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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Former Chief of the Naval Staff Writes to PM on unwarranted police excesses at Koodankulam

Admiral L Ramdas, (retd)
Former Chief of the Naval Staff
Magsaysay Awardee for Peace

Lara-Ramu Farm,
BhaimalaGaon, PO Kamarle,
Alibag-402209, RaigadDist
Sept 11 2012

Dr Man Mohan Singh
Prime Minister

My Dear Prime Minister,


I am troubling you once again Mr Prime Minister to voice my concerns regarding the shocking developments and unwarranted police excesses at Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu over the past 48 hours.

As Law and Order is the primary responsibility of the State Government, I have highlighted the need for terminating police excesses in my letter sent yesterday to Kum Jayalalitha, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, and copied to the Chairman, National Human Rights Commission, Delhi. This letter is addressed to you in your capacity as Prime Minister of this Country responsible for matters of Internal Security and also as the Minister responsible for the Department of Atomic Energy.

In the above context, I would also like to raise serious concerns regarding Nuclear Energy and the Nuclear Power pathway planned for our country. I have written to you on several occasions about this and related concerns and whilst I have received the token acknowledgement from your secretariat, alas it has not gone beyond that.

The Prime Minister will also recall that about five years ago, my wife, Lalita Ramdas and I, had called on you and suggested that you might consider setting up task forces in our IITs to evolve suitable Renewable Energy technologies to meet our varied anticipated power demands. We had also volunteered to work with you to prepare a potential CARBON FREE AND NUCLEAR FREE ENERGY ROAD MAP FOR INDIA. Once again, for reasons best known to you, the Government chose to follow the dictates of voices which said that if India was to grow ,”There is No Alternative” [TINA factor?] but to go down the nuclear energy and coal power road.

This has meant inevitably large scale requirement of land, displacement of peoples, and the natural fears about nuclear plants, made more real and urgent after Fukushima last year. Many of us had anticipated the kind of developments that have taken place at Koodankulam yesterday, and now it has actually come to pass. Despite many committees, delegations and visits to Koodankulam including that of the former President Dr Abdul Kalam, their assurances regarding the safety of the plant have clearly not been convincing. Alas, even to this day, neither the local authorities, nor the` experts’ ever attempted to meet or speak with the people in Idinthakkarai to allay their fears and seriously address their concerns.

A decision by the High Court in Chennai to authorise the NPCIL to go ahead and load the fuel rods, does not over-ride the right of appeal before the Supreme Court, which action is currently in progress. Therefore any attempt to fuel KKNPP and operationalize the same, would be denying the people their basic right to appeal to the next higher judicial body.

The forcible action by the Tami Nadu police yesterday, to break up a peaceful protest staged on the beaches of Koodankulam was unnecessary. The entire drama was presented in the Electronic media for the whole world to see as it unfolded. Women and children were especially targeted by an almost overwhelming police presence, fully armed with modern weapons and equipment against an unarmed, peaceful and non-violent gathering of protesters, mainly belonging to the fishing community. Surely we cannot take seriously the allegations of the police that they were `trapped’by fishing nets and hit by sticks – the real time images speak for themselves.

Furthermore we have learned that the police marched in force through Idinthakkarai while the community were at the Rally, and in their absence, broke into many homes uninvited, vandalised, ransacked and left many homes in disarray. Worst of all, we are told that the 200 year old Church, on the renovation of which considerable money was spent by contributions from the fishing folk, has been desecrated and vandalised – including the breaking of a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Prime Minister, I have stayed in Koodankulam two or three times, and have visited and admired this beautiful church, and am therefore speaking from personal knowledge because I am being constantly updated on the current tragic events from many of the friends whom I have met on my visits.

Coming to the crucial question of liability, you as the Prime Minister have rightly raised the critical question as to who will bear the cost in the event of accidents to Units 3 and 4 at Koodankulam? Surely an accident can also happen to Units 1 and 2? If the reactors were so safe as claimed and pronounced by no less than Dr Abdul Kalam, and others including the scientists from the expert committee of the Govt, why are the Russians shying away from committing to the Nuclear Liability Agreement?When no less than the Prime Minister himself has concerns regarding the liability question , it is but natural that the well informed fishing communities in the vicinity, are exercised over this, and many other concerns of theirs, including the right to life and livelihood.

The immediate way ahead as I see it is:

Restore all basic needs of the people mainly water, power, milk and food and freedom of movement.
Release all those who have been detained by the police.
Restrain police from seeking out the leadership of the movement to whom credit is indeed due for a sustained, peaceful and democratic protest in the best Gandhian traditions.
Facilitate a discussion quickly with the leadership of the movement IN Idinthakkarai ,to allay their fears and address their concerns regarding safety of the power plant.
Implement the 17 or more safety measures recommended for KKNPP by the government expert committee set up after the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011. The AERB has acted prematurely in clearing loading of fuel, before these safety measures have been implemented .
Review and implement the recommendations of the CAG report on the performance of the existing AERB.
Expedite legislative action to make the AERB an independent authority as promised by the Government.

In view of the foregoing, I would strongly urge the Honourable Prime Minister to declare a Moratorium on operationalising KKNPP and all future proposed additions of nuclear power plants in the country.There are enough alternative renewable energy resources in the country which can more than meet our developmental needs – including growth rate.
I have served the nation in uniform for forty four years and nine months – from Cadet to Chief of the Navy, and am proud of all the country’s achievements . At the same time I am distressed about many policy decisions which have not gone right. Being retired now for almost two decades, I have seen a steady erosion of ethics and values in all areas of our democracy. Recently I had written to you about concerns regarding the Indian Armed Forces. Upholding of Human Rights, and the preservation of Peace and Democracy, has been my primary concern during my retirement.

I have witnessed the hazards of nuclear energy from close quarters, both in and out of uniform, and have no doubt in my mind that we need to find safe, abundant renewable energy to meet our developmental goals. Fortunately technologies are now available , especially solar, which are both cost effective and feasible.

I have no doubt that you will give this matter your personal attention and act on the recommendations with urgency.

Sincerely Yours,

With Warm Regards,
L. Ramdas

Kum J Jayalalitha
Chief Minister, Tamil

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