Acting swiftly after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa accused the Centre of "abdicating" its responsibilities, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday spoke to her seeking her guidance to resolve the issue arising out of protests over the Koodankulam nuclear power project.
Hours after Jayalalithaa shot off a strongly-worded letter asking him to halt the work on the project till the safety concerns were addressed, Singh also said he would depute minister of state in the prime minister's office V Narayanasamy to Koodamkulam to talk to the people who are agitating against the project.
"The Prime Minister stated that Jayalalithaa was the most sagacious chief minister in India and he needed her guidance on the issue," a state government release said.
Singh also assured her that he would meet the delegation that she planned to send to meet him on the issue after his return from New York on September 27.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Monday asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that work on the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project be halted till the fears of the people in the area are allayed, accusing the Centre of "abdicating" its responsibilities.
With the fast by over 100 locals in the area against the project entering the ninth day on Monday, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam supremo dashed off a strongly-worded letter to the Prime Minister saying work on the project should not go on till the issue of addressing their concerns is settled.
Amid mounting protests against the project, Jayalalithaa's missive came three days after she sought to allay the fears of local population that the Indo-Russian joint venture in Tirunelveli district has adequate safety parameters and appealed to agitators to end their fast.
She said the plant was safeguarded even from a tsunami and was located in a zone not prone to earthquakes.
With barely three months left for the commissioning of the first of the two 1x1000 MWe reactors set up at the coastal village of Koodankulam District, Jayalalithaa said the scope and magnitude of the issue was creating a fear psychosis among people and villages surrounding the project area.
"I request you to kindly issue suitable instructions to the concerned authorities that further work on this project may be halted, until this issue is settled," she said.
"It is unfortunate to see that the Centre is abdicating its responsibilities. The Prime Minister should have sent a high-level team to allay the fears and misgivings of people in Koodankulam area," she added.
Jayalalithaa said it was "surprising" to note that till date no responsible Minister or concerned higher authorities from the Union Government have visited the people or even attempted to assuage their misgivings.
Hitting out at Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jayanthi Natarajan, she said it was naturally expected that the Union Minister, hailing from the state, would have made an attempt to visit these people.
Instead, Natarajan said her ministry has nothing to do with it and the subject comes under the purview of the Atomic Energy Commission, thereby "abdicating her duties as a Minister and absolving herself of any responsibility", Jayalalithaa said.
"Her remark that the Government officers would take care of the issue is callous in the extreme," she added.
The letter to Singh came amidst growing support to the protestors, including by opposition DMDK and MDMK.
Pointing out that AEC was directly under Singh's control, she urged him to send concerned competent authorities to hold discussions with people, address the fears and convince them.
"Since nobody from the Government of India has so far deemed it fit to visit Koodankulam, I propose to send an all party delegation led by O Panneerselvam, Minister for Finance, Government of Tamil Nadu, along with representatives of the people to call on you," she said.
The Chief Minister said the last few days have been very agonising for the people of Koodankulam as they are under great apprehension in the wake of the Fukushima (Japan) disaster and other similar calamities.
"It is only natural that the people living here fear for the safety of their families and for themselves," she said, adding that this issue was disturbing the normal life of the people.
The local population and fishermen in and around Koodankulam have been agitating against the project and intensified the protests in recent weeks. Around 100 persons are on an indefinite fast for the past nine days demanding that the project be shelved.
Jayalalithaa's demand for halting work comes just days after she deputed a Ministerial team to dispel fears about the plant and persuade the core group of protesters to give up their fast.
She also renewed her appeal to the protesters to give up the fast taking into account steps taken by her government.