Leaders of all political hues in Haryana are fighting a nuclear war these days. The leaders have gone ballistic with their positioning over the issue of setting up a nuclear power plant in southwest Haryana.
The Bhupinder Singh Hooda government is trying its best to persuade farmers, who are agitating against a nuclear plant in Gorakhpur village in Fatehabad district. The farmers have found backing in opposition parties like the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that are also opposed to the setting up of the plant.
In the past week, the Hooda government has organised open sessions for the public to bring forward their objections and get responses from scientists and experts about the project.
The government is faced with objections on two fronts. First is the opposition by a section of farmers who do not want to give up their agricultural land which is set to be acquired for the nuclear plant. The government has already set the process for land acquisition into motion.
Second, there is basic opposition to the setting up of the plant itself owing to safety concerns after the nuclear plant disaster in Japan's Fukushima in March 2011.
The state government proposes to acquire over 1,500 acres of land for the nuclear power plant, having four units of 700 MW capacity each, to be set up by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL). The plant will generate electricity for meeting the growing power needs in the state.
While the INLD, HJC and BJP leaders are opposing it, the state government has released copies of letters written by past chief ministers urging the central government to sanction a nuclear plant for Haryana.
Haryana Power Minister Ajay Singh Yadav has said that those who are opposing this project had, when they were in power, urged the central government "to expedite the setting up of nuclear power plant as it would immensely benefit Haryana".
Yadav quoted written communications sent by then chief ministers Bhajan Lal and Devi Lal to the then prime ministers, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and P.V. Narsimha Rao.
While Devi Lal, a former deputy prime minister of the country, was the father of INLD supremo Om Prakash Chautala, Bhajan Lal was the father of HJC chief Kuldip Bishnoi.
In his letter dated July 20, 1984, for instance, to prime minister Indira Gandhi, then chief minister Bhajan Lal said: "We are happy to note that the Government of India has decided to set up an atomic power plant in the northern region during the seventh plan. We had offered four such sites....."
He followed it with another letter Oct 25, 1985, to Rajiv Gandhi who had taken over as prime minister.
On Nov 23, 1987, then chief minister Devi Lal, wrote to Rajiv Gandhi, saying "Haryana should be considered favourably for a nuclear power facility.
Yadav pointed out that when Chautala was himself chief minister of Haryana (1999-2005), a central committee had surveyed the site for the atomic plant in 2000-01 and again in 2004.
Yadav said: "It is astonishing that these leaders, especially of the INLD and the HJC, are now opposing the setting up of the atomic power plant in Haryana. They should go through the records of patrons of their parties. These leaders have no interest in the development of the state."
But INLD leader Abhey Singh Chautala dismissed the claims of the Haryana government.
"When these letters were written, even the developed countries were setting up nuclear power plants. But the accidents at nuclear plants subsequently have changed the situation. Most countries are not setting up nuclear power plants while others are closing down existing ones. A nuclear plant can be a source of radiation for people living in its vicinity," Chautala said.
The INLD and HJC leaders, this week, even tried to reach the venue of one of the public sessions in Fatehabad district but were prevented by state machinery from reaching there on time.
"The Hooda government is not listening to the opposition that the nuclear plant is facing," HJC president Kuldip Bishnoi said.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)