The people of Srikakulam are angry. The district has been the simmering Ground Zero against many energy projects in the area. In Kovvada village, the site of a proposed nuclear power plant, a new agitation threatens to erupt. Elated at the impact the anti-nuclear protests in Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu are having, the fishermen of this tiny village and other surrounding places are up in arms. Fearing displacement, they are upping the ante against the Kiran Reddy-led Congress government, opposing the construction of the 6,000 MW Kovvada Nuclear Park by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL).“The government can construct the nuclear plant only after killing us,” says Allipalli Ammoramma, a woman from a fishing family in Kovvada.
M Polisu, a fisherman who is leading the agitation, says that politicians have been hypocritical, paying only lip service while doing nothing to stop the plant construction; only environmentalists, rights activists and retired officials have joined the villagers in their agitation. Former IAS officer EAS Sarma, DK Subba Rao and other like-minded people are supporting the villagers who accuse politicians of milking the opportunity and making a quick buck by purchasing lands from them. Around 500 acres of land has been acquired by real estate businessmen and realtors, including a former chief minister’s son-in-law.
“I have learnt that senior leaders of Congress have made extensive land purchases in the vicinity, hoping to make huge personal gains from the project. It is they who will mislead the government on the desirability of the project,” says former Union secretary of power EAS Sarma. Meanwhile, Andhra Congress leaders, who earlier supported the fishermen’s agitation, are avoiding the villages. The residents of Kovvada are drawing up a judicial strategy to prevent construction of the N-plant. They are determined to move court against land acquisition for the plant. “Once the government gives the land acquisition notices, we are planning to file a PIL before the High Court. If needed, we will also fight for justice in
the Supreme Court. The problem is of the whole region, not just that of Kovvada,” says Polisu.
The fishermen have even put an embargo on representatives of the government on even entering their villages. The Telugu Desam, in its Mahanadu programme, unanimously opposed the proposal and adopted a resolution against the nuclear power plant. “The TDP, YSR Congress and other parties assured us that they are going to oppose the plant, but no leader has so far come to lead the agitation. All these years, we, the fisherfolk, have been fighting a lone battle against the government,” says Polisu. Villagers are cynical about the government promise of compensation in lieu of their land. “We are all well aware of the government’s sops. What happened at the Gangavaram Port? How many villagers got the jobs? And what jobs can they give to illiterate villagers?” several fishermen questioned. “They will only offer us menial jobs such as sweepers and watchmen. These jobs are not permanent. Our traditional fishing is the only source of livelihood and we want to continue the same,” the fishermen say. “We will never leave this place. We are mentally stronger here than anywhere else. This cannot be calculated in price,” says Kari Ramudu, a local fisherman.
“The government will take all our health and wealth, and give us small flat in a group housing facility. But how can we lead the life at an unknown place without knowing any other work? We have heard about how badly the relief and rehabilitation packages were implemented at other places,” says Allipalli.
The villagers are singularly well-informed. They demand that the district collector of Srikakulam reveal the placements given to the displaced people in 23 villages which were evacuated for the construction of the Gotta Barrage of Hira Mandal. “The majority of the people are illiterates. We do not know any skill other than fishing. We are happy here. We do not want the ‘biscuits’ offered by the government,” a graduate in the village, MV Ramana, said.
The villagers are aware of the dangers of nuclear energy like the Fukushima disaster. “Nuclear power is the most dangerous form of energy. Even during normal operations of a nuclear power plant, radioactive materials are regularly discharged into the air and water,” state general secretary of the Human Rights Forum VS Krishna said.
- Sunday Standard