A public hearing organised on the expansion of M/s Strides Shasun Limited at Thavamani Marriage Hall on East Coast Road in Puducherry turned violent on Tuesday. Two police personnel were injured during a clash between two groups.
Strides Shasun Limited, a pharmaceutical company located at Periyakalapet here, which manufactures ibuprofen, plans to expand its production from 4,800 tonnes to 9,156 tonnes per annum.
The Puducherry Pollution Control Committee organised the public hearing in the presence of Collector Satyendra Singh Dursawat. However, protesters, led by former MLA Kalyanasundaram, staged a demonstration in the hall, disrupting the hearing.
Later, they staged a road blockade when an another group in support of the company came to the spot. Both resorted to throwing stones at each other, which escalated tension in the area.
Police resorted to lathi charge and burst tear gas shells to disperse the protesters. Senior Superintendent of Police (Law and Order) Apoorva Gupta said a group in support of the company and another opposing it clashed at Mathur Road and the Kalapet junction.
Ms. Gupta said, “The groups came to the Kalapet junction and clashed. They threw stones at each other and resorted to physical assault and attacked the police on the spot as well. Stones were thrown at the police officers and we had to use mild lathi charge to disperse the crowd and get the situation under control. Based on the current situation, we have requested the Collector to postpone the public hearing.”
Mr. Dursawat told The Media that the public hearing has been postponed to next month. “We will announce the dates after consulting with the officials concerned ,” he said.
Ms. Gupta said stringent action would be taken against those involved in the violence. “We will identify those involved in the violence through video footage recorded by department officials and take appropriate action against them,” she said.
“The expansion of Shasun Company has been a sensitive and longstanding issue. We had anticipated trouble and nearly 75 police personnel were deployed. The protesters assaulted senior employees of the company outside the marriage hall. We had to use mild lathi charge to disperse the crowd,” added Superintendent of Police S. Venkatasamy.
Selvakumar, Head HR, Strides Shasun Private Limited, said senior employees of the company were assaulted when they were coming out of the marriage hall. “The protesters did not allow the public hearing to proceed,” he said.
Objection to expansion
Several protesters in groups stood holding black flags at different points along the East Coast Road demanding the closure of the company. At 10 a.m., when the organisers formally welcomed the gathering and started the presentation, the protesters rushed towards the stage where the Collector, government officials and representatives from the company were seated. They shouted slogans against the government and company.
N. Tamil Maran of Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) said, “The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Report Chapter VII reports that the total requirement after expansion will be 2,315 KLD. The fresh water consumption will be 498 KLD sourced from in-house borewells. This indiscriminate use of groundwater will affect our groundwater source.”
A resident of Kalapet said the pollution caused by the company was affecting their health and the people in surrounding villages. “This company has been functioning for over 20 years now and nearly eight villages have already been affected due to the pollution,” they said.