Indian police crack down on nuclear plant protesters | Pakistan Today

Indian police crack down on nuclear plant protesters

Police in southern India on Tuesday arrested dozens of activists accused of leading violent protests against the loading of uranium at a new nuclear power plant.
One fisherman was shot dead by police on Monday as hundreds of protesters clashed with armed officers in Tamil Nadu state’s Koodankulam region, where crowds tried to lay siege to the Russia-backed project.
Police searched for ring-leaders in coastal villages in the Tirunelveli district where Koodankulam is situated, local police chief Vijayendra Bidari told AFP by phone. “We have so far arrested 30 people and more arrests are going on as we have identified those behind yesterday’s chaos, rioting and arson,” he explained.
“We are going after the main leaders,” he added, describing the situation at the nuclear plant as “fully under control”.
Activists launched hunger strikes in front of churches in some local villages, and also blocked roads during demonstrations in the state capital Chennai.
“There is no question of giving up the protest and we will continue to fight till the nuclear plant is shut down,” K. Manickam, a protest leader, said by telephone from Tuticorin district where the fisherman was shot dead.
“Authorities should not go ahead with loading of fuel to commission the first unit,” he added. The latest rallies broke a six-month lull in protests at the power station, which campaigners say is a danger to local people. Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde has blamed the public unrest on overseas pressure groups.
“Foreign NGOs are supporting the movement,” Shinde said on Monday, echoing allegations by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in February that US-based groups spurred the Koodankulam unrest. The nuclear plant is one of many India hopes to build as part of its ambitions to produce 63,000 megawatts of nuclear power by 2032 — a nearly 14-fold increase from current levels.
India’s existing 20 nuclear reactors currently generate just 4,780 megawatts.
Authorities say the first of two units of the much-delayed Koodankulam project is ready for operation.
The Press Trust of India said the protests followed plans to load uranium fuel into the nuclear plant.
Energy-starved India has been caught in the backlash against atomic power caused by the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima power plant in March 2011.
Since Fukushima, Indian activists have also campaigned to stop work scheduled to start in 2013 at Jaitapur in Maharashtra state, which would be one of the world’s biggest nuclear facilities.
Nuclear energy has been a priority for India since 2008 when then-US president George W. Bush signed into a law a deal with New Delhi that ended a three-decade ban on US nuclear trade with the country.

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