April 7th, 2005

Panchayat's(village council) Letter to Coca-Cola

Office of the Perumatty
Grama Panchayat,
P.O. Vandithavalam.

No. B3-378/02
Dated: 18.09.2003

Special Grade Secretary,
Perumatty Grama Panchayat.

The Plant Manager,
Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd.,
Moolathara Village, Kannimari Post,
Chittor Taluk, Palakkad Distt.,

Dear Sir,

This notice is issued to you in terms of the power conferred on the
Perumatty Grama Panchayat Under Section 166 of the Kerala Panchayat
Raj Act read with Schedule 3 and Article 243G of the Constitution of
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Coca-Cola gets nod for drawing groundwater

Coca-Cola firm gets nod for drawing groundwater
By Our Staff Reporter

KOCHI, APRIL 7. A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court today held
that the Coca-Cola company will be entitled to draw 5 lakh litres of
groundwater a day from its plant at Plachimada in Palakkad without any
right for accumulation in case of non-use.

The Bench comprising Justice M. Ramachandran and Justice K.P.
Balachandran made it clear that the restrictions imposed for the
company's consumption would not be applicable when water is drawn for
additional requirements such as supply of water to people in the area.
The court directed that the company should involve in community
development projects such as healthcare and supply of water for people
in the area.
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Comments on Kerala high Court verdict

[The High Court has pronounced. Excerpts from an article published in
June-July 2004 is given below as comments to the verdict of the Court
in April 2005]

Two years have already elapsed since the people of the surrounding
villages have set up the picket just across the road opposite the Coca
Cola plant of Plachimada. The local Panchayat, the state government
and the judiciary have been preoccupied in debating how much water
Coca Cola plant should or should not extract, when and from where; are
the allegations sufficiently validated by the authorized agencies; is
the Panchayat exceeding its authority in its decisions regarding the
functioning of Coca Cola. For the people of Plachimada, water is still
not potable, water table has gone down, agriculture has almost
collapsed leading to large scale unemployment, indebtedness has
increased and so too health problems.

The question is not wheher the MNCs take their corporate social
responsibility seriously. It is also not whether the MNCs are ready
for and capable of taking over water. It is not also whether
governance, in this case of water, is to be handed over to the

Is water for drinking, domestic use and livelihood purposes of the
vast masses primary? Or is water for the privileged resource rich
leisured class is to be accorded priority over the basic needs of the
people? It obviously seems so the way the debates are going on amongst
those who decide and influence decision-making.

The fundamental question is also who has the rights and power for
primary decision-making - the gram sabha, the Panchayat or the State -
the people who continue the agitation, the Panchayat coming in support
of the struggle only after one year after the struggle was launched
and the state still insisting that the Panchayat is overstepping its
authority in the cancellation of license. Water for the people and
therefore their survival is yet to become the issue for the system as
the political-administrative-judicial system is still debating over
jurisdiction of power, the scientific validity of the allegations and
other such dilatory matters being preoccupied with the issue of 'water
for Coca Cola' rather than 'water for the people'!

[Excerpted from: Coca-Cola: The Sparkle of Death by C.R Bijoy
Combat Law, Vol. 3 Issue 2, June-July 2004, pg.48-51.]