Death toll from south India protests rises to 13

Security personnel opened fire at protesters in Anna Nagar on Wednesday

Security personnel opened fire at protesters in Anna Nagar on Wednesday

The district collector, the chairperson and member secretary of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, the secretaries holding the environment portfolios in the central and state governments, the ministers of environment at the state and Centre, and the chief minister of Tamil Nadu need to account for their inaction in the face of overwhelming evidence of illegalities, environmental harm and damage to public health. The Ministry of Home Affairs has also sought a detailed report on the sequence of events and circumstances that led to the police firing at protesters outside Sterlite Industries on May 22.

The head of the national opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, condemned the use of lethal force, calling it "a brutal example of state-sponsored terrorism".

According to a report in The Hindu, the well-known activist group "Foil Vedanta" which has been fighting against Sterlite is set to stage a protest outside the Indian Embassy in the United Kingdom on Saturday afternoon. Apart from the 13 dead, around 104 people have been injured in the police firing and the consequent violence.

"It's important that the Tamil Nadu authorities respond to protests in accordance with global law, but they should also be addressing concerns raised about health and environmental harms", Ganguly said. These citizens were murdered for protesting against injustice.

The protesters had set ablaze the local administrator's office after they were denied permission to hold a rally at the plant.

In a big blow to Vedanta Ltd, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) has ordered the closure of the company's Sterlite copper smelter in Thoothukudi with immediate effect. "The Chief Minister should own up moral responsibility for the deaths and step down".

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"It is with great sorrow and regret that we witnessed yesterday's (Tuesday) incidents around the protest at Tuticorin".

As Sterlite Copper deals with the fallout of the violent protests as well as the shutdown of the copper smelting plant, nearly 32,500 jobs have been axed in the Tuticorin plant.

The statement from the senior Labour MP, who highlighted that campaigners and worldwide NGOs like Amnesty global have accused Vedanta of a string of human rights and environmental abuses in India, Zambia and across the globe, came as protesters are preparing to stage a major protest against Vedanta outside the Indian High Commission in London on Saturday afternoon.

The same year, activists allege a gas leak from the plant left hundreds with breathing difficulties, nausea and throat infections.

Several cases have been filed against the plant since it started in 1996, and India's top court in 2013 fined it about $18 million for breaking environmental laws.

The company maintains that it adheres to environmental standards and said it was the victim of "false propaganda" about its operations. One of the plant units is operational.

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