| by N.S.Venkataraman
(January 22, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) A number of important infrastructure projects in India , that are vitally necessary to sustain the industrial and economic growth have been stalled in the last few months due to the agitation by the so called environmentalists, who do not listen to scientific and technical explanations . It is sad that a few hundreds of determined agitators have been able to dictate terms and enforce their views by threatening mass demonstration and violence on any issue.
|Koodankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu|
The agitation against Koodankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu is an immediate example , when a few thousand agitators can stall the project and not listening to any appeal and explanations by experts . Even the appeal by the former President and renowned scientist Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has fallen on deaf ears and the agitation is being continued “successfully” . The net result is that more than Rs.13,000 crores invested in the Koodankulam nuclear plant threatens to go waste and with no one knowing now as to whether Koodankulam nuclear plant would be commissioned at all. Tamil Nadu is now facing severe power cuts with shortage of around 2000 MW and several parts of the state have been subjected to power cut for five to six hours every day, leading to closure of tiny and small industries and loss of employment.
Even as some protestors are blocking the Koodankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu, a national level coordination committee of so called environmental activists was formed in Chennai city recently to fight through courts what they called the unwarranted expansion of thermal power plants along the coast. The committee said that it would ask the centre and state governments for an immediate halt to the expansion of the thermal plants until a cumulative assessment of the actual energy needs were spelt out clearly in a white paper.
Some agitators do not want nuclear power plants and want thermal power plants should be set up in their place. Some other agitators do not want thermal power plants. There are some other agitators in central and western India who are protesting against the hydro electric power projects. All these agitators are getting huge media publicity and they are interviewed here , there and everywhere making them look like environmental heroes. This scenario is creating confusion in the minds of the common man in India who do not have technological awareness, as to whether the environmentalists have valid case . Such publicity is encouraging a number of other professional agitators and local politicians to enter the fray , all in the name of environmental protection. Probably, all these agitators want India to be driven to a dark age in the name of environmental protection.
Recently, local protestors have forced the country’s biggest iron ore miner National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) to suspend production and shipments from Jharkhand, which accounts for two thirds of its 25 million tonnes annual output. NMDC’s mines in Chhattisgarh produce daily about 40,000 tonnes of the ore, which is vital for the steel industry. It is reported that the railways refused to supply wagons on fears that they could be attacked by agitators. Piling stocks then forced suspension of the production. Vast areas of the mineral rich state are a stronghold of Maoist rebels and public protests against the government have become common.
There are many other agitations now going on such as the protest against nuclear power project in Maharashtra, against opening of uranium mines in Meghalaya etc. The proposal of Tata group to invest around Rs.2000 crores in Tamil Nadu was given up due to agitation by the local population against land acquisition for the project. Of course, the agitation against Tata’s project in Singhur in West Bengal is a common knowledge , driving the project away from West Bengal that resulted in huge economic loss to the state.
Several rules and regulations do exist with regard to the implementation of projects such as environmental clearance, public hearing etc. but the agitators seem to have their own “rules and regulations”.
Now, where do we go from here ? If such conditions persist and agitators continue to have field day , there would be huge industrial and economic set back for India which will prove to be too costly.
One gets an impression that the main reason for such frequent agitations is that the governments have given an impression that they would be guided by only vote bank politics in dealing with the agitators and in the process making it look that the governments have no conviction .
It is high time that national opinion should be built up against such counter productive agitations,that would discourage the professional agitators from becoming ”environmentalists”. It is nobody’s case that any violation of environmental stipulations should be tolerated or lands should be acquired for the projects displacing poor people. But, there should be proper forum and methodologies to take decision on such matters without they becoming a subject of street agitations and violent protests.