More than 45 days after the State government sealed Vedanta group ’s Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi, the company has directed all its employees to report at its quarters here on Monday and register their 100% attendance on a daily basis. An internal mail circulated to the employees said they would be picked up from various places in the town and taken to the company’s residential quarters (Tamira I and II). Biometric punching machines have been installed in the plant and Tamira-I for recording the attendance.
An e-mail sent by Sterlite Copper CEO Ramnath said: “[Vedanta] Chairman wants this time to be utilised to building a new approach to all that we do in Sterlite Copper – concentrate (on) procurement, logistics, production process, commercial, marketing, housekeeping, business excellence, CSR, PR, finance, IT, maintenance, etc... all of you have to work on these aspects.”
When contacted, M. Esakkiyappan, a spokesperson for Sterlite Copper, said the move was to ensure the employees were not kept idle for a long time. “The company has been paying them even though there is no work currently. The management would discuss the future course of action,” he said. All activities would happen at “clubhouses” within the quarters, he added.
The employees, including those who were deputed to different plants and to the headquarters in Mumbai, would be arriving on Monday. The firm’s Thoothukudi unit was sealed following a protest staged by thousands of people on May 22 demanding closure of the plant, which they accused of being responsible for pollution and the associated health hazards.
Sources said the company was keen on capitalising on what it believed to be “rapidly changing sentiments” of the local community. In recent days, groups of villagers, contractors and the company’s customers have sought resumption of operations at the plant. The company believes that the presence of employees would help bolster these campaigns.
Further, a number of teams have been deployed by the company to increase its outreach. In one communication, the company said it had set up a ‘Twitter Response Force’. Many Twitter handles, which are of recent vintage, have been posting pro-Sterlite comments and criticising a number of people including environmental activists and select journalists.
Another spokesperson of the company said that the employees had been active on Twitter to dispel rumours revolving around the Sterlite plant.
However, activist Nityanand Jayaraman alleged, “Nearly 300 Twitter handles have been identified so far. Their aim is to get ‘reopen Sterlite’ trending on Twitter. You find only as much truth in their content as you would find in advertising campaigns.”