ISRO's New Rocket Facility raises concerns in Kulasekarapattinam

ISRO’s New Rocket Facility raises concerns in Kulasekarapattinam

India’s space agency, ISRO, is all set to begin construction of a £950-crore greenfield rocket launch site near Kulasekarapattinam township, 50 km south of Tuticorin, with the land acquisition process almost complete.

But, unlike the excitement among businessmen in Tuticorin about the prospect of development the project will bring, in Kulasekarapattinam there is fear and a feeling that “our lands are being taken away,” — a feeling reinforced by the township’s experience with the Udangudi thermal power project of the Tamil Nadu government.

“They (dangudi) got 900 hectares of land, but now they need a thousand hectares more to expand. What is the guarantee that ISRO will not want to buy more land?” asks CG Chandrasekharan, a resident of Kulasekarapattinam, who heads the farmers’ association.

The Tamil Nadu government has acquired all but about 200 acres of 2,350 acres of land for the ISRO project earmarked for small rockets.

Kulasekarapattinam is famous for its Mutharamman temple – a huge draw during the Dussehra festival. On October 19, 2018, a record was created when 8.05 lakh people, dressed as gods and goddesses, visited the temple. In addition, many travelers who come to the famous Murugan temple in Tiruchendur, 14 km away, add Kulasekarapattinam to their itinerary.

This crowd provides enough sustenance for the township’s 5,000 residents, supplementing agricultural income. Shops outside the temple sell all kinds of clothes from photos and images of Goddess Mutharamman, skull necklaces and metal rings, and ‘services’ such as tea shops, restaurants, palmistry and parrot-astrology (where a parrot picks up luck) a card from a stack ) seems to be doing good business – as this writer could attest. This is emphasized by the fact that more shops are being built.

So, instead of being excited about a big project that will put their town on the world map, residents are worried about exactly what a rocket launch station in their backyard will mean for their lives.

Residents have clearly formed their opinions in a vacuum of information and a surfeit of misinformation. Chandrasekaran, who is the voice of hundreds of farmers, believes that when ISRO built a missile launch station in “Andhra” (Sriharikota), “every villager within a distance of 27 km was asked to leave.” The same thing won’t happen here, you ask.

Furthermore, that of Andhra Pradesh was for the government, “for the country.” However, “the one here (Kulasekarapattinam, it seems) belongs to private and foreign players,” Chandrasekaran said. line of business. “Why do we have to give up our lands for the benefit of private and foreign businesses? Are we going to be refugees in our country?”

He wanted to know if the rocket launch station would be radioactive (kadir-veechu in Tamil), but the authorities told him to ask ISRO scientists. “No one is telling us anything. “When they want our lands, they should not tell us what is really happening,” he said.

He tried to organize a demonstration on September 6, but the police broke up the rally “even though we had received permission beforehand.”

Interestingly, Chandrasekaran wonders why the Udangudi plant was built “at a time when Prime Minister Modi has signed an agreement that there will be no more coal-fired power plants after 2035.” Do they build a plant only to destroy it after a few years, he asked.

Ramasubramanian, the Managing Officer of the Mutharamman temple, fears that the project may increase prices—again similar to the image of the Udangudi factory. Ramasubramanian, who lives in Tiruchendur in a rented house, has seen his rent go up in the last few years and blamed the demand from “Udangudi engineers”. The hand lady outside the temple had no idea about the ISRO project, but her husband, a fortune teller, heard that “the place where the rockets are sent” was coming, but “they took our lands. .”

In contrast, Tuticorin is looking forward to the space station. J Celestine Villavarayar, Director, Vilsons Shipping, and Vice Chairman of the local chapter of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), is confident that the local station will bring more businesses and tourists to Tuticorin. The city boasts a large port and its airport is designed – so that it can accommodate a large plane – today, it can only be served by ATRs. However, the city does not have an adequate social infrastructure, rues Villavarayar.

Recently, N Sudheer Kumar, Director, CBPO, ISRO, held a meeting with MSMEs, in Tuticorin, where he said that there will be many opportunities for small businesses. Speaking to line of businessHe said products such as “structures, propellants, sub-systems and electronics” can be made locally.

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