A day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh blamed American NGOs for fuelling protests at the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu, the US envoy has reacted by saying that America supports all nuclear power projects being undertaken by India.
"The Government of US has certainly no objection with regard to nuclear programmes. US is also involved in potential participation in the civilian nuclear programme. Indo-US relationship is growing in every sense at all levels. Relationship has been cordial. We want American companies to be here," Peter Burleigh, US Ambassador to India said.
Even the NGOs say the movement against Kudankulam nuclear plant is public funded, and have accused the Centre of being indifferent to genuine public fear following the Fukushima tragedy in Japan last year. An activist of a key NGO opposed to the Kudankulam project has said he will now sue the PM and Mr Narayanasamy for what he calls spreading false allegations.
"Mr Narayanasamy has somehow linked me with their financial transaction of which I have no part in. In the meantime, one Mr EVKS Elangovan had talked about my integrity in a public meeting with some false accusations, and I'm also wondering if the PM has referred to this particular thing when he talked about the Sacndinavian connection and our agitation. So, I'm going to sue Mr Narayanasamy, Prime Minister and Mr Elangovan," said S P Udhayakumar, Coordinator, People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy.
Yesterday, speaking to NDTV's Science Editor Pallava Bagla during an interview for Science magazine, the Prime Minister said, "What's happening in Kudankulam...the atomic energy programme has got into difficulties because these NGOs, mostly I think based in the United States, don't appreciate the need for our country to increase the energy supply."
Reacting to the PM's statement, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office V Narayanasamy said that private NGOs working in US and Scandinavian countries have been giving money to NGOs in India.
"Licences of three NGOs have been cancelled by the home ministry. They are also thinking of taking further action. In fact the people who are agitating near the plant have been continuing their agitation for the past three months. People are being brought there in trucks from various villages," said Mr Narayanasamy.
The Prime Minister had also blamed these NGOs for opposing genetically modified foods and the use of biotechnology to increase food production in the country. "Biotechnology has enormous potential and in due course of time we must make use of genetic engineering technologies to increase the productivity of our agriculture. But there are controversies. There are NGOs, often funded from the United States and the Scandinavian countries, which are not fully appreciative of the development challenges that our country faces," Dr Singh had said.
The Rs. 13,000-crore Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) is located in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. Being built with Russian collaboration, the plant is expected to provide respite from the power shortage problem in the state. But the Indo-Russian joint venture has run into trouble with activists and locals staging massive protests citing safety concerns in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan early last year. As a result of these frequent protests, the commissioning of two 1000 megawatt nuclear reactors at the plant has been stalled.
Several rounds of talks between the Central government-appointed expert panel and representatives of villagers opposing the plant have failed to end the stand-off. The villagers say they fear for their lives and safety in case of a nuclear accident and the long-term impact it would have on the population in the area.
Worried over the scale of protests against the plant, the PM had urged Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa to support the project and had assured her that no safety features would be compromised at the plant.
While international experts have signed off on the facilities of the plant, deeming them strong enough to withstand an earthquake or a tsunami, the country's nuclear watchdog - the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board - has suggested that more security checks were needed at the plant.