Chennai: "We are under
house arrest, without drinking water and even milk for children.
Our stock of provisions is running out and we do not have
vegetables," complained a housewife living inside the Kudankulam
Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) site in Tirunelvelli district, around
650 km from here.
For the third successive day Saturday, anti-KNPP protesters have
blocked entry points to the plant preventing employees from going
inside for work.
Around 1,000 people including children -- ranging from month-old
babies to school-going kids -- and old people, are confined to
their homes at Kudankulam since Thursday.
Families of hundreds of contract workers and employees of
contractors Larsen & Toubro Ltd are residing inside the KNPP
campus since the past several years.
There are around 50 school-going children residing inside the KNPP
compound but are unable to attend their classes since the past
L&T is executing the construction contracts for Nuclear Power
Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) at Kudankulam.
The NPCIL is building two 1,000-MW capacity nuclear power reactors
with Russian technology and equipment in Kudankulam. The first
unit is expected to go on stream in December.
The total project cost is estimated to be around Rs.13,000 crore.
For the past seven days, 106 people have been fasting demanding
scrapping of the nuclear power project at Idinthakarai village
near Kudankulam. Around 1,500 villagers have lent their support to
the protesters by participating in the relay fast.
None of the people whom IANS spoke to wanted to be identified
fearing backlash from the protesters.
"Children have not gone to school since the past three days. We
are not able to get water cans from outside. We boil the
desalinated water and use it for drinking and cooking," another
woman not wanting to be named, told IANS over phone.
"Perhaps the government should air drop essential items," said
"The gate passes of those who go out of the compound are seized by
the protesters outside and it is difficult to come back without
the pass," a resident said.
According to L&T officials, the contract labourers, mainly north
Indians, are quitting the place as they are not able to get
kerosene for cooking from the local market.
"The local workers are not interested in working overtime. Hence
we had to bring in labourers from outside," NPCIL Chairman and
Managing Director S.K. Jain told IANS.
L&T officials said it will be difficult to mobilize some of the
specialist work force again once normalcy returns.
Security forces stationed inside the plant are also facing
problems as they are not getting replacements and are unable to
"Our peaceful protest demanding scrapping of the project is on.
The project work should be stopped immediately," People's Rights
Movement Coordinator S. Sivasubramanian, who is spearheading the
protest, told IANS.
Queried about the people living inside the KNPP complex, he said:
"We are not preventing the people from coming out. The villagers
fear that the project would affect their livelihood."
The district collector and police officers Friday visited the
protest site but returned without even having a word with the
protesters, he said.
"The government should stop the nuclear power project work first
and have the dialogue with us," he said.
Meanwhile, skeletal staff continues to do the maintenance work at
the first reactor. The first 1,000-MW reactor has completed what
is called a "hot run" - trial run of the reactor with dummy fuel
-- to check all the reactor systems, including steam generation.
"We have a canteen inside and food is supplied to the staff
inside. None of our employees were able to enter the plant today
(Saturday). The canteen staff are operating with minimum
facilities," a senior plant official told IANS.
Many employees are inside the plant since the past 48 hours to
carry out maintenance work, he said.
According to NPCIL officials, shutting down the plant and
restarting it is an elaborate process, which would lead to further
"All electrical and sophisticated electronic systems have to
operate continuously. There are water systems like desalination
plant that need to function. All systems are inter-linked. They
have to work in tandem continuously. We have told this to the
government," Jain said.
(V. Jagannathan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)