Stop Sterlite plant from opening: Protesters to TN govt

Don't allow Sterlite plant to be opened in any form: Protesters to Govt

The Supreme Court heard Vedanta's plea to allow it to produce oxygen through the plant

Activists stage a protest against Centre's decision to re-open Sterlite Copper Plant in Thoothukudi. Credit: PTI Photo

Anti-Sterlite protesters and activists on Friday told the Tamil Nadu government that they are opposed to Vedanta-owned Sterlite Copper getting access to its massive copper smelter in Thoothukudi even if it was just for producing oxygen at its oxygen manufacturing plants.

At a closed door meeting chaired by Thoothukudi District Collector K Senthil Raj on Friday morning, activists and locals vehemently opposed reopening of the plant. The meeting came hours before the Supreme Court heard Vedanta's plea seeking access to its oxygen plants inside the massive smelter to produce oxygen for treating Covid-19 patients.

A few people who were present at the meeting supported Sterlite Copper's plea and opined that the company can be allowed access to its plant for producing oxygen. However, they were shouted down by people opposed to Sterlite, eye-witnesses said, adding that a few pro-Sterlite locals were manhandled while they were leaving the Collectorate.

Majority of the people who participated in the consultative meeting opposed Sterlite Copper's plea accusing the Vedanta owned company of attempting a “back-door entry” using a “national crisis” as an excuse. At one point, the anti-Sterlite activists and people told the collector that they will not even allow the state government to run the oxygen plant let alone Sterlite Copper.

Read | Political parties and activists oppose Sterlite's plea to produce oxygen

“We certainly feel Sterlite Copper's plea before the Supreme Court is not about producing oxygen. It is just a move by the company to make a back-door entry into the facility. Sterlite is known for acting with impunity and we expressed our vehement opposition to the company getting access to the plant in any manner,” Prof Fathima Babu, the first to move courts against Sterlite Copper, told DH.

The district collector said most of the voices at the stakeholders' meeting was against Sterlite Copper getting access to the plant even if it was just for producing oxygen.

“The question of reopening Sterlite Copper does not arise as it was the government's decision to close it. The question that was put before the stakeholders on Friday was whether we can allow oxygen plants to be opened for production of oxygen. Most of the people who attended were against any such move,” he told DH over the phone.

Sterlite is a repeat offender and this has been “accepted” by various courts including the Supreme Court, while maintaining that the country is not “oxygen deficient,” Prof Fathima Babu claimed.

“We will not let Sterlite Copper function from Thoothukudi yet again. We do not want their oxygen. It is the same company that spoiled the air we breathe here, and now they want to produce oxygen. This must be a joke,” a woman who participated in the meeting said.

Sterlite Copper was closed down by the Tamil Nadu government in 2018 following months of protests by locals and activists which was overturned by the National Green Tribunal the same year. The state government approached the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the NGT order.

The apex court stayed the order of the NGT and allowed Sterlite Copper to approach the Madras High Court, which upheld the government order. The case is now in the Supreme Court with Sterlite Copper challenging the Madras High Court verdict. The company's plea to access the plant for maintenance purposes has not been entertained by the court so far.



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