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Deal with Sterlite as Jayalalithaa did with Koodankulam

In our last issue (IE- May 2018) we pointed to Tamil Nadu earning the notoriety as the agitation state of India. This is largely a result of the absence of decisive action by the government.

Almost every opposition party along with other interested groups jump into the fray at every opportunity. The inherent danger in leaving the issue unattended has not yet been realised by administrators, both at the local and at the state level. The violence that the protesters indulged in during the protests against the Sterlite factory in Tuticorin has resulted in loss of precious lives.
Sterlite Industries was the first major investment in the state in the post-1991 liberalisation era. AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa had then successfully attracted the Vedanta group to set up their copper smelter. Sterlite employs around 3500 directly and over 30,000 indirectly. With 400,000 tonnes of installed capacity, the company meets around 35 per cent of the country’s demand for copper, and exports a third of its production. The value of output is estimated at over Rs. 5000 crore. Sterlite accounts significantly to the prosperity of the Tuticorin region.
Including the members of the families of employees, direct and indirect, the beneficiaries of the Sterlite plant would form a sizeable chunk of Tuticorin’s population. Salary levels should be sizeable too, as it is part of the multinational umbrella, Vedanta Resources. Surprisingly, the impact of closure of this plant on the livelihood of these dependents has not been factored.
Instead of raw emotion and reviews by cine stars, jobless politicians and professional protesters, there is a need to look into the issue by experts. When such an agitation mounted against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP), several scientists, including former President Abdul Kalam, came up with firm defence of the power plant. Most importantly, they convinced the public of its value, importance and safety; Chief Minister Jayalalithaa was decisive in her dealings and saved the plant. Look at the invaluable contribution of this 2000 MW power plant to a state that used to suffer widespread power shortages, especially in 2011-12!
Chief Minister Palanisamy should set up a high-powered committee of experts that includes reputed scientists to examine the issue of pollution and, if convinced, he must address the issue with firm action just as Jayalalithaa did. This will carry conviction to prospective investors about fair and quick action by the administration of the state. Such measures are urgent requisites, especially in the context of sluggish investments across the country. – SV

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