Vedanta wants to continue business at Thoothukudi plant, says Anil Agarwal

Police personnel baton charge at a protestor demanding the closure of Vedanta's Sterlite Copper unit, in Tuticorin. Photo: PTI
In a big blow to Vedanta Ltd, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) has ordered the closure of the company's Sterlite copper smelter in Thoothukudi with immediate effect. Further, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) working President M K Stalin, who was holding a protest outside the Tamil Nadu secretariat over the Sterlite protests, was detained by the police on Thursday.  

Meanwhile, a plea was moved in the Delhi High Court on Thursday seeking its direction to the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) to visit the location and conduct a separate inquiry into the violence there.   

These developments come after violent protests against the plant, in which 13 people have been killed and more than 70 injured. People in Thoothukudi are protesting against the company's expansion plans for the past few months, alleging that it will further pollute the groundwater and cause serious environmental hazards.  Ministry of Home Affairs has asked for a report from the Tamil Nadu Government.

The authorities have suspended internet services in Thoothukudi. The suspension will remain in force until further instruction is issued by the administration.

Opposition parties have blamed the Congress and the state police for the killing of protestors. The DMK and its allies have called for a dawn-to-dusk bandh on May 25 to condemn the incident.  

Here are the top 10 developments around the Thoothukudi protests over the Sterlite expansion issue:

1) MHA asks Tamil Nadu for 
report on Tuticorin violence: The Ministry of Home Affairs has sought a report from the Tamil Nadu government on the police firing in Tuticorin and the prevailing situation in the town, Rajnath Singh said on Thursday.

The ministry has been in touch with the Tamil Nadu government on violent incidents in Tuticorin and a detailed report has been sought on the sequence of events and circumstances leading to the loss of lives on May 22, an official said

2) 'Vedanta would like to continue business with the 'wish' of the community': Vedanta Chairman Anil Agarwal described as 'unfortunate' the loss of 13 lives in violent protests demanding the closure of a copper factory owned by group firm Sterlite Copper at Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu. In a video message on the social networking site Twitter, Agarwal said the company would like to continue the business at the plant with the 'wish' of the community. At present, the company is waiting for clearance from court and government to restart the plant, which is currently closed for annual maintenance, he added.

"I am very sad to hear the incident... This was absolutely unfortunate. My full sympathy is with the families (of the deceased)," Agarwal said.

Claiming that the company strictly follows what the court and the government orders are, he said,"We always make sure the community and Tuticorin people at large prosper with us."

Saddened by the unfortunate turn of events at Tuticorin. pic.twitter.com/yURUUdlwn3

— Anil Agarwal (@AnilAgarwal_Ved) May 24, 2018

3) Supreme Court lawyer seeks CBI probe, files  writ petition: 

Amid the ongoing anti-Sterlite protest, Supreme Court lawyer, GS Mani on Thursday filed a writ petition in the court seeking registration of an FIR and investigation by the CBI against Thoothukudi Collector, Superintendent of Police and other police officials.

4) Tamil Nadu taking steps to close Sterlite factory:Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K. Palaniswami said that his government was taking all steps to close the Sterlite factory at Thoothukudi after 13 people were killed in protests against it.
Palaniswami told the media that the AIADMK government was taking the legal route to ensure that the Sterlite Copper Smelter plant was shut down.

5) Protesting DMK leaders detained: Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) working President M K Stalin, along with other party leaders who were protesting outside the Tamil Nadu secretariat over the police shooting in Thoothukudi, were detained by the police on Thursday.  

DMK working President MK Stalin, who was holding a protest outside Tamil Nadu secretariat over #SterliteProtests in #Thoothukudi, has been detained by the police. Several others detained too. #TamilNadu pic.twitter.com/Qr3tMyVl6W

— ANI (@ANI) May 24, 2018

Stalin demands CM's resignation: Further, Stalin on Thursday demanded the resignation of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E  Palaniswami and Director General of Police T K Rajendran.  

Even after death of 12 innocent people, no action has been taken against the culprits. CM has become ineffective. He did not bother to visit the dist & meet the people. Therefore, we demand that CM must resign immediately, DGP Rajendran must resign too: MK Stalin, DMK President. pic.twitter.com/suO0U2mOdG

— ANI (@ANI) May 24, 2018

6) Plea in Delhi HC: A Tamil Nadu-based advocate moved a plea in Delhi High Court on Thursday seeking its direction to the NHRC to visit the location and conduct a separate inquiry into the incident, instead of asking for a report from the state police and the chief secretary of the state. The court is likely to hear the petition on Friday.  

A Tamil Nadu based advocate moved a plea in Delhi HC seeking its direction to NHRC to visit the location and conduct separate inquiry into #Thoothukudi violence, instead of asking for report from state police & Chief Secy of the state. Court likely to hear the petition tomorrow.

— ANI (@ANI) May 24, 2018
7) TNPCB orders closure of Sterlite plant: The TNPCB on Wednesday ordered the closure of the Sterlite plant with immediate effect. Following the order, the power supply to the unit has reportedly been disconnected.

Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has directed Dist collector of #Thoothukudi to disconnect power supply to Sterlite Copper’s smelter. Board found the unit was 'carrying out activities to resume production' despite being told not to do so until its licence to operate is renewed.

— ANI (@ANI) May 24, 2018
8) Death toll mounts to 13: The death toll in the Sterlite protests due to firing by police has climbed to 13, according to latest reports. 

Tamil Nadu: Death toll rises to 13 in the firing by police during #SterliteProtests on May 22 & more than 70 people are undergoing treatment. No fresh protest has been reported overnight. Police has been deployed in large numbers in the sensitive coastal areas. #Thoothukudi pic.twitter.com/U2BKMrJAFP

— ANI (@ANI) May 24, 2018
9) Internet services suspended: Internet services have been temporarily suspended in Thoothukudi. The services were suspended on Wednesday from 9 pm onwards and will remain so until further instruction is issued by the administration. 

10) DMK, allies call dawn-to-dusk bandh on May 25: The DMK on Wednesday called for a dawn-to-dusk bandh in Tamil Nadu on May 25. 

According to a statement issued by the DMK, the All India National Congress, the Dravidar Kazhagam, the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the CPI, the CPI(M), the Indian Union Muslim League, the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and the Manithaneya Makkal Katchi will also take part in the protest. 

11) RSS hits back at Rahul Gandhi:The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on Wednesday hit out at Congress chief Rahul Gandhi over his comments on the violence in Tuticorin. "A frustrated Congress party and its president Rahul Gandhi are trying to create more divisions in the society to regain their lost support," RSS national joint secretary Manmohan Vaidya said.

12) Thoothukudi collector, SP transferred: The Tamil Nadu government on Wednesday transferred the district's collector, N Venkatesh, and superintendent of police P Mahendran.

Sandeep Nanduri has been appointed as the new collector of Thoothukudi district. Murali Rambha, meanwhile, will take over from Mahendran as the new superintendent of police of the district.  

13) HC orders stay on plant's construction: Hearing a PIL against the Sterlite factory in Tamil Nadu, the Madras High Court's Madurai Bench on Wednesday ordered that construction work on the second plant of Vedanta's Sterlite Copper at Thoothukudi be stopped with immediate effect. 

With agency inputs