Somewhere in Jaitapur....

Scores of locals turned up at the venue where chief minister Prithviraj Chavan met project-affected persons (PAP) of the Jaitapur nuclear power plant (JNPP) project on Saturday. While Chavan got a feel of the anger brewing in the area, even state industries minister Narayan Rane who had accompanied him came in for criticism from locals. The show of strength by locals underlined their objections to the proposed nuclear plant. They demanded the cancellation of the JNPP, which is billed, as the largest nuclear power plant in the country. After being commissioned, the plant is expected to have a power generation capacity of 9900-MW. The state government has acquired over 938 hectares of land from five villages-—namely Madban, Niveli, Karel, Mithgavane and Varilwada—for the project. Most of the 2,335 families, affected by the land acquisition, have opposed the project, many of them were present during the meeting. Fishermen from neighbouring villages like Sagarinate, Musakazi and Tulsunde, who have expressed concerns about loss of livelihood owing to the project, also attended the meeting. The meeting organized by Chavan, to dispel “misconceptions” about the project, became a platform for protestors to display their opposition to the project. Even Rane, who got into an argument with two speakers at the event, was not spared. The minister objected to the language used by activist Dr Milind Desai and local Shiv Sena MLA Rajan Salvi, while criticising the state government’s role in the project. Desai, who remarked that the “government should be ashamed for the use of undemocratic means while acquiring land”, left the dais after he was interrupted. Salvi submitted a memorandum to the chief minister before leaving the dais. These incidents incited the locals and they expressed their displeasure when Rane rose to speak. “For the first time a chief minister has convened a meeting of people affected by a project. This is no way to treat him,” Rane said. Organizations representing the protestors submitted a charter of demands to Chavan. “We are convinced that the JNPP will be harmful for the locals. People will not settle for any amount of compensation that is offered,” Pravin Gavankar, leader of the Janhit Seva Samiti said. Amjad Borkar, representing the Maharashtra Machimaar Kruti Samiti, questioned the government’s claim that the project would not affect fishing in the region. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), which is in-charge of the project, and the state government have cited reports by experts that suggest the nuclear plant will not impact fishing and the region’s biodiversity. Borkar demanded a meeting between experts to discuss the issue, Rane agreed to the demand. Chavan defended the project and said that objections raised against it were based on misinformation spread by vested interests. He even blamed “certain foreign players” for spreading misconceptions. “The project will not harm fishing. Adequate safeguards have been put before granting the environmental clearance,” said Chavan. Chavan added that he would consult the Centre to increase the monetary compensation.

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