The differences between the Congress and the Opposition Shiv Sena in Maharashtra on the development of the Jaitapur nuclear power project have escalated, with the ruling party urging the Centre to probe the funding and motives of the NGOs and political organisations protesting against the Nuclear Power Corporation’s upcoming 9,900-Mw plant in the state. The trigger: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement last week that American NGOs are fuelling protests at Kudankulam nuclear project site.
The Congress shot off a letter to the UPA government seeking such an inquiry, days after the party’s poor performance in the recent local and civic-body polls in the state.
On the other hand, the Sena, buoyed by the resounding victory in the Mumbai corporation elections, revived its protest against Jaitapur on the Konkan Coast, vowing not to permit the proponents of the project to speak at public forums. In fact, yesterday, the party compelled Atomic Energy Commission’s former chairman Anil Kakodkar to withdraw all his references on Jaitapur. Kakodkar, who was addressing a public meeting in Pune, was later allowed to deliver his address on issues involving nuclear energy and energy security.
The Congress, in its communication to Minister for PMO V Narayanasamy, noted that it had been experiencing similar protests from various NGOs and political organisations. “Till now, with few exceptions, the reasons were generally observed to be for financial gains of the NGOs and either personal and financial benefits or pure political gains to the leaders and workers of the political organisations,” it said.
“We have seen in the past protests against the Dabhol power project by the Shiv Sena and many other projects by various NGOs and political parties.” The party said now a new threat has emerged considering the anti-Kudankulam demonstrations, asking the Centre to take them seriously.
Congress spokesman Sachin Sawant said parties like the Sena had “gone to the extent of threatening scientists” like Kakodkar who are in favour of nuclear projects. “Kindly have a similar probe into the motives and funding patterns of the NGOs and parties like the Sena for their protests against the Jaitapur project,” he added.
On its part, the Sena said it would continue to support the viewpoints of villagers who are against the Jaitapur project. “We will also oppose speeches in support of the project,” Sena party spokesperson Neelam Gorhe said. “We are of the view that the project development cannot be pursued by simply neglecting the opposition by locals,” he told Business Standard. More so, when serious concerns expressed over the impact of the project on the local population and environment in general, he added.
Gorhe termed as “deplorable” the Congress-led government insistence to go ahead with the project, “using coercive measures, including violence,” on the villagers who were demonstrating peacefully. “We want a comprehensive debate that would address all issues.”
According to Gorhe, the Sena would take up the Jaitapur issue during the upcoming budget session of the state legislature.