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US journalist working on Sterlite documentary asked to leave India

January 03, 2019 08:22 IST

A United States-based freelance journalist left the country on Wednesday, a day after authorities ordered his deportation for working on the Sterlite issue in violation of his tourist visa conditions, an official said.

Mark Scialla, who arrived in Tuticorin on December 27, boarded a flight to the US from Hyderabad Wednesday morning, Tuticorin district Superintendent of Police Murali Rambha, who issued the deportation order in his capacity as the district Foreigners Registration Officer, said.

The official also said steps had been initiated to blacklist the journalist and a communication was being sent to the Foreigners Regional Registration Office in Chennai in view of “violation” of the visa conditions by him.

 

After arriving in the country on a tourist visa, Scialla had interviewed several people on December 28 and 29 on alleged health issues faced by them due to the now closed Sterlite copper plant.

Rambha said the visa clearly stated that the American national should not embark on any work except tourist activities.

“Yet he violated it. He did not come here for tourism purposes... I am just sending the recommendation (for blacklisting) to the FRRO,” Rambha said.

After a thorough enquiry, it was concluded that Scialla had violated the visa norm and he was served a notice on Tuesday to leave the country immediately, the SP said.

The officer said questioning of some local activists in connection with the journalist’s Tamil Nadu visit would be concluded soon.

Once blacklisted, a foreigner’s visa application will not be processed for a stipulated period of time, officials said.

The journalist, during his stay had posed questions to local people on the “health issues” they faced before and after the closure of Sterlite’s shut copper plant.

He had also met an injured person in the May 22-23 police firing after the protests against Sterlite over pollution concerns turned violent here. Thirteen people were killed in the firing.

When contacted, a US Consulate spokesperson had said “We are aware of media reports concerning the American citizen. However, due to privacy laws, we do not comment on matters involving US citizens.”

According to Scialla Twitter handle, he is an “independent writer and video journalist covering environmental conflict and social issues.”

After the violent protests, the state government had ordered the permanent closure of the Sterlite plant, part of the mining major Vedanta group.

On December 15, the National Green Tribunal set aside the closure order state government, saying it was “non sustainable” and “unjustified”.

TN govt moves SC against NGT order on Sterlite plant

Tamil Nadu moved the Supreme Court against the NGT verdict that set aside the state government order to close Vedanta Ltd’s Sterlite copper plant at Tuticorin.

At least 13 people were killed and several injured on May 22 last year when police opened fire on a large crowd of people protesting against environment pollution being allegedly caused by the plant.

The plea, filed through advocate M Yogesh Kanna, said the National Green Tribunal has “erroneously” set aside various orders passed by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board last year with regard to the Sterlite plant.

It said the tribunal had consequentially directed TNPCB to pass fresh orders of renewal of consent and issue authorisation to handle hazardous substances to the Vedanta Limited.

“The final impugned judgment and order dated December 15, 2018 is liable to be set aside by this Court as the Tribunal failed to consider the data, document and evidence furnished by TNPCB to prove that the respondent no.1 (Vedanta) herein had irreversibly polluted the ground water in and around Thoothukudi District,”" the petition said while seeking a stay on the NGT verdict.

It had held that non furnishing of ground water analysis report is a “technical breach and is trivial in nature”, the plea said.

“The said finding of the Tribunal shows non-application of mind as the appellants (TN and others) herein have furnished sufficient evidence to show that the respondent no.1 had polluted the ground water and therefore the respondent herein had not furnished the ground water analysis report,” it added.

The state government further said that it had raised various contentions before the Committee appointed by the NGT but the Committee failed to consider those contentions as well as documents while preparing its report.

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