The festival of lights arrived a month-and-a-half before scheduled in this sea-facing hamlet by the Bay of Bengal in West Bengal’s East Midnapur district. On Tuesday, the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency asked the Centre to allot an alternative site for the proposed nuclear power plant. In the evening, a 1000-strong gathering at the Haripur Primary School celebrated, bursting crackers and tying rakhis.
“This plant would have hampered the lives and livelihoods of at least 30,000 locals,” said Sukumar Bhuniya, 63, convener of an anti-nuclear plant movement. “We cannot allow a project that will be of no benefit to us and will ruin our lives.”
But it’s only a partial victory. The government has not struck off Haripur, proposed to house six reactors that are to generate 10,000 megawatts.
However, large-scale protests since September 2006 backed by the Trinamool Congress and Maoists have prevented government officials from entering. “We don’t want the government to disturb our happiness,” said Atithi Jana, 35, a farmer and fish-processing worker.
According to locals, 19 villages within a 1.5-km radius of the plant fall in the core area from where people need to be evicted. The proposed buffer zone encompasses an area of 4.8 kms and includes 125 villages.