On Wednesday, the Vedanta Group told the Madras High Court that the 2018 anti-Sterlite protests were orchestrated by a group of NGOs and activist operating for profit and with ulterior motives. The Sterlite copper smelter plant at Tuticorin was shut down by the state government in May 2018 after a massive protest that claimed 13 lives.
The company accused the Tamil Nadu state government of yielding to the pressures of such organisations and its order of permanent closure of the plant as a ‘knee jerk reaction’ to appease people with vested interests. They said that even Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami had admitted that anti-social elements were behind the protests that led to the police firing at the protesters.
In a rejoinder the to the counter-affidavit filed by the government, the company said that it was clear from the large scale public demonstrations against the company that the Sterlite plant has been targeted by groups with vested interests.
The state government had filed its counter in response to the petitions filed by the company, challenging the orders of closure and refusal of consent, passed by the state government and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB).
The company had also said that various reports by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in support of the Sterlite Copper Smelter unit cannot be ignored.
In November 2018, the National Green Tribunal had labelled closure of copper producing Sterlite Plant as unjustified. It then directed the Tamil Nadu state pollution regulator to pass a fresh order of renewal of consent for the smelter within three weeks and has directed the company to spend Rs 100 crore within 3 years for the welfare of the people in the area.
However, just a few days later the Madras High Court intervened and ordered the rollback of NGT’s order of reopening the Sterlite plant based on a petition filed by an activist. The Vedanta Group has complied with the NGT’s order and announced welfare projects worth Rs 100 crore.