K-tension from south continues to simmer

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While Anna Hazare’s fast for introducing changes in the Lokpal bill that generated nationwide support a few months ago might be construed as the biggest public protest of the year, the relay hunger strike-cum-protest down south in the quiet fishing hamlet of Idinthakarai, Tirunelveli district, that has been going on for five months now against the commissioning of the Koodankulam nuclear power plant, has been one of its kind, stalling the Rs 13,000 crore project that could bring at least 1,000 MW of additional power to the energy-starved state.

While the protestors at Idinthakarai and Koodankulam maintain that it is a homegrown protest, intelligence agencies and pro-nuclear groups continue to suspect a foreign hand in the unusual resilience of the protestors.

Anti-nuclear activist and schoolteacher S.P. Udayakumar, now the face of these protests, claims that his NGO, people’s movement against nuclear energy, has been campaigning against the plant for over a decade now.

He attributes the success of the recent protests to people’s uprising out of a genuine fear for the safety and well-being of around two lakh people living in and around Koodankulam.

“Following the Fukushima nuclear accident in March 2011, the fishermen have awakened the public to the perils of living near a nuclear facility,” he says.

“The most recent trigger was the announcement of a mock drill that frightened the locals. The list of do’s and don’ts released by the nuclear power corporation of India enlightened them of the perilous situation.”

Despite repeated assurances by nuclear scientists and Central government representatives, the people of Koodankulam area are still unconvinced about the safety of the plant and demand its closure. As the year draws to a close, the commencement of the KKNPP plant seems near, yet so far.

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