In Chutka in Madhya Pradesh, a protest brews against yet another nuclear plant
Less than 400 kilometres from state capital Bhopal, a small village in Madhya Pradesh is turning into the epicentre of yet another round of protests against nuclear power plants in the country.
Chutka in Mandla district is the site of a proposed nuclear power plant of a capacity of 1400 megawatts. However, residents are opposed to the project and are protesting against government's alleged forceful implementation of the project.
The plant is being set up by Nuclear Power Corporation of India in collaboration with the Madhya Pradesh Power Generation Company. It received clearance from the Union government in 2009.
The protestors have launched an eight-day “Jan Chetna Yatra” against the project, that will move from several affected districts in the vicinity of the proposed site. It will culminate in a gram sabha on 10 October in which a resolution against the project will be passed.
Protestors claim that the project and its accompanying township will lead to displacement of villagers from 10 villages. Additionally, radiation from the plant will affect a large area stretching up to 50 kilometres from the site. Environmental Impact Assessment of the project reportedly suspected that 575 villages will be affected, out of which 54 will be densely affected.
It is feared that livelihoods will also be impacted on a large scale. The radiation will kill agriculture in the area. Fishing will be prohibited in all water bodies spread over an area of 15 kilometres from the area, forcing thousands of fishermen out of work.
At least 38 of these villages are inhabited by tribals. Mandla district is listed under Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, which essentially protects rights of tribals over the land they inhabit. The Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 is also in force here, which gives gram sabhas inalienable right to self-governance.
Protestors claim many gram sabhas here have passed resolutions opposing the project and have also send communiques to the government indicating the same. However, they allege that their opposition has been ignored and the government is going ahead with the project illegally.
Startlingly, they also claim that the government has surreptitiously deposited compensation in the bank accounts of the project-affected individuals without their consent. They have reportedly demanded Rs 60 lakh compensation per acre of land, job for a family member, five acre land to landless and Rs 25 lakh per family for construction of a house. What has been deposited in their accounts instead is Rs 3.83 lakh per acre and Rs 6 lakh per family as compensation.
The logic behind commissioning the project has also been questioned, pointing out that Madhya Pradesh is already a power-surplus state. The average demand for power in the state in 8-9000 MGW, while supply is at 17,500 MGW. In the next two years, the state is expected to garner the capacity of supplying about 22,000 MGW power, more than double the demand. What then is the great hunger for power from a dangerous source, protestors ask.