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Stuck Bangla vessels set sail

Dhubri, Sept. 9: Two Bangladeshi vessels carrying a consignment of turbines for the much-opposed Lower Subansiri hydel power project set sail this afternoon after remaining stuck in India for over a year now, triggering fresh protests.

Officials said the consignment would be offloaded at Jogighopa in Bongaigaon district, nearly 120km from here, and then taken by road to the project site at Gerukamukh in Dhemaji along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border.

Several organisations, including the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti and AASU, which have been opposing the dam project fearing it would pose a threat to Assam, have already begun threatening to block the delivery of turbines yet again.

Though the vessels reached Indian waters in July last year, attempts to deliver the turbines were countered by the agitating organisations.

After several failed attempts to reach the site, the vessels were forced to return and drop anchor in May at Bongshichar, where they have been ever since.

The new attempts will also hit a wall of protest.

“We will not allow the turbines to reach Gerukamukh. Our members and supporters will be staging protests at Jogighopa, Guwahati and North Bank. We are ready to sacrifice our lives, if need be, to stop the shipment,” KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi told The Telegraph from Mumbai airport this evening.

He will reach Guwahati tomorrow morning, cutting short his Mumbai visit to address a meeting on September 11 at Anna Hazare’s Ralegaon.

AASU, too, threatened to block the transportation.

Anticipating such obstruction, the administration has deployed a large number of security personnel at Jogighopa riverport, a source in Bongaigaon said.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi had earlier said that even the army’s help would be sought if required.

The two vessels are being guided by another vessel, which arrived two days ago from Guwahati and has night navigation facility.

Dhubri additional superintendent of police Hitesh Chandra Roy said according to government instructions, the vessels were being sent under tight security from Dhubri to Jogighopa. “DSP (headquarters) Dharmendra Gogoi has been deputed to take care of the security aspects and is travelling with sufficient armed personnel in two separate boats,” Roy added.

All the police stations along the river route have been alerted to keep a close watch on the movement of the vessels and keep the DSP updated on anti-dam protests.

For the 15 sailors on board, the resumption of journey is an answer to their Id prayers.

It was their second Id-ul-Fitr away from home. This Id they had prayed in unison that they should return home soon.

During their stay on Indian waters, one sailor died and another returned home.

A source in ABC India Ltd, which was contracted by the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation to transport the turbines, said the monthly rent of the two vessels which was originally Rs 26 lakh has since gone up to Rs 3.5 crore.

Monthly expenditure on food is around Rs 50,000 per month.

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