Tag Archives: Kudankulam nuclear plant India

Nuclear Protests in India, NGOs and Foreign Money

This week police in Kudankulam, in southern Tamil Nadu, fired at thousands of anti-nuclear protesters on the beach, killing a fisherman. The locals were opposing a new, Russian-designed, 2,000MW nuclear plant, India’s biggest, which is now being filled with fuel. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed over 10,000 Indians. Now fears grow of another big wave that could bring a Fukushima-style disaster.  Protesters also claim harassment, saying officials have slapped sedition notices against 8,000 who have dared speak out. Opposition has flared before. The state’s chief minister, Jayaram Jayalalitha, once backed the protests but has now swung in favour of the plant—perhaps betting that anger over power shortages trumps anti-nuclear outbursts.

The reaction of the national government, under the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, has been mixed. Committees of investigation called the plant safe. The High Court in Chennai heard, and ruled against, a petition by locals over safety. The Supreme Court will hear an appeal.  The government’s argument that politicians not protesters should decide the country’s energy mix is reasonable. But, twitchy at criticism, it veered off in suggesting opponents merely did the bidding of a foreign hand. Mr Singh, in an interview with a science magazine in February, blamed protests on NGOs, “mostly I think based in the United States”. A tough new law is in force, severely restricting foreign money going to local NGOs.  Mr Singh’s frostiness is best understood in the context of America’s moans that a civil-nuclear deal signed with India has not led to American investors getting energy contracts. Strict liability laws scare its private investors, whereas government-backed ones, such as Russians, feel more secure. Could Mr Singh be implying that American activists are stirring the trouble in Kudankulam because the plant is Russian-built?

Nuclear Power in India: The Kudankulam conundrum, Economist, Sept. 15,2012, at 39

Can NGOs be Foreign Agents? India Investigates Protests against its Nuclear Plant

The government intensified its drive against NGOs it suspects of being hostile to national interests, with the home ministry zeroing in on 77 organizations whose activities will be scrutinized following a crackdown on four NGOs for allegedly fanning protests against the Kudankulam nuclear plant.

A meeting chaired by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday was told by home ministry officials that the NGOs, mostly from the US and Europe, needed careful monitoring to check whether they were violating rules that guide funding and mandate their actions. The NGOs will be placed on a watch list with the external affairs ministry asked to ensure visa applications of their members are scanned….Most of the NGOs on the “watch list” receive funding from US and European countries…..However, Congress on Thursday supported the government’s moves with party spokesperson Manish Tewari saying that India’s attempts since the 1980s to achieve energy security was regularly thwarted by international interests. “This should be kept in mind by agencies probing the cases,” he said….People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) convener S P Udaykumar has denied any links to foreign funds and has said he is associated with Swedish NGO Idea only in a research capacity. PMANE has served a defamation notice to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for blaming foreign NGOs for being insensitive to India’s energy needs.  Government sources insist the agitators are fundamentally opposed to nuclear energy and argue that while China races to increase its power capacity, India’s attempts to cover a growing deficit are being stalled. The PM’s remarks were followed by bank accounts of four NGOs being frozen. CBI and Tamil Nadu police have filed cases.

The tough talking against NGOs could also escalate into a diplomatic row with the government adamant on acting against those it believes are responsible for funding domestic NGOs involved in political or semi-political protests or activities.Local protests organized at Kudankulam have derailed the commissioning of the first 1000 mw unit of the 4780 mw nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu. The Rs 14,500 crore nuclear project has been built with Russian collaboration. Two units are nearly complete but as of now the bare minimum staff needed to ensure the plant systems are in working order is able to access the site…..PMANE has denied allegations that it is being funded by American NGOs to organise the protest.

Excerpts, Government intensifies drive against NGOs, to scrutinize workings of 77 more organizations, The Economic Times of India, Mar. 2, 2012