It looks like the residents of Whitefield are not going let Graphite India Limited get away with its environmental violations. A day after Graphite India issued a clarification to National Stock Exchange (NSE) and the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), claiming they were a “law-abiding entity” that gives “utmost importance towards statutory compliance including environment matters”, the residents have claimed that the statement is false.
According to the residents, the company, which is listed in both the exchanges, has lied in its letter to NSE, BSE and in the process, to its shareholders.
On Wednesday, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) denied Graphite India Limited ‘consent for operation’ (CFO) for not complying with the requisite air pollution norms. Following bad press, the company wrote a clarification letter to the stock exchanges. Now, residents allege that Graphite India, in its letter, mentioned that they had applied for CFO well in time. However, according to official records, the company had applied for a renewed consent for its operations in Whitefield, Bengaluru, on August 4, while its previous consent tenure had ended on June 30.
Srinivas Rao Gangji, who is one of the litigants against the company, said, “This is not right. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) should take note of this. They are a publicly listed company. They lied to the public as this letter shows.”
Generally, the exchanges themselves or SEBI ask for clarification or take action against companies based on suspicion or complaints.
In its letter to NSE and BSE, with the subject “Various Media Reports”, on Thursday, Graphite India had written, “Application to the Pollution Board for consent has been made well in time”.
The letter to the exchanges was necessitated after it was widely reported that KSPCB has found multiple non-compliances with the factory and has decided not to renew the consent for operation.
In fact, KSPCB chief Lakshman found that the factory had broken side panels and cracked roof, which caused the dust to escape into the surroundings, among other non-compliances. Incidentally, Graphite India, which was served a closure notice in 2012 by the KSPCB, was told to take this corrective measures on the same issues. The company has been operating after the Appellate court overturned the closure order..
For close to two decades, residents of Whitefield have been fighting against GI for not following pollution norms and getting away with legal loopholes. In the process, residents of the area allege they have been exposed to a far greater amount of air pollution and as a result are at risk of several health complications.
While the KSPCB had initially served the company a closure notice in 2012 for failing to comply with CPCB norms, residents allege that the authorities, including the KSPCB, have been lax in taking the matter to its logical conclusion, after the company got a stay.
Unsatisfied with the stay, some of the residents impleaded themselves in the case and approached the NGT. However, due to factors such as shortage of judges, at the Chennai Bench of the NGT, the matter is still sub judice. In this regard, Lakshman promised the residents that he will ask the case to be heard at the Delhi bench of the NGT.
Local residents, who have been opposing the issue for a long time, were not impressed with the company’s clarification. Whitefield Rising, a citizens collective, has now filed a police complaint against the company for operating without the CFO.