Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami on Tuesday ordered the setting up of a one-member commission of inquiry into the firing against anti-Sterlite protesters in Thoothukudi.
Announcing this, Fisheries Minister D. Jayakumar told presspersons at the Secretariat on Tuesday evening that the panel would go into all issues that led to the firing. He was responding to the question who had ordered the firing. The government is yet to name the Inquiry Commissioner.
Earlier in a statement, the Chief Minister said a solatium of ₹10 lakh would be paid to the family of each deceased; ₹3 lakh to each of those who suffered major injuries; and ₹1 lakh to each with minor injuries. “Besides, on compassionate grounds, government employment would be provided to one member of the family of every deceased subject to qualifications,” Mr. Palaniswami said.
Condoling the deaths, he directed the Thoothukudi district administration and doctors to ensure that the injured be provided quality treatment.
Seeking to justify the police action of firing at a “20,000-strong crowd who indulged in violence”, the Chief Minister said: “It was with a view to bringing under control the violence of the crowd that the police, under unavoidable circumstances, had to resort to the firing.”
Vehicles set afire
Defying prohibitory orders and ignoring the police advice to disperse, the crowd had not only thrown stones at the police but also burnt down police vehicles. In addition, the agitators had also caused damage at the Thoothukudi Collectorate.
Mr. Palaniswami, who met Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam and senior officials at the Secretariat, called for peace, and said the “Amma [former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa] government” would take legal steps on the issue in deference to popular sentiments.
Giving an account of the controversy surrounding the Sterlite plant, Mr. Palaniswami said after the lapse of the validity of the licence for consent to operate the first unit in March, the company had applied to the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board for extension for the period from 2018 to 2023.
Citing five technical grounds, including non-submission of the report of the test on groundwater in villages in the neighbourhood of the plant and the discharge of hazardous waste in violation of rules, the TNPCB, on April 9, rejected the application. Challenging the rejection, the company had moved the Appellate Authority, which had adjourned the case to June 6. When the matter came up for hearing on May 17, an Additional Advocate-General, who appeared on behalf of the Board, had “strongly argued” for the denial of nod to the plant, the Chief Minister stated.