Anti-Sterlite protesters demand reconveyance of land, threaten 100-day protest in Tamil Nadu

Activist Gandhi Mallar, president of the party, said the 100-day-protest will begin on January 1, 2023, at A Kummareddiapuram village, where the agitation began in 2018.
The Sterlite copper plant in Thoothukudi (Photo | EPS)
The Sterlite copper plant in Thoothukudi (Photo | EPS)

THOOTHUKUDI: At a time when Sterlite Supporters Federation and Anti-Sterlite agitators have locked horns, Thamilaga Makkal Katchi, a part of the Anti-Sterlite movement threatened to begin a 100-day protest emphasising reconveyance of the 316 acres allotted to Sterlite Copper plant's expansion.

The tension started simmering between the hostile groups after the release of the Aruna Jegadeesan committee report, which indicted 17 police personnel and revenue officials, including bureaucrats, in the police firing incident at Thoothukudi, which killed 14 people.

Activist Gandhi Mallar, president of the party, said the 100-day-protest will begin on January 1, 2023, at A Kummareddiapuram village, where the agitation began in 2018. "All political parties and anti-Sterlite movements will be invited for the agitation in order to mount pressure on the State government to pay heed to the reasonable demands," he said.

It may be noted that since the closure, the supporters of the private copper smelter had been urging the State government to consider reopening the plant on the grounds of unemployment. They provide welfare assistance to the public seeking favour. They alleged that justice was ignored for the Sterlite employees, however, officials say an employment portal was opened for the former Sterlite workers to land them a job.

After Aruna Jegadeesan's report was out, they petitioned District Collector Dr K Senthil Raj stating that the report absolved Sterlite authorities' role in the police firing incident and clamoured to reopen the plant on this ground.

Expressing concerns about the district administration's silence, anti-Sterlite movement leader Raja told TNIE that the Madras High Court vindicated its closure in its August 18, 2020 order, by mentioning all its environmental violations, commission, and omissions. The silence of the district administration emboldens the supporters to speak lies, he said.

Anti-Sterlite Tuticorin District People Movement coordinator M Krishnamurthy charged that the police and the district administrations were biased toward the anti-Sterlite agitators. They have been allowing Sterlite supporters to submit petitions against the State government's policy decision while apparently barring political parties from demanding actions against the policemen indicted in the report, which exposes the contradictions. Allowing demonstrations on a pending case in the apex court must be viewed as contempt of court, he insisted.

Further, the anti-Sterlite people's movement leader Fatima Babu the Aruna Jegadeesan committee was appointed to investigate the police firing incident only and not the violations of the plant. Several cases are pending with regard to pollution and violations. The plant was closed five times for violation of safety and pollution norms by the court earlier, and the plant was reopened in 2013 by paying a `100 crore fine, but the district administration could not recall them to the supporters to stop moving against the government, she added.

A retired police official, on the request of anonymity, said the hostility between the agitation groups may get stronger when the government machinery fails to give an explanation on the issue or address the grievances.

"The State should take necessary steps to address the simmering issues, cast off biased approaches, and nip the hostility in its bud", he said. A senior police official said they are closely watching the developments and actions that will be taken.

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