At least nine persons are feared dead after protests against the Sterlite’s industrial plant in Tuticorin district of Tamil Nadu turned violent today afternoon. According to The Indian Express, police resorted to baton charge on protestors after agitators went on a rampage. Reports said that Section 144 was imposed in the region in view of the protest that entered 100 days today. People have been protesting in Tuticorin town against Sterlite Copper’s setting up a unit and are demanding that the industry shut down. Locals have claimed that the levels of pollution have gone up in the region, resulting in adverse impact on their health.
The protest intensified earlier this year after the company announced to expand its unit. The company has been claiming that it has license to expand its unit and has been working according to the rules. Sterlite Copper represents the copper unit of Vedanta Limited and currently operates a 4 lakh tonne unit in the city. The protests turned violent and the police had to resort to lathi-charge as around 20,000 protestors gathered at the protest site and started marching towards District Collector N Venkatesh’s office to press for their demands. Locals had been protesting for last 100 days and had announced that on Tuesday, they will march to the Collector’s office to lodge their protest.
Top developments in the Tuticorin anti-Sterlite protests so far:
1. At least nine people are feared dead and several others injured in clashes after agitators clashed with police which then resorted to lathi-charge to dispel unruly crowds. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami has appealed people to maintain peace. Over 15 severely injured are fighting for life, Indian Express cited top government sources as saying.
2. In March end, the plant was shut down for maintenance work. But the protest intensified when residents were told that the company was expanding its units. Locals have been claiming that the pollution emanating from the factory is polluting the water and environment. They said that water in the region is contaminated, thus the unit should be shut down.
3. Senior state Minister Jayakumar has justified the police action saying they had no option but to open fire as the protest had turned violent. “The firing was unavoidable”.
4. DMK leader MK Stalin has condemned the police’s ‘atrocities’ against the protestors, ANI reported. Stalin said that he was among those who had lent support to the anti-Sterlite protests. “We condemn the police atrocities & violence that took place in Tuticorin during the protest,” Stalin said.
5. Since early morning, the city had wore a deserted look. Most of the shops, offices and other commercial establishments remained shut in view of the protest called by the locals. Heavy police personnel were also deployed in the city to keep a check on the law and order situation.
6. Section 144 was imposed in the city to ensure situation remains under the control of the administration. The Madras High Court had earlier ordered to impose Section 144 to check movement of people.
7. Actors-turned-politicians Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth also expressed solidarity with the protesters and demanded that the AIADMK government take action against Sterlite. Makkal Neethi Mayyam chief Kamal Haasan said that the expansion should not at all be allowed. “If possible it will be good to close down the (existing) unit,” he said.
Rajinikanth had earlier this year tweeted that the government’s nod to the company is beyond his understanding despite so many protests. He had accused the government of not taking effective measures to deal with the situation.