Thoothukudi protests: TN government endorses permanent closure of Sterlite plant

29 May 2018, 12:40 | Isaac Mcdaniel

Police in south India accused of mass murder after shooting dead protesters

Indian police kill 12 in protest over copper plant

Violence broke out on May 22 during protests demanding the closure of the factory over pollution concerns and police opened fire, resulting in the death of 13 people. According to police and government, the protesters pelted stones at the policemen and also set their vehicles on fire.

In 2013, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board directed Sterlite to temporarily shut down its copper plant following allegations of a gas leak.

No 72 dated May 28 said it was brought to the notice of the government that the TNPCB did not renew the consent to operate to MS Vedanta Limite, Copper Smelter Plant, SIPCOT Industrial Complex, Thoothukudi in its order dated April 9, 2018.

Later, slamming the police action, Stalin demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Edappady K. Palaniswami and state police chief T.K. Rajendran.

In addition to a CBI probe in the matter, the petitioner also prays for compensation to be awarded to the kin of those who lost their lives in the police firing, as well as to the victims who sustained serious injuries.

What's different now is the scale of the agitation-over 100,000 people have reportedly participated in the protests-since various stakeholders, including the central and state governments, haven't responded to residents' demands.

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Plans to double its capacity are also under threat after a local court delivered an interim order staying the expansion until a further hearing, to be held by September 23, Vedanta said Wednesday.

Rahul Gandhi, the national leader of the opposition Congress party, has called the deaths "a brutal example of state-sponsored terrorism".

Agarwal, who holds a 71.4 percent stake in Vedanta, told the Financial Times in an interview published on Wednesday that he plans to step back from running the company.

The protests intensified after Vedanta, owned by an Indian billionaire but with its head office in London, sought to double the 400,000-tonne annual capacity of the plant.

Outrage over the police killings grew on Wednesday, and was fuelled by a video showing a plainclothes police officer boarding a bus and firing his rifle at protesters. "I would like to make it clear that Sterlite plant will be permanently shut", Panneerselvam said. The company moved the Appellate Authority against this, and the next hearing is on June 6.

"This can lead to investors becoming more conscious against investing in the company which can hurt long term sustainability of some of the businesses", said Shriram Subramanian, managing director of proxy advisory firm InGovern, adding that the violence in southern India suggested they weren't listening to concerns about the environment and health issues. They believe emissions from the plant have been polluting the air and water in the region, and residents have been complaining of multiple illnesses allegedly caused due to the presence of a polluting smelter in the town.

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