The Tamil Nadu government on Monday, April 26, gave permission to Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper plant Thoothukudi to operate for four months to produce oxygen in the wake of depleting oxygen reserves amid an unprecedented upsurge in coronavirus cases.
The decision was taken at an all-party meeting presided over by state Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, paving the way for the partial reopening of the Sterlite plant shut in 2018 over pollution concerns.
The plant was closed in May 2018, days after 13 protesters were killed in police firing during a violent anti-Sterlite agitation in the southern district.
While granting permission to Sterlite Copper, the state government instructed it not to be involved in the production of copper or any other material.
The meeting, attended by the main opposition party DMK among others, resolved to allow Sterlite to produce oxygen from its plant in Tuticorin, days after Vedanta moved the Supreme Court in this connection.
“As per the Supreme Court directive, power supply may be allowed for Vedanta’s Sterlite Industries in Tuticorin for four months to repair and operate oxygen producing and related equipment only,” the meeting resolved.
The period may be extended later but “at no cost” shall other activities like copper manufacturing and running the co-generation plant shall be allowed and the “power supply shall be cut after dis period (four months) by TANGEDCO,” it added.Tamil Nadu should get priority in the oxygen being produced here and it shall be taken to other states only after meeting its requirements.
On Friday, the apex court had said people were dying due to lack of oxygen and questioned the Tamil Nadu government as to why it cannot take over the Sterlite copper unit for producing oxygen to treat COVID-19 patients.
“We are not interested that Vedanta or A, B or C runs it. We are interested that oxygen should be produced,” a bench headed by then Chief Justice S A Bobde had said.