Down with protests

Is the Indian government silencing protests against the Enron power project?

Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

the London-based human rights organisation Amnesty International has charged the Indian government with suppressing protests against the us $1.2-billion Enron power project in Dabhol, Maharashtra.

In recent months, villagers and activists protesting against the project - on grounds of corruption, displacement and environmental damage - have been subjected to "harassment, arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment and preventive detentions", according to an Amnesty International press statement. The group has charged that hundreds of protesters including women, have been arrested and temporarily detained by the police since December, 1996.

Enron is the first and the largest foreign investor in the country's power sector. The liberalisation policy and India's urgent need for power drew the corporation to India.But the 2,450 mw Enron project set up jointly with us-based companies, General Electric and Bechtel Inc, has been dogged with controversy. The project agreement, signed by the state's former Congress government, was scrapped in 1995 by the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena coalition which succeeded the former.

This government cited financial impropriety and environmental risks of air and water pollution as reasons for cancelling the deal. It was pointed out that the state would be incurring heavy losses by buying power from Enron at a higher cost. The company's claims of low emissions were also not acceptable. But the state government backtracked and after pressure from the Centre and Enron, gave their clearance.

However, the people of Dabhol have not relented. A public debate between Maharashtra deputy chief minister Gopinath Munde and anti-Enron activists supported by Medha Patkar (leader of the Narmada Bachao Andolan), is expected to be held in Dabhol. Munde told the press, "There is going to be no change in our position." Patkar, on her part has vowed to "expose the government's convoluted logic in reviving the project."

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