Over 900 cadres of the Communist Party of India led by State secretary D. Pandian were arrested when they went on a procession to lay siege to the corporate office of the Neyveli Lignite Corporation at Neyveli on Thursday.

They raised slogans urging the Centre to allot all the electricity generated by the NLC and the Kalpakkam Atomic Power Plants to Tamil Nadu till the State tides over the power crisis. Earlier, Mr Pandian addressed the cadre at the Periyar statue in the Neyveli Township.

Justifying the protest, Mr Pandian said that the CPI’s action should not be construed as competitive politics. The party had embarked upon such a move to mitigate the sufferings of the farmers and the industries.

He recalled that when lignite deposits were detected in Neyveli the Communists moved a resolution in the Tamil Nadu Assembly to seek the technological support of the erstwhile East Germany to tap the lignite source for electricity generation.

Mr Pandian pointed out that the Tamil Nadu farmers were facing the twin problem of water and power shortage. The industries too could not operate to their full capacity and this in turn had affected the livelihood of the labour force.

He noted that the farmers of Neyveli parted with their land, bearing rich reserves of lignite, for setting up of the NLC. But for want of water and electricity the standing samba crops were withering.

Otherwise, the multinational companies that had set up their production units in Tamil Nadu by virtue of the agreements signed with the erstwhile Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam were getting uninterrupted power supply. And the trend continued with the incumbent All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government too. For instance, a multinational company that was investing Rs 250 crore in Tamil Nadu was assured of round-the-clock power supply.

Mr Pandian wondered whether the State government could give the same kind of assurance to the households too. He underscored the point that the problem with electricity generation was that it could neither be stored nor hoarded and whatever electricity generated ought to be consumed on a day-to-day basis.

He said that though Tamil Nadu could buy power from the other States such as Maharashtra and Gujarat to ease the power situation it could not do so for want of transmission lines. Owing to the Centre’s indifference such a problem continued to exist from 1947 to 2012.

Since the CPI was keen on solving the problem on a humanitarian basis it was resorting to such a protest. It was its earnest plea that the Centre should relax the power sharing agreements of the NLC and the Kalpakkam Atomic Power Plants with other States to ensure that the entire power generated by both the companies was immediately made available to Tamil Nadu till the power situation eases in Tamil Nadu, Mr Pandian added.

Party MLAs Arumugham, Ponnu Pandian, Lingamuthu and Ulaganathan, State deputy secretaries Mahendran and Palanisamy, State executive committee member T. Manivasagam and others participated.

A large posse of police personnel blocked the rally well ahead of the NLC corporate office and took them into custody. By evening, all of them were let free.