Closure of Vedanta’s Copper Unit Results in Rs 14,749 Crore Loss to Economy: Report

Outlook India, July 26, 2022

The shutting down of Vedanta’s copper smelter plant at Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu since May 2018 has resulted in a consolidated loss of around Rs 14,749 crore to the economy, according to a report.

The report comes a month after Vedanta putting on sale its copper unit which was shut four years ago after 13 people were killed in a police firing on protestors agitating against alleged pollution by the unit.

According to a synthesis report by CUTS International, “Through the data collected and analysed for the purpose of this report, the consolidated loss to the economy owing to closure of the copper plant on all stakeholders is estimated to be around Rs 14,749 crore since its closure in May 2018.”

The cumulative loss for the entire period of plant closure is roughly around 0.72 per cent of the State Gross Domestic Product (SGDP) of Tamil Nadu.

The report further said that closure of plant has amounted to a loss of around Rs 4,777 crore to the company.

The government is also losing considerable revenue in the form of taxes and duties, said the report which was carried out with the financial support of NITI Aayog and conducted by Consumer Unity & Trust Society, Jaipur.

These grave economic impacts on the varied stakeholders offers a pressing need to find better alternate remedies to balance matters concerning the development-environment conflict in the instant matter, it said.

The Tamil Nadu government had ordered the permanent closure of the unit in the port city of Thoothukudi in May 2018 following violent protests.

The company had in past repeatedly denied allegations of its plant polluting the local environment and had moved the Supreme Court for the opening of the unit.

But the apex court had so far not given a clear go-ahead.

A company spokesperson had said the Tuticorin plant is a national asset that has been catering to 40 per cent of the domestic demand for copper and has played an integral role in the country’s self-sufficiency in copper.

ebinar was attended by Badri Narayanan Gopalkrishnan, Head, Trade, Commerce and Strategic Economic Dialogue, NITI Aayog, Government of India; Pradeep S Mehta, Secretary-General of Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS); Sunil Kumar Sinha, Principal Economist and Director, Public Finance at India Ratings and Research and Krishna Sharma, Business Lawyer.

During the session, the panel discussed the study conducted by CUTS International highlighting the underrated role of judicial decisions and its economic impact on the India’s business environment.

While analysing the impact of the multiple judicial decisions of the Supreme Court & NGT, Pradeep S.Mehta, founder and Secretary General of CUTS said, “The world is currently facing a historic dilemma of choosing between economic development and preservation of the environment. Most of the time, nations give priority to economic development as it is important for the livelihood of the citizens.”

Mehta stressed on the need for the judiciary to set up a mechanism by which it undertakes cost-benefit analysis of its decisions. He also suggested the setting up of a committee of experts which will collect evidence, identify erring parties, and help courts reach a balanced decision.

Badri Narayanan Gopalakrishnan, Lead Advisor and Head, Trade, Commerce, International Cooperation and Strategic Economic Dialogue at NITI Aayog emphasised that “There cannot be a trade-off between justice and growth. The burning question is can justice be blind to present economic imperative or is economically responsible justice after all possible.”

“The role the judiciary should be playing is to balance between justice and growth so that one is not sacrificed for the sake of the other. To that end, there is also a need for more judges and to increase efficiency of courts.” He added.

Sunil K Sinha, Senior Director, India Ratings and Research and Krishna Sarma, Managing Partner, Corporate Law Group also expressed their views. The discussion was moderated by Senior Journalist Anisha Nayar Dhawan.

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