Sompeta in Srikakulam, where infrastructure major Nagarjuna Construction Company (NCC) is setting up its flagship thermal power project, has turned into a war zone.
At least four people died in police firing and at least 100 are injured, said people in the area.
Government officials, however, have put the death toll at two for now while another two are said to be critical.
NCC has been making arrangements for setting up a 2,640 mw thermal power project in Sompeta with an outlay of Rs 12,000 crore. However, the residents of the neighbouring villages have been opposing the project due to the worries about pollution.
The villagers have been making it clear that the thermal power project would fill the neighbouring fields and villages with ash and
would also displace several fishermen families.
However, the company has sought all the required permissions for setting up the project and on Wednesday went ahead to lay a foundation stone for the project.
Provoked by the company’s attitude to go ahead with the project, thousands of villagers staged protest at the project site.
Soon, the protest developed into a clash between the police and the villagers. As the police tried to disperse the crowd, the villagers resorted to counter attack by pelting stones on the columns of police deployed at the site.
According to Sowmya Mishra, DIG, Visakhapatnam Range, police had to open fire as agitators started attacking them.
The mob set on fire police vehicles and pelted stones in which several policemen were injured. Some media persons were reportedly hurt in the incident.
According to officials, four persons died following the police firing.
The state Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has sought a detailed report on the episode from Srikakulam district authorities.
Meanwhile, the opposition parties in the state cornered the ruling Congress party in the Assembly on the issue and almost all the opposition leaders have been suspended from the service of the house on Wednesday.
Chief minister K Rosaiah, who was on a two-day tour to Delhi, is expected to conduct an emergency review meeting on the issue late on Wednesday.
However, sources said, the police continued to search villagers for alleged trouble makers and the situation was still not under control in Sompeta till late evening.
NCC, which is one of the leading infrastructure companies, has been arranging funds too for the project and has tied up for coal from Mahanadi Coal Fields with a plan to import about 30% of the coal required for the project.
The developments leading to the death of four villagers have now turned the situation for NCC hostile and there are bleak chances of the company going ahead with the project at least for now.
However, a company spokesman said that there was no plan to lay any foundation stone at the site on Wednesday except for setting up some granite markers to earmark the land for the project.
According to him, the company acquired about 972 acres from the government and another 573 acres from private land owners for the project. “NCC will address the genuine concerns of the local population before setting up the power plant. The company is also open for any dialogue with the parties concerned to clear their apprehensions,” he said.