Sterlite Copper, the Vedanta Group’s copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi, was sealed on Monday evening, shortly after the Tamil Nadu Environment and Forests Department issued a two-page Government Order for its “permanent” closure.
This step marks a significant setback for the Anil Agarwal-owned VedantaNSE -1.99 % unit, which is at the centre of a violent agitation led by residents who claim the smelter has caused widespread pollution of air and water in the southern city.
Vedanta termed the decision “unfortunate.”
“The closure of Sterlite Copper plant is an unfortunate development, especially since we have operated the plant for over 22 years in most transparent and sustainable way, contributing to Tuticorin and the state’s socio-economic development. We will study the order and decide on the future course of action,” Vedanta, in a statement, said.
The 400,000 tonne a year smelter plant has been idle since March when the company shut it down as part of its periodic maintenance schedule. It has remained shut ever since as protests mounted against it by locals who say pollution from the factory has impacted their health. The protestors also alleged that the plant had damaged the flora and fauna of the region, led to widespread diseases and created health hazards over the years.
The order said, “Under Sections 18(1)(b) of the Water Act 1974, in the larger public interest, the government endorse the closure direction of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and also direct the TNPCB to seal the unit and close the plant permanently.”
The question on everyone’s mind is who passed the order to open fire at anti-Sterlite protesters ?
A total of 13 people were killed and over 60 injured in a violent protest against Sterlite Industries in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothkudi
The directions to open fire at a group of protesters who were demanding the closure of Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper plant came from a government officer in the rank of ‘Deputy Tehsildar’. The detailed FIR on Tuticorin’s violence were accessed on Monday by several media agencies. According to India Today, it was the ‘Deputy Tehsildar’ who issued the orders to open fire after the crowd turned violent.
he lathi-charge and firing were issued by the administrative officer after protestors paid no heed to the microphone warning issued and continued to vandalise public property and were allegedly carrying petrol bombs.
The police had also earlier stated that they were forced to open firing because the protestors refused to back off.
According to an NDTV report, the locals in the area contested the claims in the FIR. Not only was any microphone warning not given, the police did not even use rubber bullets in the beginning, as rules require, they said on condition of anonymity.
DMK chief MK Stalin in a series of tweets had also questioned as to who had ordered the police firing and why were not other means used to avoid fatal injuries.
“At least one should die”
As videos on social media emerged in the days that followed the firing, a video released by news agency ANI, showed a policeman crawling the length of the bus and taking his position. Soon after a voice from the background made a shocking statement: “At least one should die”. A few seconds after the voice, the policeman fires his first shot.
Section 144 which was imposed last week was lifted off on Sunday(27 May 2018) and the Sterlite’s copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi was permanently shut down on Monday (28 May 2018).
Here is what Special Deputy Tahsildar (Election) Sekar said
Based on a complaint from Special Deputy Tahsildar (Election) Sekar, the SIPCOT police registered a case against 400 people. Sekar, in the complaint, said he ordered the police to open fire against rioters. Later, he order the police to open fire when the mob reached the residential quarters of Sterlite Copper employees, the FIR copy says.
Deputy Tahsildar M Kannan admitted to ordering police to open fire at Threspuram
In the FIR filed at North police station, protesters were arrested based on a complaint given by Zonal Deputy Tahsildar M Kannan. The deputy tasildar Kannan admitted to ordering police to open fire at Threspuram. In the FIR filed against the mob at Anna Nagar, Deputy Tahsildar (Excise) Chandran said he order police firing on May 23.
Government officials claimed that police opened fire at the protesters when they reached the collectorate raising anti-Sterlite slogans. A shopkeeper said that he ran out of his shop the moment reports of gunfire were heard. “The protesters hurled stones at the collectorate. I heard the report of gunfire from the highway and later from the collectorate,” he added.