THOOTHUKUDI: With Vedanta's appeal to power up its oxygen plant at the now-defunct Sterlite Copper coming up for hearing in the Supreme Court, district collector Dr K Senthil Raj convened a meeting with representatives of some anti-Sterlite agitation movements to elicit their opinion.
Tension prevailed on Friday when the meeting was arranged between 8 am and 9 am. Even as a few anti-Sterlite activists including litigants in the case were called, the district administration chose not to invite legislators and other leaders.
However, members of political parties including MDMK, CPIM, AMMK and Naam Tamilar Katchi resorted to a protest at the campus when police stopped them, and urged that they be allowed inside to register their opinion.
Representatives of different anti-Sterlite agitation movements vehemently opposed unlocking Sterlite Copper to power up the oxygen plant amid a national emergency. The activists said it is a move to reopen Sterlite Copper through the backdoor.
Activist Fatima Babu said that part C of the prayer filed by Vedanta seems suspicious as it seeks that the apex court restrain the state government from interfering further.
Activists M Krishnamurthy said that the Madras High Court had already vindicated the closure of the copper smelter on the grounds of polluting the environment. "It is against nature to think of reopening the plant," he said.
Advocate Hariraghavan said that the oxygen plant can be run if the government takes it over to meet the rising demand.
MDMK party representative Maharajan said there are 27 other industrial complexes in the country that generate oxygen to meet the need of the hour. "Why are they pressing Sterlite Copper to operate its defunct oxygen plants," he said.
During the meeting, the collector explained that the country is in dire need of oxygen to treat COVID-19 patients who are dying for want of it.
There was chaos in the meeting hall as a few representatives supported the reopening of Sterlite Copper and the police evicted them in order to protect them.
Heated arguments erupted in the hall after authorities evicted the press. But public representatives participating in the meeting wanted the media presence to share what was happening with the outside world.
A woman Jeyakani who came in support of reopening Sterlite Copper told the media that she was not given a chance to express her views.
Tight police security under the supervision of SP S Jeyakumar was deployed across the district to maintain law and order as the Sterlite Copper issue is sensitive.
Except a few persons, all others present in the meeting hall objected to the reopening of Sterlite Copper, the collector observed and concluded the meeting, assuring to recommend to the state government not to open the plant.
In a written statement jointly signed by 10 activists, they sought the dismantling of the unit before operating the oxygen plant.
Police bandobast was deployed at sensitive places across the district.
Meanwhile, Thoothukudi MP Kanimozhi Karunanidhi tweeted that the district administration should stress on the public apprehensions in its submission to the court.