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

Mallika Sarabhai releases speech she was 'not allowed' to give at NID Convocation on Feb 7

Counterview Desk
The National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, a Ministry of Commerce and Industry body, landed itself in controversy following its decision to put off its 40th convocation ceremony, where noted danseuse Mallika Sarabhai was invited as chief guest. The ceremony was scheduled to be held on February 7.

As corona virus 'travels' to rural areas, NGO begins training tribals, marginalised women

By Souparno Chatterjee*
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared corona virus a pandemic. Originating from Wuhan in China, it has traversed the entire globe, almost, and claimed more than 16,000 lives already. That’s largely the urban population. In India, despite all the preparedness and war-like promptness to safeguard against the pandemic, several lives have been lost , and hundreds of individuals have tested positive.

ISKCON UK 'clarifies' after virus infects devotees, 5 die due to big temple meet

By Rajiv Shah
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), United Kingdom (UK), has admitted that at least 21 of its devotees were infected because of the spread of the coronavirus amongst the UK devotee community following the March 12 funeral and March 15 memorial of the Bhaktivedanta Manor temple president, in which about 1,000 people participated. Regretting that five of the devotees have passed away, the top Hindu religious in Britain body does not deny more may have been infected.

Rani Laxmi Bai, Tatya Tope 'martyred' by East India Company, Scindia's forefathers

By Our Representative
In an email alert to Counterview, well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam has said that was “shameful for any political party in democratic India to keep children of Sindhias in their flock” given their role during the First War of Indian Independence (1857). In a direct commentary on Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia moving over to BJP, Prof Islam has quote from a British gazetteer to prove his point.

Modi, Shah 'forget': Gandhi’s first Satyagraha was against citizenship law of South Africa

By Nachiketa Desai*
Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi once on January 30, 1948 but his followers raising the war cry of ‘Jai Sriram’ are killing the Mahatma every day. In his home state of Gujarat, Gandhiji was killed a thousand times in 2002 when over 2,000 Muslims were butchered, their women raped, homes and shops plundered and set on fire and even unborn babies ripped out of the wombs of their mothers.

COVID-19: Dalit rights bodies regret, no relief plan yet for SCs, STs, marginalized

By Our Representative
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Dalit Watch-National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, endorsed* by several other Dalit rights organizations, have insisted, the Government of India should particular care of the scheduled castes and tribes, trans folks, persons with disabilities and the women and children from these communities, while fighting against COVID-19 pandemic.

Coronavirus scare ‘pushing’ people from Northeast India into more hardship

By Rishiraj Sinha, Biswanath Sinha*
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
***

Gujarat govt plan to 'banish' Gandhian activist anti-democratic, unconstitutional

By Rohit Prajapati*
The current Central and Gujarat governments, and their bureaucracy, have been and are still unable to answer and address the concerns raised, with facts, figures, and constitutional provisions, regarding the terror of tourism in the name of the Statue of Unity and tourism projects surrounding it.

Gujarat construction workers walk home as Rs 2,900 crore welfare fund lies unused

By Our Representative
Situated behind the Gujarat University, some of the families of the migrant construction workers from Dahod and Panchmahals districts of Gujarat, and a few from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, who had stayed put in make-shift shanties in Ahmedabad’s sprawling GMDC Ground, have begun a long journey, by foot, back to their home villages in the eastern tribal belt of Gujarat.