Jaitapur project to continue, magisterial enquiry into firing

Home Minister R R Patil told the Legislative Assembly in a reply to an adjournment motion on yesterday's firing incident at the project site that the government was "open" to discussing the contentious issues surrounding the 9900 MW project and find a way out.

Terming as "unfortunate" the death of Tavrez Sejkar in the police firing, the minister said, "A magisterial enquiry into the incident of firing will be conducted as per the standing orders.

"An enquiry will also be conducted whether the violent protests at the plant site and the attack on Sakhrinate police station (on Monday) were politically motivated and part of a pre-planned conspiracy," Patil said while assuring compensation to the kith and kin of the deceased as well as those injured in the incident.

Vowing to ensure that the project sees the light of the day, Patil said, "This project is fully funded by the central government. The state government is committed to clear the doubts and misunderstandings of the locals and if necessary (will) provide enhanced compensation."

Apart from probing whether the firing could have been avoided, an enquiry into finding out whether there was any political conspiracy behind the protests will also be conducted, he said.

Patil, however, defended the handling of the situation by the police, saying that firing orders were given as a "last resort."

Narrating the sequence of events that led to the police firing on the protesters, Patil said intelligence inputs has indicated trouble in the area post the public rally held by Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray in Jaitapur on April 9.

He said that police resorted to lathicharge after the demonstrators attacked Deputy Superintendent of Police Sanjeev More posted at the project site and also pelted stones at three constables.

The mob attacked Sakhrinate police station on their way back from the site as the police posted there foiled their attempt to cause damage to the plant site. The mob then set afire the police station in which wireless sets and some records were also burned, the minister said.

The Home Minister told the lower house that the stone pelting did not stop even after police caned the demonstrators and fired tear gas shells.

"Initially, 48 plastic bullets were fired and later 25 rounds were fired in air out of which four hit the protesters. Three of the rounds hit them below the waist and only one (hit) in stomach of a protester," Patil said.

"There was no intention to kill," he said.

Responding to the contention of MNS and BJP that they were not opposed to the project but to the "high-handedness" of the government to put down protesters, Patil took a dig at Shiv Sena saying, "How can you expect people to support you when your older and younger brothers do not support you?"

Expressing displeasure over the minister's reply, Shiv Sena, BJP and MNS legislators staged a walkout from the Assembly.

Leader of Opposition Eknath Khadse while seeking a judicial probe into the firing demanded a compensation of Rs 25 lakh to the kin of the deceased.

Nawab Malik (NCP) said Jaitapur plant was conceived when Suresh Prabhu of Shiv Sena was Union Power Minister.

He accused the Opposition for changing its stand on development issues to suit its political convenience.

Suresh Jain of Shiv Sena said out of 2300 families whose land had been acquired for the project, 190 families have accepted the compensatory cheques under pressure from the administration.

MNS legislator Bala Nandgaonkar said confusion was created in the minds of people when Union Environment minister Jairam Ramesh wrote a letter to Prime Minister on the environmental concerns of the project and later said in Mumbai that there will be no "rethink" on Jaitapur.

"Home Minister R R Patil should accept moral responsibility for yesterday's firing and resign," he said.

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