Thoothukudi Sterlite Plant Closure: Vedanta Chairman Anil Agarwal Writes To Modi, Says Pakistan Gained At India’s Cost

Thoothukudi Sterlite Plant Closure: Vedanta Chairman Anil Agarwal Writes To Modi, Says Pakistan Gained At India’s CostVedanta chairman Anil Agarwal. (Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via GettyImages)
Snapshot
  • Agarwal pointed out in his letter that for the first time in the last two decades, India had become a net importer of copper.

Concerned over the issue of its arm Sterlite Copper plant closure in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, for over two years now, Vedanta Resources Group chairman Anil Agarwal has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointing out to the huge losses the country is incurring.

In a letter dated 4 June to Modi congratulating him for his address to the nation on the completion of one year of his government’s second term, the Vedanta group chairman pointed out that the country has lost in “multiple ways” due to the closure of Thoothukudi Sterlite Copper plant.

Pointing out that India had lost Rs 40,000 crore in precious foreign exchange since the plant’s closure, Agarwal said Pakistan, going by media reports, has gained at India’s cost.

“Islamabad's copper shipments to China increased to $550 million last year i.e. 400% from $106 million three years ago. No wonder, as Pakistan website had said that the shipments of copper had helped boost their local industry. Chinese firms are also vying to capture India's copper market,” he pointed out.

Stating that his concern was the copper plant’s closure had impacted the country, Agarwal pointed out that for the first time in the last two decades India had become a net importer of copper than exporter, leading to a heavy import bill.

Thousands of workers had been rendered jobless aggravating unemployment and adding to the exodus of migrants, he said and added that precious machinery and materials were idling and rusting.

Both the Union and state governments had lost revenue besides facing energy deficit due to closure of its seven-year-old thermal power plant, the Vedanta chairman said, and added that the 20-year-old Sterlite Copper plant was "state-of-art with best technologies, environment friendly and highly efficient”.

“It (the Thoothukudi Sterlite unit) is a benchmark plant globally and employees of this plant are highly respected worldwide. It is a jewel in the crown for India as it served nation for its infrastructure needs for many decades,” the Vedanta chairman wrote.

The current novel coronavirus (Covid-19) situation is an opportunity to boost the nation’s economy, he said and pleaded for measures to “open and operate the plants in the overall interest of economy, employment which are essential components to develop country's foundation of "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwas".

The Sterlite plant was ordered shut by the Tamil Nadu government on 28 May 2018 after protests demanding its closure turned violent.

In the violence that occurred on 22 May 2018, at least 13 people were killed when police fired at protesters, who turned violent and began damaging vehicles and properties.

The protests demanding the closure of Sterlite began in February 2018 after Vedanta launched works for further expansion of the Thoothukudi plant.

The copper plant contributed 40 per cent of the country’s total copper production when it was forced to shut down.

The Union government told Parliament earlier this year that the plant’s closure had led to a domino effect with imports rising and exports slipping.

In view of the Thoothukudi plant’s closure, India became a net importer of copper after 18 years. Imports more than doubled to 92,990 tonnes during the 2018-19 financial year, while exports dropped to a meagre 47,917 tonnes from 3.78 lakh tonnes.

A total of $605.20 million of precious foreign exchange was spent on imports during the 2018-19 financial year, while $684.02 million was spent during the April-September period of 2019-20 financial year.

The judgement in Vedanta’s petition against the closure of the Sterlite Copper Plant has been reserved by the Madras High Court.

Vedanta Resources suffered a net loss of Rs 12,521 crore during the January-March quarter of 2019-20 fiscal, mainly due to impairment of its oil, gas, iron ore and copper businesses to the tune of Rs 17,132 crore.

Agarwal, who had chosen to keep quiet over the Sterlite plant closure until now, could have written to the Prime Minister, following the loss suffered in the latest quarter.

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