Have you ever travelled by the Konkan railway, passing through Ratnagiri in Maharashtra? If you have, then you'd understand why I enjoy this journey so much. I look forward to the picturesque Ratnagiri and the Western Ghats. It’s such a beautiful experience. So when the government decided to set up a nuclear plant right there, I feared for all that I cherish. More so with the dangers of nuclear technology made apparent by the disaster in Japan.
On 25th March a group of individuals and organisations gathered at the Sahitya Academy Lawns and marched under the banner of “Anti Nuclear Struggle Solidarity Forum” from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar. All of us were protesting against nuclearisation. The march was more than just a protest against nuclear. Some of us were there to submit 73,000 petition signatures opposing the nuclear plant in Jaitapur, Maharashtra. These signatures were collected through an online campaign and we were going to deliver them to the Prime Minister’s office (PMO).
People joined in as the march progressed. There were banners, posters and slogans shunning nuclear energy. Among them, two huge yellow banners stood out. They said, “73,000 people say no to nuclear in Jaitapur.”
The group reached Jantar Mantar around 2:00pm and assembled there to hear what experts and people in general had to say about nuclear energy. While speeches were being made and slogans were being shouted, we were preparing to go to the PMO. The covering letter was in place, so were the signatures of 73,000 people. All these were packed in a cardboard box with a ‘no nuclear’ symbol.
Finally, by about 3:00pm three of us, Soumya Dutta from Delhi Solidarity Group, Jai Krishna Ranganathan and me from Greenpeace India, were ready to go to the PMO. A ten minute drive from Jantar Mantar and another ten minutes for security checks and we were at the PMO.
As we waited for yet another round of screening of the printouts, we started talking to the PM security staff about nuclear energy and its dangers. I was amused at the response of the security personnel. He said, “Yahan koi khatara nahi hai (there is no danger here)...we have all technologies here...nothing will affect us...humare paas yahan nuclear ko bhi deal karne ka technology hai (we have the technology to deal with nuclear as well)...”
Little did he know that the government has already begun processes to set up a nuclear plant in Fatehabad, around 200 km away from where we were present. If anything untoward were to happen there, this office, the people in it including him would be affected. We continued to talk to people about the issue till we were asked to go and submit the petition at the counter.
The person at the counter took our petitions and made the entry in his register and informed us that they would be delivered and we could follow up. It’s been two weeks since we submitted this petition. The Prime Minister is yet to respond.
The PM not responding to the petition will not stop the protest against this dangerous technology. In fact it’s time to take the next step to make sure that he listens to all the dissenting voices.
Greenpeace along with a lot of groups across the country is organising a candlelight protest in a number of cities in the country against Nuclear on the April 11. This is the National Day of Action against Nuclear energy. It also marks the one month anniversary of the tragedy in Japan.
On this day we will stand in solidarity with those who are suffering in Japan and at the same time tell our government to say no to nuclear. I will be present at the vigil in Delhi, for those of you in Delhi hope to catch you at the vigil! For those in other cities, join the vigil to make it a success and share your experience too. I will be sharing mine for sure.
Images: Protesters demonstrating against the Jaitapur nuclear power project. The protest was organized by Anti- Nuclear Struggles Solidarity Forum in New Delhi.