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Friday, November 27, 2009

OPG's Divide and Rule ploy defeated as Court decides not to withdraw PIL

UK Based OPG Group has been trying to illegally start construction on a power plant in Bhadreshwar village in Mundra coast. British company OPG Power Ventures Plc, or OPG as it is known, has also been accused of breaching environmental laws and being complicit in violations against local people in India. OPG, a power-supply company is planning to build a 300 MW coal-powered power station on the Mundra coast of the State of Gujarat. The Mundra coast is known as an ecologically-sensitive zone, with an abundance of mangroves, corals, and wildlife. The coastal waters also provide the source of income for the ten thousand fishermen who live within 5kms of the proposed plant.

Fisher-folk of Bhadreshwar village had approached the Gujarat High Court in August regarding the OPG Power plant issue. In their PIL, they had explained how the project is not in public interest and the company has been providing false and misleading information to the public/ Govt authorities. They also alleged that the company has been trying to start construction work illegally even without the mandatory Environmental Clearance and the district administration has remained a mute spectator to the company's violations inspite of repeated complaints from fisherfolk and other local communities. The fisher-folk have prayed that the Hon. High Court put an end to all these illegal activities of OPG group.

Realising that their game in Bhadreshwar is about to end, the OPG group has been allegedly resorting to various unfair and unethical means to subdue the fisherfolks' struggle.

Several fishermen, including those who were not present during the clashes in August, have been falsely implicated in criminal cases and jailed for over 2 months.

In the second week of Nvomenber, the president of the Kutch Zila Machimar Association, Suleiman Ali, wrote to the fisherfolks' advocate and 11 other authorities, including the OPG company asking for withdrawal of the PIL. Quoting him from his letter(written in English), "I have come to the conclusion that the scope of the OPG Power project at Bhadreshwar and the implementation and the operation of the project will not effect any fishermen and / or members of our association and people living in Bhadreshwar and surrounding villages and their villagers". Fishermen wonder, who wrote this letter in Corporate Style English for Suleiman Ali who doesn't know English.

Angered by this letter, fishermen representatives attended court yesterday(26th Nov) and submitted an affidavit saying that their PIL needs to be pursued in the interest of 23,000 people. Quoting from one of the affidavits, "I have come to know that our President Shri.Manek Haji Suleiman Ali has, against the inteest of about 23,000 people, joined hands with OPG Company and written a letter asking for withdrawal of the PIL. We have not given any authority to Sulieman Ali to withdraw the PIL. The people of our village are against OPG Power project. All of us want to pursue the PIL in the interest of justice and interest of village people"

During the hearing, the Government Advocate(on behalf of Kutch Collector) court submitted Suleiman Ali's letter and argued that the PIL be withdrawn. But, the court accepted the Fisherfolks' argument that the company was trying the "divide and rule" ploy and one man's betrayal cant stand in the way of larger public interest and the lives and livelihoods of nearly 23,000 people. Favoring the fisherfolks' plea to allow the PIL to continue, the court has issued notices to all respondents, including OPG.