Recent developments on the Koodankulam Nuclear reactor are getting interesting every day with no clear conflict resolution on the horizon. We know that Electricity shortage and outage is a day to day affair in India. And it will become a much larger issue as Indian consumerism and confidence grows dangerously with little planning for the future. Of course we have elected and indirectly recruited leaders to do the National planning and provide direction. As a participating citizen our job is to vote for someone who has the long term vision to take our country forward, and make our opinion heard through democratic means.
I admired and supported the Indian government’s confidence and belief as it fought opposition from all quarters while signing a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with US. The confidence was shaken when the Fukushima nuclear disaster happened. You don’t need to be an engineer to realize that the average workmanship and discipline of the Japanese work culture is far ahead of the American or Indian worker. So when a Japanese Nuclear plant could not withstand natural disaster and caused maximum damage, I started having doubts in the nuclear direction India was taking. It is hard to imagine that destruction like Chernobyl will have on the family and social structure of South India if it happens. But I have no doubt, fossil fuel such as coal have a limited potential in future. And I am not sure if the Wind or Solar energy would be sustainable in future either. I am in no means an Energy scientist to identify the right path forward.
I want to note a few things here. All major scientific undertaking with high practical usage has not been without trial and error. For example, the very effective pesticide DDT which was very commonly used for several decades in India was later found to have damaging impact on our water bodies and on the human body. Many medicines which have been very effective in treating illness or diseases have been banned for side effects later. Many process and safety improvements in car or mass transportation have happened after some costs have been paid already. Unfortunately the human cost associated with such scientific progress has been completely not avoidable and responsibility lies on the leadership of those leading such initiatives. Growth pains are associated with growth but only time can tell absolutely if this is growth in the right direction or not.
I also see condemning reports on the media by web savvy writers and readers against the protesters. Ulterior motives and ignorance are assigned to the protesters. Try explaining those to those affected for years to come, for miles around Chernobyl or Fukushima. In a democratic setup as with other Darwinian organizational setups eventually the powerful or strong-willed or the manipulative wins. The foundations of democracy are built on opinions, counter-opinions and show of strength. So the protests are a healthy sign of our democracy and not of ignorance. There is an Indian saying that only the crying child gets milk. In this case, the protesters are doing a good job in bringing the attention on the safety aspects, introspection, investigation and proof of the safety. In terms of moral right to protest or not protest, we should wonder how we would react if a nuclear plant came up in a neighborhood we have lived for centuries. Even if it was done to bargain incentives from the government by the villagers, don’t they deserve it for the risks they are exposed to?
I also see some cheeky comments by some Reporters indicating that the protests are led by Churches with intervention from anti-India powers. I want to ask these reporters “What does these supposed Christian states want from us?” Why would US and France help with our nuclear initiatives, if they are against it. Or is it the Vatican which is leading these anti-India efforts? Or our neighborhood threats Pakistan and China have suddenly gained Christian influences? Isn’t it duty of this religious organization to worry about life threatening risks of the citizens they serve. I don’t have intelligence gathering to support this arguments but I doubt if the reporters have any proof as well. It is not a coincidence that many of the villages have a sizeable Christian population or the social decisions are guided by the church gathering. It is not something I would vote for, but it is the nature of our society. Instead of admiring the will and organizing powers of the villagers to question something that is brought upon them, this educated reporters and readers suspect their religious connections, motives and knowledge. There is an underlying suspicion of “Us vs Them” in the support and anti movements. An objective conflict resolution, Scientific assurance and direction can be born if leaders who view the protesters as one of “Us” rather than “Them”.