It is a point won by the people of Umbergaon district in Gujarat. Unnerved by the rising public outcry against the proposedRs 1,600-crore Maroli port, California-based multi-national company (MNC) Unocal has pulled out of the project and left its Indian partner Natelco to face the public wrath. On the other hand, member of Parliament of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from Daman, Devji Tandel, also resigned in protest against the government move in persisting with the port survey.
In a statement by Unocal, the MNC said that it was reassessing all its business investments in India and for the moment it was interested only in three projects. However, official sources in Natelco point out that since Unocal was only slated to put up a liquefied natural gas terminal at the port, its withdrawal will not affect the project.
Protests against the port, led by the non-government organisation Kinara Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, grew in momentum when its chief activist, retired Army colonel Pratap Save, was allegedly beaten to death in police custody. Already Unocal was under fire from international human rights activists for its use of forced labour in the construction of a gas pipeline in Myanmar. The public protests against the Maroli port had earned the company unwanted publicity and had further pushed it into the limelight with international activist groups now determined to probe its activities closely. Save's death could have been the last straw.
Almost simultaneously with Unocal's withdrawal from the Maroli project came Tandel's resignation from the BJP. In his letter to the state party chief Rajendrasinh Rana, Tandel said: "It is a considered opinion of the local population that the commercial port will adversely affect fishing activities in the area and I cannot but be with them."
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