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l June 2004 l

The Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

l Vol 4, No 2 l


Anti-Enron activist Pradyumna Kaul dead

KT News Service

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 markets.

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 Parishad.

As consultant 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 Gujarat.

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 June 14.

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 of support.

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.

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