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India’s ex-army chief opposes N-power plant

NEW DELHI, Aug 2: Two months after he retired, former army chief General V.K. Singh has joined a campaign against a nuclear power plantplanned in his home state of Haryana, Indian Express reported on Thursday. The concerns of farmers, he said, must not be overlooked in the “myopic race for growth rate”.

Joining an agitation against the plant in Gorakhpur in Haryana on Wednesday, Gen Singh told villagers not to throw their votes: “Choose a government which listens to you and whom you can tell what to do.”

In a press release, he said: “It would take an imagination entirely alien to the needs and soul of this country to displace these land-holders, the thousands of agrarian labourers whose livelihood depends on these lands and thousands more... who make their living providing agriculture-related equipment, services and transport etc — all in the name of some ‘development’ that has little relevance to these farmers and agrarian labour.”

The release also carried signatures of retired Haryana-cadre IAS officer M.G. Devasahayam, Achin Vanaik of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace, and P.K. Sundaram, a researcher. Devasahayam was one of the petitioners in the public interest litigation filed in the Supreme Court against the appointment of Gen Bikram Singh as the new Army Chief. The court had dismissed the petition. Devasahayam was also present with Singh when he visited the protest site on Wednesday.

“Zameen (land), jal (water) and jungal (forest) are the core and basic natural resources on which the nation and people live and sustain. No kind of ‘development’ is worth it if it destroys these fundamental and critical gifts of mother nature,” said the release. “It would be fatal to overlook these concerns in the myopic race for growth rate.”

Farmers in Gorakhpur village in Haryana’s Fatehabad district have been opposing acquisition of over 1,500 acres of land for setting up the nuclear plant. They said they had been inviting Singh since he retired.

Reports said the Trinamool Congress of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has joined the anti-nuclear power plant protest in Fatehabad. At the invitation of the Kisan Sangharsh Samiti and Parmanu

Sayantra Virodh Manch — the two forums of local farmers opposing the plant — party MP K.D. Singh took part in a protest at the site in Fatehabad on Sunday.

The TMC would stick to the farmers in their fight against “forceful land acquisition”, he said. “When it comes to acquiring schools, universities and hospitals, the Haryana government prefers the chief minister’s constituency. But for something like a nuclear power plant, they have chosen Gorakhpur. Why? I have told the farmers that our party would raise this issue in parliament,” the Express quoted him as saying.