Thoothukudi: Sixteen months have passed since the Sterlite copper industry in Thoothukudi was closed by the Tamil Nadu government on charges that effluent from the factory caused cancer and several mysterious diseases.
The charges made by NGOs has no scientific facts as according to the reports of the Tamil Nadu cancer registry project (TNCR), the crude cancer incidence rate in Thoothukudi is much lower than the state average. The policy note of the health ministry produced during the assembly session on demands for grants in 2017-2018 also goes on line with the TNCR reports.
People around the factory site whose voices were muffled by the shouting of the frenzied mob, have now started coming out in support of the copper smelter plant that was their major source of livelihood since the late nineties. This is thanks to the activist groups getting exposed because of the infighting among themselves over who should get more importance in their protests against Sterlite.
According to 52 year old Ponnayiram of Sankarapery village near Sterlite copper, the industry has been their livelihood till it was indefinitely shut down by a government order on May 28, 2018. “Since then our youths are running from pillar to post to get jobs,” said Ponnayiram, who added that the jobs they get in far off places are not so lucrative as the jobs offered by Sterlite.
The opinion of 35 year old Rajapandi of Meelavittan, another village close to Sterlite is not different. “The groups that triggered the mob by spreading false allegations against the industry is now trying to stop the welfare measures like scholarships for students and supply of potable drinking water by Sterlite,” said Rajapandi, who added that if the villagers do not raise their voices against the activist groups, their lives will be doomed for ever as villages located in the rain shadow region cannot farm for a livelihood.
Villagers around Sterlite now demand that the district administration take action against the fringe elements that are trying to stop the welfare activities by Sterlite under its CSR programme. They want the resumption of the free medical check up scheme earlier implemented by the copper plant.
Some activists are still trying to create panic among villagers that a hazardous substance inside the Sterlite factory might give rise to a blast any time. Thoothukudi district collector Sandeep Nanduri however ruled out any such danger, clarifying that no harmful chemical is inside the plant. He added that the plant administration could write to the government seeking permission if it wants to take up structural maintenance of the factory....