3 killed in protests against power plant in Andhra (Second Lead)

Monday, February 28, 2011

HYDERABAD - Three people were killed, scores were injured and several houses were destroyed Monday when police opened fire against villagers protesting an under construction thermal power plant in Andhra Pradesh.

A war-like situation prevailed in Vadditandra, Kakarapally and surrounding villages of Santhabommali mandal of Srikakulam district bordering Orissa, as police used heavy force to quell the violent protest.

Sitting on the debris of their houses, women and children were seen crying while some others tried to salvage whatever they could from their damaged houses.

Villagers alleged that their houses caught fire when police hurled smoke bombs.

The situation in the villages remained tense till late Monday evening.

According to a police official, police opened fire when the villagers attacked them with iron rods, sticks and stones. Teargas shelling and baton charge had failed to bring the situation under control.

Police claimed that they had to use force when the protesters attacked the power plant at Kakarapally village. The villagers resisted police attempts to disperse them and tried to chase them in the open ground.

They set afire a police vehicle and fought pitched battle with them.

The policemen regrouped and used the force to control the situation. The villagers alleged that some policemen did not even spare those injured in the firing, dragged them and dumped them into bushes.

East Coast Energy (ECEPL) is setting up a 2,640 MW coal-based thermal power plant at a cost of Rs.12,000 crore at Kakarapally, but the local community is opposing the project on the ground that it is coming up on a wetland and will endanger their livelihood.

Director General of Police Aravinda Rao said the trouble started when the protesters attacked the power plant. He told reporters here that he would seek details about the firing.

“We have given strict instruction not to open fire with rifles and use only rubber bullets if it becomes necessary,” he said.

The police chief said rubber bullets do not cause death unless they are fired from close range or hit the head or chest.

Tension has been mounting in the areas since Friday when at least 25 protesters were injured in clashes with police.

The villagers, including fishermen, are trying to stop the construction work which resumed last week after a disruption of over six months.

Two people were killed and several others were injured July 14 last year when police opened fire on people protesting against a similar power project by Nagarjuna Construction Company (NCC) at Sompeta in the same district.

The main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Left parties have condemned the police firing and demanded a thorough probe.

Leader of opposition N. Chandrababu Naidu alleged that the government was repressing the people. He said the power plant should not be built without taking the views of the local population into consideration.

ECEPL said it was pained over the incidents.

“We are deeply pained at the unfortunate incidents that happened today (Monday) in Srikakulam. The company is committed to the sustainable development and is working wholeheartedly with the state government to restore normalcy in the area,” said a statement from the company

According to the statement, the project received all mandatory and regulatory clearances. The use of super-critical technology results in reduced coal consumption and emission of green house gases besides giving higher net plant efficiency, it claimed.

The first two units (2×660 MW) under Phase I are scheduled to be commissioned in mid-2013 and other units thereafter.

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