People’s Victory Against Chutka (Madhya Pradesh) Nuclear Power Plant: Lokesh Malti Prakash

Guest Post by Lokesh Malti Prakash

The People of Chutka and adjoining villages in Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh won another victory against the Chutka (Madhya Pradesh) Nuclear Power Plant (being imposed on them by Congress-led Central government in active collusion with BJP-led state government) as the government was forced for the second time to postpone its farcical public-hearing on the project that was scheduled on 31st July. After a sustained protest by people of the region that was actively supported by almost every section of left-democratic forces in the state and beyond, the district administration called off the public-hearing on 29th July.

Burning the Effigy of Nuclear Power at Chutka
Burning the Effigy of Nuclear Power at Chutka

A public convention against nuclear energy was held near the public-hearing site on 30th July and a victory rally was also organised. On the next day (the date of proposed public-hearing), another rally was organised and an effigy of Chutka Nuclear Project and Union and state government was burned by the people. The people of affected villages and leaders of several organisations that participated in the convention emphatically expressed their resolve against the project in particular and against nuclear energy in general.

Rally against the Chutka Nuclear Power Plant
Rally against the Chutka Nuclear Power Plant

Notably, the public hearing on environmental aspect of the project was to be conducted by the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board in order to get clearance from Union Ministry of Environment and Forest for the nuclear project. This public hearing was earlier scheduled on 24th May this year, but was postponed after sustained protests from the local people as well as several left-democratic organisations that carried intensive campaign against the project.

Public Hearing
Public Hearing

On its part, the government had put extra efforts this time to defeat the democratic demand of the people against nuclear power. First, the government cleverly shifted the site of hearing from Chutka village to Manegaon which is 15 km away from Chutka, so that the people would not be able to reach the site easily. This was a very calculated move as opposition to the project is most fierce in Chutka and nearby villages. Second, the administration unleashed repression on the activists who came from outside the region, something which was absent earlier in May. The activists were questioned and subjected to abuse and intimidation by the local police who told the activists to get out of the area. The administration even spread rumours that these outsiders had Maoist elements among them. This shows that the government was also looking for alibi to unleash force on the anti-nuclear campaign. Third, the private bus owners in the area were told not to transport people from Chutka locality to Manegaon, especially not on 31st July. Similarly, boat owners were told to stop ferrying tribal people residing in Seoni district from across the Narmada. In May, several people came from Seoni district through boats and joined the protest. Clearly, the government was least concerned that it was violating the Fundamental Rights given to the people under Article 19(1) of the Constitution. In addition to this, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) intensified its campaign of blatant lies to garner support of people for the plant by distributing comic-books and even by bribing some unscrupulous elements in the region to stand in its favour.

The anti-people stance of Union as well as state governments is further exposed by the fact that they are bent on violating the Constitution and laws to thrust nuclear energy on people by hook or crook. The gram sabhas of Patha, Kunda and Tatighat panchayats (Chutka village come under one of these) have passed resolutions against the project, yet the government is not ready to listen to their voice. This is clearly against the Constitution (as Mandla district falls under Schedule V area) as well as Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act and Forest Rights Act.

Several left-democratic political parties and organisations have already come forward in support of the people of Chutka. These organisations extended support to the protests against Chutka nuclear project and organised campaigns in several districts of MP including Bhopal, Jabalpur, Betul, Mandla and others. A group of young activists from these organisations also carried an intensive campaign in numerous villages around Chutka organising street plays, poster exhibition and meetings and distributing booklets and handbills with information about disastrous impact of nuclear power plants in India and abroad.

With this, the protest against Chutka nuclear power plant has crystallised into a strong voice against the nuclear power programme of India. It has also raised question on the bankrupt development paradigm that promotes uninhibited and inequitable consumption of power and also on the role of global corporate capital in pushing nuclear power projects in India.

The campaign has raised six demands from the government which include, 1) Immediate cancellation of all nuclear power projects in India including Chutka Nuclear Power Project, 2) Scrapping of country’s nuclear energy programme and safe dismantling of the existing nuclear reactors, 3) Immediate halt of uranium mining activities in India, 4) Putting in public domain all information related to country’s nuclear energy programme, 5) Stopping wasteful and luxury use of power and ensuring its equitable distribution and use, 6) Development of non-polluting power resources on participatory basis without any commercial motive or profiteering.

Meanwhile, the people of Chutka understand fully well that they are still far from final victory that will come only when Chutka nuclear project is scraped along with all other nuclear power projects of the country and the nuclear power programme is stopped. Until this is achieved, the resolve to fight will be strengthened for next showdown.

(Organisations involved in the anti-Chutka Nuclear Project campaign are Chutka Paramanu Sangharsh Samiti, Gondwana Gantantra Party, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), Jan Sangharsh Morcha, All India Students Federation, All India Revolutionary Students Organisation, Revolutionary Youth Federation of India, Shiksha Adhikar Manch Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch, WSS and others)

Lokesh Malti Prakash works with the Shiksha Adhikar Manch in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh

7 thoughts on “People’s Victory Against Chutka (Madhya Pradesh) Nuclear Power Plant: Lokesh Malti Prakash”

  1. Congratulations protestors. Our children can look forward to a hotter world, the only question is how hot? Without nuclear energy the answer is — very, very hot.

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    1. I really wonder how much you care for your children! Of course, I don’t expect you to care about those of poor tribals that live in the area of Chutka’s proposed nuke plant – tribals don’t quite fit into the five-star debates of global warming. The point is nuclear power won’t save the world from such global warming. Instead it would definitely expose it to another set of dangers (in fact, it already has). If you don’t want a hotter world for your children than stand in favour of a better world where natural resources are not squandered for profits and wasteful consumption of a small minority. The question that should be asked is what amount of energy do we need and for what purpose? What’s the point of crying about the world getting hotter, if you cant stop craving for your air-conditioned rooms and malls?

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  2. Rahul Siddharthan, please see the following responses to your earlier article in The Hindu, expressing this kind of impassioned but ill-informed desire for nuclear energy:

    Responding to a debate on the Kudankulam struggle against nuclear energy

    Prof Atul Chokshi’s Response

    You might also try to read Understanding The Empty Promises of Nuclear Energy by Nityanand Jayaraman.

    Isn’t it time to emerge from these well-worn, dated illusions of the mid-20th century and look to the future and to renewable sources of energy? We are in the second decade of the 21st century after all.

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  3. Ohh again Rahul ji, once I was surprised to see that kind of views in “The Hindu” and I had shared my experiences of Kudankulam protest visit below that article. and now again I want to say the same thing. “Chutka case” is really an important victory of people and their views. and I believe more than the safety issues there are more deep issues of Human dignity, their views about use of their land, etc. in a democratic country which should be respected from everyone including government. but unfortunately government is not trying to do this. In kudankulam, In town area, few people said they want nuclear plant in Kudankulam. but as we went more near towards the coast and “plant” we found not a single supporter of that plant. Government not even tried to consider their views and demands, instead, they were being treated as criminals. We have to think why a group of people try to oppose anything?, why people are ready to leave their work? as it was done by fishing community of Kudankulam. “one villager of Kudankulam said “we know this all electricity is for Urban population so government should open this plant in Chennai or any urban place, we don’t want this in our village”. If we go to Kudankulam or any such places we can definitely find the answers why people are ready to face lathis, tear gases, water cannons or even criminal charges.

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