5/24/2018 2:37:31 PM
|written By : Team India Se|
Twelve people have died in police firing in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu following demonstrations against a British-owned copper smelting plant accused of polluting the environment, local authorities have confirmed.
The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) ordered the closure of the plant, operated by Sterlite Copper, a subsidiary of London-based Vedanta Resourcs, in Thoothukudi with immediate effect and disconnected electricity supply to the unit on May 24.
The order follows violent demonstrations with environmental activists saying the copper plant was polluting local water resources, allegations denied by the company as false propaganda. Protesters set fire a local administrator’s office and burned more than 110 vehicles, according to police, who responded with batons and tear gas before firing on the crowd. About 20 police officers were also injured in the skirmish, which occurred in the southern port city of Tuticorin.
The firing sparked outrage, with Rahul Gandhi, leader of the opposition Indian National Congress party, calling the incident “state-sponsored terrorism.”
Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami defended the police response, citing “unavoidable circumstances” and blaming the protestors for resorting to “repeated violence.” Palaniswami added that families of the victims would be offered one million rupees (US$14,700) in compensation.
On May 23, the Tamil Nadu government invoked a “public emergency” and asked internet service providers to cut off internet services for five days in Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanniyakumari districts to prevent spread of provocative messages on social media by anti-social elements.
The plant has been shut since March 27, when it was closed as part of a 15-day scheduled maintenance. During the closure, the pollution board rejected Vedanta’s licence to operate the smelter in April, saying the company had not complied with five local environmental laws.
But inspections by pollution control board officials on May 18 and May 19 showed the plant was carrying out activities to resume operations, the board said, ordering it to remain closed.