6 September, 2005 — Just as 20 pollution-impacted villagers from Mettur and Cuddalore were to launch their 8-day march from Salem, Tamilnadu, on 5 September 2005, police landed up at the venue of the launch with a letter from the Deputy Commissioner of Police revoking the permission granted for launching their walk in Salem. (See also news story in Indian Express.)
At 12 noon, the marchers were sent off from Mettur on public transport after a short and somber function inaugurated by Mr. Kolathur Mani of the Thanthai Periyar Dravida Kazhagam.
Organisers of the march were earlier denied permission to start the march on 3 September from Mettur or take it through Salem district at the eleventh hour by the Mettur police. However, the organisers managed to move the Madras High Court and secure their right to walk through areas such as Salem city where permission had already been obtained. In accordance with the Court order, the march was rescheduled to begin on 5 September. However, totally oblivious of the High Court order and in what appears to be a hasty decision to prevent the march from starting at any cost, the Salem city police has issued an order banning the march in direct violation of the High Court order.
Interestingly, the letter of the Salem police mentions that their revocation is based on a decision by the Madras High Court to ban the march considering its anti-labour nature. The Madras High Court has issued no such direction, indicating that the Salem police’s orders have been prompted by information and considerations that may not be entirely official.
The Salem police are in a quandary now that they have realised that they have unwittingly violated a court order in their enthusiasm to accommodate the company’s interests. Organisers intend to sue the Salem police in the Madras High Court and request the court to conduct an enquiry into possible complicity between the administration and the company.
The organisers are resolved to continue the walk through Cuddalore district, and are hopeful that the Cuddalore police will not succumb to Chemplast’s pressure tactics and revoke the permit already given. The rescheduled walk will begin on 10 September, 2005, from Vridhachalam and end in Cuddalore on 13 September 2005, covering a distance of is 90 km.
“It is good that the Salem city police so crudely revoked our permission. It exposes their complicity with Chemplast, and shows how the police is here to protect industrialists and not people. We will not be cowed down by Chemplast or the police’s threats of violence and are resolved to carrying out a walk from Mettur to Cuddalore at a rescheduled date, besides marching from 10 September onwards from Vridhachalam to Cuddalore to warn SIPCOT residents about the dangerous antecedents of Chemplast,” the West Konur Farmers Welfare Association said.
Mettur is the site of Chemplast Sanmar Ltd’s highly polluting and dangerous PVC factory. Despite the widespread pollution and the losses (to health, livelihoods) suffered by Mettur residents as a result of Chemplast’s activities, the Tamilnadu Government secretly approved the company to set up a controversial 140,000 tonne/year PVC factory in SIPCOT industrial estate, Cuddalore. SIPCOT is an overpolluted industrial estate in coastal Tamilnadu. Numerous agencies, including the Tamilnadu State Human Rights Commission, have acknowledged the human rights violations by chemical industries in the region, and recommended against the setting up of new polluting facilities here.
The Chemplast PVC proposal was first rejected by the SIPCOT residents in 2002. Subsequently, the proposal was moved to Krishnapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. In 2003, Krishnapatnam villagers unanimously rejected the project. The twice rejected project has now been re-invited to its originally proposed site amidst much controversy and allegations of irregularities.
Decision on the proposal which has been pending environmental clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment has been twice postponed because of the massive public opposition and the numerous technical irregularities in the proposal.
Organisers of the anti-PVC march include: West Konur Farmers Welfare Association, Thanthai Periyar Dravida Kazhagam, SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitors, FEDCOT, SEED, DEPORT, Tamilnadu Environmental Council, Tamilnadu Green Movement, Corporate Accountability Desk.
Read Related News Stories:
- Anti-PVC padayatra scuttled
India Express 5 September, 2005
- Tamil Nadu villagers protest plastics factory
NewKerala.com 5 September, 2005