As per a police complaint filed at the SIPCOT Police Station, on the night of 16 and 17 March, a young contract worker, Karthipan’s, left arm was sucked into the conveyor belt of a machine at Sterlite Copper, Tamil Nadu. He reportedly suffered grievous injuries as his arm was dragged all the way up to his armpit and was crushed.
Karthipan was engaged by Operational Energy Group (OEG ) Ltd., an operation, maintenance and power plant services provider, to carry out maintenance work on the conveyor belt of the Phosphoric Acid Plant at Sterlite Copper, a subsidiary of the metals and mining multinational Vedanta Resources.
The incident occurred when the plant suddenly started running, thus dragging Karthipan’s arm into the conveyor belt. He was initially admitted to the Thoothukudi City Hospital and only after his friends threatened to demonstrate outside Sterlite’s gates with Karthipan lying on the ground, he was taken by a vehicle to the local Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) office and from there to Thiraviyam Hospital in Nagercoil.
It’s been more than two months since the accident, however, Sterlite Copper has not paid any compensation to Karthipan.
Details of the incident were posted on Facebook by Nityanand Jayaraman, a journalist and environmental activist who reports on corporate abuses and human rights.
Nityanand Jayaraman’s Facebook post:
”STERLITE’S INSENSITIVITY PUTS YOUTH’S LIFE AT RISK
On 21 March, I had reported that a young contract worker — Kartheepan — at Sterlite Copper was injured when his left arm was sucked into a conveyor belt crushing it and dragging him all the way up to his armpit. He was admitted in Tuticorin’s City Hospital, and no one was allowed to meet him.
I spoke to Kartheepan two days back. He has not been paid a day’s lost wages, leave alone being compensated for the trauma and the lifelong loss he has to live with. Negligent handling of his case by the company has left him with a dead arm that is begging to be amputated. He is reconciled to losing his arm, but the Company refused to help move him to a well-equipped hospital until yesterday. Yesterday, some former workers took Kartheepan to the SIPCOT Police Station and lay him there demanding that the company take charge of the young man’s treatment. The Inspector summoned Sterlite’s PRO who came but said that there were no vehicles at his disposal to transport the young man, and claimed that the injured youth was not Sterlite’s responsibility but that of the contractor — OEG. Only after Kartheepan’s friends threatened to demonstrate outside Sterlite’s gates with Kartheepan lying there was he taken by a vehicle to the local ESI office and from there on to Thiraviyam Hospital in Nagercoil. He may have to have his entire arm removed, and doctors are now saying that nerves leading into his neck may also have been affected.
When Kartheepan returns, he will have to fight to get a just compensation from the company and its contractor.
My post from March 21 is pasted below:
WORKER INJURED IN FACTORY ACCIDENT IN STERLITE COPPER, THOOTHUKUDI
This morning, a worker from Sterlite’s controversial copper smelter in Thoothukudi called me to report that a contract worker had been severely injured inside the factory.
Here’s what the worker reported:
“In the early hours of Saturday — during the last shift that began Friday night — Kartheepan, age 31, s/o Nallakutty, Palayapuram village, Meelavittan Post, Thoothukudi — was engaged by contractor Operational Energy Group Ltd to do some maintenance work in the conveyor belt of the Phosphoric Acid Plant. Even before the work could be completed, the belt seems to have started running, sucking the young man’s left arm in. The boy has reportedly suffered serious injuries and is admitted in the Thoothukudi City Hospital.”
I called the hospital at around 11.10 a.m. today. The hospital confirmed that Kartheepan had been admitted on 18th March, early a.m. I called the SIPCOT Police Station who confirmed that there is an entry in the register about some incident in Sterlite, but that further details would be available only with the Inspector. The Office of the Deputy Chief Inspector of Factories, Thoothukudi, also confirmed having received intimation of the accident.
Such accidents assume importance in light of the fact that in 2007, the Norwegian Council of Ethics had blacklisted Vedanta and advised the substantially resourced Norwegian Government Pension Fund to divest Vedanta stocks, and not invest in the company as the company was found in violation of established norms of human rights, worker safety and environmental due dliigence. In February 2015 and February 2016, Vedanta had written to the Council of Ethics requesting a review of the 2007 decision. On 9 March, 2017, the Council of Ethics released its annual report which reported that: “In 2016, the Council performed a particularly thorough assessment of Vedanta Resources, which has been excluded since 2007, but concluded that grounds for exclusion continue to exist.”
STERLITE'S INSENSITIVITY PUTS YOUTH'S LIFE AT RISKOn 21 March, I had reported that a young contract worker –…
When contacted by The Logical Indian, Jayaraman said, “Karthipan was an untrained worker who should not have been sent for maintenance work of the Phosphoric Acid Plant which, in fact, had a faulty design. Hiring him for the said work was against protocol. And if he was sent, there should have been a supervisor and a skilled labourer to guide him.”
“But this is not the first time that Sterlite Copper has engaged is such negligent action. The company is known to hire unskilled workers for such jobs, without safeguarding them,” he added.
“Sterlite is one of the largest metal manufacturing companies and taking care of Karthipan would have been pocket change for them,” said Jayaraman. “Although employment and labour protection require the worker to be paid compensation and wages for the period that he cannot work, Vedanta – the world’s largest metals multinational – has not found the cash to compensate him and ease his life. It is this depraved indifference to others’ suffering that should tell us that corporations are incapable of responsible or ethical behaviour.”
“There is a complaint registered in the police station and according to the law, a case should also be filed with the labour department,” he added.
“Karthipan’s left arm has been amputated to half his palm, but as there is partial blood circulation in the rest of his palm, the doctors have not removed it. They will observe him for a few days then decide whether to keep it or not,” said Jayaraman.
A newly married man, Karthipan is unable to support his wife and daughter as no compensation has been paid to him for almost three months.
The Logical Indian contacted Sterlite Copper for comment, however, our call was transferred from one department to the other and no one was in a position to reply.
The Logical Indian strongly condemns such acts of negligence by corporations. We urge Sterlite Copper to offer support and compensation to Karthipan whose family is struggling to make ends meet. Labourers are the backbone of a corporation – they work in the factory and keep the production alive. However, apathy toward them has harmed their livelihood.
We reached out to Sterlite Copper @sterlite_copper on twitter and they have responded to us:
— Sterlite Copper (@sterlite_copper) May 31, 2017
— Sterlite Copper (@sterlite_copper) May 31, 2017
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