Nodding from Center to allow reopening of Sterlite for oxygen production results in mixed reaction
The factory was sealed off by the state following violence that erupted during the anti-Sterlite rally in Thoothukudi on May 22, 2018. According to JP Joe Villavarayar, former president of the Tuticorin Ship Agents Association, the whole country is in the gripped with the second wave of COVID-19 and cases of people vulnerable to the coronavirus continue unabated day after day and thousands of infected patients were in dire need of oxygen in most hospitals. Therefore, the production of oxygen in Sterlite was a necessity.
The state should work with the Center to enable Sterlite to produce oxygen to meet the growing daily needs of patients with coronavirus. The generation of oxygen from the plant could be carried out by the conditions imposed by the government for a certain period of time. The Vedanta unit has the capacity to produce up to 1000 tonnes of oxygen per day.
Mr Krishnamurthi, a resident of Thoothukudi, who took part in the anti-Sterlite protest, said there was no shortage of oxygen and the government of Tamil Nadu has clarified this. But the Center, which he said supports crony capitalism and acts in favor of Vedanta’s Sterlite is trying to exploit the current crisis and allow the copper smelter to resume operations.
The smelter had been closed and sealed for three years now. It would be a risk to reopen the plant to produce oxygen all of a sudden, he warned.
K Nehru Prakash, chairman of the Thoothukudi District Tiny and Small Scale Industries Association (THUDITSSIA), said without delay oxygen production should resume from the plant to save countless lives of people living with COVID . It would be a timely aid from Sterlite in providing the required amount of oxygen to the needy. The government should also make residents understand the crisis, he added.
Mr. Mahesh from Kumareddiyapuram village in Thoothukudi, another protester, said that while India is the largest producer of oxygen, a large amount of vital gas could be generated by large industries in Gujarat and other states. In addition, he asked how India could export several tons of oxygen to foreign countries when our country was facing massive shortage.