Thoothukudi – Sterlite et al.

Updates on the continuing story of Sterlite in Thoothukudi

Nothing in Bharat is simple. Spaghetti continues to be the best analogy–pick up one end and you don’t know whether you will pick up a simple, single thread of a story, or a whole tangled mess.

The Sterlite story has been told along the following lines [Economic Times (2013) The News Minute (2018), The Hindu (2018), Wikipedia]:

Denied by Maharashtra, Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd (Vedanta group) set up a copper smelting plant in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, in 1996/7, a phosphoric acid plant (to use the sulphuric acid produced by copper smelting), and other plants (apparently contravening environmental regulations, but apparently with support from local authorities), was beset by problems from the start, and faced protests from local people affected by the pollutants in terms of health, fish kill and diminished fishing.

The recent events (100 days’ peaceful protest against the setting up of a second smelting plant ended by the shooting and killing of 13 people by the TN police) were preceded by ~20 years of problems.

The press release of the People’s Inquest into the problem outlines their interim observations on the factors that led to the shooting events. (Here is the company’s FAQ related to these issues).

This might be just one thread of the story about what ails Thoothukudi and its environs, according to a  private investigation. Offenders include VV Mineral, India’s “largest beach sand mineral exporter” (see 1, 2, 3 articles in The Wire). But that does not in any way excuse or diminish Sterlite’s sins of omission and commission.

On the other hand, in today’s climate, it’s important to know the sources of various threads; where points counterpoints and counter  counterpoints (Nithyanand Jayaraman) come from; to note that their scales of operation are rather different– Sterlite is much larger.

The unifying theme that makes up the final, poisonous concoction seems to be nothing more and nothing less than a nexus between industrialists and regulators in cynical, venal exploitation of natural resources–*PPP in one full-blown form–unmindful of “the people,” whoever we might be.

*Public Private Partnership



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