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Reliance resorts to human rights abuses in Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh amidst illegal arrests

Written By Unknown on Friday, September 20, 2013 | 9:18 PM

Singrauli: September 20, 2013: The arrest of Sati Prasad Razak from Siddhi Khurdha village who heads Sasan Ultra Mega Power Vistaphit Avam Mazdoor Sangh (Union Sasan Ultra Mega Power Affected and Labourers)  on September 18 night by police for planning a mass protest and demonstration against Reliance power plant, which was scheduled for 20th of September 2013 is condemnable.  Late night at almost 10 p.m. police forcibly dragged him out of his house and arrested him without any warrant.

Sati Prasad was working at the Sasan Umpp as a contract labour along with many from the village, who also happened to be the project affected community. Recently, all local labour has been removed from their daily wage labour work at the Sasan UMPP and labour from other states has been brought for the same work. Sati Prasad along with other project affected people had been demanding for permanent jobs at the Project but instead of providing them with permanent jobs, they had been snatched of their daily wage contractual jobs as well. Sati Pasad who belongs to village Siddhi Khurdh along with other two affected people from the village Siddhi Khala, had been raising voice against this and had been planning a protest.

“This is an attempt to suppress the voices of the local communities. Reliance cannot use suppression as a tactic for long. They have to address the pertinent issues raised by the people, about jobs, compensation and health impacts. It’s a shame that the local administration is hand in glove with the company”, Awadhesh Kumar, President of Srijan Lokhit Samiti said.

The lenders for the project are a consortium of almost 14 banks led by State Bank of India, the country's largest bank. The lending was done on a project finance basis and with an estimated project cost of around Rs. 20,000 crores (US$ 4 billion). The international funding institutions that have provided funds for the project are Bank of China, China Development Bank, Export-Import Bank of China ,Export-Import Bank of the United States and Standard Chartered. The transmission and distribution lines for the project are being funded by the World Bank.

Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) is an under construction 3,960 MW pit-head coal-based power plant. Power generated from the project would be sold to 14 procurers in seven states in the country (Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand)

 In the past also, Sati Prasad has repeatedly raised the voice against the high handedness of plant officials and had submitted a letter to District Magistrate on 12/09/2013 stating that a mass protest against the management of Sasan UMPP will be carried out on 19/09/2013, if their demands will not be fulfilled. Their primary demands include:

  *   All the project affected people should be given identity cards for which the Reliance Company had completed the work of taking photographs and details back in 2010.
  *   Secondly, that all affected people who had been working at contractual posts should be provided permanent jobs and that even if the contractual job is over, the onus of providing jobs to affected people should be on the company.
  *   Thirdly, the boundary wall of the Sasan project is being built around the road built under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, and till the people are not adequately compensated for the road, the boundary wall should not be constructed.
  *   Lastly, the affected people who were working as contractual labour have been paid less wages and also their services have been terminated in 2010, their entire amount due should be paid to them.

On 19th of September, in the morning police, led by Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Shri. Nandlal Samrath), barricaded the main plant gate of Sasan UMPP, as an agitated group of villagers marched towards the main gate. He urged the villagers to return back as they could be arrested under section 144 of Indian Penal Code. Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code states, “Whoever, being armed with any deadly weapon, or with anything which, used as a weapon of offence, is likely to cause death, is a member of an unlawful assembly, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.” None of the villagers possessed any weapon and even if Section 141 of the Indian Penal Code, was imposed no such prior announcement was made. On 19th two other people who had been vocal against the atrocities of the company and were a part of the union and instrumental in getting people together for the protest march.

Sati Prasad along with the other two people arrested are in Waidhan police thana and have not been released and the police is refusing to give any information. When some of the people went to inquire at the Waidhan police station where they have been held the only information given was that they will be released only on bail. The police is still refusing to inform about the charges under which they have been held.

This highhandedness of the administration and the nexus of the company and the administration is condemnable. The Samiti demands the immediate release of the arrested and demands that the administration should assist the local community in realizing their rightful demands.

Notably, CBI is probing alleged irregularities based on Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG’s) report are: the appointment of EY (formerly Ernst and Young) as consultant and the manner of rejection of rival ICRA Ltd; the diversion of surplus coal from the Sasan project, resulting in a benefit to Reliance Power Ltd of Rs.29,033 crore; and the decision to allow Reliance Power and Tata Power Co. Ltd to reduce their holdings in the projects to 26% from 51% after two years

A Reliance Power spokesperson has told Mint that, “In pursuance of directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, the CBI is routinely conducting enquiries into all matters covered by the CAG report on coal blocks and allocation. As part of this exercise, it appears the CBI may also be enquiring into the ‘surplus coal from Sasan’.” “The decision of the Union Government on the Sasan surplus coal matter was in fact challenged by Tata Power Co. (TPC) in the High Court of Delhi, and that petition has been thrown out and dismissed, with strictures against TPC for suppression of facts. The use of Surplus Coal from the Sasan UMPP Coal Blocks for power generation has been approved by the Government, through EGOMs (empowered group of ministers) on two separate occasions, once in 2008 and again in 2012,” the spokesperson said in an email.
A senior government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a preliminary enquiry has been initiated “by CBI” and “CAG’s findings have become the terms of reference of this enquiry”.
A second government official independently confirmed that an investigation was on.
A third person aware of the development said that CBI had started its initial enquiry a few months ago.
CBI had mentioned the diversion of coal from Sasan in its report to the Supreme Court last month on the Radia tapes —intercepted phone conversations between corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, ministers, bureaucrats, and executives in several companies. 
The original bidding norms for the power projects said that coal meant for one could not be used for other projects owned by the successful bidder. This was amended to allow Reliance Power to use the surplus coal for a 4,000MW power plant it is developing at Chitrangi in Madhya Pradesh. The firm has committed to sell power generated at Sasan at Rs.1.19 a unit, and plans to sell the power generated at Chitrangi at Rs.2.45 a unit.
“There is also no vitiation of bid conditions, as the same gave the right to the Government to permit use of surplus coal, and stringent conditions have been imposed by the EGOM for use of such coal strictly for the purposes of generation of power, to be sold at prices determined by competitive bidding,” added the Reliance Power spokesperson. Reliance Power has sued HT Media Ltd, publisher of Mint, in the Bombay high court over a 12 May 2010 front-page story in Mint that it disputed. HT Media is contesting the case.

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