Sopan representative spoke to SP Udayakumar, the man behind the anti-nuclear protest at Koodankulam.
Your agitation seems to have caught the imagination of the people. But there are allegations that foreign hand is behind the protest. What do you have to say about them?
This is a baseless allegation. Such rumours are being spread to discredit people's movement. We have been working here for more than 10 years. It is true that the movement gained momentum in the last few months. Following the Fukushima nuclear accident that took place in March 2011, the fishermen have awakening near a nuclear facility and are now demanding their right to live peacefully. The most recent trigger was the announcement of a mock drill when the public were asked to cover their face and mouth and run for cover following an alarm. The long list of do's and don'ts released by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India has finally enlightened them of the perilous situation.
I am a simple school teacher and a peace activist. I have been campaigning for peace and disarmament since my early youth.
Intelligence agencies are looking into the source of funds. Are you getting some foreign support? There are allegations that it is a church movement?
I am a simple school teacher and a peace activist. I have been campaigning for peace and disarmament since my early youth. This movement is a public uprising of which I am a part. It is unfortunate that I am seen as the one pushing it forward. It is propaganda to say that this is a Christian movement. There are people from all castes and religions. And it is not funded by any NGO. It is a real people's movement.
The nuclear power plant will be crucial to the energy self-sufficiency of the country. If proper safety measures are taken do you have a problem? What is your demand?
The plant is unsafe. The safety analysis report and the site evaluation study have not been made public. No public hearing was held. It's an authoritarian project that has been imposed on the people. There have been serious lapses in the environmental impact assessment. A report commissioned by the Russian government reveals that there are 20-25 defects in the reactor design. It concludes that their technology is unsafe and the reactors are not equipped to withstand natural or man-made disasters. We are not prepared for any negotiations. Our demand to the state and central government is to stop work on the Koodankulam nuclear plant and instead look towards renewable sources of energy. The government is making a false claim that nuclear power can fill the energy gap in the country. We are asking for the plant's closure. We also feel that India should not go for nuclear energy when developed countries such as Germany and Italy are phasing out their reactors. Russia has not built a single nuclear plant since Chernobyl. And if they want to sell their technology to us, we should ask them, how many plants have you built recently? They cannot sell their scrap metal to us and safeguard their own people. We oppose nuclear plants for the whole country. In India, there are 5,900 subdistricts and 70-80 percent of them require only 15-20 MW power. We don't need highly centralised, supply-based power projects. We should go for decentralised demandbased power projects.
How long will you continue the agitation?
Till the nuclear power plant is shut down. The people have awakened and there is no going back. The government should bow to wishes of the people.