Hyderabad, Feb 28 (IANS) Three people were killed and 20 others were injured Monday when police opened fire to quell violent protests against an under construction thermal power plant in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh, police said.
Police opened fire when the villagers attacked them with iron rods, sticks and stones at Vadditandra village of Santhabommali mandal in Srikakulam district, bordering Orissa.
The police opened fire after rubber bullets, teargas shells and baton charge failed to bring the situation under control, a police officer said.
Police claimed that they had to use force when the protesters attacked the power plant at Kakarapally village. Vaddintandra, Kakarapally and neighboring villages turned into battle fields as the rampaging mobs set afire a police vehicle and fought pitched battles with the police personnel.
East Coast Energy Pvt. Limited (ECEPL) is setting up a 2,640 MW coal-based thermal power plant at a cost of Rs.12,000 crore at Kakarapally but the local community is opposing the project on the ground that it is coming up on a wetland and will endanger their livelihood.
The situation in Vadditandra and surrounding villages is highly tense and police are sending additional forces from Srikakulam town.
Villagers alleged that their huts were set afire by policemen by throwing smoke bombs on the habitations.
Director General of Police Aravinda Rao said the trouble started when the protesters attacked the power plant. He told reporters here that he would seek details about the firing.
“We have given strict instruction not to open fire with rifles and use only rubber bullets if it becomes necessary,” he said.
The police chief said rubber bullets do not cause death unless they are fired from close range or hit the head or chest.
Tension was mounting in the areas since Friday when at least 25 protesters were injured in clashes with police.
The villagers, including fishermen, are trying to stop the construction work which resumed last week after a disruption of over six months.
Two people were killed and several others were injured July 14 last year when police opened fire on people protesting against a similar power project by Nagarjuna Construction Company (NCC) at Sompeta in the same district.
Meanwhile, the main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Left parties have condemned the police firing and demanded a thorough probe.
Leader of Opposition N. Chandrababu Naidu alleged that the government was repressing the people. He said the power plant should not be built without taking the views of the local population into consideration.