M A I N   N E W S

Fishermen-police clash claims one life 
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, March 27
One person was killed and several critically injured today when the police opened fire on protesting fisher folk, who were affected by the upcoming Gangavaram Port. The first port to be developed in private sector has run into trouble as the fishermen of Gangavaram village, located 15 km south of Visakhapatnam, tried to disrupt the construction work, demanding a rehabilitation package.

Home Minister K Jana Reddy, who said the police fired in self defence, announced Rs 3 lakh ex gratia to the family of the deceased and free treatment to those injured, besides ordering magisterial inquiry.

Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhra Reddy, who incidentally opposed privatisation of this project when he was the Opposition leader, came forward to hold an all-party meet on the issue of compensation to the villagers on Wednesday. He also assured action against erring officials.

The incident has rocked the ongoing Assembly session with a furious opposition, including the TDP, BJP and the Left parties, squarely blaming the government for the mess. They demanded to immediately stop work on the port till a compensation package was finalised for the affected villagers.

Described as an all-weather, truly deep water, multipurpose port, the Gangavaram Port was awarded to the D.V.S. Raju-led consortium with Dubai Ports International as a partner.

While Gangavaram village was not acquired by the government, the villagers, predominantly from the fishing community, were affected by the project as they have been denied fishing rights in the area.

Interestingly, this village was relocated to its present position three decades ago, thanks to another major project Visakhapatnam Steel Plant.

The district authorities have been dilly-dallying over compensation package to the villagers, even while works on the port have started in full swing in the village. While officials said the election code in force for the Visakhapatnam byelection prevented them from finalising the package, the discontented fisher folk took to the streets and chased revenue and the police personnel from the village on Saturday.

Following the tension in the area, as many as 10 platoons of the police were deployed in the village today. The police imposed Section 144 and tried to prevent the villagers from crossing the checkpoints, leading to the clashes.

The villagers and the police personnel fought pitched battles in which both fishermen and cops were injured.

The police, having failed to control the crowd through tear gas shells, resorted to one round of firing and indiscriminate lathi-charge. As many as 23 police personnel, including a DSP, received injuries. 


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