An all party meeting convened by the Tamil Nadu government on Monday has passed a resolution to permit Vedanta’s Sterlite Industries in Tuticorin to produce medical oxygen for a four month period amid the rapid increase in Covid cases.
"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.
However, the state government has directed the Sterlite plant not to be involved in the production of copper or any other material. And while 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 this period (four months) by TANGEDCO," it added.
Tamil Nadu will receive top priority for the oxygen produced and shall be transported to other States only after meeting Tamil Nadu’s 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.
The Tamil Nadu government’s decision paves way for the part reopening of the controversial copper smelter that was closed in 2018 by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board over pollution concerns. The unit was sealed by the state government in May 2018, days after 13 agitators were killed in police firing during a violent anti-Sterlite protest.
Responding to the state government’s resolution, Vedanta in a statement stated that it was committed to making the entire production capacity of 1,000 tonnes available for the purpose of producing medical-grade oxygen and that it was working to dispatch it to critical areas in Tamil Nadu on priority and subsequently across the country.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Palaniswami said that he had informed Prime Minister Modi that the gas produced in the State should not be diverted to other states. Meanwhile, DMK President Stalin in a tweet said that the permission granted to Vedanta was “temporary” and that the plant would not be opened at any cost if the DMK comes to power after the counting of votes on May 2.
With the rapid surge in Covid cases in the country, international efforts are underway to help India as the country suffers critical oxygen shortage.
While the UK has begun sending ventilators and oxygen concentrator devices, US is lifting a ban on sending raw materials abroad, thus enabling India to manufacture more of the AstraZeneca vaccine. EU members will be also sending in aid. PM Modi will hold a virtual summit with the EU on May 8 to discuss Covid support and cooperation. The government is also negotiating for large tranches of medical assistance from Russia, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Singapore.
The head of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is calling the recent surge in coronavirus in India “beyond heartbreaking” and says the UN agency has dispatched critical supplies to the subcontinent, including thousands of portable oxygen machines that help patients breathe.