As Tamil Nadu Nuclear Plant Opening Nears, Protests Enter Death Throes

A 23-year-old battle over construction of a nuclear power plant in India's southern state Tamil Nadu seems to be coming to a climax -- as politicians shift sides, protesters go on hunger strikes, and the political fallout from Fukishima settles.

"Ostensibly short stories have an unfortunate way of mutating into epic tragedies here in India – and, occasionally, farces.

Take the $3 billion Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) and the current wave of protests that aim to block its implementation: The project originated from an inter-government pact between Rajiv Gandhi and the former Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev back in November of 1988. By December of the same year, only two short years from the infamous meltdown at Chernobyl, protests in the rural fishing village first began. (To provide you an idea of how long ago this was, the tenured Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan had just celebrated his 23rd birthday and was earning a bachelor's degree in economics. )

Nearly a quarter century later, the horrors of Japan's 2011 Fukushima meltdown nuclear disaster offered residents of this rural fishing community near the proposed KNPP site a fresh well of terror from which to draw their dissent. Spurred by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa's about face on support for the project back in March (she had previously opposed it), a new rash of protests and arrests have erupted in what is beginning to feel to many observers like an endless cycle of advance on the part of the government and opposition on the part of activists. But a closer examination might indicate that the protests are entering a new phase: the death throes."

Michael Edison Hayden reports for the New York Times' India Ink blog May 29, 2012.

Source: NY Times, 05/31/2012