India is a nation of almost 1.2 billion people. There is an immense need for resources and infrastructure to sustain the growing population and the booming Indian economy to keep the nation moving forward. India also lacks the basic infrastructure at rural areas to provide the basic necessity like power, roads and water supply. It's common in B-town city to have a structured way of "power-cuts" ranging anywhere from 2 hrs. - 8 hrs. a day in summer! For the longest period of time, India has been dependent on Coal, and its power is more or less generated by Coal energy or fossil fuels. Coal as everyone knows is one of the "old" energy technology responsible for carbon emission and India has always walked a tight line, when it comes to Kyoto Protocol aimed at fighting global warming. India is at a threshold to usher in Nuclear energy with a new proposed nuclear power plant in Jaitapur, Maharashtra. The proposed nuclear power plant is no ordinary plant -- The 5 billion dollars project with a capacity of 9900 MW power project with six reactors, will be the largest nuclear power generating station in the world. What got me excited was the location of the power plant was the same state that I was born and raised. The decision to move forward with the nuclear power plant and a step away from Coal generated plants - notwithstanding the disaster that hit Japan is the right way forward.
The Land issue
Now with any high profile nuclear power plant, the land comes at a premium. This has been the age old problem in India. Be it the Narmada dam issues in Gujarat or the Enron power plant in Maharashtra or the more recent Tata Car project in West Bengal. Who does the land belong too? Was the land really barren as the government is talking about? These questions are beyond me or for that matter 99.99% of Indian population -- because we all know that, "anything can happen in India". I am not going to dwell in to that. So many times, that the real issues are not tackled and the non-existing issues are focused on. I never understood that if a 5 billion$ is passed by a government, why is there no fund to be allocated for unforeseen circumstances that arises now and then? Why not allocate a 10-25 million$ fund to tackle this issues?
The politics of money
As any new high profiles projects announced that generated buzz -- politics inevitably follows. Now, I try to stay away from politics, especially when the politics is based on power struggle in India. I have learned the hard way, which the more you talk, the more frustrated you get and nothing comes out of it. I distinctly remember the Enron - Dabhol project in Maharashtra where a ruling party was opposed to having a power plant that would create employment and solve the scarcity of resources around that region. That issue became the primary reason for the ruling government to be toppled. The party that opposed it (I am sure monies were exchanged), when coming to power -- granted them permission to start the Enron project. From the inception of the project in 1990 to the production of the plant in 1997-1998, many years were wasted. 900 million$ were spent by Enron to get the project going and I am sure a huge chunk were gone in the delays and re-planning. The power plant was shut after 3 years because it was so red in the balance sheets the day it started the operations, that it never recovered its money. The power plant was later changed name and started its operation 5 years later and again shut down after 3 months because of the supply of key component. After almost 17 years and billion dollars the plant is still struggling to complete all its phases.
The real Concern
While it's a shame that most project becomes a political and money power struggle, the key issues are never talked about or debated in a civilized manner without flaring the temperatures of everyone involved. The first and the only resort carried out are off violence. This is strange behavior coming from the same country as Mahatma Gandhi.
If the protesters really are misguided in their tactics by the leaders of parties misleading information about Fukushima catastrophe, then they need to be educated about nuclear power and how grave India's problems are when it comes to resolving energy situation. India cannot just sustain its thirst for energy by investing in renewable energy and polluting fossil fuels. This is also the right time to go back to drawing board on designs to learn from Japan's nuclear disaster and see ways to avoid them and or minimize them. This can be resolved by tackling them head-on with healthy debates on securing India's energy future and our collective safety.