Sterlite protests: Madras HC stays construction of new copper smelter

For almost 100 days now, agitators had been protesting against the capacity expansion by Sterlite Copper; they claimed that the plant was causing harm to its employees

Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu: The Madras High Court’s Madurai Bench on Wednesday stayed the ongoing construction of a new copper smelter at Sterlite Copper’s Tuticorin plant.

A day before, as many as 11 people had been killed and 20 others injured at Thoothukudi, or Tuticorin, as a protest against Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper unit — going on for 100 days since the company announced its plans to invest Rs 25 billion in doubling the capacity of its existing facility to 800,000 tonnes per annum — turned violent. The protesters claimed the plant had been causing harm to its employees and increasing the capacity of the plant would aggravate the problems.

Meanwhile, the Union home ministry has sought a report from the Tamil Nadu government over the incident in Tuticorin.

Following a gas leak in March 2013, the then chief minister late J Jayalalithaa had ordered the plant’s closure, following which the company moved the National Green Tribunal. With the tribunal overturning the government order, the state moved the Supreme Court against it, and the petition has been pending since.

Here are the top developments in the Tamil Nadu protests:

1. The Madras High Court’s Madurai Bench on Wednesday put a stay on the ongoing construction of a new copper smelter by Sterlite Copper in Tuticorin under its capacity expansion efforts, according to ANI reports.

2. Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam(MDMK) Chief Vaiko on Wednesday met those injured during protests against Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper.

Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) chief Kamal Haasan also met those who were injured during the anti-Sterlite protests at General Hospital in Tuticorin. The families of the victims said they were facing difficulties because of his visit and asked him to leave, ANI reported.

MNM, along with other Opposition partiesm, had condemned the violence that took place on Tuesday and blamed the AIADMK-led Tamil Nadu government for the unrest and deaths in the state.

3. DMK has called for an all-party protest on May 25 over the Sterlite protest incident.

4. In a government statement, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E Palaniswamy announced Rs 1 million for those who lost family members, Rs 300,000 for people who were injured severely, and Rs 100,000 for those with minor injuries..

5. In an official statement, Sterlite Copper late on Tuesday expressed regret and sorrow over the deaths that took place during protests against it in Tamil Nadu’s Tuticorin. The company said it had appealed to the government to ensure safety of the employees of the plant, as well as the surrounding communities.

“It’s with great sorrow and regret that we witnessed today’s incidents around the protest today at Tuticorin. The company has appealed to government and authorities to ensure the safety of our employees, facilities and surrounding communities. Sterlite Copper plant is non-operational as we await approval for the consent to operate,” the statement read.

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