By E A S Sarma
Two innocent lives have today been lost in police firing on villagers in Kakarapalli in Srikakulam district. The villagers were protesting against the setting up of a thermal power plant of East Coast Energy in the area.
We addressed several letters to the Andhra Pradesh Government in the past and as recently as on 24th and 25th of this month to note the serious violations of National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA) order by the company and the genuine concerns of the villagers. We requested the State authorities to call the villagers for a democratic way of discussion. The State authorities however failed to heed to our appeals. Today, apart from the two deaths, houses of villagers have been burnt. This should not have happened. It is a black mark on our democratic system.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court, in its landmark order on 28 January 2011, prohibited the diversion of “common lands” such as the wetlands of Kakarapalli for industry or any such purpose. The Court directed that constructions, if any, in violation of this should be removed. The Court directed all the States to comply with this order.
Apparently, the State government has failed to comply with this order. On the other hand, the State has gone one step further and fired upon the villagers, killing them and injuring several of them. It is brutal and non-compliant with the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. We condemn this incident. We hope that good sense will prevail on the state government even at this belated hour and the State will withdraw the police to pave the way for a dialogue on the people’s concerns, the violations by the company and the need to comply with the Court’s direction. They should respect the democratic ways to resolve the genuine concerns of the people.
We firmly believe that the location of the project itself is illegal as the site is in a wetland. It is a highly polluting project and the government is obligated under the law to prove beyond all reasonable doubt to the people that it does not pollute and affect their health, as per the precautionary Principle.
The company started construction work without prior environment clearance under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. This in itself is illegal. The company breached the assurance given to MOEF that it would not retain more than 1960 acres. The company has apparently violated NEAA’s conditions, causing flooding of the adjacent fields and hardship to the fishing community. We believe that MOEF and the State should have scrapped the project long ago, instead of causing this unimaginable loss to the people.
We suggest you also read this blog on Kakarapalli :
(E A S Sarma is the Convenor of Forum for Better Visakha. He has been secretary, ministry of Finance and Power, Government of India. He lives in Visakhapatnam)