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Kerala's Plachimada Struggle: A Narrative on Water and Governance Rights



The struggle in Plachimada, Kerala, against Coca-Cola not only raises issues of mindless destruction of groundwater by a multinational company, but also exposes the gross inadequacies in the laws of governance and the rights to water. It also exposes the inability of political democracy, as we know it, to address weaknesses in law and governance. The state government meekly surrendered the opportunity that the struggle bestowed at the altar of the judiciary, rather than take advantage of it for bold political decision-making. The Plachimada struggle calls for the recovery of the commons by communities.
Economic and Political Weekly October 14, 2006
The Plachimada struggle in Kerala,
in its fifth year, has etched for itself
a unique place amongst the issue-
based democratic struggles in the country.
On January 3, 2006 the industries depart-
ment of the government of Kerala, the
Kerala State Pollution Control Board
(KSPCB), Perumatty panchayat and Coca-
Cola met to consider the proposal of the
company of November 28, 2005 to the
state minister of industry to relocate the
plant from Plachimada, provided the
government offered appropriate compen-
sation. The plant was forced to stop pro-
duction since March 2004. Coca-Cola has
been checkmated, at least for the time
being. But the battle is yet to be won.
Why is Plachimada struggle unique? Is
it because it is a struggle against the world’s
most well known brand – Coca-Cola, the
symbol of US imperialism? Or a struggle
of primarily the adivasis, the symbol of
“primitiveness and backwardness”? What
made this poorest and assetless section
stand up more than those peasants whose
farms have been affected? How were they
able to turn around the unhelpful panchayat,
the antagonistic political parties, the sceptical
media and “development”-obsessed state
government from hostility to solidarity?
Plachimada, a sleepy backward village,
had no significant connections with the
mainstream society. Adivasis and dalits of
Plachimada barely survived, people unlet-
tered in the sophisticated political power
games and diabolical machinations of the
“worldly”. But this village has thrown up
numerous challenges. It has proved that
a persistent strong struggle can be waged
by the weakest against a multinational
giant who can even manipulate govern-
ments and politics. This struggle of the
weakest can indeed make an arrogant MNC
change its position from “a mischief of a
few politically motivated persons” to “we
are willing to shift to some other place”.
This struggle over a “non-issue” can get
the government administrative machinery
to change from active support to Coca-
Cola to hesitatingly, but finally, come out
with at least the partial truth. This struggle
of “a handful of persons” in front of the
Coca-Cola plant could get its issue raised
at the company shareholders’ meeting in
the US and mobilise students across the
US and UK to push Coca-Cola off their
campuses causing collateral damage worth
millions of dollars. The “false motivated
allegations” raised by this struggle actu-
ally began drawing the contours of the
power of the local self-government
(panchayat) with regard to their respon-
sibility to public welfare, the jurisdictional
division of power between the panchayat
and the state government, and the legal
duty of the state to protect and regulate
the natural resources in accordance with
the doctrine of public trust; This struggle
has forced the fundamental issues into the
legal arena such as “who has the primary
decision-making rights over water (ground-
water in this case) – the people, the elected
panchayat, the state or the centre? What
are the primary use of water – domestic,
irrigation, or industrial? Which is superior
– water for survival or water for profit?”
The Plachimada people ask “How do we
survive with this water that is certified as
not fit for human consumption and domes-
tic use? What are you going to do with
the criminal Coca-Cola with your laws of
crime and punishment? What justice would
you give us?” The only sophisticated
political theory, scientific analysis and
strategic manoeuvres the Plachimada
people deployed was simply the spirit of
resistance of the oppressed and the dream
of a life with dignity.
Adivasis Betrayed
The symbiotic relationship between the
adivasis with their ancestral domain had
led to their distinct local self-governing
systems. Despite clear injunctions that an
alien politico-administrative structure
should not be foisted on the adivasis, that
protective measures explicitly in the Con-
stitution be firmly placed as a precondition
to secure their progress and development
with clear scope for local self-governing
systems, yet the legislative history and the
politico-administrative process since in-
dependence rode roughshod on the
adivasis. This forms the principal contra-
diction and conflict between the adivasis
and the mainstream, alienating and often
destroying livelihood systems creating
acute impoverishment and deprivation.
Planned development of both adivasis and
their territories has become tales of horror
and violence. In Kerala 1.14 per cent or
3,64,189 of the population are scheduled
tribes. Official figures for 2002 show
22,491 families or 24.7 per cent landless
and 30,981 families or 34.02 per cent
having less than an acre of land, making
the overwhelming majority landless or
near-landless [TMPC 2002].
Specifically, Article 244 Clause (1) V
Schedule, Para 5(2), makes it mandatory
for the state to ensure total prohibition
Kerala’s Plachimada
A Narrative on Water and Governance Rights
The struggle in Plachimada, Kerala, against Coca-Cola not only
raises issues of mindless destruction of groundwater by a
multinational company, but also exposes the gross inadequacies in
the laws of governance and the rights to water. It also exposes the
inability of political democracy, as we know it, to address
weaknesses in law and governance. The state government meekly
surrendered the opportunity that the struggle bestowed at the altar
of the judiciary, rather than take advantage of it for bold political
decision-making. The Plachimada struggle calls for the recovery of
the commons by communities.
Economic and Political Weekly October 14, 2006 4333
of transfer of immovable property to any
person other than to a tribe for peace and
proven good management of a tribal area,
and to protect possession, right, title
and interests of the STs held in the land
at one time by the tribals. The provisions
are applicable to the areas notified as
“scheduled areas” with provisions for a
certain degree of self-governance under
the Panchayat Raj (Extension to the
Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 and also to
scheduled tribes in any state.
The tribal areas in Kerala are yet to be
notified as a “scheduled area”. The Kerala
Scheduled Tribes Act (Restriction on
Transfer of Lands and Restoration of
Alienated Lands) enacted in 1975 remains
unimplemented with its fate now pending
in the Supreme Court [Bijoy and Ravi
Raman 2003].
Pushed to starvation, adivasi assertions
in Kerala led to the October 16, 2001
agreement between the government and
the leaders of the movement (ibid) after
prolonged struggle of a decade that culmi-
nated in the 48-day sit-in in front of the
secretariat threatening to erupt into a
popular statewide adivasi revolt. All land-
less adivasis and those owning less than
an acre were to receive up to five acres
within one year1 besides a cabinet resolu-
tion to bring adivasi habitations in the state
under the Schedule V. These have not yet
materialised. The scope for revitalisation
of adivasi villages in the state with the
constitutional provision for self-gover-
nance available at least in law has been
denied to the adivasis of Kerala (ibid).
It is in this context that the state govern-
ment granted Coca-Cola the permission to
expropriate yet another life sustaining
resource – water – from Plachimada to
“develop” this backward region to add
figures to the state GDP.
Coca-Cola in Plachimada
The Coca-Cola2 of Atlanta, US, re-
entered in 1993 after being expelled from
the country in 1977 when it failed to comply
with the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act
(FERA) under which it was to reduce its
equity stake. The Hindustan Coca-Cola
Beverages Private (HCCB), registered in
1993 as a subsidiary of Coca-Cola, in-
vested more than US$1 billion between
1993 and 2003 establishing 27 wholly-
owned bottling operations supplemented
by 17 franchisee-owned bottling opera-
tions and a network of 29 contract-packers
to manufacture a range of products.
The HCCB (hereinafter referred to as
Coke), at the behest of the Left Democratic
Front government, established its factory
at Plachimada in Moolathara village of
Perumatty panchayat in Chittoor taluk,
located south-east in Palakkad district bor-
dering south-western part of Coimbatore
district of Tamil Nadu. Coke acquired 34.64
acres, mostly paddy fields, in 1998. The
Perumatty panchayat granted a licence to
Coke on January 25, 2000.3 The plant was
commissioned in March 2000 to produce
its popular brands such as Coca-Cola, Fanta,
Sprite, Limca, Kinley Soda, Maaza and
Thumps-Up. There were three lines of
production, namely, returnable glass bottle
line, PET line and Maaza line. The KSPCB
gave a permit to produce 5,61,000 litres
of soft drink per day requiring 3.8 litres
of water for a litre of soft drink. The firm
employed about 130 permanent workers
and 250 contract labourers.
The Perumatty panchayat with a popu-
lation of 29,500 (2001) comprises
Moolathara, Vandithavalam and Perumatty
and parts of Pattancherry and Thatha-
mangalam villages with an area of 60.79 sq
kilometres divided into 15 wards.
Plachimada is a part of Moolathara village.
The plant borders Vijaya Nagar,
Plachimada and Rajiv Nagar colonies and
Veloor, Madhavan Nair, Kampalathara and
Thodichipathy colonies within three km of
the factory. All these are in Perumatty
panchayat except Rajiv Nagar and
Thodichipathy colonies which are the parts
of Pattancherry panchayat. Thirty to forty
per cent tribals, 10 per cent dalits and other
communities make up the population in
these seven worst-affected colonies, popu-
larly known as “Plachimada” ever since
the struggle emerged.
Livelihood is largely agriculture based.
The ezhavas, a few Muslims and other
backward communities own almost all the
cultivable land. Most of the STs and SCs,
if not all, simply own land ranging from
1 to 10 cents used for dwelling. Once a
predominantly paddy growing marshy land,
the major crops now are coconut, paddy,
groundnut, vegetables, maize, mangoes,
bananas, flowers and fodder grass. The
agricultural daily wage averages Rs 80 for
men and Rs 40 for women with employ-
ment dwindling to about 120 days per year.
The STs followed by SCs and the majority
of the Muslims constitute the very poor.
The STs, mostly the eravalan along with
malasar and vilvedan, were brought by the
landlords or migrated over time to work
in these lush paddy growing plains from
Amaravathi forests and Anamalai hills of
adjacent Pollachi taluk of Coimbatore
district, Tamil Nadu.
Plachimada, located in the rain shadow
region of Western Ghats, depends on
groundwater and canal irrigation. The
Perumatty panchayat has 304 large tanks
of which 291 are private and the remaining
13 are public tanks.4 Chitturpuzha irriga-
tion project of Parambikulam-Aliyar
Project (PAP), a Tamil Nadu-Kerala in-
terstate project5 provides canal irrigation.
The Coke plant at the Palakkad-
Meenakshipuram-Pollachi road is located
about 3 km north of the Meenkara dam
reservoir and a few hundred metres west
of the Kambalathara and Vengalakkayam
storage reservoirs. The Moolanthodu main
canal from the Moolathara barrage passes
hardly 10 metres north of the factory com-
pound. The main Chittoorpuzha itself is
2 km due north of the plant.
Adivasis Launch Struggle
against Coca-Cola
The October 16, 2001 agreement be-
tween the government and the Adivasi-
Dalit Samara Samithy marked a watershed
in the contemporary history of adivasi
struggles. It was in this period of exuber-
ance that the adivasis of Plachimada began
associating the change in quality of ground-
water and the receding water table to the
operation of the Coke plant. About 85 lorry
loads of beverage products containing 550-
600 cases each with each case containing
24 bottles of 300 ml capacity left the factory
premises daily. Six bore-wells and two
open-wells in the factory compound sucked
out some 0.8 to 1.5 million litres of water
daily. Within two years, the people around
the plant experienced problems that they had
never encountered before, the receding of
the water table and the drastic change in the
quality of water spread around 1 to 1.5 km
radius of the plant. Water shortage upset
the agricultural operations. Water became
unfit for human consumption and domestic
use. The “socially responsible” corporate
sold the foul smelling slurry and sludge
waste as fertiliser to the unsuspecting
farmers, later given “free”, and still later,
with protests and objections, surreptitiously
dumped on the wayside and on lands at night.
The people questioned the much awaited
“development” in this “backward” area as
they had earlier welcomed the plant as the
beginning of “development”. The local
power elite and those who hoped to benefit
directly from the activities of the plant and
Economic and Political Weekly October 14, 2006
from peripheral development immediately
decried this as emerging from “ignorance”
and “backwardness”. The almost negligent
local employment was declared as the cause
of the “unfounded” allegations. Initial scep-
ticism that adivasi protests would not garner
public support and would be scorned by
the mainstream gave way to optimism with
popular support for the adivasis’ struggle
for land, the 2001 agreement and thereafter.
The Plachimada struggle was launched
by the ‘Coca-Cola Virudha Janakeeya
Samara Samithy’ (Anti Coca-Cola Peoples
Struggle Committee) on April 22, 2002
with a blockade by over 1,300 people,
mostly adivasis, demanding that the Coke
plant be shut down as it was devastating
their source of survival, that Coke be held
fully responsible and liable for the destruc-
tion of the environment and their liveli-
hood resources, and criminal action be
initiated against Coke. They were taken
into custody and removed by the police.
Coke filed a case on April 26, 2002 in the
high court against the struggle committee
demanding that the picket be dismantled
and police protection be provided to the
plant. The court conceded the right of
people to protest peacefully and ordered
the police to provide protection to both the
plant and the protesters. However, heavy
police protection was provided instead to
the plant. Frequent police intimidation,
arrests and false cases to create a violent
situation so that the struggle could be
suppressed has failed till date.
Transformation to
a Popular Struggle
For the first two months or so, the struggle
faced hostility and threat from the com-
bined strength of the local political parties
such as the Janata Dal, Communist Party
of India (Marxist), the Bharatiya Janata
Party and the Congress besides the elected
representatives. The local Janata Dal-con-
trolled panchayat (the only one to be so
in the state) was hostile to the struggle. The
media mostly pretended to ignore the
struggle or gave more credence to Coke’s
version with some arguing the case for the
company. Coke campaigned that the pro-
tests were “politically motivated”, mean-
ing, the Naxalites, so the struggle had to
be squashed by the state. The bogey of
“development” and unemployment of the
Coke workers were raised. Coke’s envi-
ronmentally friendly socially responsible
approaches were also harped upon. The
struggle persisted with the adivasi women,
the main victims, forming the backbone of
the struggle. Diverse sections, from the
Gandhians to the revolutionary left to the
environmentalists and youths, from across
the state soon supported the struggle
organising dharnas, blockades, sit-ins,
marches, public rallies and meetings.
People from all parts of the state – school
children to academics to peasants – came
in hordes expressing solidarity. The
Plachimada Solidarity Committee has
drawn in some 32 organisations from across
the state. Support campaigns emerged from
different parts of the country as well as
internationally.6 Protests against Coke plants
from other parts of the country also emerged.
The media could no longer ignore the struggle
despite Coke’s alleged arm-twisting. Coke
then acknowledged that there indeed was
a problem with the water for which they
were not responsible. They offered drink-
ing water, and started rainwater-harvest-
ing programmes within and outside the
plant. Coke itself had to organise water from
elsewhere as the aquifers were depleted.
With the struggle gaining popularity, the
CPM, organised protests against Coke, the
ruling Congress Party and the government
and in the process de-legitimised the local
party leaders who supported Coke. Janata
Dal, which controlled the panchayat, also
fell in line. Except the then ruling Con-
gress Party, most of the small and large
parties now vie with each other in declar-
ing their opposition to Coke’s extraction
of water. The boycott call of US-products
caught popular imagination during the
critical days of US-Iraq invasion. In the
popular mind Coke symbolised the US
Mounting Evidence of Criminality
As early as March 4, 2002, Sargam Metals
Laboratories7 concluded that “water from
the panchayat well contains very high levels
of “hardness” and salinity that would render
water from this source unfit for human
consumption, domestic use (bathing and
washing), and for irrigation”.
The government primary health centre
concluded that the water is “not potable”
around the Coke factory on the basis of
the analysis carried out by the government’s
regional analytical laboratory and on
May 13, 2003 asked the panchayat to ensure
that the public be duly informed. For three
years, Coke dumped the sludge from the
plant in open fields and even offloaded
most of it to local farmers as manure/
fertiliser. On July 25, 2003, BBC Radio
4 Face the Facts programme reported that
carcinogens were found in the waste. The
report stated that “Of the three solid wastes
analysed, one showed relatively high
levels of two toxic metals, namely, cad-
mium and lead. Some other heavy metals,
including nickel, chromium and zinc, were
also present at levels significantly above
those expected for background, unconta-
minated soil and sludge. The presence of
high levels of lead and cadmium is of
particular concern. Lead is a developmen-
tal toxin in humans, particularly noted for
its ability to damage the developing ner-
vous system. Cadmium is especially toxic
to the kidney, but also to the liver – it is
classified as a known human carcinogen.”
The water sample collected from a well
near a farm where waste was dumped con-
tained 10 micrograms/litre of cadmium
and 65.7 micrograms/litre of lead (the
permissible limits prescribed by the WHO
being three micrograms/litre and 10 mi-
crograms/litre respectively). BBC Radio 4
presenters had simply wanted to find out
whether the “fertiliser” was indeed what
Coke had claimed, i e, fertiliser.
The KSPCB confirmed the BBC Report
on August 7, reporting a figure more than
double of what the BBC reported and four
times the legally prescribed norm. The
KSPCB ordered Coke to stop supplying
the waste, recover all the waste transported
outside and store them safely in the plant
site. It later carried out one more test,
which reported negligible traces of car-
cinogens. The government itself had to
reject this as being unscientific. On Au-
gust 5, the Centre for Science for Environ-
ment (CSE), New Delhi, reported that soft
drinks, including that of Coca-Cola, tested
for pesticides higher than the permissible
level in the US and European Union.8
The Supreme Court Monitoring Com-
mittee on Hazardous Wastes (SCMC)
constituted to monitor the implementation
of the Supreme Court’s order9 of Octo-
ber 14, 2003 visited Plachimada on Au-
gust 12, 2004. Its report of August 14, 2004
indicted Coke for “the unauthorised dis-
posal of sludge”... “without prior approval
of the authorities concerned with agricul-
ture, disposed of its sludge (containing
heavy metals) to farmers in the
neighbourhood as fertiliser” and “was
unable to convince the committee of the
source of the toxic heavy metals found in
the sludges”. The SCMC concluded that
“the company will take quick measures to
ensure water supplies to all the persons in
the vicinity of the plant”.
Economic and Political Weekly October 14, 2006 4335
The report of the Joint Committee on
Pesticide Residues in and Safety Standards
for Soft Drinks, Fruit Juice and Other
Beverages” of the Parliament stated at Para
2.123 that after “sludge analysis revealed
cadmium content up to 338.8 mg/kg”, the
Central Pollution Control Board advised
the KSPCB “to direct the company to
dispose of the effluent treatment sludge as
per the hazardous waste rules”.
Outlook, a news magazine, commis-
sioned Sargam Metals Laboratories to carry
out a water analysis on April 23, 2005 from
a well. The lab reported that the water
“chemically does not meet the require-
ments for most of the parameters tested for
potability as per ISO 10,500 specifications
set by the Bureau of Indian Standards”. “A
pH value of 3.53 (against the permissible
6.5-8.5 at 25 degree C), making it highly
acidic”. “If consumed, it will burn up your
insides.” Such water cannot be used for
cooking, washing or agriculture. “Clothes
could tear if washed in such water, food
will rot, crops will wither”. While the
permissible level of total dissolved solids
(TDS) in potable water is 2,000, the
water…recorded a TDS count of 9,624.
The permissible manganese level is 0.3, but
was 6.18 in the tested sample. Likewise,
iron was 1.58 while it should be 1 or less.
The Hazards Centre, New Delhi and
People’s Science Institute, Dehradun
released ‘Groundwater Resources in
Plachimada: Coca-Cola Stores Toxics for
Future Generations – A Report on Present
Status of Water Quality and Problems
Faced by the Villagers in the Surrounding
Areas of Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages
Located at Plachimada, Palghat’ in June
2006 based on their study of five open
wells and four bore wells within one km
radius of the plant in November 2005.
Cadmium was found in all the wells
above 0.01mg/l, the permissible limit as
prescribed by Bureau of Indian Standards
(BIS) for drinking water quality, lead was
found in all the open wells and two bore
wells above the permissible limit of 0.05mg/
l and Chromium concentration was above
the permissible level of 0.05mg/l in all the
wells except one bore well. Heavy metal
concentration was more in the bore wells
than in the open wells. The total natural
sources around the plant were contaminated.
On August 2006, the CSE released its
second report of 57 samples of 11 soft
drink brands, from 25 different manufac-
turing plants of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo,
spread over 12 states found pesticide resi-
dues in all samples, on an average 24 times
higher than BIS norms which have been
finalised but not yet notified.10
The Legal Battle
The Perumatty panchayat resolved to
cancel the licence issued to Coke under the
Kerala Panchayat Raj Act and issued a show
cause notice on April 9, 2003 alleging
depletion of groundwater resource, which
was challenged by Coke.11 The panchayat
cancelled the licence nevertheless on May
15 and asked Coke to stop production from
May 17, 2003. The high court asked Coke
to approach the local self-government
department (LSD) which stayed the deci-
sion of the panchayat to cancel the licence
on June 12 on the grounds that the panchayat
had exceeded its powers as conferred under
the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act.
The KSPCB meanwhile ordered Coke
on August 7 to stop the supply of the waste
due to the presence of cadmium beyond
the permissible limit. The panchayat res-
ponded with a show cause notice to Coke
on September 18 which was challenged by
Coke in the high court. Meanwhile, the
LSD ordered the panchayat on October 13
to constitute an expert team for a detailed
investigation to determine the fate of the
licence to Coke. The panchayat went to the
high court against this order12 who con-
firmed in its judgment of December 16,
2003 that the panchayat was within their
powers to refuse licence. Coke challenged
the cancellation of the licence claiming
that the decision to cancel licence was
arbitrary, prejudiced and not based on facts
or substantiated scientifically. The court
directed Coke to close all the bore wells
and to stop extracting groundwater beyond
what was required for irrigating 34 acres
of land. Further, the government was asked
to carry out elaborate investigations into all
allegations related to water and contamin-
ation of water and land. In its ruling, the
court held that groundwater was a public
property held in trust by a government and
it had no right to allow a private party to
overexploit the resource to the detriment
of the people. The panchayat was well
within the limit to consider public welfare
above private rights notwithstanding that
the landlord was well within his right to
extract the water below the ground.
Though the single bench ordered Coke
to find alternative sources of water, the
division bench13 upturned the decision
ensuring status quo. In January 2004, the
monitoring of the consumption of water
was also ordered to be carried out by the
representative of the expert committee
appointed by the high court along with the
Perumatty gram panchayat. Between
January 12 and 19, the Coke plant used
2,75,000 litres per day. The panchayat was
also ordered not to take any steps that
would lead to the closure of the plant.
With the onset of summer, the govern-
ment declared seven out of the 14 districts
in the state, including Palakkad, as drought-
hit. Once regarded as Kerala’s rice bowl,
Palakkad is the only district that was under
a drought spell since 1998. In February,
the government banned the use of ground-
water by Coke until mid-June when the
monsoon was expected to set.
The high court then granted Coke one
month to close down its wells and find an
alternative source of water. But the judge
also directed the panchayat to renew the
licence of the plant restraining it from
interfering with the functioning of the
factory. The plant stopped operations from
March 9, 2004 after the high court upheld the
government order prohibiting the company
from drawing groundwater till mid-June.
The annual renewal of licence to Coke
that was refused by the panchayat on
April 7, 2003 came up once again on
February 17, 2004 for the five-year re-
newal which the panchayat rejected. The
state government promptly upturned the
decision of the panchayat saying that it
lacked this power. The high court however
stayed the government’s decision and
directed Coke not to resume operation.
Coke submitted an application to the
KSPCB on September 20, 2004 for renew-
ing the consent to operate with effect from
January 1, 2005. Since the application was
defective, especially the silence over the
source of cadmium in its waste, consent
was denied. The board contended that the
sludge generated by the company con-
tained the heavy metal cadmium at con-
centration of 200 to 300 mg per kg of
sludge, which is 400 to 600 per cent above
the tolerance/permissible limit.14 Coke had
also not complied with the SCMC order
to supply piped drinking water to the
affected families and to install reverse
osmosis system or any other more efficient
system for better treatment of effluent. On
the 1,000th day on January 15, 2005,
agitators blockaded the factory declaring
that reopening of the factory would be
prevented at all cost.
On February 11, 2005 the investigation
team15 constituted by the high court on
December 19, 2003 submitted the final
report on investigations on the extraction
Economic and Political Weekly October 14, 2006
of groundwater by HCCB at Plachimada.
The team permitted extraction with restric-
tions up to 5 lakh litres per day and lesser
according to the extent of rainfall. Based
on this report, the high court made it very
clear on April 7, 2005 that “...permissible
groundwater withdrawal could be 5 lakh
litres per day, if for relevant year, average
rainfall was available. If it was less by 10
per cent, exploitation is to be reduced to
4 lakh litres per day. If the monsoon is less
by 20 per cent or 30 per cent, restriction
should have been made to 3 lakh litres and
2 lakh litres respectively. In a case of a
year where there was 30 per cent lesser
rainfall than average, total ban of use to
be imposed”. This restriction was against
the very grain of Coke’s contention that
there is enough groundwater and that
Coke’s extraction and requirement do
not and will not affect groundwater
availability in anyway.
That the report was flawed on various
counts was pointed out by a number of
people on matters of reliability, absence
and manipulation of data, glossing over of
inconvenient data, omissions of certain
facts in calculations, arbitrary assumptions,
procedural errors and silence over the issue
of quality of water.16 The court chose to
ignore the counter to the report prepared
by CSE submitted by the panchayat and
brushed away the affidavit filed on behalf
of the government on the ground that it
was from a junior officer of the ground-
water department when the senior officer
was himself a part of the investigation
team. The court also observed that “we
have to assume that a person has the right
to extract water from his property, unless
it is prohibited by a statute”. And there was
no such prohibitory statute. Rules to
activate the Kerala Groundwater (Control
and Regulation) Act, 2002 were not no-
tified. The high court lifted the ban im-
posed on the company to produce, declar-
ing that the panchayat was not justified in
not issuing the licence before a scientific
assessment was made and ordered that
licence be issued within one week of the
application by Coke, provided that the
company had the licence under the Fac-
tories Act and the necessary clearance from
the pollution control board. There were
protests in different parts of the state against
the court verdict.
On April 13, 2005, Coke filed an appli-
cation to the panchayat for renewal of
licence for a period of five years from
April 1, 2005. On April 22, 2005, the third
anniversary of the struggle, the Struggle
Committee and the Struggle Solidarity
Committee declared that Coke would not
be permitted to operate in Plachimada. On
April 26, the panchayat rejected the ap-
plication citing non-fulfilment of the con-
ditions set by the high court for issue of
licence. The court had stated that the la-
belling of the contents of the products was
a subject matter that came within the
purview of the food ministry and not the
panchayat. All that remained then was
clearances under the Factory’s Act and
from the KSPCB.
The high court on June 1, 2005 ordered
Perumatty panchayat to consider issuing
the licence within a week of application
by Coke, and if the panchayat did not issue
the licence in favour of the company then
the company was to be deemed to have
received a licence with a rider that within
three months Coke was to have all required
clearances. On June 6, the panchayat issued a
three-month licence imposing conditions,
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The posts are for an initial period of one year, extendable to two.
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Economic and Political Weekly October 14, 2006 4337
which were not acceptable to Coke. In-
stead, the Plachimada plant, shut down
since March 2004, commenced operation
on August 8, 2005 citing the high court’s
permission to operate as though it had the
licence when it did not. The KSPCB did
not consider Coke’s renewal application
of September 20, 2004 for commencing
operation from January 1, 2005 as the plant
had ceased operation. When the high
court permitted Coke to seek licence and
commence operation, the KSPCB rejected
the application on August 19, 2005 citing
the excessive heavy metal concentration
in the sludge, non-compliance of the
SCMC orders.
The KSPCB ordered Coke to shut down
on August 19 and to “stop production of
all kinds of products with immediate
effect”. Meanwhile, the panchayat and the
state government moved the Supreme Court
in May 2005 and September 2005, respec-
tively. When Coke complained to the high
court of the panchayat’s recalcitrant atti-
tude with regard to court orders, the court
directed the panchayat once more to issue
the licence on November 16. Coke applied
for the licence on December 7, 2005. On
December 20, the panchayat resolved that
“the streams and groundwater in all the
areas under wards 1 to 8 and wards 11 to
17 that were privately and publicly held
shall be used exclusively for domestic use
and irrigation purposes only from Janu-
ary 1, 2006”. This was based on the no-
tification of Chittoor block as a “notified
area” by the water resource department on
November 19. The panchayat issued the
licence for three months from January 4,
2006 to April 4, 2006 stipulating that the
company shall not extract groundwater for
industrial purpose as the panchayat was
under the category of “overexploited”.
Coke was to get the required clearances
from KSPCB and under the Factories Act
in 15 days, provide one lakh litres per day
to the inhabitants of the affected areas and
ensure that the waste shall not contain any
hazardous substances. In January 2006,
Coke began talking about shifting with
The Left Democratic Front, assuming
state power in the assembly elections in
April-May 2006, declared its intention to
work closely with the groups in Plachimada
to take necessary steps to resolve the
problems associated with Coke, constitute
an expert committee to assess the impacts
of water shortages and pollution on farm-
ers and the community, issue directions to
the director of health services to conduct
a comprehensive health camp as an interim
measure, explore the possibility of fram-
ing criminal charges against the company
under appropriate provisions, issue direc-
tions to withdraw all criminal cases against
hundreds of people involved in the struggle,
explore criminal litigation against Coke
for pollution caused that has dispropor-
tionately affected backward and scheduled
communities, and follow up with further
action on the notification of Chittoor taluk
where Plachimada is located.
Responding fast to the CSE’s second
report of August 2006 on pesticides in soft
drinks, the LDF government banned
manufacture and sale of Coca-Cola and
Pepsi-Cola in all of Kerala in the interest
of public health on August 11, 2006 under
Section 7(iv) of the Prevention of Food
Adulteration Act, 1954. In contrast, crimi-
nal action against Coke for contamination
of groundwater in Plachimada was yet to
be undertaken despite mounting evidence.
Groundwater Regulatory
Though the Kerala Groundwater (Con-
trol and Regulation) Act was enacted in
2002 for the purpose of conservation,
regulation and control of extraction and
use of groundwater, rules were neither
notified nor was the Groundwater Regu-
latory Authority (GWRA) constituted. The
Plachimada struggle (the high court had
also pointed out the absence of a regulatory
statute on water use) forced the govern-
ment to notify the Groundwater (Control
and Regulation) Rules in 2004. On
November 19, 2005 the water resource de-
partment notified five blocks including
Chittoor as “notified areas” based on the
report by the Central Groundwater Board,
Kerala region of July 2005.17 The report,
based on March 2004 data, concluded that
of the 151 blocks, five blocks fell under
the category of “over exploited” of which
Chittoor block was one such.18 The ground-
water regulatory authority was yet to decide
what it should do next.
Deceptions Unlimited
In 2003, the India advisory board of
Coke formed an India Environment
Council under the chairmanship of the
“green judge” (CNG case of Delhi)
justice B N Kirpal, former chief justice
of India. The advisory board, comprise
some of the country’s top professionals
and distinguished personalities19 to steer
its environment plan and policies and “to
guide the company on various issues,
including future strategies, corporate
citizenship, social responsibility and
corporate governance”. Kirpal at a press
conference held at the Coke plant on March
10, 2004 said that he did “not agree with
the high court order declining to stay the
state government’s order prohibiting
drawing of groundwater by the Coke plant”.
He said, “I hope it (the high court) will
examine these matters on a scientific
basis while taking a final decision on the
contention of drawing groundwater and
its alleged depletion”. He also criticised
the Plachimada agitation terming it as
“agitation for agitation’s sake”.
Coke made claims that “their production
process follows zero discharge”, meaning
that all their waste water was reused; “a
rainwater harvesting system has been
implemented that recharges groundwater
with more than what the company ex-
tracted” and that the waste was not haz-
ardous. It showed off its funding to and
collaboration with non-governmental
organisations and the awards obtained for
environmental concerns. Coke declared
that it would get The Energy Research
Institute (TERI) “with deep experience on
sustainability issues to develop a transpar-
ent and impartial independent third party
assessment of water resource management
practices at Coca-Cola company facilities
in India, including potential contamina-
tion”,20 an institute that also receives
sponsorship from Coke.21
The lack of improvement in the quality
and quantity of groundwater in Plachimada
even after more than two years of the
closure of Coke plant was proof enough
that the recharge by rainwater harvesting
into the sub-surface is negligible.
Whose Water Is It Anyway?
The Plachimada struggle, well into the
fifth year, does not see any solution in sight
primarily due to inadequacies in the laws
of governance related to water. Coke has
demonstrated its utter disregard of the local
communities, the elected representatives,
and the civil society organisations besides
the structures of governance and law. The
state has demonstrated its unwillingness to
reign in this errant and make it accountable
under the laws.
The struggle has clearly shown the in-
capacity of the state to act on its own against
capital. Public protests to raise issues,
provide explanations and direction to
Economic and Political Weekly October 14, 2006
resolving them do not any longer lead to the
requisite political, administrative or judicial
response. The struggle has also to define
the solution and politically follow it through
to transform the governance system as the
present system has become subservient to,
controlled or influenced by an instrument
of market and global capital.
The law is yet to clarify on matters
related to rights over water and gover-
nance of water. The sources of law are
statutory provisions, case laws or
precedential court decisions, doctrines and
principles deriving from the British com-
mon law system, international agreements,
personal law and customary law and prac-
tices. The right to groundwater is linked
to right to land supported by the legal
construction under the Indian Easements
Act of 1882 by which there is almost
absolute ownership of groundwater by the
property holders. At the same time, the
state as an eminent domain has power over
natural resources. The British colonisers
introduced the concept of eminent domain
of the state that all resources that were
“unclaimed” or not “used” belonged to the
empire. These laws still remain as statu-
tory laws and constitute the framework for
governance, creating both a barrier for
democratisation of the society and a wedge
between the state and the people leading
to intense increasing conflicts.
In the federal set up in the Constitution,
subject matters as “water” and “land” are
within the legislative power of the states
under the Article 246 and List II of the
Seventh Schedule. “Water” is expressed
as “water supplies, irrigation and canals,
drainage and embankments, water storage
and water power” under the Entry 17 of
List II. Apart for a reference to an excep-
tion for interstate rivers, it is the state that
is the exclusive authority to make laws
with respect to “water”. The ministry of
water resources, government of India, had
issued model bills for the state to enact
centralising the authority with the state
governments. Under this, the state ground-
water authorities are to manage and
develop groundwater resources.
The Groundwater Authority in Kerala
which has constituted under the Kerala
Groundwater Act, 2002 is now the official
regulatory organ of the state. The state
failed to protect and conserve groundwater;
permitted Coke to contaminate and pollute
as well as deplete the groundwater not-
withstanding protests for four years. Under
the Water (Prevention and Control of
Pollution) Act, 1974 as amended 1988, the
KSPCB failed to respond adequately in
time to prevent, contain and rectify pol-
lution of groundwater and surface water.
On the other hand, the Panchayat Raj
Act, 1993 in pursuance to Article 40 pro-
vides for “drinking water” and “minor
irrigation water management and water-
shed development” in the Eleventh Sche-
dule as subject matters over which respon-
sibility can be devolved from state to village
level. Subsequently, it is up to each and
every state to pass regulations on the au-
thority of the panchayats on the 29 listed
subjects. Accordingly, duties of the village
panchayats in Kerala are “maintenance of
traditional drinking water sources, preser-
vation of ponds and other water tanks,
setting up and management of water sup-
ply schemes”.22 The panchayat delayed in
responding to the problems of over-
exploitation and pollution.
Matters such as natural resource manage-
ment including water are very much a
community domain exercised through
customary laws and practices. The Consti-
tution recognises customs and customary
practices. The term law in the Article 13
includes customs and usages having the
force of law but not infringing any of the
fundamental rights conferred by Part III
of the Constitution. In reality, customary
laws are subjected to being in consonance
with the statute made laws, which are still
largely a colonial legacy. Article 21 on
fundamental rights confers the right to life,
not merely of animal existence but life
with human dignity, and right to livelihood
except according to a due process of law.
The Article 39(b) enjoins a duty upon the
state to direct its policy towards ensuring
that the ownership and control of the
material resources of the community are so
distributed as best to subserve the common
good. The Part IV-A of the Constitution
imposes a duty (and not authority) on the
citizens to protect and improve the natural
environment including forests, lakes and
rivers which are explicit directives to be
promoted through legislations.
It is in the V Schedule Area that the
Panchayat Raj (Extension to Scheduled
Areas) Act, 1996 made a decisive depar-
ture introducing a frame to decolonise the
colonial legislative frame with compre-
hensive powers for “traditional manage-
ment practices of community resources”,
“safeguard and preserve community re-
sources” and “planning and management
of minor water bodies”. The community
resources implies water. The assertion of
the constitutional intent of community or
the people-centric state rather than the
state versus people paradigm resulted from
adivasis’ struggles. Consequently, the gram
sabhas (the people in the village/hamlet)
rather than the panchayat are to be in pri-
mary command with the restriction placed
on the structures at the higher level to not
assume the powers and authority of any
panchayat at the lower level, of the gram
sabha paving way legally for the opening
up to a people’s participatory democratic
governance system. Yet, the dichotomy
between the sovereign right of people and
the sovereign right of the state to natural
resources persists alongside, a contradic-
tion, which in many places has led the state
to wage war on her own peoples. The
sovereign right of a nation that is her peoples
is clearly on a collision course with the state.
The Way Forward
Water is a natural right – a collective
right to be enjoyed by all without preju-
dice, equitably and according to the needs.
The exercise of this collective right over
water demands absolute authority of
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February 5th to 7th 2007
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Economic and Political Weekly October 14, 2006 4339
communities over water resources. The
translation of this authority is achieved by
laws and institutions of governance form-
ing the basis of conservation, sustainable
use, preservation and development of water
resources. This authority is to be exercised
fully by the community with the assistance
of the state. The community shall govern
the water at the primary level.
Solutions for problems of democracy lie
in further democratisation. The state of
Kerala is simply just ripe for this after
the many experiences in decentralisation
and people’s planning. The challenge is to
move away from decentralisation to that
of evolution of non-centralised people’s
participatory governance system.
The gram sabha, the fundamental and
primary natural unit of governance in the
panchayat structure, shall be the competent
authority to determine the use, control and
management of groundwater and minor
water bodies within its geographical juris-
diction. The gram sabha shall have the
command over groundwater for “traditional
management practices of groundwater
resources”, “safeguard and preserve
groundwater resources”, “planning and
management of minor water bodies” and
“management of water supply schemes”.
The gram sabha, while exercising its powers
to “safeguard and preserve groundwater
resources and minor water bodies”, shall
have the powers to ensure water to its
members, both in sufficient quality and
quantity, i e, safe and adequate water. In
exercise of this authority, the gram sabha
shall reasonably restrict the use of ground-
water and minor water bodies to ensure
safety and adequacy of water. The gram
sabha shall have the authority to take
necessary steps and penalise the violators
that threaten the quality and quantity of
water resources.
All development activities falling within
the geographical jurisdiction of the gram
sabha shall be carried out with its consent
and approval with a view to protect, con-
serve, sustainably use and develop the said
water resources. Resolution by gram sabha
to cancel such consent shall automatically
lead to cancellation of licence/approval
issued by the appropriate bodies/authori-
ties. The gram sabha shall reasonably
restrict or ban the use of groundwater and/
or minor water bodies as the case may be,
if the gram sabha so considers that such
use constitutes a threat to quantity and/or
quality of water.
To enable the gram sabha carry out these
responsibilities and functions to the fullest
extent, it shall call forth the services and
assistance of (a) Kerala groundwater
authority, (b) Kerala groundwater depart-
ment, (c) KSPCB, (d) the village panchayat,
the block panchayat and/or the district
panchayat as the case may be, and (e) other
relevant bodies, which shall be made
To enable the gram sabha to exercise this
natural right, it is therefore necessary that
relevant state laws such as (a) The Kerala
Panchayat Raj Act, 1994; (b) Kerala
Groundwater (Control and Regulation) Act,
2002; (c) The Water (Prevention and
Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 as amended
in 1988; and (d) any other relevant laws
as are applicable are to be amended. The
73rd Amendment, the Panchayat Raj Act,
1993 should be reviewed and amended
conferring the command over natural
resources to the gram sabhas.
1 However, land distributed up to December 9,
2003 under the accord was 2,862.38 acres
benefiting just 2,024 adivasis families of the
53,000 families at which rate it would take
another five decades to fulfil the task, if it does
get fulfilled at all.
2 The Coca-Cola, registered as a trademark in
1,887 operates in over 200 countries worldwide,
generated more than 70 per cent of its income
outside the US by 2003. Interbrand’s Global
Brand Scorecard for 2003 ranked Coca-Cola
the number one brand in the world with a brand
value at $ 70.45 billion.
3 Under the Section 232, 234 and 254 of the
Kerala Panchayat Raj Act, 1994.
4 Resource Map Report 2001.
5 The PAP was signed in 1970 (with retrospective
effect since 1958) between Tamil Nadu and
Kerala to harness the several rivers originating
from the Anamalai Hills situated in Coimbatore
district. The project was commissioned in 1974.
The agreement was to share Bharathapuzha,
Chalakkudypuzha and Periyar which originate
in the Anamudi Hills of Tamil Nadu flowing into
Kerala to the Arabian Sea. The water is collected
in a series of nine reservoirs for irrigation.
6 The Colombian workers’ union Sinaltrainal
(Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de
Industrias Alimenticias) representing employ-
ees at Coca-Cola factories along with others,
alleged that Coca-Cola and some of its bottlers
utilise right-wing paramilitary groups of the
United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC),
to intimidate and assassinate labour organisers,
union leaders and workers in the Coke plants.
Together with the human rights violations in
India, boycott campaigns in US and UK uni-
versities have pushed out Coke products from
campuses in scores of universities.
7 The HCCBPL was also one of the clients of
Sargam, a Chennai-based department of science
and technology, government of India, approved
private laboratory.
8 This committee was constituted by the Parlia-
ment on August 22, 2003. Their report was
presented to the Parliament on February 4, 2004.
9 The Supreme Court order in writ petition No 657
of 1995.
11 OP No 13513/2003 praying for calling for
records leading to the passing of the resolution.
12 WP (C) No 34292 of 2003.
13 WA No 2125 of 2003 dated December 17, 2003
challenging the judgment of the single judge.
14 KSPCB order PCB/PLKD/CE/32/99 dated
August 19, 2005.
15 The Team comprised the Centre for Water
Resources Development and Management
(CWRDM), Kozhikode as the Convenor;
Kerala State Ground Water Department; Kerala
State Pollution Control Board and HCCB.
16 For instance, see ‘Rain or no rain, water for
Coke’ – a report by P N Venugopal and
M Suchitra.
17 ‘The Dynamic Groundwater Resources of
Kerala as on March 2004’ prepared by the
Groundwater department, government of
Kerala and the Central Groundwater Board.
18 151 Blocks in the state of Kerala was categorised
as “safe” in 1999. Within a span of just five
years, 50 blocks or one-third of the blocks has
been declared “unsafe” (five categorised as
“overexploited”, 15 “critical” and 30 as “semi-
critical”) according to the ‘The Dynamic
Groundwater Resources of Kerala as on March
2004’ prepared by the Groundwater department,
government of Kerala and the Central
Groundwater Board. The government of Kerala
notified the five blocks, namely, Athiyannur
(Thiruvananthapuram district), Kodungalloor
(Thrissur district), Chittoor (Palakkad district),
Kozhikode (Kozhikode district) and Kasargode
(Kasargode district) as “notified areas” with
effect from the 19th day of November 2005.
19 Other members were Naresh Chandra (former
union cabinet secretary), general V P Malik
(retird and the former chief of staff, Indian
Army), Deepak Parekh (chairman, HDFC),
S M Dutta, (former chairman, Hindustan
Lever), Sunil Kant Munjal (managing director,
The Hero Group), Jairam Ramesh (economist),
Ustad Amjad Ali Khan (sarod maestro), and
Shyama Chona (educationist)<http://
20 Quoted from the letter of Donald R Knauss,
president, Coca-Cola North America to the
Tim Slottow, executive vice president and CFO,
University of Michigan, US dated April 10,
KnaussMich4-06_final.pdf> The University of
Michigan suspended sales of Coca-Cola
products on its three campuses since January 1,
2006 over Coke’s human rights and environ-
mental abuses abroad. Coke’s contracts with
the university are worth about US$1.4 million.
21 See for instance,
22 Third schedule under Section 166 of the Kerala
Panchayat Raj Act, 1994.
Bijoy, C R and K Ravi Raman (2003): ‘Muthanga:
The Real Story – Adivasi Movement to Recover
Land’, Economic and Political Weekly, May 17.
TMPC (2002): ‘Adivasi Punaradhivasa Vikasana
Paripadikkulla Prathyeka Suparsakal’ (Special
Recommendations for the Rehabilitation and
Development of Adivasis) submitted by the
Tribal Master Plan Committee (TMPC) to the
state planning board (draft for discussion),
January 1, p 18.
... The Policy emphasizes on the need to evolve a National Framework Law governing the exercise of legislative, executive powers by the Centre, the States, and the local governing bodies. 107 It emphasizes on scientific planning on river basin/sub-basin basis 108 and establishment of basin authorities, comprising party States, with appropriate powers to plan, manage and regulate the utilization of water resource in the basins. 109 Also, a drafting committee has been constituted in November 2019 to revise the current National Water Policy. ...
... 106 The results of the techniques employed in various districts of Kerala with the help of local efforts have shown significance positive results, especially in the coastal areas where the people highly depend on aquifers and open wells for their needs and where they can employ these mechanisms to collect direct rainwater through simple filtering mechanism. 107 The case study clearly demonstrated the success the localised efforts that can be adopted for groundwater recharge. It shows us that we need to move beyond generic solutions. ...
... Notable instances of such struggles featured in the academic literature include the Chipko movement in the Himalaya (Guha, 2000 ), the Narmada Bachao Andolan movement (Baviskar, 1995 ;Nilsen, 2010 ), the fight to save the Amazon rain forest (Revkin, 2004 ), the struggles in Niger Delta against the Shell corporation (Osaghae, 1995 ;Obi, 1997 ), the fight against Coca-Cola in Plachimada (Bijoy, 2006 ), the opposition led by artisanal fisherfolk against mechanised trawling (Kurien, 1991 ) and the movements against Vedanta in Odisha (Shrivastava and Kothari, 2012 ). A careful analysis of these movements brings forth the underlying distributional inequity these movements sought to challenge and how it pits the powerful against the powerless (Gadgil and Guha, 1994 ). ...
... A landmark Supreme Court verdict that stated that forest clearance for the mining project should be given only after taking the consent of village councils in the region vindicated the anti-mining movement (Seetharaman, 2018 ). The vigorous fight against Coca-Cola in Plachimada, Kerala, signifies how a village led by Mayilamma, a woman leader from the tribal community, fought against the Coca-Cola's groundwater exploitation and succeeded in ousting the multinational corporation from their lands (Raman, 2005 ;Bijoy, 2006 ). Challenging the onslaught of neoliberal globalisation and subsequent privatisation of natural resources, Assies describes the David vs. Goliath fight in Cochabamba surrounding water (Assies, 2003). ...
Full-text available
Life has changed unrecognisably since the Industrial Revolution and, since the 1950s, rapid economic growth has brought us increased consumption and globalisation. Taking into account these multiple challenges, and in order to leave a resilient planet for generations to come, we need to focus on questions of equality/equity and sustainability. This will enable us to achieve the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to leave no one behind (Leach et al., 2018; UN, 2018). As Leach et al. (2018, p. 1) stated, ‘[i]‌t is no longer possible nor desirable to address the dual challenges of equity and sustainability separately’.
... Protests by the people of Plachimada (a state of Kerala), interest groups and NGOs led to the shutdown of the plant in March 2004 (Bijoy, 2006). Greenwood and Hinings (2006) emphasise the importance of adaptation for organisations to survive and remain competitive. ...
Full-text available
This study draws from a previous study where a model of unplanned forced change was developed. It now looks at how the organisation managed this unplanned process when change was forced upon them.
... This movement has particular features in the configuration as a contemporary social movement, which have been discussed in previous studies (Berglund & Helander, 2015;Bijoy, 2006;Mooney 2012;Raman, 2005Raman, , 2007aRaman, , 2007bRaman, , 2007cRaman, , 2010aRaman, , 2010b. For example, an article published in this journal by Berglund and Helander (2015) focused on the significance of civil society and analyzed the effects of the movement's campaign on the political participation of its members. ...
This study focuses on the post-1990s Anti-Coca-Cola movement that emerged in the village of Plachimada, which is located in the Perumatty panchayat in the state of Kerala, India. Taking the larger neoliberal context into account, this article examines how the advent of global capital destructed the “local,” and the ways in which it has been reconfigured, giving rise to the Anti-Coca-Cola movement. Various conceptions of the “local” have been constructed within the movement and they have been examined using discourse analysis. This article argues that the “local” is not a pre-given concept; rather, it can be used in an antagonistic as well as collaborative manner with the “global.”
Environmental justice movements provide resistances against and alternatives to projects of resource extraction as a result of pre-existing inequalities. These projects are envisioned in the name of development, yet disproportionately affect the marginalised communities. Hence, marginal communities are often the frontline environmental defenders. For India, the Indigenous population, called the Adivasis, have faced the brunt of this capitalist growth model. In this chapter, I discuss how Adivasis have been resisting and providing alternate visions for post-capitalist futures, first by looking at a brief history of Adivasi mobilisations within the environmental justice movement in India, and then analysing a case study from Kerala in South India. I also highlight what an Adivasi understanding of post-capitalist utopia entails. I conclude that future-oriented visions of universal wellbeing should include a decolonising approach of learning from and with Adivasis.
Formalism in law prompts to limit its focus on the legal system’s outcome, viz. enacted laws, and judicial interpretations. The underlying process and actors are generally ignored. In other words, formalism systematically resists an interdisciplinary analysis of the text of laws and the underlying deliberative processes that might reveal an entirely different understanding of various non-state actors’ role, including social movements, in the production, implementation and enforcement of laws. Social movements engage with law mainly to contest law and to suggest reforms. This promises a novel way of understanding law as a participatory process instead of the formalistic understanding of law as an authoritative tool monopolised by the state where individuals and their collectivities are only objects. The focus on the deliberative process is particularly relevant from the perspective of the poor and the marginalised. It helps unravel the nuanced political economy of law from their perspective. This chapter applies this approach to understand the role of social movements vis-à-vis developments in India’s groundwater legal regime. It draws insights from the Plachimada Anti-Cola Movement to examine social movements’ role in contesting and reforming India’s groundwater legal regime.
The State of Kerala is blessed with abundant water resources. Sustainable and equitable water use in the State have traditionally been ensured through water conservation technologies, agricultural systems, and cropping patterns adapted to different areas and conservation-based lifestyles. Despite the apparent availability of freshwater resources in sufficient quantities, frequent incidents of severe drinking water scarcity are being reported. Judicious and planned development of groundwater and its scientific governance have become a dire necessity to ensure groundwater’s long-term sustainability. This contribution focuses on analyzing Kerala’s groundwater governance’s efficiency in the context of various Model Bills, the constitutional scheme of decentralization of water governance, the jurisprudence of water rights and legislative and other developments. It analyses the positives and negatives of the Kerala Ground Water (Control and Regulation) Act, 2002, which is based on the Model Groundwater Bill of 1970/2005, which has the command and control paradigm as its central feature. Administrative measures for regulating groundwater also form part of the focus. The Plachimada issue, which pitted the local population represented by their Panchayat against the multinational water giant, Coca-Cola, is also discussed.
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The study purpose was culture assumes a pivotal role in brand and relying on underlying cultural philosophies. The Indian culture differences impacts on Coca-Cola brand; culture affects other brands very strongly. Productive brands have been able to adopt this dominant cultural paradigm. The measurements are based on the quantitative methods with criteria that were framed by culture and brand factors through customer perceived value to find out Coca-Cola’s brand cultural issues, the SmartPLS analysis was generated to study conceptual framework that was conducted restricting samples size of (N = 500). The study found that the culture and brand factors were effects on customer perceived value which was explained by (R² Adj. = 78.5%), While, the whole model was effective by Coca-Cola cultural issues with (R² Adj. = 80.9%). Further, culture has a significant effect on firm performance. Results of examination help companies to realize the significance of brand culture and product identity on the target market. The originality of this paper gives clear observations into the integration and combining of cultural fibers that make the brand prosper in the target market. It also clearly shows that several brands were successfully integrating and combining Indian culture in the market.
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The chapter while pointing out the changing nature of the concept and practice of right to water, critically outlines the disharmony and conflict between the Constitution and the statutory laws, mostly a colonial legacy, that govern water and its use. This portends intensification of the conflict between the state and the people. The case laws emanating from judiciary also often contributes to perpetuating the disharmony. However, the Constitutional frame provides within it sufficient scope for the emergence of a democratic participatory governance system at its fundamental level – the community – especially in the case of ground water and minor water bodies, the fundamental base on which the structure of water governance could be built upon.
This chapter focuses on three cases of local struggles contesting the rights to water and resisting privatization: two of these cases are in India, Tarun Bharat Sangh and the Plachimada struggle and the third involves a coalition of citizens in Stockton, California. The economic dimension of globalization has involved specific attempts by the state to privatize resources and assume that markets will balance the supply, demand, and prices of resources that are viewed by people as a common property resource. This chapter discusses water as a resource that has increasingly been privatized by the state, prompting community-based collective resistance to such policies. Such resistance also involves conflicts within communities because of differential water needs that may be rooted in class and/or caste differences. Community groups—village, town, and/or urban based—have resisted environmental degradation and access as well as control over local sources of water. For instance, in the late 1990s, the Tarun Bharat Sangh (TBS) movement in Rajasthan (northwestern India) engaged in the regeneration of the Arvari River and the rejuvenation of traditional systems for water harvesting. By holding a water ‘parliament’ twice a year to settle disputes and conflicts pertaining to control over water resources and the use of pasture land, TBS has attempted to promote democratic governance of scarce water resources. This collective initiative in a developing country like India has similarities to the case of the Concerned Citizens’ Coalition of Stockton (CCCS) in California, which engaged in protesting the privatization of the municipal water supply. Although TBS engaged in mobilizing people in rural areas and CCCS was urban-based, their goals were similar as they challenged privatization and demanded a ‘say’ in who controlled water resources. However, it is essential to acknowledge the role of TBS as a non-governmental organization (NGO), which adds an additional dimension to the local-transnational nexus in challenges to water rights. Unlike the CCCS and TBS, the Plachimada (Kerala state, India) struggle predominantly by Adivasis has involved the conservation of existing resources and protests against the excessive utilization of groundwater by the Coca-Cola Company. As they experienced the depletion of their water resources, local residents came together in 2002 without any formal organization or leader. The local panchayat pursued a policy that differed from that of the Kerala state government and the national government’s agenda to attract and support private investment of all forms. This also shows that the multi-layered structure of state institutions can enable local protests.
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The tragic events at Muthanga in Kerala earlier this year were a culmination of adivasi frustrations over the failure of successive governments in the state to restore adivasi land despite several judicial directives and the existence of laws enacted for the purpose, such as the KSA Act of 1975. Instead attempts were made to amend the act which was later wholly repealed. The protest of the adivasis at Muthanga met with brutal repression by the government. But chastened by the public anger at the police action, the government now remains immobilised in the face of a series of fresh land occupations by adivasis in the Kerala part of the Western Ghats. If the government were to handover the land in Muthanga to the adivasis and make other lands available to landless adivasi families and bring all adivasi regions under Schedule V of Article 244 which provides for participatory self-rule and autonomy, it would herald a new era in adivasi history.
Adivasi Punaradhivasa Vikasana Paripadikkulla Prathyeka Suparsakal' (Special Recommendations for the Rehabilitation and Development of Adivasis) submitted by the Tribal Master Plan Committee (TMPC) to the state planning board (draft for discussion
TMPC (2002): 'Adivasi Punaradhivasa Vikasana Paripadikkulla Prathyeka Suparsakal' (Special Recommendations for the Rehabilitation and Development of Adivasis) submitted by the Tribal Master Plan Committee (TMPC) to the state planning board (draft for discussion), January 1, p 18.
challenging the judgment of the single judge. 14 KSPCB order PCB/PLKD/CE/32/99 dated
  • Wa No
WA No 2125 of 2003 dated December 17, 2003 challenging the judgment of the single judge. 14 KSPCB order PCB/PLKD/CE/32/99 dated August 19, 2005.
The Dynamic Groundwater Resources of Kerala as on
  • P N Venugopal
  • M Suchitra
For instance, see 'Rain or no rain, water for Coke' -a report by P N Venugopal and M Suchitra. 2005/may/env-plachmada.htm> 17 'The Dynamic Groundwater Resources of Kerala as on March 2004' prepared by the Groundwater department, government of Kerala and the Central Groundwater Board.
Quoted from the letter of Donald R Knauss, president, Coca-Cola North America to the Tim Slottow, executive vice president and CFO
  • Shyama Chona
Other members were Naresh Chandra (former union cabinet secretary), general V P Malik (retird and the former chief of staff, Indian Army), Deepak Parekh (chairman, HDFC), S M Dutta, (former chairman, Hindustan Lever), Sunil Kant Munjal (managing director, The Hero Group), Jairam Ramesh (economist), Ustad Amjad Ali Khan (sarod maestro), and Shyama Chona (educationist)<http:// news/images/Indian_advisory_board/ ie_chd.gif> 20 Quoted from the letter of Donald R Knauss, president, Coca-Cola North America to the Tim Slottow, executive vice president and CFO, University of Michigan, US dated April 10, 2006.< KnaussMich4-06_final.pdf> The University of Michigan suspended sales of Coca-Cola products on its three campuses since January 1, 2006 over Coke's human rights and environmental abuses abroad. Coke's contracts with the university are worth about US$1.4 million.