GMR project under attack in Nepal

The ruling Maoists ignored India`s repeated expressions of concern.

Updated: Apr 17, 2011, 13:10 PM IST

Kathmandu: Ignoring India`s repeated expressions of concern at the continued attacks on Indian investment projects in Nepal, the ruling Maoists, supported by minor communist parties, went on the rampage against Indian infrastructure and power major GMR`s hydropower project in farwestern Nepal.

The Maoists, backed by the Nepal Workers` and Peasants` Party and Rastriya Janamorcha Nepal, stormed a public interaction organised by GMR officials in remote Dailekh district on Saturday, destroying the projector and sound system rigged up to provide a demonstration on the company`s work on the 302MW Upper Karnali hydropower project.

The Indian company had called the interaction to explain how work to develop the power project, including a geographical survey, was progressing.

Though the meeting was called at the office of the district development authorities and was being attended by the chief district officer, chief district judge and district police chief, the mob was undeterred, shouting slogans against the company and going on a vandalisation spree.

The senior government officials, scenting danger, slipped out of the emergency exit, leaving GMR officials at the mercy of the crowd.

The Maoists have kept their guns trained on the Indian company, which became the first Indian private sector entity to be awarded a power project in Nepal.

In 2008, a consortium comprising GMR Energy Limited, GMR Infrastructure Limited (GIL) and Italian-Thai Development Project signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Nepal for developing the 300 MW hydropower project on a Build-Own-Operate and Transfer basis after an international competitive bidding process lasting 12 months. The Maoists were part of the alliance government at that time and agreed to the MoU.

The plant is scheduled to be commissioned by the end of 2016.

However, the Maoists are now seeking to scrap the agreement, calling it "anti-national".

The project has pledged 12 percent free energy to Nepal. However, the protesters, citing the prevailing power crisis and daily power outages lasting up to nearly 19 hours, are demanding that all the power generated be used domestically.

But there are complicated political reasons behind the opposition as well. With growing anti-India rhetoric by the former rebels, Indian joint ventures are under mounting attacks in Nepal.

The Maoists, now the largest party in the ruling alliance, are also said to be demanding money and jobs for cadres and resorting to disruptions when thwarted.

The latest attack on an Indian investor comes even as Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna is scheduled to visit Nepal on Wednesday, when he will once more take up the plight of Indian companies with Nepal`s new Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal.