The protest against the pollution of Chalakudy River allegedly by Nitta Gelatin India Limited (NGIL) is gaining momentum with agitators threatening to forcibly remove the company’s discharge outlet to the river on July 1.
An indefinite hunger strike organised jointly by the NITA Action Council and Kathikkudam Samara Samithi along the banks of the river in Kathikkudam in Kadukutty panchayat in Thrissur district where the company is located entered its seventh day on Thursday.
Two women protesters who were arrested by the police and moved to the hospital on the fifth day of their hunger strike on Monday were replaced by two others. The hunger strike will continue till the end of this month before the protesters move in to remove the discharge outlet of the company, which they allege was responsible for the massive fish-kill on two days last month.
“We are planning to take out an autorickshaw rally propagating the message of our protest shortly. The campaign featuring autorickshaws sporting black flags will pass through all six affected panchayats bordering the river – Kadukutty , Kuzhur and Annamanada in Thrissur and Parakkadavu, Kunnukara, and Puthenvelikkara panchayats in Ernakulam,” said a spokesperson for the Kathikkudam Samara Samithi.
The organisers are also planning to lay siege to the Thrissur District Collectorate and the national highway. A people’s check-post outside the company is also being thought of to prevent what the spokesperson alleged as the transportation of waste from the company’s sister concern in Kakkanad.
“We have lodged a complaint with the police and if the company still persists with such practices, we will be forced to lay siege to the company. Only raw materials will be let in through our check-post,” he said.
V.D. Satheeshan MLA, who represents Paravur Assembly constituency of which the affected panchayats Kunnukara and Puthenvelikkara are part of, denied that the issue was being ignored. “I have taken up the issue with the Chief Minister, the Industries Minister and the Minister in charge of the Pollution Control Board, and demanded an inquiry by the police or any other expert agency recommended by the protesters to bring out the truth behind the issue. If such an inquiry reveals that the company is even remotely responsible for the river pollution and the recent fish-kill, it should be closed down. But a company functioning for more than 30 years cannot be closed down simply on account of public demand,” said Mr. Satheeshan, who is also a leader of the Congress-affiliated trade union in the company.
He said the PCB has already given a clean chit to the company citing that it has nothing to do with nitrate, the component reportedly responsible for the fish-kill. Mr. Satheeshan said the company had complied with recommendations by an expert committee and the PCB to install 16 different pollution control devices for the treatment of water besides reducing the water intake by one-third.
‘Open to talks’
G. Suseelan, managing director, NGIL, shot down allegations that waste was being brought from the company’s sister concern at Kakkanad. He said the company was open to conciliatory talks but expressed scepticism about its success. The validity of the consent given by the PCB for the functioning of the company will expire on June 30.
Mr. Suseelan said unless the PCB gave a fresh consent the company would be forced to close down. The Karukutty panchayat had denied licence to the company for the last more than three years. The company had approached the High Court and the case was in progress, he said.