District Collector cites orders from police fearing law and order problem

Ratnagiri Collector Madhukar Gaikwad has denied permission for the two-day Independent People's Tribunal ‘public hearing' on the Jaitapur nuclear power project proposed to be held on March 6 and 7 at Niveli, one of the affected villages.

Deepika D'Souza of the Tribunal said that Mr. Gaikwad, in a letter on Friday, refused permission as per orders from the police. No grounds for disallowing the meeting were given, she said.

Ms. D'Souza said this was completely illegal especially since the Chief Minister recently addressed a peaceful meeting there. She said the hearing stood postponed as a result of the order and it would be held later.

Two retired judges, A.P. Shah and K. Sampat, were to preside over the hearing along with some experts.

Mr. Gaikwad said the district administration had not got any authority from the State government to attend the hearing. The Tribunal had invited government officials too.

Superintendent of Police Pradip Raskar told The Hindu that the police had submitted a report to the district magistrate and that they feared a law and order problem.

Holding such a hearing would be “like running a parallel government” and the local people had not demanded it, Mr. Raskar added.

Security in the project area has been strengthened with check-posts at entry points and police deployment.

Activists feared that the arrest of Milind Desai and others was an attempt to jeopardise the hearing. Dr. Desai and other activists were given magisterial custody and they plan to apply for bail.

Tough atmosohere

Ms. D'Souza said the hearing would be difficult in an “atmosphere of repression,” but was hopeful it would be held sometime later.

The Tribunal has challenged the collector's order in the Bombay High Court. Ms. D' Souza said the court had asked for a detailed affidavit on the repression in the Jaitapur area. Meanwhile, prohibitory orders were clamped in the area on Friday.