Jayalalithaa puts ball in Centre’s court

Jayalalithaa puts ball in Centre’s court

Chennai: Despite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s request to support the Koodankulam nuclear plant, Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa said on Tuesday work on the project will remain suspended until local concerns are allayed.

Protestors at Koodankulam on Tuesday resumed their agitation against the project after a two-day break for local polls.

The blame for the intensifying agitation rests with New Delhi, Jayalalithaa said in a statement.

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Jayalalithaa’s political rival M. Karunanidhi said the Centre and state had to ensure the complete safety of the people before proceeding with the project.

Residents of villages around the 2,000MW (megawatts) plant—which comprises two 1,000 MW reactors, the first of which is due for commissioning in December—have opposed the project, particularly following radiation leaks from the tsunami-damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan this year.

Some 127 villagers, who went on an indefinite fast last month, broke it off after 12 days following Jayalalithaa’s recommendation to the centre that work at the plant be stopped until public concerns are addressed.

Last week, with a resolution appearing out of sight, protestors resumed fasting and blocked workers from entering and leaving the facility.

The agitation was intensified by Singh’s letter to Jayalalithaa last Wednesday asking her to support the project, considering the state needs power to meet its development goals. Jayalalithaa had declined detailed comment while on a campaign tour last week for local elections near Koodankulam.

On Tuesday, she lashed out at the centre for a statement by V. Narayanasamy, junior minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, who said on Saturday that the formation of an expert panel to tackle the Koodankulam issue is being delayed because the state government has not yet nominated its representatives. She said the centre should stop trying to blame the state and instead work to resolve the situation.

The chief minister’s statement is a welcome development, said M. Pushparayan, a convenor of the People’s Movement against Nuclear Energy, which is organizing the Koodankulam protests.

More than 1,000 people were engaged in a relay-fast on Tuesday that would continue indefinitely until the nuclear project is scrapped, Pushparayan said.