Villages in Chennai’s Ennore to boycott LS polls to protest govt inaction against CIL

The residents of Periyakuppam, Chinnakuppam, Ernavoorkuppam, and Ennorekuppam, which are located close to the CIL plant, have been long protesting to permanently shut it down along with 28 other villages in the vicinity.
Coromandel International Limited plant in Ennore.
Coromandel International Limited plant in Ennore.
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Four villages in North Chennai’s Ennore will boycott the upcoming Lok Sabha elections to protest government inaction against the Coromandel International Limited plant (CIL). The residents of Periyakuppam, Chinnakuppam, Ernavoorkuppam, and Ennorekuppam, which are located close to the CIL plant, have been long protesting to permanently shut it down along with 28 other villages in the vicinity, after a massive ammonia leak in December 2023. They clarified on Sunday, March 31, that they would abstain from voting because they feel the government failed them.

On the night of December 26, the residents of Periyakuppam where the company is situated, woke up to the pungent smell of ammonia gas that had leaked through a pipeline, which was funnelling the gas from a ship to the storage tank on the shore. The discharge went beyond Periyakuppam, spreading to Chinnakuppam and Ernaurkuppam, which are a few kilometres from the site of the leak, hospitalising 42 people.

The villages affected by the leak fall under the Chennai North Lok Sabha constituency, and the sitting MP is the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (DMK) Kalanidhi Veeraswamy, who the residents say has not visited them after the elections concluded in 2019.  

“The company has been temporarily shut for almost three months now. But we are not able to enjoy the relief because we are constantly worrying about what will happen to us and our kids if they open the factory again,” Subha, a resident of Periyakuppam, told TNM. “We are boycotting this election because the government has failed to notice us,” she said.

Selvi, another resident of the village who lives in a house built under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), said that the Union government built houses for some of them, but asked what use a house is if its residents are at risk of developing fatal diseases. “Our lives and death are in the hands of ministers and the Prime Minister. Their inaction can result in the factory restarting its operations. PM Modi is visiting several countries, and TV channels keep flashing it. Why can’t he look at the lives of the people here? None of the politicians here are helping, and we don’t want them, so we won’t vote,” she said.

Venkatesan, a fisherman from Ennorekuppam, located just a kilometre away from the CIL plant, alleged that the government and its officials are supporting the company. “I have filed a Right To Information (RTI) request but have not received any response. The government and its officials, be it the Pollution Control Board (PCB) or the Ministry of Environment and Forests, are failing to work in the best interests of the people. So why should we vote for them?” he asked.

While similar sentiments were echoed by the residents of Chinnakuppam and Ernavoorkuppam, the other 28 villages are yet to decide on whether or not to cast votes in the upcoming elections. Balachandar, one of the village managers who is coordinating the protest, told TNM that they are looking to hold talks with all the villages before April 10.  “Right now, the number of residents who will boycott the voting is small because only those from a few villages have expressed their solidarity with this move. We want all the villages to agree so that there will be more than 20 thousand voters who will not vote and that will compel political parties and the governments to turn their attention towards our fight,” Balachander said.

On Sunday, March 31, Kalanidhi Veeraswamy campaigned in Ennore, and when TNM asked him about the discontent among the people, he said that the DMK has taken due cognisance and is awaiting the court’s directions to proceed. 

He said that he had written to the Minister of Environment and Forests in Delhi and had made a representation to the ruling DMK government regarding the CIL plant. Referring to the Sterlite protests in Thoothukudi and the shutting down of Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper plant, Kalanidhi Veeraswamy said, “We are certain that a similar result will be obtained for this factory as well.”

Kalanidhi will be facing AIADMK’s Manorangan and BJP’s Paul Kanakaraj in the Chennai North constituency when Tamil Nadu goes to the polls on April 19. 

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