Taking notice

Taking notice it is believed to be the first time that India's nuclear establishment has been taken to court. While admitting a public interest petition, seeking immediate steps to protect the people of Jaduguda in Bihar's Singhbhum district from the health hazards of uranium mining, the Supreme Court issued notices to the Union government. The apex court also issued notices to the Uranium Corporation of India ( uci ), the Atomic Energy Commission ( aec ) and the deputy commissioner of Singhbhum.

The Jaduguda uranium mines are believed to provide weapons-grade uranium to India's nuclear weapon establishments and supply fuel-grade uranium to various reactors. For several years, anti-nuclear activists and the local people have been protesting against mining activities in Jaduguda. The people living around the mining site and the employees of uci have been reporting radiation-related ailments like cancer, tuberculosis and physical deformities. Says B L Wadhera, the Supreme Court lawyer who filed the petition, "It's hell on Earth.' However, the uci management at Jaduguda is yet to admit that the ailments are related to radiation. According to Wadhera, even uci 's employees are suffering from radiation-related diseases. "Every year on an average, uci sends 10 of its staff members to Vellore in Tamil Nadu for cancer treatment. Is this not enough evidence?' questions Wadhera.

Though notices have already reached the department heads concerned the Union government is yet to react to the pil . However, sources at aec say it will come out with a detailed health profile of the workers and the villagers residing around the mining site in the next court hearing which is expected to be held by October-end. It may be mentioned that all nuclear establishments carry out medical surveys of their staff, but they are not told about of the result. Similarly, in the case of Jaduguda mining site, the uci carried out a medical survey and claims that there is no health hazards as reported or alleged by some people.

The apex court's admission of the pil gives a fillip to the anti-nuclear activists and the villagers who have been protesting against mining activities in Jaduguda for a long time. Besides, the issue gains more importance given the fact that India is now a declared nuclear weapon nation and hawks for a minimum deterrence

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