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Anti-Sterlite protests: Death toll at 13, Section 144 in force, power supply to copper smelter disconnected

Last Modified Friday, 25 May 2018 (11:45 IST)
Thoothukudi: The death toll in the police firing on anti-Sterlite protesters mounted to 13 while life continued to remain paralysed for the third day on Thursday in this port  town.  Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board ordered closure of the copper smelter of United Kingdom-based Group's Sterlite subsidary and disconnection of power supply to it. Police sources said Selvasekhar, 43, who had suffered serious injuries in the police lathicharge on Tuesday, passed away this morning at the Government Hospital. 
More than 70 people, including police personnel, injured in the clashes and violence, were undergoing treatment at the hospital. After two days of riots, arson and firing, an uneasy calm prevailed in Thoothukudi, .Miscreants this morning stoned six Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation buses at Tirunelveli, Kanniyakumari and Nagapattinam districts, damaging their wind screens.
 
All the shops and commercial establishments were shut for the third consecutive day, while government offices witnessed thin attendance. Prohibitory orders continued in sensitive areas.
Public transport was completely off the roads and only police vehicles, besides some private cars and auto rickshaws, plied at some places.People stayed indoors and struggled to get their essential commodities, including milk, in town.  
 
Internet services were suspended from last night following a state government advisory to the service providers to prevent provocative messages and rumours being spread on the social media.
District authorities strengthened police deployment in vulnerable areas to contain the violence and to avoid any further loss of life or damage to property. Police said more than 130 people were arrested so far in connection with the violence.The Ministry of Home Affairs has been in touch with Tamil Nadu Government on the violence in
Tuticorin, a official said in New Delhi.
 
''A detailed report has been sought on the sequence of events and circumstances leading to loss of human lives on May 22,'' the official added.Tamil Nadu Government has also been asked to provide details of the action taken to restore peace and normalcy and has also been requested to furnish a detailed report regarding the Sterlite plant, the official informed.
 
Lawyer GS Mani filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking registration of FIR and CBI probe against Tuticorin Collector, SP & other police officials for the firing.Mr Mani said that he will mention it tomorrow before the vacation bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and Naveen Sinha seeking an urgent hearing into the matter.
 
Reinforced vigil:
 
Thoothukudi police were also planning to press into service a drone to monitor the movement of the miscreants. Senior police officials tested it near the V O Chidambaram College on the Palayamkottai road this noon to keep a tab on people who had pelted stones and hurled petrol bombs.Sandeep Nanduri, who assumed office as the new Collector of Thoothukudi, told media today that his first priority was to restore normalcy. 
 
He assured that the judicial probe ordered by the government, would go into every aspect of what happened during the violence, police  firing and who gave the shooting orders.  
Asked whether Central para military forces were being called in, he said, ''No such decision has been taken, despite the prevailing tense situation'. 
 
''I expect the situation would calm down in two or three days'', he added.A day after the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court stayed the expansion of Sterlite plant and directed the Vedanta Group to cease construction of its second unit in Thoothukudi, the TNPCB today ordered the closure of the plant with immediate effect and  disconnected power supply to it for non-compliance of certain conditions imposed on it.
 
Thoothukudi police registered cases under Indian Penal Code Sections 143(unlawful assembly), 188 (disobedience) and 153 (A) (provocation) against 64 people, including Dravida Munnetra Kaghazam Working President M K Stalin, MDMK General Secretary Vaiko, TNCC President Su Thirunavukkarasar, 
 
CPI(M) State Unit Secretary K Balakrishnan, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi leader Thol Thirumavalavan and Makkal Needhi Maiam founder and actor Kamal Haasan for defying prohibitory orders during their visit yesterday to the district to meet the injured and the families of the police firing victims.  
 
As a mark of protest to condemn the firing and to express their solidarity with the anti-Sterlite protestors, residents of Singamparai village near Mukkoodal in Tirunelveli district hoisted black flags atop their houses.
 
Blame game:
 
In Chennai, Chief Minister asserted that the controversial Sterlite copper smelter plant could not be opened without prior permission and  legal steps would be taken for its closure.
 
Mr M K Stalin, the CM said, was enacting a political drama on the Sterlite issue. 
Referring to the physical eviction of the DMK leader and other MLAs for staging a dharna in front of his chamber at the State Secretariat after boycotting the Business Advisory Committee meeting convened by the Speaker, he said Mr Stalin was out to gain publicity.
Mr Palaniswami blamed "certain political parties, NGOs and anti-social elements" for the violence in Tuticorin on Tuesday.
 
Asked who gave the orders for police firing, he said, "when someone hits you, you naturally tend to defend yourselves; no one acts in a pre-planned manner''. Reaffirming that the state government was making all legal efforts to close down the Copper Plant in Thoothukudi, Mr Palaniswami said that while Ms J Jayalalithaa was the Chief Minister, she cancelled Sterlite's permission in 2013 and the National Green Tribunal gave a ruling that the plant could function by following the rules.
 
Pointing out that the TNPCB had rejected the company's plea for renewal of consent for the period 2018-2023 on April 9 this year as it has not complied with certain norms, he said the Board had on April 12, also ordered closure and directed the company not to function without obtaining prior permission from it. 
 
Turmoil:
 
At the State Secretariat Mr M K Stalin and his party MLAs resorted to a sit-in outside the Chief Minister's chamber demanding his resignation. They were forcibly evicted and arrested.
 
Subsequently, Mr Stalin, along with Deputy Leader of the Opposition Duraimurugan and others staged a dharna near the exit gate of the Secretariat complex, before resorting to a road roko agitation accusing Mr Palaniswami for the police firing on the anti-Sterlite protestors.
Normal life on the arterial Kamaraj Salai was thrown out of gear for nearly 45 minutes following the unannounced agitation by the DMK MLAs.
 
Referring to the cases registered against him for violating the prohibitory orders in Tuticorin while visiting the injured at the hospital, Mr Stalin told reporters that even if the government hurled a bomb at him, he would withstand it.
 
 Watchdog steps in:
 
Official sources said TNPCB Chairman Mohammed Nasimuddin passed the orders late on Wednesday night, based on which power supply to the plant was disconnected at 0515 hrs this morning.

The application, the sources said, submitted by the unit of Vedanta Limited?Sterlite Copper Smelter Plant in April for the issue of renewal of consent for the year 2018-2023 has been rejected due to non-compliance of the certain conditions imposed in the previous renewal of consent order issued to the unit. The TNPCB directed that the unit shall not resume operation without obtaining prior approval or renewal of consent from the Board.
 
However, the Joint Chief Environmental Engineer, Tirunelveli, has reported that during the inspection of the unit on May 18 and 19, it has been found that the plant was carrying out activities to resume its production operations and recommended for the issue of direction for closure and disconnection of power supply to the unit.
 
Hence, it was decided that in exercise of the powers conferred under Section 33A of Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 as amended and Section 31A of Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, as amended, directions were issued for closure and disconnection of power supply to the unit.
 
''Therefore, in exercise of the power conferred under the Acts, it was hereby directed that Sterlite Copper Smelter Plant shall be disconnected with power supply and closed with immediate effect,'' the sources said.
 
In Bengaluru, activists of Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist), Karnataka State Committee, staged an agitation in front of the State Bank of Mysuru circle on in protest against the police firing.In Mysuru, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) and Hasiru Sene activists staged a protest condemning the Thoothukudi firing.
 
CPI(M), CPI, CPI(ML) and SUCI staged a protest at Ramaswamy Circle in the city, condemning the police action. In Lucknow, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav raised his voice over the deteriorating environment.(UNI)
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