Years of protest by the people of Thoothukudi culminating in the May 22 incident that claimed the lives of 13 protestors has finally reached its goal. Tamil Nadu Government on Monday issued an order to permanently close Sterlite’s plant in Thoothukudi. An iron chain was clad over the two gates and the collector placed the wax on the sealed lock that was wrapped in white.
Soon after the GO was issued, Thoothukudi Collector Sandeep Nanduri arrived at the SIPCOT Industrial Complex with SP Murali Rambha amidst high security. Nanduri supervised the sealing of the copper plant. The government order was glued to the gates by officials.
Speaking to reporters, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami said, “For a long time people of Thoothukudi were demanding the closure of the plant. Around 2: 30 pm today various officials met me and the Deputy Chief Minister and demanded that the plant be closed. This is a move by Amma’s government respecting the feelings of the people.”
The GO cited the non-renewal of the plant’s license by the TNPCB. “It is brought to the notice of the Government that Tamil Nadu Pollution Board did not renew the Consent to Operate to M/s Vedanta Limited, Copper Smelter Plant, SIPCOT Industrial Complex, Thoothukudi District in its order dated 9.4.2018. Subsequently, on 23.5.2018, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has also issued directions for closure and disconnection of power supply to the Unit. The power supply has been disconnected on 24.5.2018.”
While the order comes as a relief, many were quick to observe that the move has come a little too late.
Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam chief TTV Dhinakaran tweeted “The Tamilnadu government has issued notice to permanently close the Sterlite plant and this is a victory for the people. However, it is painful to see that the government has victimized many lives and has released this order after the death of hundreds of victims.”
ஸ்டெர்லைட் ஆலையை நிரந்தரமாக மூடுவதற்கு தமிழக அரசு அரசாணை வெளியிட்டிருப்பது தன்னெழுச்சிப் போராட்டத்தை முன்னெடுத்த தூத்துக்குடி மக்களுக்கான வெற்றியே.— TTV Dhinakaran (@TTVDhinakaran) May 28, 2018
எனினும், இந்த அரசாணை, பல உயிர்களை பலிவாங்கி, நூற்றுக்கணக்கானோருக்கு பலத்த காயத்தை உடலளவிலும், மனதளவிலும் ஏற்படுத்திய பின்னர் வெளியிடப்பட்டிருப்பது வேதனைக்குரியது.— TTV Dhinakaran (@TTVDhinakaran) May 28, 2018
இந்த உயிர்க்கொல்லி ஸ்டெர்லைட் ஆலையை நிரந்தரமாக மூடுவதற்கான இந்த அரசாணையானது உயிர் நீத்தவர்களுக்கும், அங்கு போராடிய மக்களுக்குமே உரித்தானது.— TTV Dhinakaran (@TTVDhinakaran) May 28, 2018
Makkal Needhi Maiam leader Kamal Haasan too observed, “The future of TN politics has been changed by the people of Thoothukudi. Now more of Tamil Nadu will help make the change. […] The Government should have been sensitive to the protests of local people for over 100 days and acted swiftly, which would have avoided the needless and unfortunate loss of lives last week”
The recent order of the Tamil Nadu Government for permanent closure of the Sterlite Copper unit in Thoothukudi is a victory for the might of the people. All political parties should humble themselves before this victory of the people; salute the martyrs and learn from them.(1/4)— Kamal Haasan (@ikamalhaasan) May 28, 2018
The future of TN politics has been changed by the people of Thoothukudi. Now more of Tamil Nadu will help make the change. The purpose of a politician has been redefined by the people. Makkal Needhi Maiam will take the education forward. Honoured to be a Tamilian.(2/4)— Kamal Haasan (@ikamalhaasan) May 28, 2018
We are witness not just to handfed news anymore. We have started becoming the change.The Government should have been sensitive to the protests of local people for over 100 days and acted swiftly, which would have avoided the needless and unfortunate loss of lives last week.(3/4)— Kamal Haasan (@ikamalhaasan) May 28, 2018
Any legal challenge to this order by the Company should be defended appropriately by the State Government to ensure that the present order is permanently implemented.(4/4)— Kamal Haasan (@ikamalhaasan) May 28, 2018
Actor turned politician Rajinikanth expressed that the victory is dedicated to those who lost their lives on May 22. He also added that such protests that claimthe lives of innocent people should not occur in the future.
While the Madras High Court stayed the expansion of the plant on Wednesday and directed the company to have a public consultation, a report found that Vedanta got environmental clearance from the Union government to expand the plant to double the capacity without public consultation, thanks to a reinterpretation of the law by the NDA government.
Environmental activist Nityanand Jayaram however warns that the closure of the plant on flimsy grounds may not stand a test in court.