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District collector Sandeep Nanduri along with other officials seal the main gate of Sterlite copper unit in Tuticorin on 28 May, 2018. Photo: PTI
District collector Sandeep Nanduri along with other officials seal the main gate of Sterlite copper unit in Tuticorin on 28 May, 2018. Photo: PTI

Tamil Nadu cancels land allotment to Sterlite copper plant in Thoothukudi

The cancellation of land allotment for the proposed expansion of the Sterlite Copper plant came a day after the government ordered the state Pollution Control Board to 'seal and permanently close' the existing unit

Chennai:The Tamil Nadu government on Tuesday cancelled the land allotment to the Vedanta group’s copper plant in Tuticorin, while the killing of 13 people in police firing there resonated in the state assembly, with opposition DMK deciding to boycott the proceedings until the unit was “permanently shut".

The police department, meanwhile, transferred the case involving last week’s police firing that led to the deaths to the CB-CID, a senior official told PTI.

The cancellation of land allotment for the proposed expansion of the Sterlite Copper plant came a day after the government ordered the state Pollution Control Board to “seal and permanently close" the existing unit.

“As the allotment of land for the proposed expansion has been made by SIPCOT, in larger public interest, the land allotment made by SIPCOT for proposed expansion of copper smelter plant (Phase-2) by Vedanta Ltd is hereby cancelled," SIPCOT said in its communication to the Vedanta group.

In its filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange, the Vedanta group apprised it of the development. An official release here said, “The cancellation of allotment of 342.22 acres of land has been made in larger public interest and this has been communicated to the company."

The killing of 13 people in police action against Sterlite protesters on 22-23 May rocked the state Assembly, which met after a gap of over two months to pass the budgetary demands of different departments, with members of the main opposition DMK staging a demonstration and saying they would boycott the proceedings until the unit was shut permanently.

Chief minister K. Palaniswami, meanwhile, put up a strong defence of his government and police, insisting the action by men in uniform had become “unavoidable".

Attired in black shirts as a mark of protest against the killings, and shouting anti-government slogans, DMK members demonstrated in the legislature complex.

DMK working president M.K. Stalin targeted the government for issuing a government order for the closure of the polluting copper plant instead of convening a meeting of the Cabinet and taking a policy decision to shut it for good.

Claiming that the government order was an “eyewash and a drama", Stalin said it was done to enable the Sterlite management to approach the court and seek relief, like it did when the plant was ordered closed in 2013.

Stalin then walked out of the House along with other DMK lawmakers, shouting slogans demanding the chief minister’s resignation.

After the DMK members had walked out, Palaniswami said, “In unavoidable circumstances, police personnel were forced to take action."

He said a Commission of Inquiry has been constituted under retired Madras high court judge Aruna Jagadeesan to go into the incidents in Tuticorin, and “appropriate action will be taken against those who had committed wrong, whoever they may be."

The chief minister also tabled a report in the House on incidents that occurred in the port city on 22 May, and said police burst teargas shells and baton-charged the violent protesters to control the situation but it vain.

He said vehicles parked in the residential quarters at Sterlite Copper plant were set on fire. The protesters also damaged Tuticorin South Police Station and the industries department office.

All efforts were made to rein in the protesters and safeguard lives and property, but “due to unavoidable circumstances, police personnel were forced to take action". Tamil Nadu governor Banwarilal Purohit, meanwhile, visited the families of those killed in police firing and met the injured at a goverment hospital at Tuticorin.

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