On Thursday, senior counsel for Vedanta, C Aryama Sundaram, told the Madras High Court that Chinese companies had funded the anti-Sterlite protests resulting in the shutting down of its copper smelter unit in SIPCOT at Thoothukudi. He alleged that these Chinese companies were interested in capturing the Indian copper market.
Sundaram made these allegations while pushing Vedanta’s plea challenging the Tamil Nadu government’s order shutting down its copper smelting unit in Tuticorin.
He told the division bench, “these companies promoted and funded the agitations and protests against Sterlite. India’s import bill for copper is $2 billion, the demand was being met by Sterlite earlier”.
He added that Sterlite had been supplying nearly 38% of India’s copper demand. After the plant was forced to close, this demand was met by foreign companies.
Sundaram later pointed out that in the SIPCOT industrial complex, there were 63 companies. This included 10 red category companies that handled hazardous material. Yet, the Sterlite plant is blamed for anything that goes wrong and the company has succeeded despite that.
He had also expressed his doubt on how anti-Sterlite protesters manage to gather 20,000 people. Sundaram said that the plant was closed by the government after the death of 13 people. Yet, in its pleadings in the court, the government claims environmental pollution as the cause.
He also pointed out that the CBI, which was conducting the probe into the firing, till now hasn’t called the company for an enquiry. Despite that, the company is punished with a closure order.
Yesterday, Vedanta had told the Madras High Court that NGOs and activists with vested interests had orchestrated the anti-Sterlite protests. The anti-Sterlite protest led to police firing killing 13 protesters. This led to the closure of the plant in May 2018.
The NGT has proven that the company was following all environmental norms and directed the government to reopen it. However, the Madras High Court intervened and rolled back the order to reopen the plant.