How is life at NPCIL

We are the force and we are the hope!

A blog from Dr. Vaishali Patil, anti-nuclear activist (Jaitapur, India) and member of the National Alliance of Anti-Nuclear Movements, on women's resistance to nuclear power.

NB: The views expressed on this blog do not necessarily reflect the official positions of CIDSE.

“If the government takes our rehabilitation as fishermen seriously, another Arabian Sea should be created for us. This is the only compensation that we as women can imagine, ”said Noorjaha Tamake from the village of Nate in Jaitapur, India. She expressed her anger and tried to articulate her demands, as a person caught by the plans of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL).

In September 2005, NPCIL planned to build six nuclear reactors with a total capacity of 9,900 MW in Jaitapur, which is located on the Arabian Sea in the Konkan region in the state of Maharashtra. The reactors were to be designed and built by Areva, a largely state-owned French nuclear power company, and Electricité de France (EDF) was also involved.

The project, which extends over 968 hectares of land, has resulted in the expropriation of five villages with a total population of 4,000 people. From the beginning, the residents of Jaitapur bravely opposed this nuclear power project, with the initial opposition coming mainly from farmers whose land was threatened with acquisition. There is a land acquisition law in India which gives the state the authority to acquire any person's land as the state maintains general rule.

In addition, fishermen from the villages of Sakhri Nate, Tulsundi, Ambolgad, Sagve, Kathodi, Jambhli and Nanu-Ingalvadi, with an approximate population of 50,000, are also threatened by this planned nuclear power project. Unfortunately, NPCIL did not consider these fish people to be affected by the project, even though the annual fish catch in the Ratnagiri district is 12,500 tons, of which 4,000 tons come from the village of Sakhri Nate. There are around 200 large trawlers and more than 300 small fishing boats. Almost 6,000 people from Sakhri Nate are directly dependent on fishing, and more than 10,000, including women, depend on similar activities.

The Muslim fisher women of Sakhri Nate go to the surrounding villages and sell fish door to door. They also market and process dry fish. These activities provide an important source of income for their families. As such, they have become the backbone of the anti-nuclear movement in Jaitapur.

In 2009 there was a public hearing with the district administration to obtain the environmental permit for the project. A 1,200-page highly technical environmental impact assessment report was distributed in English to the women of Sakhri Nate, many of whom are illiterate or do not read English. Although there is a provision that such a report should be made available in the local language, it was refused and the women had to fight for it. The women were excited to learn that the nuclear power plant project would add 52,000 million liters of hot water to the Arabian Sea. They understood that this rise in sea temperature would rob their livelihoods. This information alone was enough for the women to organize and mobilize against this nuclear power project. Traditional Muslim community norms do not allow women to leave their villages, so the women have forced the men to go to Tarapur, the site of India's first nuclear power project. Upon their return, the women continued to listen to information shared by their husbands in the family.

This visit to the Tarapur nuclear power project, which began 42 years ago, was a great lesson for the local executives. It inspired them to take action when French President Nicolas Sarkozy came to India in December 2010 to seek an agreement. The women were at the forefront, holding banners that read "Sarkozy Go Back".

The wisdom of the grassroots, especially women, about the livelihood and democratic rights implications was remarkable. When the mass movement reached its peak, women and their children would shout "Nako Anu-Urja (No to Nuclear Energy)" to every passing vehicle. The movement has faced severe setbacks such as the police shooting of young activist Tabrej Sayekar, activists trapped in various court cases, and peasants almost forced to accept a land compensation agreement, causing divisions within the anti-nuclear Movement led. Despite these obstacles and the fact that fishermen have not received compensation, women have continued to commit themselves to the anti-nuclear movement. They know all too well what their future will be when this project is completed.

As an activist who has helped organize and mobilize communities against this disastrous project, it has been amazing to me to see how women over the past 10 years have understood what nuclear energy is and how radiation affects the human body and the possible negative effects on their livelihoods. Understanding this, the women were ready to die for their cause after the Fukushima nuclear accident in March 2011. Immediately after Fukushima, the men and women of Nate Village did not go fishing for almost a week. Various television stations broadcast pictures and told the stories of the victims of this disaster. At that moment, the women believed that supporting and leading the anti-nuclear movement would be the only way to survive.

In the past 10-12 years there have been more than 25 protests, many activists have been detained, fake criminal cases have been registered by the police and state repression has increased. The district judge issued an order against me and our senior ex-judicial officer Kolse Patil prohibiting us from entering the Jaitapur area because it had become very difficult for the police to control the participation of women and children in protests. However, even during this time of oppression, women never gave up. All mothers encouraged their children between the ages of 6 and 18 to take part in school strikes. The reason was that the government had required the school administration to teach propaganda through screenings, distribution of brochures, and organization of talks that repeatedly said, "Nuclear power is green and clean."

This movement was inspired to start a nonviolent protest in Koodam-Kulam. Later, women leaders from Koodam-Kulam became an inspiration to the women of Jaitapur. While the women of Jaitapur have struggled to find their place in the decision-making of the anti-nuclear movement, their aspirations cannot be suppressed.

With this struggle going on for more than 10 years, the men sometimes feel hopeless where the government is and even more so in the face of the conservatism of the current government. Prime Minister Modi has signed nuclear deals with various countries, which is disheartening. But women have an innate trait of being tenacious and visionary, and their determined self-sacrifice has kept this movement alive. For this very reason, on October 2, 2016, the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's birth, more than 1,000 women participated in a nonviolent fasting protest. This act itself has given this anti-nuclear movement great strength and hope.

It's definitely a long way to go, but women have started to break the patriarchal structures within religion and family that have oppressed them for so many years. After all, women are not only the strength of the movement, but also the hope of the movement ...

Share this content on social media