activist Pradyumna Kaul dead
Pradyumna Kaul, one
of India's vociferous critics of bankrupt US-based energy firm
Enron's Dhabhol power project in India, has passed away.
He was one of the earliest and most consistent critics
of the power project.
Mumbai-based Kaul, 54, who was in Delhi on
a holiday with some of his family members, died Monday. He was
cremated the next day in Mumbai at a ceremony attended by family
members and friends.
An alumnus of the premier Indian Institute of Management-Calcutta,
Kaul was widely regarded as an expert on power sector and capital
In his capacity as the convenor of Enron
Virodhi Andolan (Anti-Enron movement), Kaul fought bitter battles
against the energy company both in and out of the courts.
Mr Kaul was a regular face at court
hearings against Enron and intervened frequently on behalf of
consumers at various tariff hearings at the Maharashtra Electricity
Regulatory Commission against power companies including MSEB, Tata
Power and Reliance Energy.
Enron's 2,184-MW power plant in Maharashtra has been lying idle
since May 2001, when the US firm shut it down after the project's
sole customer, the loss-making Maharashtra State Electricity Board
refused to clear dues.
In the long drawn battle, he worked
closely with energy expert S R Paranjpe and NGOs -- Prayas and
Mumbai Grahak Panchayat.
A close associate of Medha Patkar and
others of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, Kaul was a meticulous
researcher and documenter. For years, he tracked the Dabhol power
project in which the now defunct Enron Corporation was a principal
player. Kaul questioned the financial arrangement between the
Maharashtra Government and the multinational consortium headed by
Enron and exposed the absence of transparency in the negotiations.
He was an invaluable source not just to those campaigning against
the Enron-backed power project but also to dozens of journalists
writing on these issues.
He was also closely associated with
former Maharastra Home Minister, Bhai Vaidya’s, Samajwadi Jan
to the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust
workers’ union, he strongly opposed the decision to set up new
container terminals with private sector participation.
In 70's, as
a youth, Kaul actively participated in the
"Nava Nirman Andolan" against the corruption, in
Indian Express columnist, Sucheta Dalal, writing in her
column, Different Strokes, says:
The Enron imbroglio continues to haunt
Maharashtra and the government of India, but anti-Enron activism has
been dealt a body blow with the untimely demise of Pradyumna Kaul on
Kaul, an IIM Kolkata alumnus, was probably the
most knowledgeable activist in the battle against Enron and its main
strategist. Whether it was briefing the politicians who supported
the anti-Enron movement, strategising legal battles against powerful
adversaries, making technical presentations to numerous inquiry
commissions, ripping apart private sector tariff claims before the
Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission or providing constant
updates to the media — Kaul was a one-person resource centre.
But few knew his deep involvement with the
Narmada Bachao Andolan, until an inconsolable Medha Patkar, with
tears streaming down her face described his role as a strong pillar
The biggest losers in Kaul’s death are ordinary
people. To stand up to the private sector’s galaxy of highly paid
experts advocating the increased privatisation of utilities such as
water, electricity, roads requires a combination of guts, knowledge
and technically savvy.
Kaul had what it
took, and there are very few like him around.