February 02, 2014

Protests against Proposed India–Japan Nuclear Trade

Adwait Pednekar

ON the occasion of the visit of the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to India, demonstrations were held in different parts of Maharashtra with the slogans “India-Japan friendship, Yes! India-Japan nuclear trade - No!” and “Shinzo Abe Go Back”. On January 25, several thousand protestors at Jaitapur marched five kilometers and courted arrest in a massive jail bharo. Among those arrested were local MLA Rajan Salve, Amjad Borkar and Bhikaji Waghdare of the Jan Hakk Samiti (JHS) and Dr Vivek Monteiro, P M Vartak, Adwait Pednekar, Satyajeet Chavan, Arun Velaskar, Mangesh Chavan of the Jaitapur Anuveej Prakalp Virodhi Abhiyan (JAPVA). The protest march which commenced from the fishing village of Sakhri-Nate crossed the Jaitapur bridge and proceeded to the Madban plateau where the jail bharo took place at around 1.00 pm. The marchers included a large number of women and youth. No boats went out for fishing on that day and fisher people participated in strength. They carried colourful banners carrying the picture of Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, with the slogans “Yes to India-Japan Friendship; No to India-Japan Nuclear Trade.”, and “Mr Shinzo Abe Go Back”, in English, Marathi and Japanese languages. The jail bharo was preceded by a mass meeting in an open space atop the Madban plateau which was addressed by the local Shiv Sena MLA Rajan Salve, Amjad Borkar and Bhikaji Waghdare of the Jan Hakka Samiti (JHS), Dr Vivek Monteiro on behalf of JAPVA and veteran socialist leader Professor Gopal Dukhande. Dr Vivek Monteiro congratulated the people for turning out in such large numbers and said that this was a fitting reply to the Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and the industries minister Narayan Rane, who had recently claimed that the opposition to the Jaitapur project had ended. The message of this jail bharo would not only reach the Mantralaya at Mumbai, but would also reach the prime ministers at Delhi and Tokyo in a language that they will understand. He congratulated the people of Japan for their success in shutting down all 50 nuclear reactors in Japan on safety grounds after Fukushima and said that in these circumstances it would be the height of hypocrisy for the Japan PM to sign a nuclear trade agreement to expand nuclear power in India. He cited the recent statement of the DAE secretary Sinha and senior DAE official about the high capital cost of Rs 30 crores per megawatt installed capacity and unaffordable tariff of Rs 9.00 per unit of the proposed nuclear power projects at Jaitapur. Responding to the statement of Sharad Pawar, (who was also visiting Ratnagiri district on the same day) that Maharashtra and particularly, Konkan needed the Jaitapur project, he recalled that Pawar had made the same statement about the Enron project 17 years back, which today was lying closed because its tariff of Rs 8 per unit was unaffordable for Maharashtra. Who will take responsibility for the Rs 15,000 crore dead investments at Dabhol he asked. He concluded that the workers, farmers and fisher-people will together conduct a protracted struggle to ensure that the Jaitapur project is stopped and not allowed to ruin Konkan and India. On the previous day, hundreds of activists under the banner of Jaitapur Anuveej Prakalp Virodhi Abhiyan held a black flag demonstration at Azad maidan, Mumbai with the slogan “Shinzo Abe Go Back”. The demonstrators carried colourful banners with the slogans “No more Fukushimas”, “No to India-Japan Nuclear Trade” etc. These banners were also displayed in the Japanese language. The JAPVA is an umbrella coalition of organisations including local bodies like the Jan Hakk Samiti, the Left parties and environmental groups who have come together to oppose the Jaitapur Nuclear Project. The CITU Mumbai committee had mobilised in strength for this meeting and workers of CEAT Ltd., contract workers from the Mumbai Shramik Sangh arrived at the venue shouting slogans carrying both red flags and black flags. Representatives of the CNDP and Greenpeace also participated in the demonstration. The Mumbai demonstration was addressed by Mahendra Singh, Prof Sudhir Paranjape, Adwait Pednekar, Prakash Reddy, Pravin Nadkar, Sayeed Ahmed and Vivek Monteiro.