Tuticorin : Government did not allot any funds for treatment
Report of the fact finding committee on Tuticorin police firing on Sterlite protesters.
The Human Rights Protection Committee of CPIM had on May 27th and 28th visited Tuticorin to take stock on the damage to the people and the loss of lives due to police firing.
Com.G.Selva (Co-ordinator, Human Rights protection Committee) headed the panel consisting of Advocate R. Thirumoorthy (Chennai High Court), Prof. V.Ponraj (Tirunelveli), Com R Mallika (Ex-President, Kovilpatti Municipal council), Sri.S.Harikrishnan (Human Rights Protection Committee, South Chennai), S. Pechimuthu (Human Rights Protection Committee, Tuticorin) and A. Ponnudurai (Media Committee, CPM Chennai)
PLACES VISITED AND INTERACTIONS HELD.
The team visited the places of shootings in Therespuram, Palayamkottai Road, Madathur, Kumarareddiapuram, Annanagar, Millarpuram, District Collector’s Office, the Quarters of Sterlite employees and the front side of Sterlite Mills where garbages are dumped. The Committee met the team of doctors including the Dean of Govt. Hospital, Tuticorin. The data were gathered through interaction with Prof. A Sivasubramanian, Advocate Subbu Muthuramalingam, SFI, DYFI leaders, the inpatients who were injured brutally by police, their relatives, the pastors of Christian mission, other individuals like Selvaraj, and Sundaramaindan, and from those near the court which examined co- sureties.
BRIEF HISTORY OF STERLITE STRUGGLE
The people affected by the hazardous pollution caused by the 22 years old Sterlite Copper Factory, of Vedanta Groups took the struggle to streets demanding closure of unit which posed potent threat to lives. The democratic protests in the form of petitions, public meetings, traffic bandhs, rallies, boycott of classes and legal suits were greeted with retributive police attacks, lathi charges, arrests,and intimidation. Sterlite was defiant and did not budge. The report dated 21.9.2004 of the SC nominated monitoring committee headed by Prof. Thiagarajan shockingly revealed the ill-effects of the wastage of sterlite plant. Unfazed, Sterlite, had increased its production from 70,000 tonnes to one lac tones and subsequently to four lacs tones throwing into winds the mandated safeguards.
The Sterlite management, of course with support of the government, expanded its operations ignoring cylinder blast causing injuries, deaths due to the bursting of sulpuric acid pipes, frequent toxification and loss of conscience , abortions to women employees, and the air pollution causing difficulty in breathing around the plant. The management disregarded and ignored the guidelines of National Green tribunal (NGT) and Tamil Nadu Pollution control Board (TNPCB). The Anti- Sterlite protests of Kumarareddipuram for closure of plant expanded to the surrounding of 18 villages. Political parties and organizations also supported the cause.
The Sterlite managed file a case in Madurai HC bench seeking protection, and suggesting 144, when Anti-Sterlite rally towards Collectors' Office was planned on 22.5.18, to mark 100th day of the struggle. The Court sought the response of the District Administration. Probably as an eye wash, or to dilute the struggle, the Collector and the DSP convened a peace meeting on 20.5.18 for which not all the villages in struggle were invited. Meanwhile, a section of the protesters declared holding their agitation on 21st and the other on 22nd to lay siege on collectorate as planned earlier.
The police had on 21st permitted one section to observe fast in SLV grounds. The district administration might have felt that the truncated protests may act as a dampener in anti-sterlite struggle.
2018-MAY 22-POLICE FIRING
Despite all, 22.5.18 witnessed massive rally through Palayamkottai Road, from near the sea shore joined by women, men, youth, aged, students, children and transgenders , without holding any flag sticks or poles as collectively decided earlier.
There was a commotion near South Police Station when cattles were let off to intrude into the rally. The rally then proceeded crossing the police barricade erected near VVD signal. The rally swelled with the residents from Madathur, Millerpuram, and PN Colony joining together. As the posse of police force was found inadequate to regulate, a section of rally reached the entrance of the premises of collectorate.
One from the rally, Santhosh hailing from Pandarampatti was thrown into police van with skull broken by cops when he entered the gate way. He saw a burning vehicle then when the rallyists did not enter the premises. He had shared with SFI cadre Kalairaj that the police version of people’s having burnt the vehicle was a lie. Santhosh had seen one bullet-hit dead body while getting down from police van. He admits that he had a narrow escape as the media had recorded his cry for help. The police reportedly pushed back the rally which moved towards collectorate more again and again after retreating sometimes also.
With no prior intimation, bullets were showered at the crowd abruptly. Lathis, wooden logs, iron pipes and stones were used by police for attacking public. Bullets came from behind and from sidewards. Tear gas shells targeted the crowded zones only. Provoked by the unexpected gun shots and attacks, people had pelted stones in defense.
TREATMENT IN HOSPITAL
The police did not permit the injured to take proper treatment in hospital. The victims had recorded that the police forbid services of 108 ambulance. The injured public were transported through motorcycles. The anxiety gripped relatives who thronged hospital were not spared. The police lathi charged and shot the public on 23.5.18 also. The visitors and those seen in streets were also attacked. The attendants who sustained injuries did not take treatment for the fear of being booked by police. The Dean reported that the people were too angry with police that they disliked treatment at the hands of doctors who had treated the police also.
It was reported that government did not allot any funds for treatment. The doctors had reportedly spent RS. 5 lacs from out of their own end for medical kits and other expenses.
It was also reported that a few doctors had handed over the public to police, who had entered hospital fearing police attack from outside.
The Dean had on 27th informed that 47 out of 108 admitted were being treated. 6 had been sent for better management as the bullets allegedly pierced bones. 20 cops were under treatment in Tirunelveli Hospital. Two on their own accord, got admitted into Madurai Velammal, Meenakshi Mission Private hospitals.
THE GRIEVANCES OF THE AFFECTED
> Why had the Collector not chosen to meet the people who had
for 99 days observed peaceful protests demanding closure of
sterlite factory for causing health hazard. ?
> Why had the CM and Deputy CM of Tamilnadu not chosen to
initiate talks with agitating people ?
> Was it anyway justified to kill the people who marched with
their children towards collectorate ?
> Why were the guidelines of shooting below the knees to
disperse the crowd not adhered to?
> Why the guns had turned towards the places like hospital,
Therespuram, and Anna Nagar Godown after the collectorate
>Why were hundreds of youths detained illegally at South Police
Station, Pudukottai, Vallam, Shooting Ground and brutally
> Why did the police refuse to return their jewels and keys of
their vehicles ?
> Who had ordered to shoot the public?
While the above questions linger around and need to be replied by the state administration, the observation of a person aged 75 years is significant.
* The united struggle had transcended the barriers of caste. Creed and religion..
* It was unique for the committed participation of women, who had led this campaign also.
* The service of the lawyers done gratis for the arrested was unprecedented.
Prof. A. Sivasubramanian’s analysis about the struggle is equally significant. There was convergence of voices of all religious and communal hues against the hazardous Sterlite. It had spread beyond the boundaries of a district. Smelling the public ire, Sterlite planned to quell protests through such shameless attacks.
1. Special enquiry under the direct supervision of High Court.
2. Dismissal of authorities who ordered shooting, and legal
action on charges of murder
3. Government to acquire the land of Sterlite.
4. Get the Compensation for ill health from Sterlite.
5. Proper, free treatment and compensation for those attacked by police. Students should be allowed to pursue studies without hinderance.
6. All cases against the protestors should be withdrawn.