'Police firing in Thoothukudi was pre-planned murder', PIL filed in SC

'Police firing in Thoothukudi was pre-planned murder', PIL filed in SC

Kerry Wise
May 29, 2018

A protester shot during demonstrations against a copper plant in southern India died of his injuries Thursday, officials said, the 13th victim killed by police fire.

Residents have been protesting for months against the plant run by a Vedanta subsidiary, Sterlite Copper. Protestors set fire a local administrator's office and burned more than 110 vehicles, according to police, who responded with batons and tear gas before firing on the crowd.

The Government Order (GO) said it endorsed the recent closure direction of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, and also asked the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to "seal the unit and close the plant permanently".

The plant, about 600 kilometres (375 miles) south of Tamil Nadu's state capital Chennai, is now closed as Vedanta's Sterlite Copper subsidiary seeks a new licence so it can be expanded.

The Sterlite Copper plant was sealed today by Thoothukudi District Collector, Sandeep Nanduri.

Meanwhile, the protests which have been on for almost 100 days, took a turn for the worse when protestors began ransacking and putting vehicles and public property on fire.

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

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"The police have a duty during protests to maintain law and order, but lethal force can only be used if there is an imminent threat to life", said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director.

Two more people were killed in another round of clashes on Wednesday between police and protesters, taking the toll to 11.

Earlier in the day, deputy chief minister O. Panneerselvam visited Thoothukudi.

However, the TN Pollution Control Board has rejected the company's application to renew the license to operate the plant beyond March 2018.

"Certain vested interests will prefer India to remain import dependent and use our country as their market, making India spend hard-earned foreign exchange and lose millions of jobs", he said, in reference to a court-ordered stoppage of iron ore mining in Goa state, the campaign against the Thoothukudi copper plant and a shortage of bauxite for an aluminum smelter.

The police action had received widespread condemnation from Opposition parties as well as worldwide human rights bodies. The company moved the Appellate Authority against this, and the next hearing is on June 6. Residents living in towns and villages nearby have long alleged that the plant had damaged their health, water, and environment.

In 2013, the Supreme Court took cognisance of the pollution from the existing plant and fined the company Rs 100 crore for the environmental damage it had caused between 1997 and 2012.