There was no other option for the police on that fateful day outside of the Sterling Copper plant in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu. After all the options had failed, the order to the police for firing upon the protesters – that killed 13 protesters near Vedanta group’s copper plant, was given by a relevant government official, said media reports.
According to the FIR filed on the day of the violent protests and the police firing, a government official named Sekhar was identified as the person who allegedly gave the orders in Tuticorin, on May 22 for police firing after the protests turned violent. Sekhar is the deputy tehsildar of Thoothukudi and the FIR says that he had admitted that he had ordered the firing to maintain law and order.
The authorities had made announcements to the protesters hat they should stop violence or else force would be used against them, according to Sekhar. But the mob did not pay any attention, Sekhar said. Then he ordered the lathi charge and firing of tear gas shells after that protesters attacked the police. But the violence continued and when all these measures proved incompetent, the last option remaining was ordering a police firing.
A petition was earlier filed by environmental activist Fathima Babu against the plant. In response to the petition, Madras High Court had on May 23 stayed the expansion of the Vedanta’s copper smelter plant in Tuticorin.
The Centre should submit a report within four months after holding a public hearing in the district to request public opinion on the plan for expansion, the court ordered.
Following wide spread criticism of the police firing, Chief Minister K Palaniswami had ordered the state pollution control board on Monday to seal and “permanently” close the plant, in respect to the ‘sentiments’ of the people.
He said, “in deference to the opinion and sentiments of the general public, it was decided to close down the Sterlite plant and a Government Order has been issued today.”
The move was described as “unfortunate” and in deference to the ‘sentiments’ of the people, said the Vedanta group. The company would decide on the future course of action after studying the development, it said.
The State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu Ltd (SIPCOT) said in its communication to the Vedanta group that “as the allotment of land for the proposed expansion has been made by SIPCOT, in larger public interest, the land allotment made by SIPCOT for proposed expansion of copper smelter plant (Phase-2) by Vedanta Ltd is hereby cancelled.” It said “the land price collected for the said land allotment will be refunded as per the norms of SIPCOT.”
The company faced series of agitations from the very first day of the copper plant at the SIPCOT industrial complex in Tuticorin, about 600 km from Chennai, on concerns about the pollution caused, it added.
“The cancellation of allotment of 342.22 acres of land has been made in larger public interest and this has been communicated to the company,” an official statement this at Chennai.
(Adapted from TheHindustanTimes.com)