Three years ago, the Sterlite copper plant in Tamil Nadu was shut down over uncorroborated allegations of pollution activities. At that time, no one including the regional-Dravidian parties in the state-backed Sterlite. The copper plant was shuttered forcibly, but now as Sterlite has proposed to produce oxygen from the shuttered plant, regional parties have reportedly agreed to let it reopen.
Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami convened an all-party meeting in which a unanimous decision was taken that the Sterlite copper plant in Thoothukudi can be reopened for oxygen production. The regional parties including the AIADMK, DMK, BJP, Congress, PMK, DMDK and the Left agreed to the reopening of the plant on the condition that it would be operated only for oxygen production.
The all-party meeting was convened in the background of the Supreme Court hearing of a plea of the Vedanta group, which runs the Sterlite copper plant, to open the unit and produce 1,000 tons of oxygen daily in order to meet the growing demand of the essential commodity to treat COVID-19 patients.
A resolution was passed at the all-party meeting according to which oxygen can be produced by using electricity to be supplied by Tangedco. As such, there is no permission for the production of copper or any byproducts. Further, the resolution stated that any excess oxygen produced at the Sterlite plant can be transferred to other states.
The resolution is a big change in the stand of Dravidian and other regional parties in Tamil Nadu regarding the Sterlite copper plant. Back in 2018, the entire left-liberal gang was opposing Sterlite tooth and nail. They were constantly alleging that the plant was spreading pollution in the region. In the background of massive protests which had also turned violent in between, the Tamil Nadu government was forced to shut down the Sterlite copper plant in Thoothukudi.
Even when there were talks of reopening the plant recently, CM Palaniswami initially said that the state had an abundance of oxygen supply. It had assured the Madras High Court about a sufficient supply of oxygen and ventilators in the state.
However, the demand for oxygen has risen rapidly in the state of Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami even urged PM Modi to halt the diversion of eighty metric tonnes of liquid oxygen to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. He added that the oxygen allotment for Tamil Nadu under the national plan is ‘inadequate’ and ‘wrong’ and that the diversion of oxygen could lead to a ‘major crisis’.
Therefore, the Tamil Nadu government is clearly stating that it needs more oxygen production. It is therefore ironic that only three years ago, the Sterlite plant was forcibly shuttered. At that time, the entire left-liberal ecosystem was vilifying the copper plant and none of the regional parties had come out supporting it. However, when the real crisis came, all hopes are getting pinned on the Sterlite copper plant.
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