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Uneasy calm in Tuticorin

May 26, 2018 08:35 IST

'I expect normalcy to return in one or two days,' says Tuticorin's new Collector Sandeep Nandur.
T E Narasimhan reports from Tuticorin. Gireesh Babu reports from Chennai.

Protesters burn tyres to block a road during the protest demanding the closure of the Sterlite factory in Tuticorin, May 22, 2018.

IMAGE: Protesters burn tyres to block a road during the protest demanding the closure of the Sterlite factory in Tuticorin, May 22, 2018. Photograph: PTI Photo.

S Vasantha has been trying to buy sugar tablets for the last four days.

First the chemist was closed. When it reopened, the ATM had run out of money.

Like Vasantha, life for residents of Tuticorin has been thrown completely out of gear as the busy streets of the city, renowned for its pearl fishing, remained deserted on Friday, May 25.

In the market road, most shops were closed for the fourth day after 13 people were killed in police firing during protests against environmental degradation by the Sterlite Copper plant in the city. The company denies the charge.

Though the Madras high court has stayed the expansion of the plant and the state government has ordered its closure, protesters want an assurance it will not reopen because it has allegedly flouted environmental laws and caused health problems.

Besides, they want action against officials involved in the firing on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tuticorin started calming down on Thursday after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami announced the closure of the plant and the state pollution control board ordered its power supply be switched off.

Most ATMs and card-swipe machines are not working because Internet services have been halted for five days in Tuticorin, Tiruneveli and Kanyakumari districts.

In an attempt to pacify the public, the state government has transferred senior police and other officials, including the district collector.

 

The new district collector, Sandeep Nandur, who took charge on Thursday, went to the Government Hospital to meet the injured and relatives of those who were killed.

He told them medical care would be given to the injured.

He also ordered Amma canteens to provide free food and co-operatives to supply fruit, vegetables and milk for the next three days.

"I expect normalcy to return in one or two days," Nandur said.

Residents are still in shock.

In a few pockets such as Anna Nagar, Thres Puram and places near the Sterlite factory, there is tension and heavy police deployment.

The road leading to Thres Puram, a fishing hamlet where a 47-year-old woman, Jhansi, was killed, has been blocked with fishing boats and large pipes so that the police cannot enter.

Johnson, Jhansi's son-in-law who was allegedly detained by the police and made to sign on a piece of paper before her body was handed over to him, said she was walking home after dropping a parcel of fish at his house.

Students who cleared their boards are not able to register for entrance exams.

Cargo worth Rs 10 billion to Rs 12 billion, including textiles from Tirupur, is lying at Tuticorin Port. Around 5,000 lorries have stopped plying.

For once, the ruling AIADMK and the DMK are on the same page.

Neither party wants the Sterlite plant to reopen or a second one to come up.

T E Narasimhan and Gireesh Babu
Source: