Anti-Sterlite stir claims two lives, TN calls for shutdown of copper unit

Photo: ANI
Two people reportedly died after police opened fire on protesters demanding the closure of Vedanta's Sterlite Copper unit at Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu on Tuesday. The protest turned violent when agitators started pelting stones and attacked police vehicles after they were prevented from marching towards the plant.

The state government on Tuesday in a statement said that Sterlite plant is operating in Tamil Nadu for over 20 years and that the administration continues to support the stand taken by late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.

On March 29, 2013, J Jayalalithaa ordered the factory to close after people complained of eye irritation following alleged emission leakage.

The company moved the decision to Green Tribunal, which allowed the facility to start operations from May 31, 2013.  Against this order, the state government has filed an appeal at the Supreme Court.

The government will take all legal steps in the matter and asked the people to maintain peace, the statement added.

While the police and the state government have not confirmed news about the firing and the casualties, local reports and political parties have said that two people were killed in the gun fire.

Responding to the allegation, Tamil Nadu Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar said he didn't have any confirmation on the number and that the state government had sought a detail report on the protest.

Police said Section 144 of CrPc had been invoked in and around the Sterlite unit to provide security to it as per the orders of the Madras High Court.

Several were injured after the police resorted to lathi-charge on Tuesday. 

With hundreds of residents and social activists protesting, there is a heavy deployment of personnel in the coastal city. Police were rushed from neighbouring districts of Madurai and Virudhunagar and from Chennai to bring the situation under control.

DMK working president and Leader of Opposition M K Stalin condemned the “police atrocities” that took place during the protest this morning, reported news agency ANI. He is among many political leaders who have lent their voice to the anti-Sterlite protests.

The plant had run into controversy right from the start.

The agitation has now crossed over 100 days and was initiated after Sterlite Copper, which represents Vedanta Ltd's copper business, announced the expansion of its unit. 

The recent protests gathered pace after Sterlite announced plans to invest a further Rs 25 billion, in order to double the capacity of its existing facility to 800,000 tonne per annum, once the expansion was over. 

Earlier in March 2018, the company had applied for renewal of consent to operate (CTO) for its existing Smelter plant at Thoothukudi. The application has been rejected for want of more clarifications after TNPCB found that the factory has not fulfilled some of the major factors including for not submitting detailed groundwater analysis, action not taken to dispose of waste and not built a compound wall to arrest wastewater mixing in the nearby river.

The other allegations include a deadline of hazardous waste disposal which has not been renewed, instead, continue to discharge. Gypsum waste needs to handled as per TNPCB norms, but it was not done as per the regulations.

The company went to National Company Law Appellate Tribunal with an appeal and the matter is posted for June 2018.

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