Government pursues atomic power program with callous disregard to the affected people
The Government of India (GOI) is pushing for Atomic Power generation in a big way. While on the one hand, in many states such as Maharashtra, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat etc., people are fighting against these plans, on the other hand many politicians and spokespersons of the government are trying to cover up the possible hazardous consequences for the people living in the vicinity. However many scientists and people's activists all over the country are exposing these lies.
The experience of people of Tarapur is very illustrative in this direction. Recently an MEL correspondent visited Tarapur and learnt certain shocking facts which we are sharing with our readers.
The Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS), located barely 150 km from Mumbai, was the first Atomic Power Project (APP) of the government, commissioned in 1967. For the first 2 phases thousands of locals lost their ancestral land and homes. The government promised them alternate housing and jobs, but more than 40 years after the starting of the plant these promises have not been fulfilled. The entire area around the project site is connected by very narrow tar road, laid just a few years ago. The villagers gave up their land and belongings for generating electricity, but they themselves have to bear with very erratic and irregular power supply, with 8 to 10 hours of power cut every day. Phase 3 and 4 was commissioned as recently as 2005. Thousands of homes were forcibly destroyed using brute police force and bulldozers; the people opposing were hounded in cages atop police trucks and dumped far away. Another promise which the government made but never fulfilled is that local residents would be given employment. The government also claimed that fishing would not be affected by the atomic power plant. However experience of Tarapur fishermen tells a different tale.
The government and its spokespersons claim that there is hardly any risk due to radiation from atomic plants since extra precautions are taken. But the agony of people of Tarapur exposes this lie. Every year 10 to 15 deaths due to cancer are reported in a l village of about 15000! There is no local hospital to teat such patients and they have to travel to Mumbai, bearing the expenditure themselves. Many cases of paralysis, joint pain, gynecological problems and miscarriages as well as other adverse effects of radiation have been reported.
The government claims to have made special provisions to face a possible atomic accident. Recently the Prime Minister ordered a special audit of all atomic power projects. A fortnight ago it was announced in the media that a successful mock drill was conducted in the TAPS area. But residents report that the mock drill was a big farce, with the majority of them not even aware of it! Though thousands of people live in these villages, the roads are so narrow that evacuation in case of an emergency would take several hours. The village of Ghiwali lies on a narrow strip of land jutting into the Arabian Sea. In case of an emergency, the residents have to run towards the plant itself, before they can get away, because there is no other way! For years the villagers have been asking for a bridge to be built spanning the deep creek that separates them from the rest of the land. The bridge would be just a few hundred meters long, but the government has not yet built it.
Ghiwali, a village inhabited by around 5000 people, stands testimony to the utter disregard and carelessness of the government towards the poor working people. While the TAPS employees colony is located at least 8 km from the plant, this village is located within 600 m of TAPS phase 3 and 4! This is in spite of government norms declaring that a radius of 5 km is highly susceptible to radiation effects and requiring that no human settlement should be allowed within a radius of 1.5 km.
The Indian bourgeoisie, in its drive to become a global power, is pushing ahead with its atomic power program and wants the government to carry out the necessary coercion and deception in order to implement it. But the popular opposition to these plans is gathering momentum.
MEL demands that the veil of secrecy about atomic power plants, under the façade of so called ‘national security’ should be removed and that all the facts should be revealed to the public. We demand that no such projects can be decided without taking the informed consent of the people. We demand a stop to all such projects till such consent is obtained. We also demand that a full scale medical investigation be carried out in areas near the existing atomic plants, that its results be made public and that the necessary medical help and compensation extended immediately and fully, to all the affected people.
What the residents of Tarapur say:
- “We felt a pride in sacrificing our interests out of patriotism and hope that along with our countrymen our lives will also improve, but….” -- A local leader of the struggle
- “In 2005 we were thrown out of our homes from Pofaran village brutally by the police and paramilitary. To date all of us have not received compensation. During the monsoon when we cannot do fishing around Dandi, we used to spend 4 to 5 months in Pofaran but now that source of livelihood has vanished……”. -- an activist of Dandi, an affected village with a population of more than 15000.
- “Some of us get work in TAPS but only as contract workers where we are paid a pittance of Rs. 200 to 250/- per day. And the job is very risky and not for the full year. From fishing we could easily earn Rs. 400 to 500/- per day before the power plant came up …..” -- youth of Dandi
- “Before the project phases started in 1967, we used to get a large catch of fish, crabs, prawns etc. But that drastically reduced after the first 2 phases. After 3rd and 4th Phases commissioned in 2005, the yield has further plummeted. In our village there used to be more than 450 mechanised trawlers but now there are less than 150 left. Earlier we had to go out to the distance of a few km into the sea, but now we have to go in many times further for fishing, making it much more expensive and risky. …” -- fishermen of Dhandi and Ghiwali
- “In my own house we are treating a very close relative for cancer. Every year I must be cremating at least 10 to 15 people who died due to cancer….” -- local resident, responsible for cremation of the dead
- “I, like many of my friends, work in the areas where radiation is pretty high. After having worked for a few years we all experience severe body and joint pain after we get up in the morning. Our medical check-up is done regularly but the result is not given to us. . . Everything connected with atomic projects is guarded under a very tight veil of secrecy.” -- educated youth working as a contract worker in the plant
- “Even though we are living in this area for generations, Ghiwali does not exist as per Revenue department records! Hence our fight starts with proving our existence!” -- local leader fighting for compensation