Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Instead of adopting alternatives that were more available for generation of cheaper power, the govt. was laying undue importanceon the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal for generation of costly nuclear power.
-Sitaram Yechuri CPI(M)
The watchdog is barking hoarse again! The loudest ever since the ruling alliance UPA was formed at the centre. The issue this time is the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal. Be it the SFI in their pamphlets in campus or their parliamentary master the CPM in the media, they are shouting from the rooftops as to how the 'sovereignty of the nation' will be jeopardized; how nuclear energy is a perilous source of energy when there are other alternative resources available, and what not. The CPM has even threatened to make the government –led by their masters the Congress- fall, if they go ahead with the deal! While the loyal World Bank pensioner Mr. Prime Minister does not seem very bothered by their (empty) postures (after all how can he ditch his paymasters!), Dr. Goebbles nevertheless bless CPI and CPM from his grave, finding his worthy cohorts in them. While they create a storm of sorts against the present nuclear deal, lets look at what they are planning in their own backyard.
Even as the political atmosphere of Delhi is rising due to the steaming 'resistance' (sic) put up by the CPM leadership, the winds of resistance in villages of Midnapur in coastal West Bengal is not calm either. Villages such as Haripur and Junput unlike Nandigram have not yet made it to the national headlines, but they are already in the local news. These villages are next in line of the 'communist' (!) government in West Bengal for grabbing fertile farmland as a part of the ongoing 'industrialization' process, with the active partnership of the transnational companies. However, Haripur-Junput are not the future locations of any SEZs. It is one of the five sites selected for the upcoming nuclear power plants in India.

A 12-member Site Selection Panel, under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), visited a number of coastal districts in India during November 2006 and have zeroed in on five sites in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal. Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), 'spearheading' India's nuclear power programme, will undertake the job. The reaction of the Left state government to the project resonates with its self-styled arrogance. "The State needs a nuclear power plant and will certainly get it"- this is the statement of Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, Chief Minister of West Bengal [The Statesman, 19.11.2006]. He also criticized those opposed to the projectfor their ignorance of 'the worth of the project'.

But what really is the 'worth' of this project: The main distinguishing feature of this project is the unprecedented lack of transparency. The shields of 'army secrecy' and 'national security' have been used as cover-ups to any enquiry about the proposed plan. And especially with their current 'resistance' to the nuke deal they are very cautious and silent about this project. However, it seems quite likely that the proposed nuclear power plant will be pushed ahead. Light water reactors are going to be used which will run on imported fuel (never mind even if the CPM's 'embedded intellectuals', like the scientist Prabir Purokayastha in its own mouthpiece People's Democracy outrightly denounced the idea of imported reactors). Haripur will have six nuclear reactors, each producing 1650 MW of electricity – with a total capacity of 10,000 MW. Since the NPCIL can indigenously produce reactors of only 700 MW capacity, the Indo-U.S. Agreement on Sharing of Nuclear Technology could pave the way for the transfer of U.S. technology too! Thus while the watchdog barks at the thief from the front door, it makes sure that the same thief leaves him with loaves in its own backyard. The same game of opposing in the center and implementing the very same thing in the states is continued in this case too, adding on to their earlier record of opposing and at the same time supporting SEZs, POTA, and so on.

The tale of land acquisition continues:
The Government of West Bengal has decided to acquire 1013 acres of prime agricultural land in and around Haripur, including the fish-processing centre at Junput for the nuclear power project. In Haripur, the rich, multi cropped land supports rice, wheat, mustard, potatoes, betel leaf and chili cultivation on which an estimated 25,000 people directly depend. There are large fruit orchards and a number of water-bodies where prawn rearing and sweet-water pisiculture is practiced on a commercial scale. The area also includes a sea beach that supports some 20,000 fisher-people. In Junput there are large fishing farms and fishing training centers. Hijli and Contai are also the sites of centuries-old salt factories which provide 80% salt consumed by West Bengal. All these places are planned to be acquired for the said project.

The standard buffer zone for a nuclear plant in India includes a 1.6 kilometer radius which no one is allowed to inhabit. Only 10.000 people can live within a 5 kilometer radius; 20,000 within a 10 km radius and 100,000 within a 30 km radius. In case of Haripur the surrounding areas that will fall within the 5-10 Km buffer zone are all rich and densely-populated rural farmlands as well as townships like Contai which alone has a population of 78,000. Either this huge number of population will have to be evicted to establish the project, or worse, they will be left exposed to the dangerous effects of radioactivity.

Whose sovereignty, whose deal? As in Bengal, the other places selected for the power plants too would go through the by now familiar process of forceful eviction, dispossession, and a farce in the name of compensation Worse still, this time it will be accompanied by the effects of nuclear plant generated radioactivity. And all this is in the name of the people, the nation or for development. What today is being portrayed in the mainstream media as India's 'superpower' status, or a big leap in the Indo-U.S. relations, is nothing but the complete capitulation of the Indian ruling classes in front of its most important imperial master, the U.S. The unequal and unfair clauses and conditions of the Indo-U.S. nuke deal makes a mockery of the country's 'independent foreign policy' (it is doubtful whether such a thing ever existed); the comprador and parasitic nature of the parliamentary parties is for everyone to see. They are acting as the faithful running dogs of U.S. and European imperialists, facilitating unbridled loot and destruction of the people of the country, their resources. By pretending to act holier than thou with respect to the nuclear deal while promoting nuclear plants in Bengal, or playing good-cop bad-cop with the Congress, CPM is trying in vain to hoodwink the people. They do not understand that without people there is no nation or national sovereignty. By making deals out of peoples' lives, land and livelihood, they are undercutting the very basis on which they stand.

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