Vedanta’s Sterlite copper plant since a decade and more has been running illegally in the Tuticorin region of Tamil Nadu. On May 21, in a protest that was carried from Tuticorin collector’s office to the plant site saw the killing of 13 innocent anti- Sterlite protesters by the police. Who is to be blamed for the mass killing Vedanta- who own the plant, police- who gunned down innocent people, district administration- who failed to oblige their duty, Tamil Nadu pollution control board- who gave clearance to operate the factory in 1995, Tamil Nadu government- who did nothing ever since the protest started 3 months ago or the Union government who interpreted National green tribunal?
Ever since its establishment the factory has witnessed at least 2-3 deaths per year because of zero safety measures for their workers. Sterlite Copper has escaped the allegations saying the negligence was on the part of the workers and the Vedanta group is not liable for the same.
The latest case in this regard is of was last year on March 21, when a young contract worker,- Kartheepan was injured when his left arm was sucked into a conveyor belt crushing it and dragging him all the way up to his armpit. He was admitted to Tuticorin’s City Hospital, where paid for his treatment. This year in May, Kartheepan tried committing suicide because not only has Sterlite copper denied to pay his day’s lost wage but has not even received any compensation from the company which has made him disabled for lifetime now.
This is not the only case, the first reported incident took place in 1997 when a 45-year-old worker named Natrajan and Pandi were charred to the bone when dust from the ESP filter fell down the chimney throwing hot glowing embers out of the bottom. The Two other contract workers, Balaguru and Madasamy, from Therku Veerapandiapuram who were standing nearby still bear the burn marks on the forearms.
A month after a major accident in 1998 involving an explosion where a 40-ton lid was blown out and flung , killing two workers and injuring four, a contract worker with Thomson contractor was killed while doing some welding work. He was standing on the platform overlooking an oil tank. Welding ought not to have begun before the oil tank was shut. Sparks that fell on the oil ignited it causing a fireball that burnt the worker.
The cleaner of a tipper was found dead at the bottom of a load of copper concentrate. He was discovered during unloading in Sterlite. Without knowing that he was sleeping in the wagon of the tipper, the loading had commenced in Port Trust.
From 2007 to 2008, some 10 employees were injured and five died.
A cleaner sleeping beneath a lorry was crushed when the lorry went over him near the PAP Gypsum pond another lorry cleaner was crushed to death when he got down at the weighbridge to get his chit. The lorry moved over him, killing him on the spot. There is a constant rush, giving trucks on weighbridges no time to wait. Murugesan Teresepuram, lost a hand in a conveyor in the smelter area. This kind of accident has been a routine. The worker was unclogging a “choke” in the conveyor belt. The belt was started even without waiting for his go-ahead or alerting him.
In 2009 one staff working in PAP was crushed between two conveyor belts when he was standing on the conveyor doing maintenance work. The belt was started without his knowledge. During the monthly shutdown, a staff, from Tanjore was working near the cooling tower, when a pump house and the cooling tower collapsed and fell on his head
During the yearly shutdown when the brick-laying work was in progress in the ISA Boiler. One north Indian boy was inside when the bricks collapsed and he was crushed to death.
In 2011 several incidents of death and injuries were reported. No worker till date has received any compensation. The first accident was that of Ratheesh, a young contract employee sustained 30 to 35 percent burn injuries on chest and hand. Followed by the death of Amalanathan, a 28-year old crane maintenance mechanic, who electrocuted.
In August 2011, a row of accidents in the plant premises drastically increased. One North Indian worker was injured while working in the Phosphoric Acid Plant. One worker sustained first degree burns due to an electrical accident and a white gas (suspected to be Sulphur Dioxide) escaped for about 45 minutes at ground level throwing a scare among Sterlite workers, after a power outage caused a shutdown of the Copper smelter and sulphuric acid plant.
In 2013, Amalan (30) sustained serious injuries after an electrical fire broke out at Motor Control Room of Phosphoric Acid Plant. 10 days later Swaminathan (50) was killed after falling into Phosphoric Acid tank. Due to the poor light conditions, the worker tripped on the scaffolding and fell 15 metres into an open and empty tank. A week after a Massive gas leak, suspected to be Sulphur dioxide or trioxide, caused suffocation and panic around the Sterlite Copper plant. Sterlite contract worker, Shailesh Mahadev, 35, reportedly succumbed to exposure to the gas.
All of the above are known to routine incident taken every light by the administration at Sterlite Copper, covering it with a layer of providing employment to 4000 people in the plant. It is very evident that these are just a number of cases that were reported and there may be more such cases which have been blanketed by Vedanta.
All information in this article is collected through media reports, that of The Hindu and The New Indian express and Facebook-twitter post of activists who are directly involved in #BanSterliteProtest
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