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.

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KKNPP Update 2 April: Police picks up fight with Kootapulli villagers; lob teargas, beat up fishermen

2 April, 2013 — between 4-5 p.m: A 200 strong posse of police had been deployed to the Koodankulam township area in anticipation of PMANE’s declared protest at the Township tomorrow. Instead of stationing themselves near the township, the 200-strong police force entered Koottapulli fishing village. This led to an altercation between the villagers and the police, with the former demanding that the police station themselves outside the village, as their presence inside the village vitiates the atmosphere. Instead of leaving the village, an enraged police force lobbed tear gas shells and began a baton-charge. Orders for cane charge and tear gas shells cannot be taken in the absence of senior officials. However, the Superintendent of Police was not anywhere in the vicinity at that time, and arrived much later. Two people were reportedly injured badly in the police attack. The police has currently retreated and left the village premises, even as fishing villages in the region are tense.


As conveyed by Lena Kumar to Nityanand Jayaraman

Sterlite Closed

30 March, 2013 — The Tamil Nadu Government has relented to public pressure and shut down Sterlite Industries’ copper complex today. According to a worker, officials from 10 government departments arrived by the vanload in the plant last night at 8 p.m. The management then called a meeting of all staff and workers, and announced that the plant was shutting down. Sterlite requested time till about 12 midnight for phased closure, and this was conceded by the Government. By 1210 a.m. all plants except the smelter were shut down. Electricity connection to the copper complex has been disconnected.

On March 28, 2013, more than 5000 people from Thoothukudi — led by the Anti Sterlite People’s Struggle Committee — marched towards Sterlite to shut down the plant. Nearly 1000 people were arrested. The rally was prompted by a toxic gas leak on March 23. Sterlite has been a controversial company since the time that it was proposed in 1994. In its 20 years of operation, it has been shut down twice by the Madras High Court — once by way of an interim order, and in September 2010 through a final order. Sterlite appealed the High Court’s closure order in the Supreme Court, and the plant that was shut down last night was operating on leave from the Supreme Court.

A verdict on the Supreme Court case is expected on 2 April, 2013.

from Nityanand J.

Fresh cases against Idinthakarai Trio

from Nityanand Jayaraman (Chennai Solidarity Group)

09 November 2012 Idinthakarai Updates:

The Tamil Nadu Police has added three new cases against three Idinthakarai women — Xavier Ammal, Selvi and Sundari — who are already in Trichy Women’s Prison.

The trio were originally jailed in three cases that claimed that they were involved in everything from shouting obscene slogans to carrying aruvals (sickles) and crowbars, to waging war against the Government of India (with an aruval) and Sedition. On 18 October, 2012, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court heard the bail appeals of 50 villagers from villages around Koodankulam. The court released 47 villagers, but denied bail to three women — Xavier Ammal, Selvi and Sundari. The women have already spent nearly two months in jail, and given the High Court’s rejection, they are unlikely to return to their families anytime soon.

Their alleged crime was an act that most women would commit intuitively, namely acting to protect their families, their communities and their future generations. Xavier Amma, Selvi and Sundari are strong, though gentle, women who have worked hard to keep their families together by rolling beedis, and selling fish, even while spending time daily in the protest venue with other women. When the occasion demanded, and it did with the impending commissioning of the Koodankulam reactors post-Fukushima, the women of Idinthakarai and surrounding villages galvanised into action. Among these thousands of women, these three have clearly stood out as leaders.

Separately, about a week ago, the Police have booked A. Lourdusamy (68), a seaweed collector, and Nazarene (40), a fisherman, under the draconian Goondas Act. Both are from Idinthakarai. According to an extract from the Wikipedia, “The Tamil Nadu Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Drug-offenders, Forest-offenders, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders, Slum-grabbers and Video Pirates Act (Tamil Nadu Act 14 of 1982; “Video Pirates” was added by Act 32 of 2004), Section 2(f) states “goonda means a person, who either by himself or as a member of or leader of a gang habitually commits, or attempts to commit or abets the commission of offence, punishable under Chapter XVI or Chapter XVII or Chapter XXII of the Indian Penal Code (Central Act XLV of 1860).”According to a 2011 ruling of the Madras High Court, even a single offense under the Act permits detention of a person as a goonda.

After, sedition and waging war against the State, the Tamil Nadu police’s creative abuse of law is now turning to the Goondas Act as a tool of suppressing dissent.

This is part of the State Government’s vicious program to teach protestors a lesson. It is meant to serve as a warning to everyone that if you are too insistent with your demands, the Government will leave no stone unturned to make life unlivable.

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