The announcement of the shutting down of the plant by the Tamilnadu government after so many innocent lives were lost shows the utter callousness of those in power, who respond only to placate a public outcry. If the government had taken this action earlier, the loss of innocent lives could have been avoided.
The people of Thoothukiudi have been protesting against the pollution caused by the copper smelting plant since more than 20 years. Ever since the plant was issued a ‘Consent to Establish’ by the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) in 1995, the people in the vicinity have been raising serious concerns and objections to the Tamil Nadu government and TNPCB. These authorities, and the Ministry of Environment and Forests, have not only turned a deaf ear to the people’s concerns, they have actively abetted Sterlite Copper to violate every procedure and rule concerning environmental protection and safety.
The Congress-led UPA government as well as the BJP-led NDA government have exempted the private company, Sterlite Copper, from public hearings. They have gone ahead and approved its establishment and subsequently its expansion with the full support of the state government.
The Thoothukudi incident exposes how the state authorities in our country convert every collective protest of people into a “law and order” problem. Political and economic struggles are criminalized and brute force is then unleashed. In this “democracy” the people cannot even carry out a protest against some decision of the Government, which in this case is the decision to allow the expansion of copper smelting capacity by the Vedanta group in their Thoothukudi plant.
The Thamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam, along with other organisations, has been continuously fighting for justice for the victims of the firing as well as severe punishment for those responsible for these firings. They have been also demanding immediate action to protect the interests of the workers of Sterlite and all other sections of people who have been affected by the closure of the plant.