May 6, 2021: Up to 16,000 workers at the Amara Raja battery plants threatened with closure on April 30 could breathe sighs of relief on May 6 after the Andhra Pradesh High Court issued a stay of execution to the company.
The two manufacturing complexes, at Karakambadi and Nunegundlapalli in Chittoor district, were ordered to close by the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APPCB) for polluting ambient air and causing high levels of lead in the blood of almost all staff at the plants as well as people living nearby, media reports said.
According to national newspaper The Hindu, the APPCB said that if the polluting units continued to operate after the shut-down orders were received, punitive action would be taken under the Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act 1974 and Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act 1981.
However on Thursday the company was granted a stay of execution until June 17 by the Andhra Pradesh High Court after representations were made by Amara Raja Group managing director Galla Jayadev, who is also an MP for the Telugu Desam Party in India.
Amara Raja, whose motto is ‘Gotta be a better way’, actually began life at Karakambadi, a remote village near the town of Tirupati, when founder chairman Ramachandra N Galla returned from the US intending, according to the company, to make a difference ‘by ushering development in his homeland at Chittoor District’. It was here that the first manufacturing facility and office were built, in 1985.
The industrial complex there now has three of the company’s seven battery manufacturing factories, and the other four are at Nunegundlapalli, also formerly a village.
At the end of 2019, Amara Raja recorded an annual capacity total of 11 million batteries for four-wheelers, 15 million for two-wheelers, two billion amp hours of industrial batteries and one million tubular batteries.
When the notice to shut down was issued, a company spokesperson was quoted by much of the media as saying: “At a time of national emergency in the form of the Covid pandemic, such a dislocation could be calamitous.
“All our manufacturing plants have undergone various annual/bi-annual environmental audits and certifications over many years and have received several awards for safety and environmental sustainability and have adhered to the highest norms of environment, health and safety.”
A court date was listed for June 28 for the APPCB to file a report on the pollution aspects of the company.