Thoothukudi back on feet, almost

Back to normal: Shops open shutters amid heavy police presence

A man walks past a vandalised government bus during a violent protest against the closure of Vedanta's Sterlite Copper unit, in Tuticorin, on Friday. PTI

Bus services were partially restored and a few shops opened on Friday as the port city of Thoothukudi tried to be back on its feet after being shut since Tuesday following violent anti-Sterlite protests.

Vegetable markets, chemist shops, a few restaurants and grocery shops opened shutters, but the roads still wore a deserted look with people fearing to step out of their homes due to heavy police presence.
 
Police continued to patrol the city and used drones to assess the situation in Anna Nagar, one of the worst-hit localities in Tuesday’s protests. Transport corporations resumed services to Madurai, Tirunelveli, Tiruchendur and other cities in Tamil Nadu.   
 
As the situation got better, the government restored internet services in the nearby Tirunelveli and Kanniyakumari districts and gave indications that it may follow suit in Thoothukudi as well, most probably on Saturday.
 
The traders’ body in Thoothukudi expressed hope that all shops would open on Saturday. "A few of them opened today (Friday), and we expect almost all to resume business soon," a member of the body said.
 
Besides heavy police presence, the extension of prohibitory orders till Sunday has also dampened spirits. Though no fresh violence was reported from Thoothukudi city, a government bus was torched in the district.
 
Meanwhile, a day-long bandh was called by DMK-led Opposition parties to condemn the police firing in Thoothukudi. Demonstrations were staged by the DMK, its allies Congress, IUML, MMK and other parties like MDMK, VCK, CPI, and CPM across Tamil Nadu and the neighbouring Puducherry.
 
Far away from the hustle and bustle of Thoothukudi, there stands a massive premises spread across hundreds of acres on the Madurai-Thoothukudi highway.

The large campus that houses Sterlite Copper, a unit of the London-based Vedanta, is now deserted except for the police personnel posted to guard the campus from protesters.

The factory is located 5 km from the Thoothukudi Collectorate, the epicentre of Tuesday's anti-Sterlite protests. The giant board of Sterlite Copper is hard to miss for anyone who takes the Thoothukudi-Madurai highway.

On Friday, when this correspondent went to the area, only police vehicles, riot-control vehicles and a few personnel were there.

Security was beefed up at the campus after Tuesday's protests due to apprehensions that the agitators may gherao the plant, which is now shut.

The copper-smelting plant, which produces 4,00,000 metric tonnes every year, is under attack for its bad effluent practices and poor pollution-control management. It had courted a fresh controversy in 2014 when it renewed plans to expand the already sprawling facility.

The existing factory is worth Rs 2,100 crore according to insiders, who also admit that they have shifted a majority of their staff to safer places.

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Thoothukudi back on feet, almost

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