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Tamil Nadu nuclear row: APJ Abdul Kalam’s visit gently shifts Kudankulam dynamics

CHENNAI: Former President APJ Abdul Kalam’s entry into the Kudankulam arena has subtly changed the dynamics of the anti-nuclear protests in the region. Within a day of the former president visiting to the nuclear power project site and endorsing its “state-of-the-art” safety features, there is a growing voice supporting the former space scientist and questioning the views of S P Udayakumar, who is spearheading the protest at ground zero.

Kalam’s 10-point action plan – portions of which were published in TOI a day before it was given to the government – suggesting development of surrounding villages and creating 10,000 jobs, has struck a chord with a section.

An indication of this came on Monday when DMK chief M Karunanidhi, who has warned against going ahead with the project without addressing people’s fears, said, “Kalam is a former president and thinks before he talks. The Centre should take his views into account and the panel constituted by the Centre should also consider his statements”.

‘Don’t have even nano-sized doubt about N-plant’

Outlining a 10-point plan for the Kudankulam nuclear power project, the former president said people should not have “even a nano-sized doubt” over the safety of the project, as it met all the safety aspects.

Kalam’s suggestions to the Centre included development of the region where the plant is located, including construction of a four-lane highway connecting Kudankulam and the villages situated in a 30km radius with Madurai, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari; a world-class hospital with over 500 beds; mobile medical facilities to locals; creation of 10,000 jobs for villagers living within the 30km to 60km radius of the plant; and bank loans for youth with 25% subsidized interest rates.

Kalam also suggested creating infrastructure facilities like construction of green houses, multi-storeyed housing complexes and playgrounds. He said fishermen in the area should be provided with motorboats, small jetties and fish cold storage facilities. In his report, Kalam said the “local residents’ truthful questions, dynamics of geo-political and market forces and the people, who are not thinking that the nation’s interest is more important than their interest, are the reasons for the protest.”

As protesters continued their fast at Idinthakarai, a village close to the project site, the 15-member panel constituted by the Centre met in Chennai and took a decision to interact with the agitators at the earliest.

K Balu, former director of Nuclear Waste Management Group at Barc and a member of the committee, told TOI, “We have with us experts constituted by the Union government and we will meet whomsoever the Tamil Nadu government wants us to meet in Tirunelveli on Tuesday. It is very unfortunate that even when someone like Kalam says he personally inspected and is satisfied with the safety of the nuclear plant, it has failed to convince the protesters. It is necessary for us to find out what are the issues they are afraid of.”

But many comments supporting Kalam’s view on the Kudankulam nuclear power project have been posted on social networking sites and web portals. “The public perception appears to be changing. I can see that a lot of people, who had angrily reacted to the government on the issue, are changing their views now. They believe Kalam is a credible leader and scientist,” said a Chennai-based software professional S Nagaraj. “Dr Kalam has received hundreds of mails appreciating his intervention at the right time,” said Kalam’s adviser V Ponraj.

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