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Tuticorin protests: Environment minister says clearance for copper plant granted by previous govt

The protest over Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper unit took a violent turn on Tuesday when stones were pelted by agitators and police vehicles were toppled after they were prevented from marching towards the plant.

india Updated: May 25, 2018 23:05 IST
Malavika Vyawahare
Malavika Vyawahare
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Tuticorin,Sterlite protests,Sterlite
Members of the Darvida Munetra Kazhagam (DMK) political party and opposition groups clashes with police during a protest against the killings of protesters in Tuticorin, during a protest in Chennai on May 24, 2018. (AFP Photo)

Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan on Friday sought to blame the previous government for the ongoing protests against the Vedanta Resources’ Sterlite copper plant in Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu.

Demonstrations opposing the plant and its proposed expansion came to head this week and police firing on protesters claimed 13 lives. “I am not for or against the demonstration,” Harsh Vardhan said. “I just returned today morning. I asked my officers to look into it.” He was returning from a summit in Malmo, Sweden. “All this has happened in the tenure of the last government,” he said.

“The environmental clearance for the original plant was granted in 1995 and three expansions have been approved of different capacities in 2004, 2007, and the latest in 2009, ” a senior ministry official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said. “There has been no expansion thereafter.”

The official added that the clearance granted to Sterlite Copper in 2009 for expansion is valid for 10 years. “If you don’t complete the expansion, you have to apply again. The first seven years it is in auto mode, then you report to the ministry that you are still trying to expand, so you get an additional three years,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Friday asked an advocate, who has filed a petition seeking a court-monitored CBI probe into the deaths of protesters during the anti-Sterlite rally, to mention the matter for urgent listing on Monday 28. The plea has also sought registration of an FIR for the alleged offence of murder against the Tuticorin collector, the superintendent of police, and other police officials.

In a separate case, the Delhi high court left it to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to decide a lawyer’s representation for an independent probe into the deaths. “Let the represenation be placed before the NHRC for directions on May 29,” the court said and disposed of the plea by advocate A Rajarajan.

Kanimozhi detained during protest

DMK leader Kanimozhi was among those detained during the bandh called by the main opposition party against the deaths. She said the Palaniswami-led government had become “bloodthirsty” and the CM should be held responsible for the deaths.

First Published: May 25, 2018 18:09 IST