Unwilling to anger its dominant ally, the Maoists, ahead of a crucial vote this week, Nepal’s government has refused to take action against the Maoist leaders orchestrating attacks on Indian investments even as the former guerrillas burnt down the site of an Indian power project and threatened three more.
Though a 30-member police team was sent to Dailekh, the remote western district where the site camp of Indian infrastructure major GMR was burnt down Sunday in an unprecedented act of arson and violence, and the energy ministry in Kathmandu condemned the attack, the Jhala Nath Khanal government, however, lacked the nerve to initiate action against the chief of the Maoists’ water resources department, former minister Lila Mani Pokhrel, and the Maoist MPs and local leaders concerned, who have been spearheading the campaign against Indian investors at the strategic level.
Soon after the Dailekh fire, that destroyed three pre-fabricated buildings and saw the employees residing in the camp come under the attack of a mob Sunday, the local Maoist leadership issued a statement, denying any hand in the attack.
However, the denial rang hollow as the same office had been vandalised by the Maoists and two fringe left parties last month as well while GMR officials were holding a public interaction with the chief district officer and other senior government officials, including security personnel.
Besides actually attacking GMR’s camp site for the Upper Karnali hydropower project, which was scheduled to generate 900 MW by 2016, the Maoists have also threatened a second power project undertaken by GMR with a Nepali partner.
GMR is also developing the 600 MW Upper Marsyangdi hydropower project spread over two districts in central Nepal with Himtal Hydropwer, in which it holds 80 percent stake.
On May 6, GMR officials were summoned to Kathmandu for “talks” with Maoist leaders, who said the project licence should be scrapped and a new bid begun in which the new investor should be chosen on the basis of the approval of two-thirds majority in parliament.
The energy act has no such provision and Nepal’s Supreme Court dictated that the awarding of hydropower contracts would not have to be endorsed by parliament.
However, pushing their own agenda, the Maoists have disregarded the law and are also demanding that the 402 MW Arun III hydropower project deal be re-negotiated.
The project was awarded to India’s state-owned Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam.
The Indian investors are being regularly threatened, asked to suspend all activities till May 28, when sweeping political changes are feared, including the possibility of a Maoist-led government.