The Tamil Nadu government on Tuesday cancelled the land allotment to Vedanta group's copper plant in Tuticorin, while the killing of 13 people in police firing there resonated in the state assembly, with opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam deciding to boycott proceedings until the unit was 'permanently shut'.
The police department, meanwhile, transferred the case involving last week's police firing that led to the deaths to the Crime Branch-Crime Investigation Department (CB-CID), a senior official told PTI.
The cancellation of land allotment for the proposed expansion of the Sterlite Copper plant came a day after the government ordered the State Pollution Control Board to 'seal and permanently close' the existing unit.
"..in larger public interest, the land allotment made.. proposed expansion of copper smelter plant (Phase-2) by Vedanta Ltd is hereby cancelled," State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu said.
In its filing in the Bombay Stock Exchange, the Vedanta group apprised it of the development.
An official release here said, "The cancellation of allotment of 342.22 acres of land has been made in the larger public interest and this has been communicated to the company."
The killing of 13 people in police action against Sterlite protesters on May 22-23 rocked the state assembly, which met after a gap of over two months to pass the budgetary demands of different departments, with members of the main opposition DMK staging a demonstration and saying they would boycott the proceedings until the unit was shut permanently.
Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, meanwhile, put up a strong defence of his government and police, insisting the action by men in uniform had become 'unavoidable'.
Attired in black shirts as a mark of protest against the killings, and shouting anti-government slogans, DMK members demonstrated in the legislature complex.
DMK working president M K Stalin targeted the government for issuing a Government Order for closure of the polluting copper plant instead of convening a meeting of the cabinet and taking a policy decision to shut it for good.
Claiming that the government order was an 'eyewash and a drama', Stalin said it was done to enable the Sterlite management approach the court and seek relief, like it did when the plant was ordered closed in 2013.
Stalin then walked out of the House along with other DMK lawmakers, shouting slogans and demanding the chief minister's resignation.
Palaniswami said due to 'unavoidable circumstances, police personnel were forced to take action'.
He said a Commission of Inquiry has been constituted under retired Madras High Court judge Aruna Jagadeesan to go into the incidents in Tuticorin, and 'appropriate action will be taken against those who had committed wrong, whoever they may be'.
The chief minister also tabled a report in the House on incidents that occurred in the port city on May 22, and said police burst teargas shells and baton-charged the violent protesters to control the situation, but it vain.
He said vehicles parked in the residential quarters at Sterlite Copper plant were set on fire. The protesters also damaged Tuticorin South Police Station and the industries department office.
All efforts were made to rein in the protesters and safeguard lives and property, but 'due to unavoidable circumstances, police personnel were forced to take action'.
Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit, meanwhile, visited the families of those killed in police firing and met the injured at a government hospital at Tuticorin.
Seeking to turn the tables on DMK for its 'eye-wash and drama remarks', Chief Minister Palaniswami said the Government Order issued for the closure of the plant was legally valid and it was done after consultation with legal experts.
Palaniswami listed several police firing incidents during the previous DMK regimes in Tamil Nadu and pointed out that during such occasions when people died, the government had constituted an inquiry by a retired judge.
His government had constituted an Inquiry Commission by a retired judge to probe the violence and police firings.
"Were the inquiry panels constituted by (previous) DMK governments only for eyewash?" he asked.
Stating that he was not 'justifying' (firing incidents), he said the government is for justice, adding that the main opposition party was however trying to 'divert' and 'politicise' the incident.
Palaniswami said DMK leader Stalin,who enacted a 'farcical drama', seeking Sterlite's closure, had allocated 230.63 acres for its expansion in 2009 when he was industries minister.
He said as many as 14 rounds of talks were held with the anti-Sterlite protesters by district authorities and they had agreed to hold a demonstration at a playground.
However, contravening it, thousands gathered for a rally towards the Colectorate and about 200 DMK cadres, led by Tuticorin legislator Geetha Jeevan, went in a procession to take part in the rally.
On May 23, stones were also hurled at vehicles which followed Stalin's car in Tuticorin and Vilathikulam union secretary of the party Marimuthu was asked to get down from his car and it was set ablaze, the chief minister said.
"So the protestors did not welcome them. From this it should be understood against whom the people were angry."
A case has been registered on such violence, he said.
Photograph: PTI Photo