Stiff opposition from Naxalites may delay the expansion of Damodar Valley Corporation’s (DVC) Rs2,000 crore power plant at Chanderpura in Jharkhand, which is expected to ease chronic power shortage in the region.
“There is a lot of threat to our engineers from Naxalites,” said K. Ravi Kumar, chairman and managing director of Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (Bhel), which won an engineering, procurement and construction contract for the 500MW expansion project in June 2004 on a turnkey basis.
Hurdles aplenty: Bhel chairman and managing director K. Ravi Kumar says there are problems with land acquisition as well.
“There are problems in land acquisition as well. Until and unless these are taken care of, we cannot go ahead with the project,” Kumar said.
Bhel’s project office was burnt down thrice, allegedly by local people who had the backing of Maoist rebels. The company’s project managers have been threatened and manhandled several times, said a Bhel executive, who did not wish to be identified.
However, Pravin Kumar Toppo, deputy commissioner of Bokaro district, said, “Though a large part of the district is Naxalite-affected, the charge of them stalling work at Chanderpura is baseless. There were some problems with Bhel that involved locals and were on account of employment issues. All that was later sorted out.”
Asim Kumar Burman, chairman of DVC, did not respond to telephone calls asking for comment.
Chanderpura thermal power station, located in the Bokaro district of Jharkhand, currently has an installed capacity of 390MW.
DVC has a power generation capacity of 2,604MW through its thermal and hydroelectric power projects.
Projects in Jharkhand have had their fair share of problems due to Naxalite threats. Mint had reported on 4 July that the government’s proposed 4,000MW power project in the state was under threat from them.
“This will affect power projects in the state to a great extent. It will affect coal mining for the projects as well, be it the coal pit-head projects, or even for those projects for which the coal is transported outside the state,” said Anish De, chief executive officer of Mercados Asia, an energy consulting firm.
Jharkhand has large coal reserves, making it an attractive destination for power companies. India has 256 billion tonnes of coal reserves, of which around 455 million tonnes are mined every year. Of this, Jharkhand accounts for the highest concentration of coal reserves at 28.95% of the total, followed by Orissa at 24.60%.
The Maoists, also known as Naxalites, routinely call strikes, attack government property, and target industrial projects.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist rebellion, which spans many states, as the single biggest threat to the country’s internal security.