Crowds throng at 24th March 2018 public meeting
20th April 2018. This detailed history of the anti-Sterlite movement by Ilangovan Rajasekaran was first published in Frontline magazine on April 17. Reproduced with permission of Frontline and the author here.
In Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi district, protests against Sterlite’s copper smelter plant get a second wind as local residents’ health and environmental concerns over the company’s expansion plan lead to the revival of a long-forgotten people’s movement.
PEOPLE of the port town of Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) in Tamil Nadu had never before poured out onto the streets in such large numbers as they did on March 24 in solidarity with the 100-odd residents of Kumareddiapuram who are waging a battle against the proposed Rs.3,500-crore expansion plan of Sterlite Industries (India) Limited’s giant copper smelter plant situated in the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu Limited (SIPCOT) complex that adjoins Kumareddiapuram and a few other villages.
Anil Agarwal’s London mansion
24th March 2018 A noisy protest took place at 42-44 Hill Street in Mayfair, London, today, as British Tamils armed with traditional Parai drums joined with major demonstrations in Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu, India, against the expansion of British company Sterlite’s copper smelter in the State. The London protest, which took place at the $20 million home of company boss Anil Agarwal, was called by Foil Vedanta, Tamil People in UK and Parai – Voice of Freedom.
See a short video of the London protest HERE
Coverage in Hindustan Times – British Tamils protest outside Vedanta chief Anil Agarwal’s home in London
The News Minute – Can you hear the voice of UK Tamils? Sterlite protests outside Vedanta founder’s house in UK
Meanwhile in Tuticorin 250,000 people packed the streets for a major demonstration and public meeting organised by the Anti Killer Sterlite People’s Movement. Shutters on shops throughout the town were also down today following a total shutdown (bandh) called by The Merchant’s Association. This is the biggest protest yet against the Sterlite plant, and comes on the 40th day of continuous protest in the town, demanding that the plant is permanently closed and the expansion stopped. Permission for the protest was initially turned down by police but was successfully challenged by activists and granted by the High Court on 14th March.
Children’s placards read: ‘Sterlite: mercy killers’
15th February. On Monday up to 500 people declared a hunger strike and indefinite protest against the planned expansion of Vedanta subsidiary Sterlite’s copper smelter in Thoothukudi (Tuticorin), Tamil Nadu. Two days into the protest police rounded up and arrested 270 people including many women and children, eventually releasing all except eight so-called ringleaders including social worker and Anti Sterlite Struggle Federation Coordinator Professor Fatima Babu, who are still being held by police. Large groups of school children and their mothers made up the majority of the protest. Their placards and statements to the media demand an end to years of toxic pollution from the plant, which is causing respiratory diseases and fainting, especially affecting the children, with long term consequences to their health. Water is also being polluted, and huge amounts used by the plant, in an already water-stressed area.
16th March 2017. In its latest report, released on 9th March 2017, the Norwegian Council of Ethics has again excluded Vedanta from the Government Pension Fund’s investment universe. The report is an indictment of Vedanta’s pattern of operation at four subsidiaries in Odisha, Chhatisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Zambia, finding “numerous reports of Vedanta’s failure to comply with government requirements” and concluding that “there continues to be an unacceptable risk that your company will cause or contribute to severe environmental damage and serious or systematic human rights violations.”
The Fund first divested from the company in 2007 after Vedanta Sterlite’s operations in India — Thoothukudi, Chhattisgarh and Orissa — and in other parts of the world were found to be in violation of accepted human rights and environmental norms.
The Pension Fund is “the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund with shares in 9,000 companies. . .[and] 1.3 percent of the entire world’s listed equity, giving the decisions it takes to drop or reinstate shareholdings or warn firms considerable weight among investors.”
Read the Council’s full assessment of Vedanta’s operations below. Continue reading
7th February 2015 The New York Times has published an exposé of Vedanta boss Anil Agarwal as part of a series on the people behind shell companies buying up New York real Estate, entitled ‘Towers of Secrecy’ by Louise Story and Stephanie Saul. The section on Vedanta is copied below and the full article is highly recommended.
Like most Time Warner owners, Anil Agarwal, an Indian mining magnate, is anonymous in New York. While interviews and private documents reviewed by The Times confirm he is behind condos purchased by the Amantea Corporation for $9.1 million in 2004, his name appears nowhere on public records. The deeds for Amantea’s Time Warner condos — one on the “maids floor” and another with sweeping views of Central Park — are signed by a New York lawyer named Constance Cranch. When contacted, she said: “You cannot say anything with respect to me. It’s a client of mine’s apartment, and I pay their bills.”
For all the secrecy at Time Warner, Mr. Agarwal is hardly private about his wealth. He spends much of his time in London and told a newspaper in 2005: “I have to have a Bentley, the best of chauffeurs and butlers.”
But Mr. Agarwal and his company, Vedanta Resources, are known in some parts of the world for having left financial and environmental problems in their wake.
26th January 2015. Just five days before January’s Sri Lankan Presidential elections former Minister of Power and Energy Champika Ranawaka dropped a bombshell, accusing Mahinda Rajapaska’s government of failing to collect $7 billion in inflated share value from Cairn Energy – the first oil company to discover gas in the Mannar basin. His firey argument (aimed at shaming the then incumbent President) was that mineral exploration rights had been sold to British oil company Cairn Energy for a song following meetings between Rajapaksa and British Prime Minister Tony Blair (who was a school friend of Cairn Energy boss Bill Gammell) in 2006. In 2011, after gas was discovered in their Mannar block – SL 2007-01-001, the value of shares skyrocketed and Cairn Energy sold them on at a highly inflated value to Vedanta Resources, a British-Indian company, who bought Cairn Energy’s South Asian oil and gas subsidiary Cairn India, assisted by the British Prime Minister David Cameron.
. Continue reading
Street vendors hide their faces from the gas leak last weekend
Shops, restaurants, taxi ranks and autorickshaws have shut shop in Thoothkudi, Tamil Nadu, today in a bandh (shutdown) called by members of the Anti-Sterlite People’s Struggle Committee demanding permanent closure of Sterlite’s Copper smelter. According to reports only a few medical shops and others selling essentials remain open, and police have been deployed around the town.
Residents have shut their town in response to last week’s Supreme Court order which allowed Vedanta’s Sterlite plant to continue operating but pay 100 crore rupee ($2 million) compensation for environmental violations including a major gas leak on 23rd March. Residents say there is no price for their health and safety and demand the plant is closed.
Following mass rallies after a major gas leak last weekend Vedanta subsidiary Sterlite’s copper smelter in Tamil Nadu has been closed until further notice. On Tuesday (2nd April) the fate of the plant will be decided once and for all in the Supreme Court. This news note is from Nityanand Jayaraman;
30 March, 2013 — The Tamil Nadu Government has relented to public pressure and shut down Sterlite Industries’ copper complex today. According to a worker, officials from 10 government departments arrived by the vanload in the plant last night at 8 p.m. The management then called a meeting of all staff and workers, and announced that the plant was shutting down. Sterlite requested time till about 12 midnight for phased closure, and this was conceded by the Government. By 1210 a.m. all plants except the smelter were shut down. Electricity connection to the copper complex has been disconnected.
Thousands of residents of the coastal Tamil Nadu town of Thoothukudi are preparing for mass action tomorrow (28th March) following a major gas leak from Vedanta subsidiary Sterlite’s copper smelting plant at Tuticorin this weekend. On Saturday 23rd March a toxic chemical gas thought to be sulphur dioxide spilled from the plant and caused coughing, burning sensations and suffocation for hundreds of people for kilometers around. Leaves withered on trees in the area. On 25th March a 35 year old Sterlite worker who had been in the factory’s captive power plant at the time of the leak succumbed to the effects of gas exposure and died of suffocation.
In response local political leader Vaiko has called for a mass rally tomorrow at Sterlite’s gates calling for immediate closure of the plant. Demonstrations have already been held at the District Collector’s office and the factory gates.
There have been three hazardous incidents and at least two deaths at Sterlite’s Tuticorin plant this month alone, on top of tens of workers deaths recorded during the plant’s operation. 16 deaths were recorded between 2007 and 2011, though most of these were covered up by police and Sterlite officials and who registered the deaths as suicides.