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Thousands trapped without food, water

india Updated: Oct 16, 2011 01:56 IST
HT Correspondent

As protesters blocked entry points to the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) in Tamil Nadu for the third day in a row, the troubles of the 1,000 families trapped inside the complex deepened with water, milk and other essential supplies beginning to run out.

Although V Narayanasamy, minister of state in the prime minister's office, said the government would not abandon the project, one of the officials trapped inside said, "We have no drinking water, vegetables or even milk for children."

He said there was a severe shortage of drinking water as the groundwater was unfit and regular supply of water cans from outside has been affected.

"We cannot venture out as the protesters are snatching our gate passes, without which we cannot re-enter the complex," his wife told HT over the phone.

Around 100 villagers on indefinite hunger strike, demanding an immediate halt to work, have been camped at the nuclear project site - in the state's Tirunelvelli district, 650 km from Chennai - for the last seven days.

Spooked by the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, following a monster earthquake-tsunami in March, and an explosion at a nuclear waste site in France on September 12, they fear KNPP poses a threat to life and environment.

The first of the two 1,000-MW plants was to be commissioned in December. Some 1,000 scientists and engineers involved in the project have been unable to enter the premises since Thursday.

Also stranded are 5,000 migrant daily wage labourers engaged by the private companies working on the plant. With no end to the stand-off in sight, many are considering returning to their homes in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.

Padma Bora, 31, from Assam, used to earn R15,000 a month. But he has had to go without pay for the last three months.

Contract labourers also complain of an unspoken social boycott by the villagers.

"Village shops are refusing to sell us provisions," said Bora.

SP Udaykumar, convener of People Against Nuclear Energy, the organisation spearheading the protest, said, "We heard Congress leaders saying the KNPP would start work in 15 days. But it cannot be done without a safety drill, which has not been done."

He, however, claimed a police vehicle carrying essentials and other goods had been allowed in on Friday night.