These are some notes in the context of Mahasweta Devi's letter to Pinarayi Vijayan telling him that she would visit his house if he would visit Koodankulam with her. Some so-called "activists" have been under the impression that
Mahasweta Devi managed to stump Vijayan and the CPI (M) with that letter. According to them, the CPI (M) is confused on Koodankulam and has no answer to Mahasweta Devi. Here is a short response.
I don’t think, whether one agrees with it or not, that there is
any ambiguity in the CPI (M)’s position on nuclear power. The CPI (M) has a
longstanding position against nuclear weaponisation and in favour of universal nuclear
disarmament. During the 123 agreement debate itself, this point has been made
again and again. At the same time, according to the CPI (M), India has to aim for the attainment of self-reliance within the indigenous civilian nuclear programme.
For that matter, the technological option of nuclear power has to be kept open
and not closed; research should continue.
The CPI (M) believes that it is impossible to generate
something like 40,000 MW of nuclear power by 2021, as the UPA government
claims. Imported nuclear reactors are unviable due to their high cost. They
also have longer periods of completion. There are also uncertainties and
dangers involved in ensuring supply of imported fuel to the same. There are
cheaper and speedier options open for generation of electricity with indigenous
technology and a combination of fuels like coal and natural gas and hydel power.
Along with these options, there has to be also gradual development of nuclear
technology and fuels in the country.
Now, this was the position of the CPI (M) when the nuclear
deal was stuck. The 123 deal imposed new complications into the policy. The Left
parties held that the 123 deal
“...should not be seen in isolation from the
overall strategic tie-up with the United States. The nuclear cooperation deal
is an integral part of the July 2005 joint statement, which has political,
economic and strategic aspects. It is also closely linked to the June 2005
military framework agreement signed with the United States. It is therefore not
possible to view the text of the bilateral “123” agreement negotiated with the
United States as a separate and compartmentalised entity without considering
its implications for India’s independent foreign policy, strategic autonomy and
the repercussions of the US quest to make India its reliable ally in Asia...”.
Thus, the 123 deal compromised India’s commitment to nuclear non-weaponisation as well as violated its policymaking autonomy in the energy
sphere. Thus, the CPI (M) demanded not just the rejection of the 123 deal; it
was also critical of starving the indigenous research sector in domestic
nuclear energy generation for funds.
The Fukushima incident inserted an even newer complication.
It generated fears of nuclear accidents among people. Thus, any new nuclear
plant could not be installed without taking the people into confidence and
addressing their concerns and fears regarding safety. Even if the plant is supposed to be “technically safe”, it is not an automatic substitute for allaying the fears of people living
nearby. This has also been the CPI (M)’s position after the Fukushima disaster.
In Koodankulam, the CPI (M), going by the above position,
has not disapproved of Phase 1. On Phase 2, it has stated:
“The two reactors set-up in Koodankulam and purchased from
Russia much before the nuclear deal falls in a different category. The local
people have various apprehensions about the safety and the impact on the environment
of these reactors, especially after the Fukushima accident. It is necessary to
conduct an independent safety review and allay the apprehensions of the people
before commissioning the plant. The CPI(M) has demanded an immediate halt to the import of
nuclear power plants to Jaitapur and other locations. Existing nuclear power
plants in India should undergo a thorough safety review to be conducted by an
independent body. There has to be an independent and autonomous nuclear safety
regulatory authority. The proposed legislation by the government to set up such
an authority will only make it a controlled body captive to the government.”
This is the CPI (M)’s position on the Koodankulam plant.
The CPI (M)’s Tamil Nadu unit has made two seperate points.
First, it has supported the plant’s commissioning. Secondly, it has asked the government to end repression there and convince people there about
the project. See the following reports
in support of these two points, sorted by dates.
In support of the plant:
“The State Committee of the Communist Party of India
(Marxist) on Wednesday urged Central and State governments to initiate steps
for commencing operations of the Koodankulam project soon after reviewing the
reports submitted by the expert committees.”
“The State unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on
Friday called upon anti-Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) protestors to
give up their agitation, as panels of experts appointed by the Centre and the
State governments had vouched for the safety of the plants...In a statement
here, State secretary of the party G. Ramakrishnan welcomed the State
government decision to go ahead with the commissioning of the plants. He
requested the local people to extend their support for the functioning of the
Against repression on the agitating people:
“The State unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
has urged the Centre to defer the generation of power from Koodankulam Nuclear
Power Project until all its safety aspects are ensured. In a statement here,
CPI (M) secretary G. Ramakrishnan said that after the accident in a Japanese
atomic power plant following tsunami, a fear psychosis had cropped up all over
the world regarding atomic power stations. This had triggered a fast at Koodankulam
in which a number of local people and organisations were involved.
While a number of countries were subjecting their atomic
power plants to re-certification, India was also trying to get such a
certification for the new nuclear reactor it was planning to buy from France. “However,
as far as the Koodankulam plant is concerned, only a superficial inspection was
conducted after the incident in the Japanese plant. It is not satisfactory,” he
The CPI (M) pleaded that a “trustworthy team” of experts
should certify the safety aspects of the Koodankulam plant. Besides, both the
Atomic Energy Commission and Nuclear Power Corporation should set up all the
safety measures. “In addition, this atomic power plant should be brought under
the Nuclear Liability Bill”.
“Also, the government should convince the public that their
livelihood will not be affected because of the plant. Till these things are
completed, commencement of power generation should be deferred”, he said.”
“On the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project, Mr. Ramakrishnan
said that the people in Tirunelveli district still entertained fears about the
safety of the project. He, therefore, wanted the government to keep the project
in abeyance till an independent committee of experts studied the project and
guaranteed its safety.”
“The Centre should put on hold all works at the Koodankulam
Nuclear Power Project till an independent expert committee certified the safety
of the nuclear reactors there, the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
secretary, G. Ramakrishnan, has said. Talking to reporters here on Friday, he
said that though the type of reactors used in Koodankulam were in use in
European countries for the last four decades, it was for the first time that
this type of reactor was being installed in India. Pointing to the apprehension
expressed by the local people, Mr. Ramakrishnan said that the Centre should
appoint an independent expert committee to study the safety aspects of the
reactors. “Till such time the panel certifies the safety of the reactors, the
work should be put on hold,” he said. The Centre should handle the issue in the
right way, he added.”
“On the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant row, he said that
the priority of the government should be to allay the fears of the local people
on the safety of the plant. The Centre should also consider developing
livelihood infrastructure for the local people as suggested by the former
President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, he added.”
“In a release, CPI (M) general secretary G. Ramakrishnan
stated that based on former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s recommendations, the
Centre should ensure the safety of those in and around Koodankulam and allocate
Rs.200 crore for development activities.”
“The CPI(M) condemns the police repression on the people
protesting against the commissioning of the nuclear power plant at Koodankulam.
Those arrested are being charged with sedition and for waging war against the
State which is baseless and unwarranted. There are reports of water supply
being cut off and other essential supplies being blocked to the Idinthakari
village. The CPI(M) calls upon the state administration not to resort to
repression and force against peaceful protesters. Since there are a number of
issues still agitating the people regarding the nuclear plant, the concerned
authorities should immediately begin talks to address these issues.”
“In a statement, State secretary of the party G.
Ramakrishnan welcomed the State government decision to go ahead with the
commissioning of the plants. He requested the local people to extend their
support for the functioning of the plants. Mr. Ramakrishnan said that instead
of resorting to repressive measures such as filing criminal cases against the
protestors, the State government should take steps to allay the fears of people
about the technology and safety aspects of the Koodankulam project.”
“CPM state secretary G Ramakrishnan on Friday urged the
state government to make efforts to muster support for the Koodankulam nuclear
power project by convincing the anti-nuclear protesters on the safety aspects.”
“Mr. Ramakrishnan said that instead of resorting to
repressive measures such as filing criminal cases against the protestors, the
State government should take steps to allay the fears of people about the
technology and safety aspects of the Koodankulam project.”
10) 19 May 2012:
News item from
Theekkathir (translated from Tamil):
CPI (M) demonstration
demanding withdrawal of cases on people of Idinthakarai: 100 persons including
MLA Nagai Mali, arrested
Tirunelveli, dated May 18th 2012
The CPI (M) carried out a demonstration demanding the
withdrawal of cases instituted by the Government of Tamil Nadu against the
people opposing the Koodankulam nuclear plant. Hundreds of people who
participated in the demonstration, including MLA Nagai Mali, were arrested.
Secretary of the Tirunelveli Corporation unit of the CPI (M) R. Karunanidhi
presided over the demonstration and meeting, which took place in Jawahar Maidan
The CPI (M) district secretary spoke inaugurating the
demonstration. Former MLA Noor Mohammed and Nagai Mali MLA spoke condemning the
launching of cases. The CPI (M) district secretariat member V. Palani, other District
Secretariat members, corporation committee members, District Committee members
and many others participated. Since there was no police permission for the
demonstration, the police arrested hundreds of people who took part in the
demonstration. They were released a few hours later.
|A photo of the demonstration organised by the CPI (M) at Jawahar Maidan in Palayankottai dated 18th May 2012 against police repression on agitating people at Idinthakarai.
A roughly translated excerpt from S. P. Udayakumar's speech welcoming the CPI (M) delegation at Idinthakarai
on 18th May 2012:
“The Congress is completely corrupt. The BJP is communal. The
Communist Party of India (Marxist) is a party that fights for the working
people from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. Even though they differ from us, they have
come to visit us and lent their voice against repression on us. We thank them
From another news report on the same speech in Tamil:
"காங்கிரஸ் ஊழல் கறைபிடிந்த கட்சி, பிஜேபி மதவெறி கட்சி, இந்தியாவில் உழைக்கும் மக்களுக்காக குமரி முதல் இமயம் வியாபித்து போராடும் இயக்கம் மார்க்சிஸ்ட் கட்சி என போராட்டக்குழுவின் அமைப்பாளர் உதயகுமார் வரவேற்று பேசினார்."
A CPI (M) delegation went to visit the agitators on May
18th, 2012. The agitating group has itself in a press release stated that:
“On May 18, 2012, a Communist Party of India (Marxist) team
came to visit us at Idinthakarai under the leadership of Comrade P. Mahalingam
(aka V.P. Nagai Maali), an MLA from Kilvelur constituency in Tamil Nadu. That
evening the CPI(M) organized an agitation at Tirunelveli in support of us and
some 50 of them including 6 women were arrested by police.”
So, I do
not think Mahasweta Devi’s plagiarised paragraphs on the Koodankulam plant have
to be taken seriously by Pinarayi Vijayan. I say plagiarised because it
turns out that large parts of Mahasweta Devi's "techno-savvy" letter
to Vijayan that dealt with Koodankulam were plainly lifted from a website.
Please compare her letter with the article on Koodankulam written by
one K. Ramachandran. The TN State unit of the CPI (M) has strongly
stood with the agitating people there, even as it has supported Phase 1 of the project.
Mahasweta Devi's plagiarised letter to Vijayan wrongly assumes that the CPI (M)
is silent on the repression on people there. The same "civil society
activists" who wrote the letter for her have also deliberately hidden this
fact from her. Hence her question "I will visit Pinarayi village and will
you visit Koodankulam to express your solidarity to the people there?" is
long would Mahasweta Devi continue to be a tool in the hands of these wicked
anti-CPI (M) guys? Why should she cut a sorry face for the short-term personal
gains of these few individuals?