Section 144 lifted in Tuticorin district: TN govt

Section 144 lifted in Tuticorin district: TN govt

A vandalised government bus during a violent protest against the closure of Vedanta's Sterlite Copper unit, in Thoothukudi, on Friday. Over 100 people were arrested for protesting police firing on Tuesday and Wednesday in the port city that left 13 dead. PTI/FILE

Normalcy returned to Tuticorin on Sunday after authorities lifted prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC, days after violence rocked the district during a protest demanding closure of a copper factory owned by UK-based conglomerate Vedanta Group.

Section 144, which does not allow assembly of more than four people, was imposed on May 23 following the violence in which 13 people lost their lives while many others were injured.

The factory had stopped functioning from April 9 as its application to renew the licence was rejected by the state Pollution Control Board, state Information and Publicity Minister Kadambur Raju said.

"The government's intention is to close the facility. That is why it allowed the locals to stage a protest for 98 days," he added.

People living in the area have been staging protests demanding closure of the plant owned by Vedanta Ltd.

"Whichever association they (agitators) may represent, the government ensured it provided adequate security to their protest," Raju, who also hails from Tuticorin, said.

Stating that electricity supply to the factory was already cut, the minister said, "Now supply of water is also disconnected. Due to this, the functioning of the factory has been fully stopped."

Chief Minister EK Palaniswami understands the feelings of the people and there are "no second thoughts" from the government to allow Vedanta Ltd to run the plant, he said.

"After holding discussions with representatives of various associations, we have brought back normalcy in the district and Section 144 imposed in the district was lifted from 8 am onwards today (Sunday)," he said.

Denying charges by the Opposition that none of his Cabinet colleagues visited the injured or the families of the deceased, he said discussions were held to present solatium to the families of the affected.

"It has also been announced by the government that suitable jobs will be provided to an individual from the family of the deceased. The local administration is collecting the necessary details," he said.

Explaining the initiatives taken by the government to restore normalcy, the minister said supply of essential commodities has been stepped up by the district administration and are currently provided round-the-clock.

Raju said hoteliers, restaurateurs and private bus operators have commenced functioning from Sunday.

"Now, both government-owned buses and private buses are being operated in the district," he added.

The minister said he has been explaining about the developments in the district to the chief minister and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam on a regular basis and expressed hope that they would be visiting the district soon.

Some media reports said Panneerselvam will be visiting the district on Monday.

To a query, Raju said internet services have been restored in neighbouring Kanniyakumari and Tirunelveli districts.

"By tonight (Sunday), we are expecting to restore internet service in our (Tuticorin) district," he added.

Sterlite Copper is a unit of Vedanta Ltd which operates a 400,000-tonne per annum capacity plant here.