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Tamil Nadu bandh: DMK leader Kanimozhi detained during Sterlite protest, says govt is bloodthirsty

DMK-backed bandh in Tamil Nadu has been largely peaceful so far, Police officials say situation in Thoothukudi is under control.

india Updated: May 25, 2018 16:49 IST
Agencies, Thoothukudi
Sterlite plant,Sterlite plant pollution'Tuticorin,Thoothukudi
The DMK and Congress workers in Chennai’s Egmore during the Tamil Nadu bandh called to protest the deaths in police firing on people protesting against theSterlite plant in Thoothukudi.(ANI photo)

DMK leader Kanimozhi was among those detained during the Tamil Nadu bandh called by the main opposition party to protest against the 13 deaths in police firing on people protesting against the Sterlite plant in Thoothukudi.

Kanimozhi told reporters that the Edappadi K. Palaniswami-led government has become “bloodthirsty” and the chief minister should be held responsible for the deaths.

“The CEO of Sterlite has said that they will not shut down. Today, people are dying there, but the government has done nothing,” she added.

Several other parties, inlcluding the Congress, are backing the bandh.

Ten people died on Tuesday when their protest against the construction of a new smelter by the Sterlite Copper turned violent in the coastal city. Three more people died on the following day.

The Tamil Nadu government said on Thursday that it was seeking a permanent closure of a big copper smelter run by London-listed Vedanta Resources after 13 people died in protests demanding the closure of the plant on environmental grounds.

“The government’s position is very clear, it doesn’t want the plant to run,” said Sandeep Nanduri, District Collector of Thoothukudi, after a meeting with senior state government officials.

Other state officials confirmed the government’s position.

On Tuesday, police opened fire on protesters demanding that the smelter in the port city of Thoothukudi be shut down. In all, 13 protesters have been killed this week.

Residents and environmental activists say emissions from the plant, India’s second biggest, are polluting the air and water, affecting people’s health.

Meanwhile Superintendent of Police Murali Rambha said the situation in the area was under control, “The town is calm now and situation is under control. Sufficient number of police has been deployed to maintain the law and order. We are working towards restoring hotels and markets,”: he said.

Earlier on Thursday, authorities cut the power to the smelter. The pollution control board of Tamil Nadu said the smelter, which was shut pending renewal of its operating licence, was found last week to be preparing to resume production without permission.

On Thursday, Vedanta’s Indian stock closed down 2 per cent.

A company spokesman did not immediately respond to a Reuters’ email seeking comment on Tamil Nadu’s closure plan and the allegation that it had been preparing to resume production without approvals. Vedanta has previously denied that the smelter has been polluting the air and water.

“The issue of renewal of consent for the year 2018-2023 has been rejected ... due to non compliance of certain conditions,” the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) said in an order dated Wednesday.

It did not elaborate on the conditions the smelter had not met but said it “shall be disconnected with power supply and closed with immediate effect”.

The agency told Vedanta it could not resume operations without permission.

The plant has already been shut for more than 50 days and had been ordered to stay closed until at least June 6, pending environmental clearances.

First Published: May 25, 2018 10:29 IST