Koodankulam Update: Hot water spillage injures six workers at the nuclear power plant

14 May, 2014. 2.00 p.m. Shopkeepers from Anjugramam, a village about 15 km from Koodankulam nuclear complex, reported seeing at least 6 ambulances rushing by at around 1.15 p.m. Anjugramam lies near a fork in the road, where one fork leads to Kanyakumari town and the other to Nagercoil. Another Idinthakarai resident, Mildred, who was at Myladi (25 km from Koodankulam) reported seeing 3 ambulances rush by at around 1.45 p.m. Myladi is en route Nagercoil. Nagercoil and Kanyakumari are two major towns within 30 km of the nuclear plant, with large hospitals. Predictably, the nuclear establishment denied the occurrence of any accident first. Later they admitted to a minor incident and are reported to have said that the injured were taken to the hospital in the NPCIL township, where they were well enough to walk on their own. Sources from inside the plant report that at least three of the injured were contract workers and the other three were NPCIL staff. Reports also suggest that the accident happened in or around the boiler section of Unit 1, which reportedly attained criticality mid-year last year.
After initially flashing news about the incident, the media is now reportedly playing NPCIL’s statements denying and downplaying the incident. If NPCIL’s past record is anything to go by, truth will be a while in coming. Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was unavailable for comment.
This accident comes less than a week after the Honourable Supreme Court ruled that it was satisfied with the safety features installed at the plant.

Conversation with NPCIL, Koodankulam Station Director R.S. Sundar on his mobile phone 9443350706 at around 3.40 p.m, on 14 May 2014

NJ (me): Hello Sir. This is Nityanand. I’m a freelance writer. I’m calling to find out if the workers admitted at Krishna Kumar Hospital in Nagercoil are from your plant.
RSS: Who are you? First tell me who you are.
NJ: My name is Nityanand Jayaraman and I’m a freelance journalist from Chennai, currently speaking from Coonoor.
RSS: I don’t speak to freelance journalists, only normal journalists.
NJ: Sir, I am a normal journalist. There are a lot of rumours doing the rounds. I merely wanted to confirm that there was an incident at Koodankulam.
RSS: What did you say your name was?
NJ: Nityanand Jayaraman.
RSS: I don’t know you. Who do you write for?
NJ: I’m a freelancer sir. I write opinion pieces and have published in Yahoo, The Hindu, Tehelka and have written extensively about Koodankulam.
RSS: I only speak to journalists I know.
NJ: Obviously, you can’t know all the journalists. How can I get a confirmation then?
RSS: You go speak to someone else. Speak to Corporate Communications.
NJ: You seem very angry with the media sir. Any problem?
RSS: No problem. There is nothing. i don’t know you. That’s all.
NJ: But you are not likely to know many of the international media either. How can you speak to them then?
RSS: I cannot speak to international media. I cannot speak to you.
NJ: I am not from the international media. I am a Chennai based freelancer. I just wanted a simple confirmation sir. Did any incident take place at Koodankulam today?
RSS: You come on the land line.
NJ: Can you give me the land line number sir?
RSS: You speak to Corporate Communications.
NJ: Can you give me their number sir?
RSS: No. I don’t have it. You call on the land line.
NJ: Can I have the number sir?
[Hands it over to assistant]
Assistant: Take down sir. 259718.
NJ: Area code sir?
Assistant: 04637
NJ: Who should I speak to sir?
Assistant: You just call that number?
NJ: Who should I ask for?
Assistant: Speak to the person who picks up the phone.
[Hangs up]

It makes one wonder, especially when the person who picks up the phone when I called says cryptically that “All the injured are in conscious condition.” If it is a “small incident” as stated by Mr. R.S. Sundar to NDTV, why all this cloak and dagger. If the plant has a sound disaster/emergency response system, why did they have to drive more than 1 hour on bad roads to Nagercoil to treat the injuries from a “small incident.” Clearly, NPCIL does not have a disaster management plan in place, and its corporate communications itself is a disaster that has to be managed.

Click to read Of small incidents and big disasters, Tehelka.com

Wednesday’s accident did not involve radiation. Burns and broken bones are common workplace injuries. It is precisely the commonplace nature of this incident and how it was handled that expose how the Koodankulam set-up has all the ingredients required to bungle the handling of major emergencies. These ingredients are: poor and non-transparent communication, lack of emergency response infrastructure, non-compliance with operating procedures, lack of quality assurance of equipment and personnel…

Shared by Nityanand Jayaraman, a writer and volunteer with the Chennai Solidarity Group for Koodankulam Struggle.

An Urgent Appeal to the Conscience of the Nation on Koodankulam

The statement below is a reflection of our collective frustration and instead of being sent to the Govt, it will be presented before people of India on May 20th (6 pm) at the India Gate, New Delhi.

It is already endorsed by prominent figures like Prashant Bhushan, Vandana Shiva, Lalita Ramdas, Partha Chatterjee, Parful Bidwai, Achin Vanaik, Gnani Sankaran, John Dayal, Meher Engineer, Sandeep Pandey etc.

Please send the e-petition on DiaNuke.org. Endorsements can also be directly sent to cndpindia@gmail.com

from Dianuke.org: Click to sign the e-petition

Dear Fellow Citizens of India,

On the occasion of our Parliament, the pinnacle of democratic governance, celebrating its 60th anniversary, our hard earned democracy is being ruthlessly repressed and violently suppressed. Within the accelerated race towards ‘destructive development’ and the generation of nuclear power to fuel such ‘development,’ entirely peaceful mass protests voicing people’s legitimate dissent are brutally put down. The common man, woman and child are unheard. In utter desperation, people at large are surrendering their ‘Voter ID cards,’ the ultimate symbol of ‘people’s power,’ which is the essence of any genuine democracy. Can there be a more ominous way to dissent?

Much like the recent anti-corruption upsurge, various actions for social, gender and ecological justice and other struggles in various parts of the country to safeguard people’s rights for their lives, dignity, resources, and livelihoods, the people’s movement in Koodankulam demanding a safe future is facing callous repression from the government and continued apathy from the public at large. Disappointingly, our mainstream media also persists in under-reporting this genuinely populist movement.

People in Idinthakarai village had to end their 14-day long fast this week. It is appalling that nobody from the Tamil Nadu, or Central, Government came to speak to them, and that police strength in the area has been intensified, with every possible intimidating tactic –including taking away the food ration cards of agitating villagers.

We appeal to you in a state of urgency and desperation.

The debate on India’s energy future is far from settled. We will need broader consensus and greater persuasion to ensure that India opts for the safest, most sustainable people-centric energy future.

The reactor project in Koodankulam perpetrates too many unacceptable violations of norms and procedures. The agitating people are peacefully and persistently trying to raise several important questions – both site-specific and generic with regard to nuclear power – through all possible forums. Many independent experts and scientists have already emphasized the various dangers of going ahead with the Koodankulam reactors.

At this critical juncture, we urge realizing a wider consultation is necessary before continuing the large-scale nuclear expansion that this government is already deeply engaged in.

We entreat you to demand that the government immediately stop intimidating and harassing peaceful protesters.

It is imperative that we immediately unite by raising our voices to defend democracy and the ethos of our country. Unacceptable precedents like the outright repression and silencing of the Koodankulam people’s movement will have adverse implications for all future individual and collective struggles.

With best regards,

Prashant Bhushan
Vandana Shiva
Partha Chatterjee
Admiral L. Ramdas
Lalita Ramdas
Surendra Gadekar
Sanghamitra Gadekar
Narayan Desai
Anand Patwardhan
M G Devasahayam
Gnani Sankaran
Achin vanaik
Suvrat Raju
Saraswati Kavula
G Sundar Rajan
Adil Ali
Gabriele Detrech
Ramesh Radhakrishnan
R R Srinivasan
Sudhir Vombatkere
Jatin Desai
Sukla Sen
Vivek Sundara
Ram Puniyani
Shabnam Hashmi
John Dayal
EAS Sharma
Malem Ningthouja Chairperson, Campaign for Peace & Democracy (Manipur)
Aruna Rodrigues
Pushpa Mitra Bhargava
Nagesh Hegde
Sudha S
Meher Engineer
Arati Chokshi
Ujjwala Mhatre
Preeti Sampat
Kabir Khan
G R Vora
Harsh Kapoor
Shri Prakash
Praful Bidwai
Chandra Bhushan Chaudhary
Gowru Chinappa
A K Ramakrishnan
Gita Hariharan
Kavita Krishnan
Indira Chakravarthi
Sajeer Abdul Rahman
Anivar Aravind
Asit Das
Priyamvada Gopal
Aflatoon
Kamayani Bali Mahabal
Shankar Sharma
Karuna Raina
Xavier Dias
Nayana Patel
Stan Swamy
Rajeev Bhargav
Ilina Sen
Soumya Dutta
Vivek Monteiro
Madhura Chakraborty
Shonali Sardesai, Senior Social Scientist, World Bank
Jaya Seal Ghosh, Actress
Nirupa Bhanger, Executive Director, The Anchorage
Vijay Bhangar, ITT Bombay
Sandeep pandey
Neeraj Jain

from Dianuke.org: Click to sign the e-petition

No Celebration Goes Unpunished

By Nityanand Jayaraman

A few days ago, India celebrated its 60th year of parliamentary democracy. Meanwhile, in many corners of the country, democracy was being celebrated through the fundamental acts of standing up and speaking out. In Jagatsinhpur, Orissa, a community had closed itself within the village of Dhinkia refusing to yield to police pressure, enticements and threats, and refusing to allow the Korean steel major POSCO to take over their fertile lands to set up a steel plant. A courageous tribal teacher – Soni Sori – is being treated in a hospital in Delhi. She celebrated democracy by speaking out against maoists and the armed police in Chattisgarh. For this, the police shoved stones down her vagina, after our judiciary in Delhi handed her over to police custody despite her fears that she’d be tortured in custody. The survivors in Bhopal — who have seen nearly a dozen prime ministers and their false promises, more than a 1000 demonstrations, several dozen hunger strikes, more than 2000 kms in padayatras — staged a rail blockade last December, a few days before the 26th anniversary of the disaster. They wished to pressure the State Government and the Indian Government to present true figures of the numbers of people injured or killed. The state response was brutal: lathi charge, tear gas lobbed. Cases of attempt to murder and wielding deadly weapons were lodged against more than 2000 people, including 80-year old women barely capable of wielding their walking sticks.

In Koodankulam, Tamilnadu, fisherfolk, farmers and traders who are voicing their concerns over the risks posed by a nuclear power plant in their neighbourhood are being hounded by the State. A total of 287 FIRs have been filed in just one police station – Koodankulam P.S. – between September 2011 and April 2012 implicating more than 55000 people. The criminal charges foisted on them range from unlawful assembly to sedition and waging war against the state. At least 3500 people are known to have been charged with sedition and waging war against the state. Details of 178 FIRs are not yet available. FIRs are not being disclosed. One has to go to court to get a copy of the FIRs. Holding demonstrations, conducting hall meetings, printing posters, distributing handbills and voicing opinions critical of nuclear energy [are all] banned in the district of Tirunelveli. The restrictions are relaxed as you move away from the epicentre. But they can still be felt even in Chennai where the police denies permission for protests against nuclear energy.

Such a crackdown on free speech needs to be condemned by all who set store by democratic values. But we live in curious times. Even the media condones this intrusion into the most fundamental of constitutional rights. The media rightly resisted the dangerous proposals by the Supreme Court or the Press Council chairman to regulate and control media freedom in this country.  Yet the same media condones and even participates in the denial of [the rights of] Idinthakarai residents to speak out against a project that they feel will change their lives forever, for the worse. Regardless of one’s point of view on nuclear energy, the assault on free speech requires greater scrutiny and critique.

On 14 May, 2012, Chennai Solidarity Group for Koodankulam Struggle organised a public hearing. Justice (Retd) A.P. Shah, former Chief Justice of Madras and Delhi High Courts, presided over the hearings. Advocate Geeta Ramaseshan and Prof. Prabha Kalvimani assisted him. In the course of the hearings, members of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy deposed live from Idinthakarai over skype. Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan deposed live from Delhi over skype. Twelve people from villages around Idinthakarai spoke about how their lives have been made living hell by the police and intelligence officers. Lawyers assisting and observing the abuse of the Indian Penal Code submitted analyses of the cases against the protestors. Human Rights Protection Committee, the organisation that is assisting the protestors with their bail applications, presented an analyses and their experiences, while People’s Union of Civil Liberties made a submission on the absurdity of the cases filed. Meera Udayakumar, wife of PMANE convenor S.P. Udayakumar, and Porkodi, wife of Muhilan, an activist that has been in jail and denied bail since 19 March, spoke about the harassments and psychological trauma they have faced in the last few months. Revathi, a friend of Satish Kumar – the other young activist jailed for having the gumption to speak out – spoke about how Satish was blindfolded and beaten, hand-cuffed and led to court as if he was a terrorist. All this, for the crime of speaking out.

The public hearing was livestreamed, and a recorded version of the proceedings can be viewed at livestream.com.

Below is the transcript of the interim statement given by Justice (Retd) AP Shah to the media at a press briefing after the public hearing. The final report is to be released within a week.

***

STATEMENT OF JUSTICE AJIT PRAKASH SHAH

It is very easy for all of us – I stay in Delhi; I need a/c; I need electricity as do all of you from Madras. We are away from Koodankulam. Those 70,000 farmers and those fishermen; who cares for them? Life is very cheap in our country. So we think in our terms. “Oh, there is electricity shortage. What should we do?” We don’t even think about it. It is only 2.36 percent that comes from nuclear energy. There are ways and means [of generating electricity from other sources], but I’ll not go into that. Lastly, about the risk factor. Japan, just imagine, it is one of the most advanced countries, and till the accident happened, they claimed that their nuclear reactors are absolutely safe. And then, the Japanese Government has decided to abandon nuclear energy altogether. And there are four other countries which have put a moratorium on nuclear energy – Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Three countries. They have declared that they will not be using nuclear energy from now on. I don’t want to enter into any kind of argument with [our scientists]. I have great respect for them. They say there is zero percent chance of any mishap. That is too tall a claim. When they say that there is zero percent chance, they also say that “we’ll have a review of all the projects, all the nuclear power plants.” So naturally, there is a fear. Now, on this fact alone, there is a worldwide concern over nuclear energy. You want to contain these 70,000 people, because they protest against nuclear energy? And what is it that they want to say? See their demands. Very reasonable. Every project, even a project involving 50 crore rupees on public land is required to conduct a public hearing and a EIA — environmental impact assessment. You won’t believe this, but EIA for Koodankulam project was conducted in 1988 – 22 years back, when there were no rules. And the EIA was required only for the allocation of money from the Planning Commission. There was no people’s hearing. There was nothing. So, even that EIA was not released to the people. They should conduct a fresh EIA. That is their demand.

The second demand is – they have conducted a safety analysis. So why not release it to them? Let the people understand that they have conducted the analysis, and that these are the issues. Please talk to them, and satisfy them that it is not. . .that it is risk-free or relatively risk-free. The next is site evaluation. There has been concern on this, because this comes in a seismic area. That is the claim. That report is also not available to people. I want to tell you that Areva’s CEO came to India. Areva is the company which is setting up plants in Jaitapur. According to him, whenever you put up a power plant, you should do it in consultation with people, because people should be completely convinced that there is no risk to their lives. Now, you don’t even supply to them the basic documents. Secondly, what about the risks? Suppose that something happens. What is the great hurry in rushing with the project?

In a democratic country, we have the right of a peaceful protest; right to assemble is a fundamental right; right to gather in a public place and protest is a fundamental right if it is not disturbing the public tranquility. The right to free speech and expression is the most fundamental right of all. Supreme Court says that – there is no hierarchy of rights but it is the arc of all fundamental rights. It is definitely the most fundamental of rights. I have certain views. People may say that nuclear energy is good for the country, and some people may say that it is bad for the country. When I say that I have serious doubts about nuclear energy, will you brand me as anti-patriotic, as anti-national, as a person who should be charged with sedition or waging war against the state? What have these people done? They have protested against this particular plant. And there is not a single incident of violence. And what have the state authorities done? There are analyses produced before us of the cases instituted against them. Can any one of you explain to me how a peaceful protest against a nuclear plant, where people say that “we do not want a nuclear plant in our place,” amounts to sedition? Which ingredient of sedition is established here? Then you also invoke the provision related to waging war against the country. Where is the question of waging war against the country? They are residing there. They are concerned. In Chernobyl, the entire area – Chernobyl happened in 1986. Today, the entire area in 30 km radius is not permissible for human habitation. The reason is that the radiation effects are lingering. People are afraid. They are asking questions to you. And then, apart from anything else, you go on filing cases against them, not only cases are filed, but the other thing is cases against whom? There are thousands of people. Every possible provision in IPC is invoked. And then, you don’t investigate the cases. Those that are [not clear] you ensure that they don’t get bail. You are slapping new charges against them. Not only that. Bus service is curtailed. Other facilities are denied. Most shockingly, a professor came here, an associate professor of [Manonmaniam] Sundaranar University. He said they wanted to organise a debate on nuclear energy. So the IB chief warned them “what business? You should not hold this debate.” So you cannot have a discussion on this? Are we living in a democratic country or not?

We celebrated with great flourish the 60th year of parliamentary democracy. Is it parliamentary democracy that when a person is peacefully protesting, you file FIRs against him under most sections under IPC? It is not fair. It is not the way state authorities should deal with citizens. These citizens have some serious concerns. Here, they say Christian community. In Jaitapur, there are no christian communities. In Jaitapur, what I heard is something extraordinary. They say that people from outside Jaitapur are coming there. This is one country. So why cannot we go?

According to me, if you want the proof that democracy is alive in this country, I would say that this 70,000 people’s protest or their protest is an indication that there is a democracy in this country. We can debate and protest. They can continue with their protest for ten years. You must talk to them. I’m saying. . .my suggestion, my appeal to the state authorities, and my appeal also to those who are sitting on fast, is please withdraw these. Let them withdraw their agitation. Let the documents, whatever is possible – I’m not saying the Information Commission has said all these documents have to be given, that is ultimately for the courts to decide – but where there is no national security, no issues, information should be given to people. Please talk to them. Please understand their grievances. Perhaps, they will accept. They will be convinced. When you say that democracy is by the people, for the people, of the people, you cannot ignore people’s protest in this fashion. We, living in cities, we have no right to condemn this agitation because our interest is in a different sense — that electricity supply will be augmented etc.

I feel that it is high time that both the state authorities and the agitators should change their positions and have a dialogue. It doesn’t augur well for the country where a section, a sizable section of people are persecuted because they are opposed to a certain project.

Recent photographs from Idinthakarai, Koodankulam

Amirtharaj Stephen shares with us some of his photographs taken during the last few months covering events regarding the Anti-Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant Protests.

Click on any thumbnail to view Gallery 

UPDATE FROM DIANUKE.ORG

With the Idinthakarai-based anti-Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) protestors gearing-up for their ultimate agitation to ensure the permanent closure of the ready-to-be-commissioned nuclear power programme within a next few days, Collector R. Selvaraj has extended the prohibitory orders promulgated under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code to seven km from the KKNPP site.

The announcement was made last night shortly after 10 p.m. that enabled the officials to implement the orders from the existing 2-km radius from KKNPP site to 7 km. It will be in force till 6 p.m. June 7. After the district administration received intelligence reports that a few thousands of protestors, mostly from coastal hamlets, might block the roads leading to the KKNPP site and lay siege to the nuclear power project site, the existing prohibitory orders was extended up to 7 km under which Idinthakarai, the protest hub, also falls.

Additional reinforcements are being rushed to Kudankulam and its surroundings. Armed Reserve Police, 100 personnel from Tamil Nadu Commando Force and 100 personnel from Tamil Nadu Special Task Force had been deployed till Wednesday evening.

KOODANKULAM SPEAKS – Bookmark this page to follow Dianuke.org’s live stream from Idinthakarai and find other links relating to anti nuclear protests in Koodankulam and other parts of the world.