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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

Warnings of Protests

The most striking aspect of the letters sent to the company under the rules of the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1948 was that people notified the company that a failure to disclose information on environmental impact and land acquisition could lead to demonstrations against the project. For example, Nishikant Joshi, a director of M.I.D.C., a former member of the Maharashtra state legislative assembly, and the publisher of the Daily Sagar, a local newspaper, sent a letter to DPC detailing steps the company should take to ensure the success of the project. Excerpts of the letter state:

I have received a small folder on [the] Dabhol Power Project which was circulated by the Chief Minister’s Office. This folder gives some technical information but does not answer various questions and doubts arising in the mind of the common man. As the folder is in the English language, it is of no use to the common man. I sincerely wish that a small attractive folder giving information on various aspects of the project will be very effective and helpful to sort out various probable problems in the area. The information should cover the following aspects:—

1. Approx. requirement of land

2. Approx. rate [of compensation]

3. Employment potentiality

4. Procurement of raw material

5. Pollution problems

6. Development activities and public amenities to be provided

7. Ancillary units

The Sterlite Project in Ratnagiri had to face very serious challenges from the local people, for the Company did not give any information about the project and thousands of people started opposing the unit due to fear of pollution. I think your organization should take all the care which will pave the way for [a] smooth start.97

P.K. Dali, the director of a local NGO, sent a similar letter to the company because of dissatisfaction over land acquisition. Dali reported that unless the company addressed this issue, protests were sure to ensue:

In Anjanvel, Veldur, and Ranavi villages, you have started survey work in which you have been resorting to activities like cutting trees, damaging stone-wall compounds, making roads, etc. without prior permission of the concerned land-holders. The land-holders have been put to loss to the extent of thousands of rupees. You are requested to stop this encroachment at once or else the local people will have to start an agitation. You are requested to take immediate cognizance of this letter.98

One letter, written on October 20, 1993 by Gajanan Dixit, a schoolteacher in Ratnagiri district, details the reasons for opposition to the project. Dixit was later arrested in 1997 for his participation in demonstrations against the project. He was one of the men arrested on January 29, 1997 in order to prevent him from participating in a protest on January 30 (see Section V below). His letter to DPC states:

If my lands are to be acquired for [the] Dabhol Power Project, I have objection to the project... I have been trying for the last one month to find out whether the DPC proposes to acquire my lands or not... You have issued a notice inviting objections to the project but the land-holders in the area are not being told whether their lands are being acquired or not. It is necessary to know these details...

The project is bound to bring in pollution and you are bound to say that there would not be any pollution. Please provide for my training in your Veldur laboratory. I hold a M.S. [Master of Science] degree in Chemistry and I can monitor the effects of pollution on the environment and if the report of a local person is placed before the people, they are more likely to believe it. People would then have more faith in you.99

97 Letter from Nishikant Joshi to the chief engineer of the Dabhol Power Corporation, September 25, 1993. M.I.D.C.’s letter on file at Human Rights Watch.

98 Letter from P.K. Dali to the chief engineer of the Dabhol Power Corporation, October 25, 1993. Letter on file at Human Rights Watch.

99 Letter from Gajanan Dixit to the chief engineer of the Dabhol Power Corporation, October 20, 1993. Letter on file at Human Rights Watch.