“They haven’t even built a small hospital here for us but assure good health despite the nuclear reactor,” says Jaya Kumar of Avudialpuram, one of the villages situated around the Kudankulam nuclear plant. He’s not the only one holding this grudge against the government.
While the government has spent about Rs. 14,000 crore on the nuclear plant, the expenditure on developing infrastructure — as part of NPCIL’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) — in this remote sea-shore stretch of south Tamil Nadu hardly accounts for a few crores.
Except spending on a few minor projects such as building a few classrooms, compound walls, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) has not attempted to win hearts of the villagers.
A well-equipped hospital in Anu-Vijay, the plant township, is out of bounds for us, say villagers. The nearest government hospital is at Radhapuram — 15 km from Kudankulam —Idinthikarai, the epicentre of the anti-nuclear plant agitation.
A 17-km road from Levinchipuram to Kudankulam, which NPCIL lists under its CSR, is more useful for the plant and its township. Though the nuclear plant states it has provided borewells, water tanks and pipelines, villagers dismiss these claims.
“We drink the same borewell water that we have been drinking from the last two-three decades,” says Peter Milton, a native of Idinthikarai and a member People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy.
A good rapport with locals through social service could have earned the villagers trust and might have helped avert such opposition, say activists.
Those who have worked in the plant also speak with distaste about their experience. “The sub-contract system is infuriating. I left the job there because I was not being paid according to the work I was doing,” Thirumal Lingam (30), who now owns an electrical shop at Levinchipuram. NPCIL did not respond to phone and e-mail queries on the plant’s CSR activities.