- It has been more than three years since the closure of Sterlite Copper’s Thoothukudi (Tamil Nadu) based copper smelter plant.
- Foxconn runs an iPhone and Apple gadget assembly facility in Tamil Nadu’s Sriperumbudur.
- This plant has been shut since December 18, and there is absolutely no clarity on when operations will resume at the crucial Apple facility.
It has been more than three years since the closure of Sterlite Copper’s Thoothukudi (Tamil Nadu) based copper smelter plant. It was the largest copper plant in India and accounted for 40 per cent (400,000 MT) of the country’s total copper smelting capacity. The plant was closed after China-backed protests by Christian, Maoists, and eco-fascist groups. Despite repeated efforts, the Union government has not succeeded in its reopening, and the Tamil Nadu government under Chief Minister Stalin is not keen on reopening the plant despite demands from workers and the fact that the plant worked for the national interest.
But guess what? The China-backed protests are back, only that now, their target is different. Foxconn runs an iPhone and Apple gadget assembly facility in Tamil Nadu’s Sriperumbudur. This plant has been shut since December 18, and there is absolutely no clarity on when operations will resume at the crucial Apple facility. The Foxconn factory employs over 17,000 people.
The closure was triggered by a mass food-poisoning incident at the facility’s hostel for women employees. Earlier this month, women workers at Foxconn’s plant in Sriperumbudur staged a protest after many of their colleagues were hospitalised due to an outbreak of acute diarrhoeal disease. According to the Apple spokesperson, following recent concerns over conditions pertaining to food safety and accommodation at Foxconn Sriperumbudur, independent auditors were dispatched to undertake additional detailed assessments.
The auditors discovered some lapses in the remote dormitory accommodations and dining rooms, which Foxconn said in a statement, were immediately being addressed. Foxconn said that all employees will continue to be paid while necessary improvements are undertaken before restarting operations.”We are also restructuring our local management team and our management systems to ensure we can achieve and maintain the high standards that are needed,” the statement by Foxconn Technology Group said.
There is a central theme which anti-India forces make use of. They allege environmental pollution or hazardous living conditions within and around such big facilities, and make a case for them to be permanently shut down. This is what happened with the Sterlite Copper Plant, and this is exactly what vested interest groups are hoping to achieve with Foxconn’s assembling facility as well.
It has not been easy for India to secure an iPhone assembly unit that meets not only the country’s demands for Apple products, but also exports them around the world. A lot has been structurally rectified to make India a business-friendly destination. Yet, such orchestrated crises spill water over all such efforts, and cause irreparable damage to the Indian economy.
Unfortunately, neither has the central government, nor the government of Tamil Nadu, in particular, learnt any lessons. They do not seem interested to initiate an enquiry and get to the bottom of how a mass food-poisoning occurred in yet another industrial facility of Tamil Nadu.
The clarion call for Make in India and Aatmanirbhar Bharat would bear no positive result unless the idea seeps down to the state level and every state government sees protection to the industrial and economic activity as its primary role. India would struggle to gain economic advantages if anti-national elements and eco-fascists keep forcing the closure of plants, metro sheds (particularly the Aarey incident) and manufacturing facilities, case-in-point, the Wistron incident.
Accidents always happen. They cannot be averted. Sure, each manufacturing facility must ensure extremely safe and hygienic working and living conditions for employees, but if accidents do happen, they cannot be allowed to take a toll on a developing country’s economy. Unfortunately, that is exactly what some groups are trying to achieve yet again with the closure of the Foxconn facility.