NAPM condemns the brutal killings and lathicharge on Srikakulam villagers

July 17, 2010

July 17, 2010

NAPM welcomes quashing of Sompeta Thermal Plant Environmental Clearance by NEEA and SHRC Order calling for withdrawal of police and explanation by Collector

Government must scrap PCPIR Proposal and consult people first

National Alliance of People’s Movements strongly condemns the brutal firing of three villagers and ruthless lathi-charge on hundreds of peaceful protesters in the Sompeta Mandal of Srikakulm district, resisting the Thermal Power Project by the Nagarjuna Construction Company, which is to prove a major threat to the livelihoods of hundreds of farmers, fish workers and rural artisans and also irreversibly destroy the fragile ecology in the region.

It is clear that the act of unjust provocation and violence has been the working of the goons let out by the company and the police administration. With a situation of life and death confronted by them, yet determined to save their lands and livelihoods, the people faced the police, but were subjected to severe lathicharge and many villagers, including women and leading persons of the struggle like Krishnamurthy, were overpowered by the police and thrashed on the road. It is also reported that one woman was molested during the altercation.

Responding to an urgent petition filed before it by S. Jeevan Kumar of Human Rights Forum, Justice B. Subhashan Reddy of the A.P. Human Rights Commission yesterday directed the state administration to immediately (within 10 minutes) withdraw the two-thousand strong police force deployed in the area to silence the people’s voices. It also directed the District Collector to furnish a detailed report on the entire issue by July 16th. After yesterday’s killings and brutality, another petition has been filed before the Human Rights Commission today by NAPM and other groups.

National Convenors of NAPM including Medha Patkar, Sandeep Pandey and others activists like Shankar Sharma have strongly reacted to the brutality unleashed on the nature-based communities and shall visit the area soon to express solidarity with the people and stand by their side in their assertion for participatory development and livelihood with dignity. Due to the SHRC intervention and wide-spread support to the people’s struggle, the police has dared not detain any one in its custody. Along with many democratic organizations, NAPM (A.P.) has called for a Dharna at Indra Park in Hyderabad on 17th July to denounce the indefensible firings and a team including activists Ramakrishnam Raju, Ajay Kumar and Ratnam shall visit the place on the 18th July.

The silver lining amidst this dismal scenario is that the National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA) today quashed the environment clearance granted to the Sompeta Thermal Power Plant citing “concealment of information and non-disclosure with respect to the nature of the land” as the reasons. The NEAA also directed that “no new power project be approved in the State of Andhra Pradesh till a survey of all wetlands is completed”.

When the case was listed before the NEAA yesterday, the atrocities were immediately brought to its notice, since the firing was on even at the time of the hearing. Mr. ADM Rao, representing NCC stated that the company was only trying to ‘demarcate the boundaries’ and assured that he will immediately direct the company to stop all construction. It is an act of gross misrepresentation that the agro-rich Sompeta Beela and the surrounding villages have been shown as a barren, degraded waste land and without any ecological value.

The people and the locals are deeply anguished by the events, but have expressed their resolve to strengthen their ‘satyagraha’ and not to budge even by an inch to give away their lands, their beela and their eco-rich life system. The statement by the state government that the people should not come in the way of development is ridiculous and highly unacceptable. If development is to flow from the barrel of the gun and be guided by lathis, resulting only in large scale displacement, destruction of livelihoods and ecology, threatening agricultural sustainability and food security, is such development really needed, the people ask? While on the other hand, the State is the main cause of the soaring inflation, putting the ordinary people to intense distress.

It is also unfortunate that leaders of major political parties who did not, for once, respond meaningfully to the peaceful struggle of the people in Sompeta for almost two years are now trying to show sympathy on the dead bodies, which is nothing more than a vote-gathering exercise. It is also a known fact that the NCC itself, as is the case with many corporate majors, has strong political links with some of these parties and it could not have had its way, without political patronage.

We hope the politicians will not play politics in this hour of pain, but will use this as an opportunity to realise how faulty development policies can only lead to social unrest and immediately initiate corrective actions, cutting across party lines. One major concern in the state is the proposal to have hundreds of similar thermal plans and SEZs in the ‘Coastal Corridor’ spread across 9 districts (as part of the PCPIR), which will wreak havoc across the entire Andhra Coast and displace lakhs of farmers, fish workers and create irreversible ecological destruction. NAPM seeks an urgent political consensus on the PCPIR issue and demands that the entire Project be scrapped.

NAPM also demands the State Government to comply with the SHRC Order and immediately withdraw the police force, stop all land acquisition and construction activity for the NCC Plant, compensate the deceased families and the injured, scrap the PCPIR Project and the undertake mandatory consultation with every Gram Sabhas, before planning and embarking on any Project. People affected by hydro and thermal plants in various states across the country are to meet in Bhopal on the 1st and 2nd August and shall plan to discuss, raise and address the issues related to politics of energy vis-a-vis people’s development needs.

Contact for details:

Ramakrishnam Raju: 09866787299 (Hyderabad)
Madhuresh – New Delhi (09818905316)
Ratnam: 9441319996 (Vishakapatnam)
Shrikanth (09179148973)