Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh said on Saturday that the issues and concerns raised by villagers who have been protesting against the nuclear power project in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district were "rationally justified" and the government must delay its plan of going ahead with the project.
"I am not advocating complete rewind or the fast forwarding on the project but there is another available option ie pause button and government must press this button instead of using bullets to deal with protestors. I do not want government to permanently abandon the project but it must be delayed till the time fears expressed by protests are redressed and a public opinion is built in favour of nuclear plant", Jairam Ramesh told reporters in Ludhiana.
Highly critical of Maharashtra government for allowing police firing on protesting villagers, Ramesh said in democratic set ups holding protests against anyone is democratic right and would happen in future too but governments must not use bullets against them.
"The issues and concerned raised by agitators in Ratangiri district are rationally justifiable, particularly in wake of what happened in Japan recently. Japan tragedy should be taken as a wake up call. Learning a lesson from Japan incident and keeping in view the villagers apprehensions, at the moment special emphasis should be on evolving a fool proof safety system and nuclear options should be more deliberated and debated", said the minister.
Ramesh said he was not against the nuclear options but wish nuclear policy of any state or union government should be completely transparent. He said nuclear policies should not be drafted "secretly" and should have built public confidence before going ahead with projects planned under any such policy.
The minister said he had also conveyed his sentiments to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and in response PM too has expressed concerns about the safety of residents of villages in which nuclear plant was being set up in Ratnagiri district.
Reiterating his stance on planning commissions target of adding 100,000 mega watts of power over the next five years, Ramesh said the target was "ecological possible" as Indai can not afford to choose a path going towards 9% growth by "closed eyes". He said he was not a "villain in developmental story" of India but I have to present the true picture so that a "fine balance" be created between development and environment. "Whatever I said in full planning commission was based on my experience that I had gained from 25 years of working in energy and power sector. I have been power minister too and now being custodian of environment I must not lie before prime minister", said Ramesh.
He said at a time when India was taking up the issue of climatic change and disasters at international level, it was unethically wrong to endorse the targets which raises ecological concerns and were "ecologically impossible".