Following mass rallies after a major gas leak last weekend Vedanta subsidiary Sterlite’s copper smelter in Tamil Nadu has been closed until further notice. On Tuesday (2nd April) the fate of the plant will be decided once and for all in the Supreme Court. This news note is from Nityanand Jayaraman;
30 March, 2013 — The Tamil Nadu Government has relented to public pressure and shut down Sterlite Industries’ copper complex today. According to a worker, officials from 10 government departments arrived by the vanload in the plant last night at 8 p.m. The management then called a meeting of all staff and workers, and announced that the plant was shutting down. Sterlite requested time till about 12 midnight for phased closure, and this was conceded by the Government. By 1210 a.m. all plants except the smelter were shut down. Electricity connection to the copper complex has been disconnected.
An estimated two thousand people have been arrested today as thousands more arrive in bus loads to demand the immediate shut down of Vedanta subsidiary Sterlite’s Tuticorin copper smelter in Thoothkudi, Tamil Nadu. Shops all over the town were shut, and there were violent attacks from the police as protesters from a large number of workers unions and political parties responded to a major gas leak from the plant which killed one and affected hundreds of people last weekend. The sulhpur dioxide leak was the latest in a long string of lethal incidents and large scale pollution at the plant, which is in the midst of ongoing legal proceedings to establish whether it is operating legally at all.
Thousands of residents of the coastal Tamil Nadu town of Thoothukudi are preparing for mass action tomorrow (28th March) following a major gas leak from Vedanta subsidiary Sterlite’s copper smelting plant at Tuticorin this weekend. On Saturday 23rd March a toxic chemical gas thought to be sulphur dioxide spilled from the plant and caused coughing, burning sensations and suffocation for hundreds of people for kilometers around. Leaves withered on trees in the area. On 25th March a 35 year old Sterlite worker who had been in the factory’s captive power plant at the time of the leak succumbed to the effects of gas exposure and died of suffocation.
In response local political leader Vaiko has called for a mass rally tomorrow at Sterlite’s gates calling for immediate closure of the plant. Demonstrations have already been held at the District Collector’s office and the factory gates.
There have been three hazardous incidents and at least two deaths at Sterlite’s Tuticorin plant this month alone, on top of tens of workers deaths recorded during the plant’s operation. 16 deaths were recorded between 2007 and 2011, though most of these were covered up by police and Sterlite officials and who registered the deaths as suicides.
Bodies of the three marytrs at Patna village, Odisha
On the evening of Saturday March 2nd three village activists opposing Korean steel company POSCO’s mega-steel project in Odisha were killed by a bomb thrown by pro-POSCO goondas. Police later gave statements to the media claiming that the three activists were in fact making a bomb which exploded and killed them. This version of events has been carried by the Indian newspapers and TV. Following the killings the district administration put prohibitory orders on the whole Patna area, trying to prevent villagers and activists from meeting to arrange rallies objecting to the murders. Meanwhile the land acquisition was ramped up as local officials used the prohibition to push through land grabbing without the usual activist opposition. According to one report 22 betel vine plantations had already been destroyed by Tuesday 5th March.
Despite this enormous repression 3000 villagers and supporters gathered on Wednesday 6th March to cremate the bodies of the martyrs and protest against the brutality of POSCO and the state police, who have worked hand in glove with the company, and stated louder than ever that POSCO’s project will not be allowed on their land. Brutal repression at the protests led to 40 women being injured in baton charges and 20 more seriously injured. Pictures of the event and some of their slogans in Odiya and English are pictured here.
Foil Vedanta joins with social movements around the world in condemning the Odisha State Government and POSCO for these brutal murders and demands the removal of all police forces and company goondas from the Govindapur area immediately, and a final stop to this despicable project which has already cost so many lives. This so-called ‘development’ is not wanted by those it is being pushed upon.
This is a report based on front-line reports and pictures from our activist friends, and interviews with the families of the martyred victims posted on the Samadrusti youtube stream.
Jairam Ramesh on Niyamgiri in January. Copyright Press Trust of India
An answer to Venky Vembu’s article ‘Jairam is wrong: It isn’t mining that causes poverty’ written after Jairam Ramesh’s januray visit to Niyamgiri mountain.
By Felix Padel and Samarendra Das
The comment from Jairam Ramesh that mining often leads to greater poverty (reported Economic Times 14th January) is a welcome admission from a senior Minister of the Central Government. Anyone who knows the situation of tribal people in areas whose landscape is now dominated by mining and metals projects knows how deeply this is true – a truth amply confirmed for example by the Centre for Science and Environment’s survey Rich Lands, Poor People: Is Sustainable Mining Possible? (Delhi 2008) This brings extensive evidence and statistics to show that, basically, India’s mining areas suffer the most acute poverty, as well as systemic human rights abuses by the mafias, goondas and scamsters surrounding mines.