THE CPI(M) launched a campaign, ‘Poraduvom Tamizhagame’, in Tamil Nadu to sensitise the people about the suppression of democratic rights, excesses committed by the police, unbridled corruption, administrative bungling and the anti-people attitude of the AIADMK government.
As part of the campaign -- ‘Poraduvom Tamizhagame’ (Tamil Nadu Protests), six rallies were taken out from different parts of the state and these culminated in Trichy with a public meeting on June 14. The rallies began on June 8 from Kollancode in Kanyakumari district, Cuddalore, Thiruthani in Tiruvallur district, Ettayapuram in Thoothukudi district, Erumadu in the Nilgiris and Vellore. The rallies were led by Polit Bureau member G Ramakrishnan, state secretary K Balakrishnan, Central Committee members P Sampath and A Soundararajan, and State Secretariat members A Lazar and P Shanmugam, respectively.
The campaign was aimed at finding solutions to the challenges posed to the livelihood of the common man due to the anti-people policies of the central and state governments, CPI(M) state secretary K Balakrishnan said.Demonetisation, Goods and Services Tax (GST) and soaring costs of fuel and cooking gas have crippled the economy, he said, accusing the central and state governments of appeasing the corporates and ignoring the deplorable state of the agricultural and MSME sectors that sustain the livelihood of the common man. Citing the state government’s moves to open liquor outlets and more sand quarries on the one hand and neglect of schools on the other, Balakrishnan said the “unfit” AIADMK government has to be voted out of power.
On the police firing on anti-Sterlite protesters in Thoothukudi, Balakrishnan assailed the chief minister for what he described as callous handling of the issue. At a time when a commission of inquiry appointed by the government to probe the firing was yet to complete its task, the comment made by actor Rajinikanth that the violence was triggered by anti-socials was preposterous and uncalled for. The actor's comment was an insult to the people of Tamil Nadu, Balakrishnan added.
The CPI (M) leader was also unsparing in his criticism of Makkal Needhi Maiyam founder Kamal Haasan for his statement, after meeting Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, that the Cauvery issue has to be resolved through talks. The actor's comment was tantamount to disrespecting the Cauvery Management Board that has been formed ultimately after the failure of 24 rounds of talks, he pointed out. The CPI(M) will also work for a concerted nationwide action for opposing medical entrance exam NEET, he said.
Yechury Visits Epicentre of Anti-Sterlite Protests
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury visited Thoothukudi, where 13 people were killed in police firing on a protest against the polluting Sterlite copper smelting unit, and met the families of the victims on June 3. After meeting the families of the deceased and also the injured at the Thoothukudi Government Medical College Hospital, he said, “It was a brutal police firing. The inhumane barbarity was unleashed on very innocent and peaceful demonstrators.”
Noting that firing should be the last resort to quell a protest and should be used only after exhausting all other options such as lathi-charge, tear gas and water cannons, he said, “But this was not the case in Thoothukudi, where the police opened fire after a lathi-charge. Most of the gunshots hit above the waist, targeting the chest. It was certainly not a move aimed at managing the crowd.”
On May 22 — the 100th day of the anti-Sterlite agitation, the protesters wanted to approach the District Collectorate, demanding the closure of copper smelting unit. But they were met with snipers and shoot at sight orders. It was strange that the District Collector and the Superintendent of Police were away at that time, Yechury said. “Who gave the order to open fire, and to whom was the authority delegated by the Collector? Did somebody assume the authority on their own?” he asked.
He said the District Collector and the Superintendent of Police should have been suspended, instead of being transferred, till the inquiry was complete. "The probe into the incident has to be done by an authority which is not involved with state and central governments. The inquiry should be handed over to the CBI and monitored by the Madras High Court,” he said.
Based on the findings of the inquiry, the Vedanta Group, which owns the smelting unit, should be directed to pay compensation for the damage caused to agriculture due to the depletion of groundwater and to people's health due to the contamination of drinking water, he said.
Yechury also said the copper plant was allowed to operate because the Vedanta Group had “strong connections” with successive governments. Vedanta Resources is one of the leading donors to both the BJP and the Congress, he said, claiming that this had resulted in environmental violations. "The nod for expansion of the Sterlite plant was granted after the Modi government came into office. Why?" he asked.
He appealed to the government of Tamil Nadu to withdraw the police personnel deployed in Thoothukudi and also the “false cases” filed against protesters. Pointing out that there were no party flags during the protests, he said, “Even we (CPI-M) were there without our party flags. But now cases have been filed against our activists.” The general secretary was accompanied by CPI(M) Central Committee member P Sampath, district secretary K S Arjunan and other leaders.