30 September 2012

India’s Kudankulam Doosra

Despite assurances issued by the Indian central government regarding safety, villagers around the Kundakulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu continue to agitate against what they feel threatens their lives and livelihoods.  Over 1500 are reported to have buried themselves neck-deep in sand at Idinthakarai.  Two weeks ago when around 10,000 villagers marched to the plant, they were greeted by tear gas and a baton charge, which prompted the protestors to lay siege to the Tuticorin port with nearly a thousand fishing boats blocking entry to the harbor.

Safety concerns have been raised by Sri Lankan authorities as well as environmental groups.  The Kudankulam plant in Tamil Nadu is just 250 km from Sri Lanka's northwest coastal town of Mannar.  In the event of a nuclear disaster in the South Indian plant, Sri Lanka would be in the direct path of the impact range and the disaster would wreak havoc as Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Authority does not possess adequate facilities to face a threat of nuclear accident. 

This has prompted the High Commission of India in Colombo to issue a statement assuring that ‘the plant has high safety standards and it is no threat to Sri Lanka’.  This echoes the words of Indian Environment Minister who said the plant was ‘absolutely safe’. 

No one associated with any facility, nuclear or otherwise, would ever say that there are safety concerns.  ‘Absolutely safe’ is an absolutely predictable disclaimer.  When things go wrong, assurances are forgotten and officials play passing-the-buck.  Nothing compensates death for the dead.  That’s the bottom line of all human-made disasters. 

But India wants to discuss the matter with Sri Lanka.  Talk is good.  The issue is that in the ‘let-us-talk’, the Indian High Commission has let slip a vague word called ‘cooperation’.  That is, cooperation on nuclear issues.  That’s as vague as it can get. 

Now this ‘cooperation’ business comes in the context of India’s thinly disguised umbrage over any moves by Sri Lanka to ‘cooperate’ with other countries on energy issues, notably China and Pakistan.  India forgets often, it seems, that Sri Lanka is a sovereign country that is free to commerce with anyone. 

While it is certainly positive that India is ready to talk ‘safety’ with Sri Lanka, this subtle insertion of a larger agenda invites another word, ‘sinister’ to the dialog.  That’s a doosra, if ever there was one.  
‘Safety’, after all, was hardly an issue when India turned a bunch of trigger-happy social misfits into a fully-fledged terrorist organization, the most ruthless the world has known in fact.  Concern for the concerns of Sri Lanka moreover was amply demonstrated in Geneva early this year when India voted against her neighbor and in support of pernicious moves to interfere with Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.  

India has amply demonstrated that it cannot convince its own people about safety.  One person was shot dead and hundreds more were injured in that other exercise of selling ‘safety’ to the people of Tamil Nadu. 

India must first allay the fears and concerns of its own citizens.  Delhi must talk ‘safety’ with the fisher folk of Tamil Nadu.  Delhi can then talk about ‘safety’ with Sri Lanka. 

As for ‘cooperation’, that must come later, if at all.  The Sri Lankan Government, on the other hand, while not ruling out ‘cooperation-talk’ with Delhi, must not close the cooperation-door on others, be it China, Pakistan, Russia, Iceland, Japan, Bangladesh, Mozambique or Sierra Leone.  On energy or anything else.  

['The Nation' Editorial, September 30, 2012]


Dr. Edward Perera said...

Well written article. I sent it further to my friends in Europe including Europeans, who are deeply concerned about nuclear accidents and environmental disasters.

Kevin Fernandes said...

One thing doesn't gonna change no matter what both country might wish- that they are destined to be neighbours eternally till the end of the world.
Now, with this geographical reality in mind both can take into confidence each others issues of concerns.
Kudankulam wasn't erected in one single day.Both protestors and also Srilanka has been very late in reacting.
As far as nuclear energy is concerned I don't think India is gonna go back on this option of energy source.There are lessons to be learned,however, for everyone including Union govt., DAE, NPCIL, concerned state govt.s and also other stakeholders like neighbouring provinces and countries like SL.
Finally let me say that ad Indian Citizen living in the 30km vincinity of Tarapur Nuclear plant which is India's oldest nuclear installation, I can understand the anxieties felt by the people there.But then if people of a metropolitian city like Mumbai and its citizens have been living for last over 4 decades, then the people in Kudankulam too should be a little more reasonable and not oppose it just blindly

sajic said...

Mr Fernandes. Yes, we are neighbours but neighbours do not have to accept blindly. The common environment issues and dangers exist for Sri Lanka which did not ask for a nuclear plant in the first place. If Indians accept it, it is their call. We have the right to protest although the protest will probably go unheeded. Two generations from now when accidents happen (and they will,as they have in other parts of the world), India will remember the protesters.

SANDIKA said...

what ever the naighbours, ok forget the term 'neighbour' for a moment what ever decision they take, even their very internal decisions 'every country' take', their reactions on something of what the rest of the world do generally affect directly or indirectly not only to or to them their immediate neighbours also each and every other country of this world. 'this is a global village' this world.
it is always good to listen to the ideas of others share ideas, internally and then welcome the ideas of the others 'then take a intelligent decision' this not that we are interfering the decisions of neighbours i am sure that our neighbour understand these things.