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Day after PM’s message, protesters stick to guns

Chennai : A day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu could not remain idle and would be commissioned in a couple of weeks, people agitating against the project and the Centre appeared headed for a showdown.

The protesters have set December 31 as the deadline for the removal of fuel assemblies (used to build the core of a reactor) from the plant complex, even as the Centre has launched a probe into suspected foreign funding of the agitation.

According to a source in the government, the Intelligence Bureau is looking into the funding from abroad and the union home ministry has sent notices to six NGOs based in Tuticorin seeking explanation for use of the funds received under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act.

Simultaneously, the Centre is aggressively campaigning to allay the fears of locals over the safety of the Indo-Russian plant in Tirunelveli district, about 650 km south of Chennai.

On Saturday, the PM had said the protests were “overdone” and India could not afford to have the plant – on which the government had spent Rs14,000 crore – idle.

According to the PM, the Centre had gone out of its way to assure people these reactors “are the safest available in the world”.

The protesters, however, are threatening to lay siege to the plant to stop the commissioning.

SP Udayakumar, coordinator of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, which is spearheading the protests, thanked chief minister J Jayalalithaa on Sunday for asking the PM to allay the fears of locals before taking any “precipitate action” on the project.