Skip to main content

People, doctors talk of "Sterlite patches" on villagers' skins due to Thoothukudi copper plant pollution: Inquiry team

Counterview Desk
An independent team led by former judges of Bombay and Madras High Court, and consisting of former IAS and IPS bureaucrats, academics, journalists and activists, has found that people in Tuticorin district coined a new term -- Sterlite patch -- in order to identify the skin patch they believed was caused by environmental pollution caused by the notorious Sterlite copper smelter unit in the villages surrounding it.
The team -- which visited Tuticorin on June 2-3 in order to investigate the police firing against around 50,000 protesters against Sterlite, on May 22, leading to the death of 15 persons, and it's aftermath -- in its preliminary report has said, "People have cited cases of cancer, lung and breathing related hazards, which they attribute to Sterlite. Similarly, there is, in fact, a kind of ‘skin patch’, which is now notoriously called as Sterlite patch”.
Pointing out that the term Sterlite patch had become so common that even doctors use it at the time of diagnosis, the team found that doctors would ask patients "to leave the region", insisting on the need to have "a focussed health-based study in these villages". It adds, "People shared experiences that when they visit hospitals for cancer testing, the doctors would ask them whether they are from Sterlite region, clearly revealing their knowledge of such cases from the region."
"Some testimonies indicated that prospective grooms demanded health records of women prior to getting into marriage alliance", the team's 5,000-word report says, adding,it observed that "the local authorities have done nothing to organise a detailed health-based study, which could either prove the same or at least be used to allay the fears of the people, if the health hazard theory were not true."
Noting that villagers knew Sterlite was Rs 100 crore by the Supreme Court for polluting the environment, the report says, "For villagers, clearly, environment pollution means immediate health concerns to them. It is about life and death of villagers." It adds, people also cited "how every successful order against Sterlite got overruled subsequently. They suspect that money is playing a significant role."
The 23-person team, which called itself Coordinating Committee for People’s Inquest into Thoothukudi Police Firing, visited Thoothukudi and its suburbs. Those who were it's members included Justices (Retd) BG Kolse Patil and Hariparanthaman of Bombay and Madras High Courts respectively, former Haryana chief secretary MG Devasahayam, former Tamil Nadu additional chief secretary Christudoss Gandhi, former Gujarat DGP RB Sreekumar, top sociologist Shiv Visvanathan, forensic medicine expert Dr K Mathiharan, and others.
The team notes that Sterlite Copper started its operations in Tamil Nadu in 1996, and though it continued its "malpractices for many years", in "2013 the company was found releasing excessive sulphur dioxide". It adds, as a result, "many people who were living in the nearby area of the plant complained of health issues and even some women had miscarriage due to gas leakage."
The team regrets, "The Tamil Nadu Pollution Board has been really supportive of the Sterlite Copper action", and ordered the company to shut down only "for two and half months", adding, though it "set up an inquiry on the company", the National Green Tribunal "allowed the factory to resume production in 2013."
Pointing out that the May 22 protest was not an isolated event, the report says, "In February 2018, the anti-Sterlite movement gained momentum and on March 24, 2018, mobilized around 2 lakh people for protest. In March 2018, the plant was shut down for 15 days due to maintenance as the plant owners wanted to expand the capacity of the plant. The plant was not granted operating license beyond March 2018, due to non-compliance with environmental regulations."

Comments

TRENDING

Telangana govt proposes to give unfettered powers to forest officials, 'help' corporates

By Dr Palla Trinadha Rao*
The Telangana Government is contemplating to replace the Telangana Forest Act 1967 with a new law - the Telangana Forest Act (TFA) 2019, trampling the rights of adivasis ensured under the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA Act 2006) and Panchayats Extension to Schedule Area (PESA) Act 1996 both of which are central acts.

Lynching as state terror? Complete dearth of 'political will' to deal with mob violence

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
On Friday July 5, thousands of people had gathered at a rally in Surat to protest against the growing mob lynching incidents in different parts of the country. There are different interpretations at what happened during the rally: with police blaming the rallyists and those in the rally blaming the police for using teargas shells upon them without any reason.

RSS, Hindu Mahasabha were 'subservient' to British masters: Nagpur varsity VC told

Counterview Desk
Well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam, associate professor (retired), University of Delhi, in an open letter to the vice-chancellor of the Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University, Dr Siddharthavinayaka P Kane, has taken strong exception to the varsity decision to include RSS’ “role” in nation building in the syllabus of the BA (history) course, citing instances to say that the RSS ever since its birth in 1925 with its Hindutva allies like Hindu Mahasabha led by VD Savarkar worked overtime to “betray the glorious anti-colonial freedom struggle”.

One lakh schools closed down, draft policy 'seeks' commercialisation: Whither RTE?

By Our Representative
A national consultation on the new draft National Education Policy (NEP) with senior experts, teachers’ association representatives and other stakeholders at the India International Centre in New Delhi on July 11, organised by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, has expressed serious concern over curtailment in the budgeted expenditure on education year after year, even as closure of more than one lakh schools over the "last few years."

Mental health: India's 95% patients "deprived" of medical care, treatment gap 70%

By Moin Qazi*
Among the many challenges India faces, the most underappreciated is the ongoing mental health crisis. Mental illness is actually India’s ticking bomb. An estimated 56 million Indians suffer from depression, and 38 million from anxiety disorders. For those who suffer from mental illness, life can seem like a terrible prison from which there is no hope of escape; they are left forlorn and abandoned, stigmatized, shunned and misunderstood.

British companies export 'deadly' asbestos to India, other countries from offshore offices

By Rajiv Shah
“The Sunday Times”, which forms part of the powerful British daily, “The Times”, has raised the alarm that though the “deadly” asbestos is banned in Britain, companies registered in United Kingdom, and operating from other countries, “are involved in shipping it to developing nations”, especially India. India, Brazil, Russia and China account for almost 80% of the asbestos consumed globally every year, it adds.

Gender budgeting? Govt of India allocates just 2.1%, 0.73% for SC, ST women

By Rajiv Shah
The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), one of the most influential all-India Dalit rights networks, has taken strong exception to the manner in which the Government of India has undermined Gender Responsive Budgeting in the Union Budget 2019-20 for scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs), pointing towards “wide gaps” between the goals and the situational reality of “the Dalit and Adivasi women on the ground.”

UN report notes 'suppression' of Kashmiri independence groups in Pakistan

By Our Representative
A top United Nations (UN) body has suggested that the intense fervour of Kashmiri nationalism isn’t just sweeping the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state but is equally strong in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), pointing towards how the Pak authorities have been seeking to suppress it by placing restrictions on rights to freedoms of expression and opinion, assembly and association on every section of PoK’s population.

Campaign 'victory': Bihar considers ban on asbestos, carcinogenic to humans

Counterview Desk
In a major victory for anti-asbestos campaigners, the Bihar government has said that it is considering an immediate ban on use of asbestos&based products of all kinds in the state. Speaking in the state assembly, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar insisted on the need to taking a strong policy decision against carcinogenic asbestos factories.
A communication, meanwhile, has been forwarded  to the health secretary by Kumar, referring to concerns of Dr Gopal Krishna, who heads the Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) "on hazardous asbestos factories to the health department." Krishna said that the health department should looking into the demand for the creation of a register of victims of asbestos related diseases.
He added, the government should also create a register asbestos laden buildings and products in general and a probe on the health status of workers, their families and communities linked to and in proximity of the two units of asbestos factories…

Satellite data 'identify' Gujarat's Mundra among 6 of India's top air pollution hotspots

By Rajiv Shah
A fresh study, which analyzes data between February 2018 and May 2019, obtained from Tropomi, a satellite instrument on board the Dutch Copernicus Sentinel-5 Precursor satellite, has warned that coal-fired power plants and industrial clusters are India’s “worst nitrogen oxides (NOx) hotspots” contributing hugely to air pollution in Sonbhadra-Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, Korba in Chhattisgarh, Talcher in Odisha, Chandrapur in Maharashtra, Mundra in Gujarat and Durgapur in West Bengal.