British Tamils protest outside Vedanta chief Anil Agarwal’s home in London
A large number of British Tamils carrying traditional ‘parai’ drums held protest outside the home of Vedanta Group chief Anil Agarwal here in solidarity with protesters in Tamil Nadu against the expansion of British company Sterlite’s copper smelter plant in the state.
Sterlite, a subsidiary of Agarwal’s London Stock Exchange (LSE) listed Vedanta Resources, began construction of a new smelter plant on the edge of the town of Thoothukudi.
However, local residents argue the existing smelter has been polluting their water and air since it was established in 1996. This has allegedly caused respiratory and skin problems, fainting and other illness, especially among children.
“The copper smelter has continued to operate without various permissions, and pollute without remorse, causing a detrimental effect to local health and livelihoods. It is time the British government stopped supporting Sterlite and de-listed Vedanta from the LSE,” said Miriam Rose from Foil Vedanta, one of the organisers of the London protest alongside Tamil People in UK and Parai - Voice of Freedom.
Carrying traditional Tamil parai drums, dozens of protesters gathered outside the Mayfair home of the Vedanta chief to coincide with major demonstrations in Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu on Saturday.
“Although majority of the Tamil population living in the UK have adopted the British life, local customs and try to blend in with society, they still feel their heart is left in the Tamil land. This absolute disregard to life and irreversible environmental damage to their land brings out strong emotional upheaval hence the support and participation in protests like these,” said Karthik from Tamil People in UK.
The plant has been the subject of major protests in the town ever since its foundation stone was laid in Thoothukudi in 1994.
Sterlite was the first company set up by UK-based Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal in India before he launched Vedanta Resources on the LSE in 2003, where it is now a multinational with operations across India and Africa.
The Vedanta Group has said in a statement that the plant has received the necessary regulatory clearances for expansion and that the well-being of all communities around its operations will be ensured.
“Zero discharge systems, utilisation of waste for sustainable applications, energy efficient systems and stringent emission monitoring are the hallmark of Sterlite and these will only be strengthened through the expansion. The smelter plant is self-reliant in terms of power and water requirements and will not use any nearby natural resources,” the statement said.