The former MLA’s statement comes even as rescue operations continue at the stone quarry in Tirunelveli to rescue three workers trapped after a boulder crashed into the quarry pit.

Ex TN MLA Raviarunan detained while protesting against quarry accident
news TN Quarry Accident Monday, May 16, 2022 - 18:00

After a quarry accident in Tamil Nadu left one labourer dead and at least two others injured, former Tamil Nadu MLA K Raviarunan has sought an inspection at all quarries and has demanded strict action under the Goondas Act against violators. The former MLA’s statement comes even as rescue operations continue at the stone quarry in Tirunelveli to rescue three workers who were trapped after a boulder crashed down into the quarry pit. Six workers employed in a stone quarry were trapped in an over 300-foot deep pit after huge boulders came rolling down at Adaimidhippankulam hamlet. Though three men were rescued from the site, one of them succumbed to injuries and efforts are still underway to safely bring out the other three trapped under.

While addressing the press, Inspector General of Police (South Zone), Asra Garg said that rescue operations are still underway to rescue three workers who are trapped under the debris of the boulders that crashed into the quarry site. “Two persons who are responsible for this accident — the contractor and the manager — have been arrested. We have assigned an IPS officer to investigate this matter further and the police department will arrest all the persons who are involved,” he said, adding that the rescue team has identified one more person amid boulders, but it is very early to say whether the worker is safe.

After the incident, former MLA Raviarunan urged the Tamil Nadu government to inspect all quarries and to take legal action against the persons who violate the norms. "This quarry is located in Adaimithippankulam near Munnirpallam, Tirunelveli, and owned by Shankaran. The contract was closed two months before but the quarry works continued illegally. There are many quarries just running like this in Thoothukudi, Tenkasi, and Tirunelveli,” the former Tenkasi MLA K Raviaruanan alleged, adding that Rs 20 lakhs each should be given as ex-gratia to the family members of the deceased worker, and Rs 10 lakhs be given to those injured. He added that violators at quarry sites should be booked under the stringent Goondas Act.

However, it is to be noted that there has been an indiscriminate use of the Goondas Act in Tamil Nadu. The Act — called the Tamil Nadu Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Cyber law offenders, Drug-offenders, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders, Forest­-offenders, Sand-offenders, Sexual-offenders, Slum-grabbers and Video Pirates Act, 1982 — allows authorities to take ‘habitual offenders’ into preventive detention. However, this Act has been used against first time offenders as well, and any persons that the police want to keep behind bars without making a prima facie case.

On Monday, the former MLA and around 300 others gathered at the Puliyarai check post to protest against the accident. “The detained 50 of us and asked the rest of them to disperse,” Raviarunan told TNM over the phone. He said that roads meant for villagers are being taken over by heavy vehicles deployed at the quarries.

"Our rules are very strict. A village road is constructed for the villagers and their needs only. But in this place, heavy vehicles with up to 80 tonnes use the village roads. It damages the road and disturbs the people living around. Officials should have taken action against this but many officers ignored this and followed the orders they received from influential people,” he alleged.   

He further said that several southern districts have been identified as a Seismic Damage Risk Zone by the state government and the deeper quarry process, with the high decibel boulder rock-breaking method, will lead to an earthquake in the southern district.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, in an official release, had said he has directed Minister for Backward Classes Welfare RS Rajakannappan to supervise the rescue operations. Steps are being taken and they include roping in the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to safely bring the trapped men up, he said. The Fire and Rescue Services officials, along with the local residents, are engaged in the rescue of the other workers.

CM Stalin said action would be taken after an enquiry into the incident and that Rs 1 lakh would be released from the Chief Minister's Public Relief Fund to the injured.

District Collector V Vishnu and Superintendent of Police P Saravanan are monitoring the rescue work. The private stone quarry received the licence in 2018 and it is to be renewed in 2023, Vishnu said. The services of Navy helicopters were sought, but they were not used due to unfavourable conditions, he said. A 30-member NDRF team from Arakkonam joined the rescue operations currently underway.

Also read: Tirunelveli quarry accident: 3 workers rescued, efforts on to rescue 3 others

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