Sterlite stir: Will take legal steps to close factory, says Tamil Nadu CM

Edappadi K Palaniswami
The Tamil Nadu government on Thursday said it was taking steps to close down the Sterlite factory at Thoothukudi, about 600 km from Chennai. The development comes after 13 people died when the police opened fire on protesters who were demanding the factory’s closure. They alleged pollution from the copper plant was hazardous and affecting their health.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) ordered the closure and disconnection of power supply to Sterlite. On Wednesday, the Madras High Court ordered Sterlite to stop construction of Phase-II of the plant.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami said: “Amma's (former CM J Jayalalithaa) government is taking the legal route to ensure that Sterlite is shut down.”

Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure was imposed to avoid untoward incidents. But, for selfish reasons, the Opposition leaders decided to go ahead with protests, he added. “It is because of this instigation that people died. We are saddened by the deaths,” Palaniswami said.

He said Sterlite had approached the TNPCB in April to continue running smelter but was denied permission keeping in mind the people’s feelings. He said the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government had cancelled Sterlite’s permission during Jayalalithaa’s regime, but the management received a favourable order from the National Green Tribunal that allowed the plant to run. The state government filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the order. The case is still pending.

The Federation of Tamil Nadu Traders Association called for a state-wide bandh on Thursday that received a mixed response. In most parts of Tamil Nadu, except in Thoothukudi and the surrounding areas, shops were open.

The Opposition parties have called for another state-wide bandh on May 25.

The TNPCB in its Wednesday order said to consent to operate was rejected due to non-compliance with certain conditions. However, the Sterlite management denied this and claimed it had complied with the regulations. The board said it had directed the firm to halt production. It alleged during an inspection in May, it found the unit was carrying out activities to resume its operations. It recommended an issue of direction for closure and disconnection of power supply to the unit.

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