You must know: Why Vedanta has decided to sell its Sterlite plant in Thoothukudi?

(This article is authored by Alar) 

The controversial Sterlite plant in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu is inching closer to a sale as its parent company Vedanta Group has charted a plan for the sale. As the development has caught major attention, the plant will be in history for being a prime reason why thirteen people were killed by the police in 2018 for protesting against it. 

According to reports, Vedanta Group has issued a notification inviting Expression Of Interest (EOI) to sell Sterlite Copper in Thoothukudi. An EOI has been termed as informal documentation between the buyer and seller, allowing a range of purchase options. The Sterlite plant in Thoothukudi has been shut since May 2018 after the protests and as it has been closed nearly for four years, though it had a brief functioning during the Covid pandemic, the company has decided to relinquish it. 

Nearly 30-year-old Sterlite Copper Smelter plant is leaving the hands of Vedanta Group. In 1994, Vedanta Group has entered Tamil Nadu through the Sterlite Copper plant after acquiring the No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board. It has started its operations in 1997 in Thoothukudi amid protests from the local people. Years later, the people living near the plant had suffered illnesses due to the toxic waste from the company, which also has come under public scrutiny for pollution. 

In 2010, the Madras High Court has ordered to shut down of the plant on the grounds of violating the pollution standards. However, the Vedanta group has appealed to the Supreme Court, which had resumed the operations of the plant. Three years later, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has asked the Sterlite plant to shut down its operations following a gas leak and the Supreme Court has imposed a penalty of Rs 100 crore on the company for polluting the environment. 

In 2018, the people of Kumarareddipalayam in Thoothukudi staged large-scale protests and the uproar against the Sterlite plant has got national attention. The hundred-day protests had turned into violence after the Tamil Nadu police shot and killed thirteen protesters including a student. As the killing had killed 13 people, it had sparked widespread outrage and section 144 was imposed to control the situation. Following the shooting, the Tamil Nadu government has issued an order to shut down the Sterlite plant on May 28, 2018. 

Vedanta had been trying to reopen the plant and nothing changed after four years, the company has finally decided to stop its operation and decided to sell the plant. The Sterlite company has issued an advertisement inviting bids for the unit.  At the time of closure in 2018, the Sterlite plant employed 5,000 people directly and another 25,000 indirectly. Those who want to purchase the plant should apply for the bid by 6 pm on July 4.