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TN’s Oxygen Chauvinism Cast An Ominous Shadow On Covid Relief Efforts

A new form of chauvinism has been spotted. It is induced by oxygen. Within hours of the top court setting conditions for the reopening of Vedanta’s Sterlite copper smelter in Thoothukudi (earlier Tuticorin) on the Tamil Nadu coast, Opposition leader MK Stalin declared that all oxygen produced by Sterlite should be used in Tamil Nadu and that no oxygen supply from any source should serve other states until Tamil Nadu’s requirements are fully met. Stalin’s observations came because the Tamil Nadu government, peeved at censorious comments from the Supreme Court, was hedging by saying that Sterlite would not be able to manufacture medical quality oxygen. Sterlite’s lawyer Harish Salve, however, told the court that the plant will be able to supply 200 MT of medical grade oxygen within 10 days of opening. Along with oxygen, Sterlite politics is also swirling in Tamil Nadu with a few political parties, including Vaiko’s MDMK, opposing the opening of the plant even in such a dire national emergency. The plant was shut for environmental concerns three years ago after protests turned violent with 13 people getting killed in police firing. And now, local people representing the victims of the firing are refusing to nominate anyone to the committee to oversee the production of oxygen.