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Dhabhol Power Plant - India
"Many energy companies have invested in closed or repressive countries -- arguing that their investment would help develop the local economy and thereby improve the human rights situation. But in this case, Enron has invested in a democratic country -- and human rights abuses there have increased. Enron hasn't made things better for human rights; it has made things worse." Background to the Protests: Ratnagiri District
Table of Contents

Key Individuals Named in this Report

I. Summary and Recommendations

II. Background: New Delhi and Bombay

III. Background to the Protests: Ratnagiri District

IV. Legal Restrictions Used to Suppress Opposition to the Dabhol Power Project

V. Ratnagiri: Violations of Human Rights 1997

VI. The Applicable Laws

VII. Complicity: The Dabhol Power Corporation

VIII. Responsibility: Financing Institutions and the Government of the United States

IX. Conclusion

Appendix A: Correspondence Between Human Rights Watch and the Export-Import Bank of the United States

Appendix B: Report of the Cabinet Sub-Committee to Review the Dabhol Power Project

Appendix C: Selected Recommendations and Conclusions from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy, May 29, 1995

Appendix D: Correspondence Between the Government of India and the World Bank

Land Acquisition

Land acquisition for the project was particularly controversial because land was surveyed and appropriated for the project without notifying or compensating individuals whose land had been seized. Villagers raised the issue with the company as soon as land was acquired for the project. Apparently, engineers began to survey land for acquisition without telling the owners of their intent. This letter, written by Ashish Suresh Damanaskar, a local farmer, illustrates the process:

I am a resident of Anjanvel village and have come to know of the Dabhol Power Project, the biggest in Asia... I understand that my land too will be needed for this project. Some people have surveyed the land already. But I have not fully understood the details of this project. The others in the village are also equally as ignorant of this project.

I request you to provide me with more information of this project at the above address. It is regrettable that people to be affected by this project are in the dark. I wish that, along with the nation, my village too stands to benefit from this project. Once again, I request you to provide me with this information.80

According to other letters received by the company, engineers began surveying and acquiring land without discussing issues such as compensation or the amount of land with local residents and landowners. The following excerpt is from a letter written by Abdul Mustan, a village leader, on behalf of the Chogale family:

We wish to inform you that the proposed Dabhol Power Corporation project is to be set up on the coast of the Vasisthi river in Guhagar Taluka and 400 acres of land is going to be acquired for this project. The land has been surveyed. We own lands comprised in four survey numbers out of the land surveyed for the project. We have planted mango trees and other fruit bearing trees in this land. We do not intend to give our lands for the project on any terms. We strongly oppose the project if our lands are going to be acquired.81

The DPC’s version of the issues played down residents’ concerns. For example, the March 1997 issue of the company publication, Dabhol Samvad: The Monthly Bulletin of the Dabhol Power Company, looked back blithely:

Early on, some people had started spreading stories how mango and cashew trees will be affected because of the project. Today we have mango and cashew trees growing right around the project site.82

In terms of providing information to local communities, the government was no better than the company. In an interview that appeared in Dabhol Samvad, the chief executive officer of the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation, A.Ramakrishnan, explained that there would be no displacement of villagers, but that agricultural land would be acquired. His explanation was opaque, however:

There will be no physical displacement of people... We are going to take land which is under farming. Land which is under intense farming or used for agricultural activity will not be acquired. Hence, no one will be directly affected.83

In 1997, the company also offered jobs to families affected by the project from 1993 through 1997.84 Villagers found this offer to be inadequate, given that they would lose their primary source of livelihood—agriculture—from land acquisition. Mahadev Satley, employed as an office worker in Bombay, is from Nagdewadi village. He was arrested during a demonstration against the company on May 15, 1997 when police detained and beat demonstrators. Satley explained why a job was less desirable than land:

We are opposed to the project because people [here] are totally integrated with the ecosystem. If there is a family of seven people who work the land, when a project like this comes, only one will be employed, and there is no guarantee of the length of employment.85

80 Letter from Ashish Suresh Damanaskar to the Dabhol Power Corporation, September 23, 1993. Letter on file at Human Rights Watch.

81 Letter to the Dabhol Power Corporation from Abdul Ajij Alli Mustan, October 20, 1993. Letter on file.

82 Dabhol Samvad: The Monthly Bulletin of the Dabhol Power Company, Vol. 1, No. 2, March 1997, p. 1.

83 Ibid, pp. 3-4.

84 Ibid.

85 Human Rights Watch interview with Mahadev Satley, Bombay, February 6, 1998.