Politics

TUTICORIN TRUTH EXPOSED: Explosive Documents Prove Congress’ Sanction To Expand Controversial Sterlite Project In Tuticorin 

Written By Ankit Prasad | Mumbai | Published:

Hack:

  • Republic TV has accessed official documents that show that the Congress had on multiple occasions backed the controversial Sterlite project in Tuticorin during the UPA's tenure
  • The explosive documents raise a number of questions over the political blame game that has erupted over the Tuticorin unrest, particularly over the Congress pining the blame on the Narendra Modi-led government

With political parties and groups at both the Centre and in Tamil Nadu politicising the unrest that has gripped Tuticorin following the deaths of 13 people in relation to the long-running protests against the Sterlite Copper smelting unit, Republic TV has accessed explosive documents that reveal the truth about the industrial unit in question.

While Rahul Gandhi and his party, along with the entire Opposition, has tried to pin the blame of this industrial project in Tuticorin on the Narendra Modi-led government, official documents accessed now establish the UPA’s hand in giving back-to-back clearances and approvals to the project between 2007 and 2012. 

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Six separate documents and recorded endorsements, as well as two press releases, make clear that it was the UPA which between the years 2007 and 2012 -- spanning two governments -- gave its backing to the project despite repeated concerns, once even telling Parliament that there was no need for a public hearing on the matter.

Here are the six endorsements that were given by the UPA to the UK-listed Vedanta controlled Sterlite Copper smelting unit in Tuticorin:

APPROVAL 1 - March 2007

The first approval came on March 30, 2007, when the UPA’s Environment Ministry cleared a proposal for the setting up of a 2x60 MW coal based captive power plant to meet the power requirement of the unit.

APPROVAL 2 - August 2007

The second approval followed just a few months later on August 9, 2007, when the Environment Ministry gave its clearance to an expansion (de-bottlenecking) proposal for the Copper Smelter, writing 'MoEF accords environmental clearance.'

APPROVAL 3 - January 2009

The third approval came about 1.5 years later on January 1, 2009, when the Ministry gave a fresh Environment clearances to Sterlite for an expansion.

APPROVAL 4 - March 2010

The fourth backing came just a little over a year later on March 10, 2010, when Jairam Ramesh, then MoS in the Environment Ministry, said in response to a question on  Pollution in Tuticorin' in the Lok Sabha that 'No serious charge has been levelled against Sterlite'.

APPROVAL 5 - August 2010

The fifth backing came on August 11, 2010, when Jairam Ramesh in response to a query in the Lok Sabha asking "whether the Government gave environment clearance to the Sterlite Industries to double its capacity without undertaking any public hearing as is the rule" said that clearance had been given to the unit as per procedure laid out in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006. 

APPROVAL 6 - July 2012

The sixth backing came almost two years later on July 7, 2012, when the Environment ministry gave its sanction for additional construction at the plant.

The documents and responses in Parliament, as well as two press releases by the then Commerce Ministry that have been accessed by Republic TV, often to direct questions about alleged pollution caused by the Sterlite project, put on record the complicity of the Congress-led UPA to the industrial project’s mega growth in Tuticorin. 

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Despite this, the Congress, its president Rahul Gandhi, and its ally in the UPA, the CPI(M), continue to politicise the matter, pinning blame for the events in Tuticorin on the current NDA government. 

However, Republic TV has also ascertained the extent of the current government's backing for the plant. On March 2, 2016, the Environment Ministry, based on the recommendations of an Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), had extended the validity of the Environmental clearance given by the UPA on January 1, 2009, up till December 31, 2018.

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The findings mentioned above raise at least the following questions over the blame-game that has erupted:

  1. If Congress believed the Sterlite plant in Tuticorin polluted, then why did the UPA give 4 clearances to specifically expand the project? 
  2. Considering the fact that the UPA approvals, endorsements and sanctions to this plant came despite High Court orders to shut down the plant, can Rahul Gandhi continue to blame Narendra Modi for the expansion? 
  3. If UPA gave three clearances and backed the plant in Parliament, can the Congress and Rahul Gandhi blame the NDA and PM Modi?
  4. As Jairam Ramesh gave Sterlite a clean chit in Parliament, can Rahul Gandhi and the Congress still blame the BJP and the RSS?
  5. The UPA on two occasions said no to a public hearing demand. Is the Congress not guilty of ignoring the public's demand?
  6. Six approvals from UPA, one extension from NDA. Should Rahul Gandhi now speak out on Congress' role?
  7. While the NDA gave an extension, the Congress went out of its way to defend the project. Will Rahul Gandhi still blame the BJP?

MASSIVE: Close Tuticorin Sterlite Copper Unit And Disconnect Power, Directs Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board

Six documents and two press releases show the Congress role. Will Rahul Gandhi now accept backing the Sterlite project?

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