The Sterlite Copper Plant in Tamil Nadu, by Vedanta Resources Plc. has recently been in news for a controversy. What is it and why is the public agitated?
India is a diverse country which is the world’s largest democracy. However, often this democracy is making headlines for several wrong reasons. The last news in is that there has been firing by the police in Tamil Nadu due to public protests. But, what is the cause and who is right?
Thoothukudi is a town in Tamil Nadu which is a South Indian state. This is the location where the Sterlite Copper plant of Vedanta Resources Plc. had been set up in 1996. However, it is believed that the smelting Sterlite copper plant has adversely affected the residents of the nearby area. It is alleged that the construction by Vedanta Resources Plc. has harmed their water, health and environment.
According to sources, the citizens want to get rid of the copper smelting plant on the aforesaid grounds. Their previous protests have been peaceful as well. However, recently they were stopped by the police when they were marching towards the quarters of authorities. This is what led the crowd to throw stones set vehicles on fire and damage government building. On seeing such a scenario go beyond control, the police too had to open fire which led to the death of 12 and injury of at least 80.
According to the website of Vedanta Limited, the company has 3 Sterlite facilities in India. One located in Thoothukudi (a city in Tamil Nadu), and two others in Silvassa (in Dadra and Nagar Haveli; just bordering Gujarat). Through these facilities, Vedanta ltd holds a total market share of 36 percent of India’s copper market.
Since the very beginning, the company’s Sterlite units have always been in the mix of controversies for violating environmental protection norms. And not to mention the health hazards that emissions from such facilities pose to the local residents, culminating in deadly health issues.
In fact, the latest controversy that’s panning out in Tamil Nadu is due to the same reasons. Upon announcing that Sterlite Copper will be expanding in the city, the locales of Thoothukudi (or Tuticorin) started protesting, demanding the existing units be closed. Their protests have been going on for more than 100 days. Sadly, yesterday, things turned violent and police had to shot dead 11 of the protestors to control the crowd.
While the residents have complained that the copper is causing serious health issue due to the pollution it creates, Sterlite Copper of Vedanta Limited has maintained that they have the proper permit for the facility and they aren’t violating any norm.
The whole scenario is quite saddening. People, now, have to take it to the streets, protest and risk their lives just because they want to live a healthier life. On another hand, the powerful industrialists like the people at Vedanta Limited, who likely have political connections, can get away by mass poisoning. (YES, MASS POISONING!)
How can a copper industry that likely emits dangerous smoke get the permission to operate in such residential area? How can an industry that operates a 400,000-tonne per annum unit cannot negatively affect the environment? And how is it possible that even after months of protest from the residents (because they want to live a healthy life) no proper action has been taken from the authorities?
Everything here smells unethical, corruption and unjustifiable. It’s sad that even when the protests were reportedly going on for more than 100 days, it took 11 lives for the mainstream media to take notice of this issue. And even now, the reactions from the authorities and politicians are incredibly meek and non-existent. Admittedly, why would they react? After all, these are companies and owners who warm their pockets during election season.
It’s unfathomable that to want to live a healthy life now, people have to protest in India and risk their lives. There’s a lot to learn from Australians – thousands of those swarmed the streets, in support of the media – to protest against Adani and his coal mine project in order to protect Great Barrier Reef. The people there, in all states and of different classes, howled in unison to preserve their nature’s gift. We, in India? We’re busy with Hindu-Muslim topics with no worries for hundreds of people in Thoothukudi who are exposed to poison every single day.
And with now 11 people losing their lives in gunfire, people still would not pay heed to this problem.
Great India indeed.