At the center of a massive storm after 11 died while protesting against a plant his company owns, Vedanta Chairman Anil Agarwal has said that he is keen on continuing with business and will ensure the preservation of the environment and welfare of people.
The main angst against the copper smelting plant of Sterlite Industries - a company owned by Vedanta - in Thoothukudi is that it is a massive source of environmental pollution. Locals allege that the plant was causing air and water pollution that had begun having short and long-term health impact on people in the area. They had been protesting against it for three years but matters flared up on Tuesday when police resorted to firing live rounds from assault rifled to disperse the crowd.
While local police, administration and especially the state government of Tamil Nadu have been flayed repeatedly for how it managed the situation, Vedanta's shares at BSE in the last two days have also seen minor dip. Agarwal though maintains that people and environment are top priorities. "We always make sure that community and people of Tuticorin prosper with us. I'm totally committed to people at large and the community. With their wish and prosperity, we'd like to continue business," said the top official of the multi-million corporation.
While Agarwal may have attempted to calm frayed nerves, there is no denying that Vedanta's Sterlite smelting plant has had its fair share of controversies. It was rejected by three states – Gujarat , Goa and Maharashtra – because of its highly polluting nature, before being allowed to be set-up in Tamil Nadu, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has said. "While taking Environment Clearance (EC), the company had flouted norms by misrepresenting facts and giving a faulty Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report,” CSE has said.
The plant with a capacity of one-lakh tonne has been shut for well over 50 days now and will like to stay that way because of a legal stay order and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board's directive for power lines to be snapped.