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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

Organization of Opposition to the Project

In response to villagers’ growing concern, local nongovernmental organizations were formed to protest the Dabhol Power project, including the Enron Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti (Organization to Oppose Enron), and the Guhagar Taluka Enron Vaa Salgana Prakalp Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti (Guhagar District People’s Forum for Opposing Enron and Other Related Projects). These organizations comprise social activists, lawyers, villagers affected by the project, local political figures and other individuals.

In addition, activists and nongovernmental organizations of various political affiliations based in other areas of India observed the developments in Ratnagiri, viewing them as part of a pattern of non-consultative environmentally dangerous “development” decisions. As local opposition to the Dabhol Power project increased, these activists and organizations expressed support for and participated in local demonstrations against the company. Among the national and regional organizations involved were the Bargi Bandh Vistapit Sangathana (Bargi Dam Displaced People’s Organization), Konkan Sangharsh Samiti (Save the Konkan Organization), the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Movement to Save the Narmada River), the Samajawadi Jan Parishad (Socialist People’s Conference), the Sarvodaya Vikas Manch (Organization for the Complete Development of All People), and the National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM).

In 1996, local protests against the Dabhol Power project began in earnest. As described below in Section V, the demonstrators were met with direct repression, and those perceived as protest leaders were repeatedly harassed, both physically and through abuse of the law. In the following section we describe the legal framework under which these abuses took place.

According to Katy Irani, a representative of CITU, and a participant in the district-level protests, the state government’s repressive response to protests was, in part, due to a desire to build confidence with Enron following the suspension of the project. Irani told Human Rights Watch:

Enron was initially skeptical of the [Shiv] Sena government. The civil and political rights violations that occurred under the current government happened because the [Shiv] Sena had to prove that they would safeguard Enron’s interests.100

100 Human Rights Watch interview with Katy Irani, Bombay, January 24, 1998.