Chennai/New Delhi, May 28 (IANS) The Tamil Nadu government on Monday issued orders closing the copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi owned by the Vedanta Group, a week after 13 people were killed in police firing during protests against the continued functioning of the unit.
The government order said it has been brought to the notice of the government that the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) did not renew the ‘Consent to Operate’ to the copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi by its order of April 9 this year and subsequently on May 23, the PCB has also issued directions for closure and disconnection of power supply.
“Under Sections 18(1)(B) of the Water Act, 1974 in the larger public interest, the Government endorse the closure direction of the TNPCB and also direct the TNPCB to seal the unit and close the plant permanently,” said the Order.
Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy said in a separate statement that the ‘Consent to Operate’ permission for the copper smelter plant ended in March this year and it was not renewed by the TNPCB. The electricity and water connections to the plant have been disconnected from May 24, he said.
The Chief Minister said the demand of the people of Thoothukudi to the government for closure of the plant has been accepted by the government and orders have been issued to this effect.
The order is also significant because the protesters against the functioning of the copper smelter have been demanding that the government should issue formal orders as they would not be satisfied with verbal promises.
Reacting to the development, global diversified natural resource major Vedanta said that it will study the closure order and then decide on the future course of action.
“Closure of Sterlite Copper plant is an unfortunate development, especially since, we have operated the plant for over 22 years in most transparent and sustainable way, contributing to the Tuticorin and state’s socio-economic development,” the company said in a statement.
“We will study the order and decide on the future course of action.”
On the other hand, the protesters welcomed the order and said they needed a Cabinet decision on this as otherwise the company would approach the courts and get a stay order. They also wanted the Central government to take a similar stand.
Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam on Monday visited Thoothukudi, the first senior political representative to go to the violence-hit town, and announced that the government will take necessary steps to permanently shut down the copper smelter plant.
Pannerselvam visited the hospital here and enquired about the health of those injured in the police firing on anti-Sterlite Copper protesters on May 22.
Speaking to reporters, the Deputy Chief Minister said that compensation to the injured was being paid.
Normalcy was slowly returning in the town with shops and other establishments opening their doors for customers.
Internet connectivity has also resumed since Sunday midnight after it was suspended on May 23.
“Shops are open now. Normalcy is returning. But till the copper smelter plant is permanently closed there will not be total peace in the city,” S. Raja of Thoothukudi Traders Association told IANS.
Raja also said a murder charge should be registered against the police officials who shot the protesters.
According to Raja, post mortem has been done on seven bodies out of the 13 who were killed in the police firing. However, the relatives have not claimed the bodies yet.