Sterlite plant gets a green signal to re-open: But, Modi's govt gives a big shock to Tamil Nadu!

Exactly a day after the political parties in Tamil Nadu have unanimously agreed to allow Vedanta Limited to re-open its Sterlite Copper plant in Tuticorin, the Supreme Court has on Tuesday backed the re-opening of the plant to produce the oxygen amid the intensifying oxygen crisis in the state and the country in treating the Corona patients and the other ailing patients.

The apex court has on Tuesday heard the suo motu case of oxygen shortage and other issues related to the management of the COVID-19 pandemic during which it has allowed the re-opening of the copper plant, that was closed in 2018 in the wake of large-scale protests and police firing in Tuticorin that had killed 13 people. Last week, the company had moved to the apex court seeking its directive to re-open the plant to produce oxygen. 

The company said that the copper plant has two oxygen plants, which can produce 1,050 tonnes of oxygen daily. Sterlite Copper CEO Pankaj Kumar said that the company would like to use these facilities to prevent the shortage of oxygen in the country. Kumar penned, "We would be grateful to be allowed this opportunity to support the nation's needs. Our staff stand prepared to get these two plants operational in the shortest possible time and begin dispatching oxygen to critical areas as per your direction".

While the company mulled to open its copper plant under the guise of producing oxygen, its decision had stirred fresh protests from the people of Tuticorin as they had expressed their concerns over the threat that the company poses towards them and to their livelihoods. When the apex court had heard the matter over re-opening the plant for producing oxygen, the bench has asked the Tamil Nadu government whether it can take over the operations of the plant to produce oxygen. 

Based on the suggestion from the top judicial body, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami has on Monday convened an all-party meeting to discuss re-opening the copper plant to produce oxygen. The meeting was attended by the representatives of eight political parties and all the parties including DMK and MDMK had unanimously accepted to re-open the Sterlite plant. The opposition parties had urged the state government to prioritize the total oxygen produced at the Sterlite Copper plant to Tamil Nadu. 

Following the meeting, the Chief Minister has announced to re-open the Sterlite plant for four months and directed the company only to produce oxygen. The Chief Minister said that a committee comprising of officials, activists, and local people would be installed to overview and monitor the functioning of the Sterlite plant that it won't violate the government order. Following the decision to re-open, hundreds of police personnel were deployed to the plant for maintaining the law and order. 

While the state opposition parties had urged the state government to take over the operations of the plant and prioritize the oxygen from the plant to the state to tackle the dearth of oxygen, the Central government has on Tuesday shocked the Tamil Nadu government over its claim that Tamil Nadu shouldn't be prioritized in utilizing the oxygen produced in the controversial copper plant. In the hearing on Tuesday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Central government, has voiced against prioritizing Tamil Nadu in oxygen supply from the copper plant and said that the oxygen produced should be given to the Central government and it should be allotted to every state. 

A counsel, representing Sterlite, had opposed the Tamil Nadu government's move of nominating the local people in the committee to monitor the functioning of the plant. However, after hearing the matter, the apex court bench headed by Justice Chandrachud had ordered to form a five-member committee and said that the members of the local community can also be added to the committee. The court said that Tamil Nadu can't be prioritized in the oxygen allocation and the allocation will be done by the Central government. 

The oxygen produced at the Sterlite Copper plant must be provided to the Central government. The top judicial body had pressed that the Sterlite plant should only be allowed to produce oxygen and ordered the Tamil Nadu government to provide electricity supply to the plant. The court said, "Vedanta shall not be allowed to enter and operate the copper smelting plant under the garb of this order. The role of the committee to be nominated by the state government has to be an oversight committee. Before allowing any worker to enter, Vedanta has to submit a list of technical and non-technical staff who are absolutely essential to run the plant with the committee and those names will be approved and will be allowed entry." It has been reported that the plant will begin producing oxygen in ten days.