Thoothukudi victims turn allies of Sterlite Copper, seek reopening of plant

Chennai: In a sudden turn of events, 12 people injured in the Sterlite Copper Thoothukudi firing case in 2018, are now demanding the plant’s reopening. It has not only shocked and surprised the anti-Sterlite protestors but also swelled the pro-Sterlite activists and ranks.

Urging the government to restart the plant immediately, the group also submitted a petition to the Thoothukudi District Collector, D.K. Senthil Raj, arguing that the Justice Aruna Jagadeesan committee report had conclusively proved the Sterlite Copper plant had no role to play in the police firing. Hence, there is an urgent need to reopen the plant.

Other group members also pointed to the fact that there was no proof of the pollution charges against the plant, and the state government gave the plant environmental clearances.

The Justice Aruna Jagadeesan Commission of Inquiry’s report on the Thoothukudi firing, tabled in the Tamil Nadu Assembly on October 18, 2022, had called for legal action against three Tahsildars, 17 police personnel and the then District Collector, N Venkatesh, for inaction, lethargy, complacency and dereliction of duty.

The inquiry report also observed a ‘total lack of coordination between the District Administration and the police,’ and the guidelines mentioned in the Thoothukudi Riot Scheme (guidelines on police action during caste and communal riots in Thoothukudi) were not adhered to.

The report recommended to the Tamil Nadu Government that the compensation to the injured be raised to Rs 10 lakh each against Rs 5 lakh paid. Sterlite extended financial assistance of Rs 2.50 lakh to every injured person as a goodwill gesture.

A specific section of the people in Thoothukudi has kept the pot boiling by continuously accusing the Sterlite Copper plant of the firing for personal interests and have not been allowing the community to move on either from the personal tragedies or towards financial security.

However, public support for the Sterlite Plant has been increasing exponentially as more and more people have realised the insidious attempts by vested groups to thrive on their misery, given the profound financial and economic impact the closure of the Sterlite plant has had on the people of Thoothukudi.

While the villagers around the plant have been petitioning the district collector to open it, people from the town and coastal Tuticorin have also joined in expressing their support.

A few months ago, nearly 20 people, led by Murugan, Secretary, Pro-Sterlite Foundation, had presented a memorandum to Prof S.P. Singh Baghel, Minister of State for Law and Justice, demanding the immediate reopening of the Sterlite Copper Smelting plant.

The Federation, numbering thousands of truck owners, truck drivers, raw material suppliers, contractors, women’s self-help groups, and others dependent on the plant, made a plea for a quick resolution to reopen the plant.

The urgency stemmed from more than 15,000 families losing their livelihood since the plant’s closure. These include port workers, lorry drivers, contract labour workers and sole breadwinning women.

While allegations of environmental pollution are still to be heard by the apex court, the people of Tuticorin have seen through the misinformation campaigns and fake rumours that vested groups have spread to create panic and misguide people on operations and the impact of Sterlite Copper on Thoothukudi.

–IANS

 

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