Thousands of protesters turned out on Tuesday amid months of rallies against the Sterlite copper smelting plant, which demonstrators say has polluted the area's groundwater.
Chennai: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E Palaniswami breaks his silence three days after three days of anti-Sterlite protest, which took a violent turn as the police opened fired at the crowd.
Sterlite is a unit of the firm Vedanta Ltd.
Asked about the claim of Fisheries Minister D. Jayakumar that the police firing had become inevitable, Mr. Stalin said the Minister was only interested in saving his position and the government.
Two environment ministry officials with knowledge of the deliberations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the company was keen not to have the public consultation when it applied for the clearance for expansion. The protests had entered their hundredth day on the day of the firing. Yesterday, DMK leader Stalin, who was holding a protest outside Tamil Nadu secretariat, was also detained by the police. Government authorities at Thoothukudi met the agitators 14 times, and the State government has been taking steps to close down the Sterlite plant through legal means, he said. The Basic Principles state that law enforcement officials shall "apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms", and that "whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, law enforcement officials shall: (a) Exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the legitimate objective to be achieved; (b) Minimize damage and injury, and respect and preserve human life". Rahul Gandhi, leader of the opposition Indian National Congress party, called the incident "state sponsored terrorism".
"It's important that the Tamil Nadu authorities respond to protests in accordance with worldwide law, but they should also be addressing concerns raised about health and environmental harms", Ganguly said. "Sterlite Copper plant is non-operational as we await approval for the consent to operate".
P. Mahendran, superintendent of Tuticorin district police, said 18 officers were also wounded in the clashes.
Several investment bankers said that Vedanta's management did have a strong reputation for turning around businesses and keeping costs under control.
Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami ordered the judicial inquiry into the shootings but defended the police. They believe emissions from the plant have been polluting the air and water in the region, and residents have been complaining of multiple illnesses allegedly caused due to the presence of a polluting smelter in the town.
A court on Wednesday put a temporary halt to Vedanta's much-delayed plan to almost double capacity at the Thoothukudi plant, which would make it one of the biggest copper smelters in the world.
Tamil Nadu is one of India's most prosperous and industrialised states but, as elsewhere in the country, environmental regulations are routinely breached and poorly policed.