CHENNAI/THOOTHUKUDI: Sterlite Copper CEO Pankaj Kumar said the company will be challenging the Madras High Court verdict at the Supreme Court. Speaking to TNIE, Kumar termed the verdict “shocking and sad for India”. He said the verdict comes as an utter shock to the employees of the company and thousands of small businesses, entrepreneurs and community members dependent on its continued operations.
“We firmly believe in the safe and environmentally sound nature of our operations and are discouraged by the wilful reliance on anecdotal evidence and half-truths by certain parties to spread falsehoods against our operations. It is also disheartening to note that at a time when our nation is forced to depend on hostile neighbours for copper imports, certain forces are conspiring to stifle our nation’s ability to be an independent copper manufacturer. At no point in our operations were any concerns of pollution raised by the appropriate authorities.
We will therefore pursue all available legal remedies in pursuit of justice in the coming days,” he said.
Earlier in a statement, he claimed that the plant was operating lawfully for over two decades, and has been shut for the past two and a half years, which had affected the livelihoods of over 50,000 dependent families and allied industries.
When asked about the future of the employees, Pankaj said, “There is a possibility of layoff given the current economic crisis, however, we have managed to safeguard employees’ interests.” “We (Sterlite alone) loose about Rs 5 crore per day and in addition, the company’s contribution of Rs 600 crore to the money circulation in Thoothukudi corporation, and the revenue generation of the chain of industries depending on Sterlite’s by-products, have also been affected,” Pankaj added.
He also said that the judgment on the closure of the copper smelter will definitely have an adverse impact on the potential investors looking forward to invest in the State. When asked if there is a suspicion of political reasons behind the closure, he declined to comment on it. He added, “We believe in the law. Although there has been a set back for now, we hope the apex court shall render an order in our favour.”
On the argument that the company was the only unit emitting toxic gas substances among the 51 industries functioning there, he said that it was the government’s stand and not the legal one. “In fact since 2013, there has not been a single case of pollution or non-compliance against our plant on record,” he said.