivist from Kash­mir, says, “It’s noth­ing new. The state of In­dia mo­nop­o­lises vi­o­lence. Any voice of dis­sent, in Kash­mir, North­east or Koodanku­lam, is sedi­tion in its eyes. We were shocked to see that peo­ple from a small vil­lage are be­ing charged with sedi­tion be­cause of protest­ing against a nu­clear plant.”

As a re­sult of the cases, peo­ple in Ku­danku­lam are be­ing de­nied their ba­sic rights. “No new pass­ports are be­ing is­sued; in fact, some of the pass­ports that ar­rived have been called back,” in­forms Vic­to­ria. Even though the Tirunelveli Po­lice claims they cleared all the pass­port ap­pli­ca­tions, TE­HELKA found that no pass­ports have been is­sued to peo­ple in the vil­lage, who ap­plied in the past one year. “I have se­cured a job in Saudi Ara­bia. My agent as­sured me of a visa too, but I’ve been wait­ing for the pass­port for the past one year,” says Joi­har, 24. “My name is not there in any FIR, but I’m fac­ing the brunt,” he says. It is the same sit­u­a­tion with many young­sters in Koodanku­lam, and fam­ily mem­bers rue

Peo­ple who have found jobs abroad claim they have been de­nied their pass­ports be­cause of the sedi­tion charges

this de­nial of op­por­tu­nity to go abroad and add to the col­lec­tive in­come.

The small-scale fish­ing in­dus­try, which has been go­ing through tur­moil over the past year be­cause of the protest, is no longer prof­itable. “The prawn sea­son is over and we caught noth­ing this year as the breed­ing area was de­clared a ‘re­stricted land’ by the plant author­ity,” says Fran­cis Leon, a vil­lager in Koodanku­lam. “The fish­er­men are now liv­ing off a mea­gre in­come by mak­ing bidis,” he says. The move­ment is be­ing run by the lo­cals, for which they are sac­ri­fic­ing their per­sonal lives. “The gov­ern­ment al­leges that our strug­gle is be­ing funded by the Catholic churchrun NGOs, but in re­al­ity, peo­ple are fund­ing their own move­ment,” says Udayaku­mar.

Rosari, a house­wife in her 50s, sec­onds the sen­ti­ment. “This eco­nomic stale­mate has ru­ined our lives in the past year. We can’t send our chil­dren to school. We’ve stopped cel­e­brat­ing fes­ti­vals,” she says. “The plant is our neme­sis; it will slowly kill all the nearby vil­lages just like it hap­pened in Kala­pakkam. Now there is no fish to catch,” says 38-year-old Belsi.

Now, the res­i­dents are wait­ing for Madras High Court’s ver­dict. “The protest has lost a bit of its sheen, be­cause peo­ple had to carry on with their lives. But as soon as the ver­dict is out, which will be def­i­nitely against us, we will start afresh,” says Am­rithraj, a doc­u­men­tary pho­tog­ra­pher, who has been record­ing the move­ment

since the very be­gin­ning. THE PRO­TEST­ERS be­lieve the ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties be­ing un­earthed ev­ery day in nu­clear poli­cies will strengthen the cause and so­lid­ify the move­ment. In an RTI re­ply, the Na­tional Dis­as­ter Man­age­ment Author­ity re­cently re­vealed that In­dia does not have a pol­icy on spread­ing pub­lic aware­ness about a pos­si­ble nu­clear dis­as­ter. “It can only deal with a dis­as­ter af­ter it has taken place. The State is play­ing with its sub­jects in the name of de­vel­op­ment,” says Udayaku­mar.

Till the Koodanku­lam nu­clear power plant gears up for its op­er­a­tion, the vil­lagers find them­selves in a stale­mate. “There is no more faith in the state gov­ern­ment too,” says Udayaku­mar. “Jay­alalithaa sup­ported us as the leader of Op­po­si­tion but now that she is in power, noth­ing is be­ing done,” he says. There is no sup­port from nearby states like Ker­ala ei­ther. “They want 500 MW of elec­tric­ity from this plant, but for­get that in case of a dis­as­ter, they are sus­cep­ti­ble in an equal mea­sure,” he says.

Cu­ri­ously enough, two wind­mills from the Tamil Nadu En­ergy Depart­ment Agency stand in the premises of the plant. Does the ad­min­is­tra­tion know that this grid alone pro­duces 3,500 MW elec­tric­ity from the wind­mills, al­most twice as much as the much-hyped nu­clear plant?

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