VIKAS KAHOL  | Chandigarh, July 17, 2012 | 22:04

An open forum convened by the Haryana government at Gorakhpur village in Fatehabad district, the venue of proposed nuclear plant in the state, ended abruptly on Tuesday after leaders of opposition parties joined the farmers in their protest against the venture.

The public hearing, which was expected to continue for about four hours as well as “clear doubts and public misconceptions about the nuclear power plant”, was called off by the administration soon after leaders of opposition parties reached the venue. The meeting was also aimed at paving the way for environmental clearances and fixing compensation for farmers, who have been opposing the acquisition of their land for nearly two years.

The district administration had imposed section 144 within a radius of 500 metres from the venue to maintain “law and order”. Barricades were set up at eight places and 14 duty magistrates were posted in the area.

As the meeting started, several farmers affiliated to the Kisan Sangarsh Samiti, led by its president Hans Raj Siwach, raised anti-government slogans and demanded the that the project be scrapped. The organisation has been opposing the government’s ambitions project at Gorakhpur.

Several political parties also opposed the proposed nuclear plant. HJC leader Kuldip Bishnoi and INLD representative Abhey Chautala also reached the venue to participate in the public hearing and opposed the proposal to set up a nuclear plant.

The CPI (M), meanwhile, said that the farmers expressed stiff opposition for setting up the plant at the public hearing convened by the administration. The party’s state secretary Inderjit Singh said that the opposition to the plant by the residents of the area vindicated the stand of political parties.

Singh alleged that the government had deployed heavy police force at Gorakhpur. But the authorities could not deter the public from expressing their opposition on the nuclear plant issue. He added that the political trickery of the ruling Congress leaders, invoking the stand of leaders such as Devi Lal and Bhajan Lal regarding nuclear power, was irrelevant following the Fukushima accident in Japan.

The accident had led to a serious rethink across the globe on the issue of setting up nuclear plants. However, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCI) and the state government have promised “complete safety” of the people residing within a radius of 20 km of the plant.

A government spokesperson said that senior scientists of NPCI dispelled fears and misconceptions of the villagers about setting up of nuclear power plant at the public hearing. The government said that the farmers got ample opportunity to ask questions about the plant. The executive director of NPCI, engineers of Haryana State Pollution Control Board and other officers were also present at the hearing.

The government said that the report of the public hearing would be forwarded to the environment ministry in New Delhi.

The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the nuclear power plant was leaked by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) a day ahead of the public hearing. The group slammed NPCIL for going ahead with the public hearing without making the EIA report public as mandated in the law.

The report had concluded that the project is safe from natural hazards such as earthquakes. “The seismo-tectonic study has concluded that there is no capable fault within five kilometers of the project site. The site is engineerable from seismo-tectonic considerations,” the report noted.

Local groups have been opposing the plant for fear of safety and other considerations. About 1,500 acres of land is proposed to be acquired for the plant in three villages, affecting approximately 1,000 persons.

The plant will be constructed at Gorakhpur village by the NPCI. It will consist of four units of 700 MW each, projected to cost over Rs 23,000 crore. The project is likely to be completed by 2021.