Nearly 20 people, led by Murugan, Secretary of the Pro-Sterlite Foundation, presented a memorandum to the SP, Singh Baghel, Minister of State for Law and Justice; Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State for Environment, Forests and Climate Change; and Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman demanding the immediate reopening of the Sterlite copper smelter in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu.
The Federation, numbering in the thousands, made up of truck owners, truck drivers, raw material suppliers, contractors, women’s self-help groups and others dependent on the plant, advocated for a quick resolution to reopen the plant. The urgency stems from the fact that more than 15,000 families have lost their livelihoods since the factory closed. They are also port workers, truck drivers, contract workers and single female breadwinners.
“We have suffered for more than four years since the closure of the Sterlite plant, and our livelihoods have been severely affected,” the memorandum states.
He also added that the closure was due to “orchestrated agitation by outsiders. So we formed a Pro-Sterlite Plant Federation to prove that the propaganda and misinformation of anti-Sterlite groups in Thoothukudi is not true” .
The demonstrators also met with Secretaries of the Ministry of Finance, including the Cabinet and Ministers of State, the Cabinet and Minister of State of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and the Cabinet and Minister of State of the Minister of Law and Justice.
Pro-Sterlite protesters from Pandarampatti, Sankaraperi, Meelavittan, Madathur, Kummareddiarpuram, Naduvakurichi, Rajavinkovil, Puurpandiapuram, Sillanatham villages in Tamil Nadu had taken to the streets waving slogans in support of the copper smelter after Sterlite Copper had invited an expression of interest (EOI) from potential buyers for its controversial Thoothukudi unit.
The EOI was published in national and regional newspapers in June 2022.
Several petitions have been submitted to chief ministers and state offices asking for the reopening of the factory, a major job generator in the region before it was closed for environmental pollution.
“The copper factory was the main source of income for our family. After it closed, we found it difficult to find decent work in the area. We have to travel far to find work. Even then, it is difficult for us to make ends meet because the cost of survival in big cities is high and we are paid minimum wage,” one of the protesters said.
With an annual production capacity of 4 lakh tonnes of copper, the Vedanta-owned Thoothukudi plant supplied 40% of the country’s demand for refined copper. After this unit closed, India’s copper exports fell by 90% and it became a copper importer for the first time in 18 years. The country now imports $2 billion worth of copper and suffers an export loss of over $1.5 billion, resulting in an overall loss of 20,000 crore to the economy.
Not only that, but due to the widespread application of copper and its by-products in various industries, the shutdown of the plant has crippled several other small and large businesses, creating a huge gap between demand and supply. of the product. Sterlite was the only national supplier of phosphoric acid in the country, the raw material needed for fertilizers. Additionally, the Thoothukudi plant was also the state’s largest supplier of sulfuric acid, a chemical used in the detergent and chemical industries. Prices for both chemicals rose after the plant closed.
The plant was the only indigenous supplier of phosphoric acid and the main supplier of slag and gypsum to nearly 20 cement works. Downstream players depended on the plant to source five raw materials: gypsum, sulfuric acid, phosphoric acid, copper cathode and copper wire rod. After the closure of the factory, the associated industries dependent on the Sterlite factory encountered considerable difficulties in terms of the cost of raw material supply.
A report by the Jaipur-based Consumer Unity and Trust Society, funded by NITI Aayog and the Government of India, titled “Economic Impact of Select decisions of the Supreme Court and National Green Tribunal of India: Synthetic Report”, stated that the the closure of the plant resulted in losses of Rs 14,794 crore for stakeholders, indirect and direct job losses of 30,000 workers.
There were losses of Rs 491 crore for all downstream industries, in addition to total tax losses of Rs 7,641.86 crore for the government between May 2018 and May 2021.
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