Shashi Tharoor and Coke in Plachimada

The decision of Shashi Tharoor to contest in the election 2009 has brought out this interesting exchange of emails.

01 An Open Letter to Shashi Tharoor

14 February 2009

An Open Letter to Shashi Tharoor,

You are aware that Coca Cola plant at Plachimada, Palakkad in your native State of Kerala has been shut down since 2004 as they failed to get the requisite licenses from the Kerala Pollution Control Board and the Perumatty Panchayat. The primary reasons for this are:

Coca Cola polluted the ground water with deadly toxic and carcinogenic cadmium and lead which Coca Cola does not list under ‘raw materials’ and refuse to provide an explanation for their presence
Coca Cola distributed and spread around these deadly toxic and carcinogenic cadmium and lead through their waste sludge and slurry under the guise that these are good soil nutrients
Coca Cola did not supply piped water to the affected families as ordered by the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Waste
Coca Cola, as the single most largest extractor of ground water extracting at the highest rate, largest transporter of water to the outside through softdrinks, a non-essential luxury good, contributed the largest to the depletion of ground water

The anti Coca Cola struggle launched in 2002 in Plachimada by primarily the Adivasis and Dalits, is the longest popular struggle in the history of Kerala supported by the widest sections of the people of Kerala and of all political hues.

You may be aware that protests have been going on elsewhere in the country against many other Coca Cola plants as in Mehdi Ganj and Kala Dera for similar destruction of environment, water and livelihoods. You may also be aware about the allegations against Coca Cola for getting its own workers assassinated in Columbia through the drug mafia which was to be enquired into by ILO. Coca Cola products were also indicted by Centre for Science & Environment, New Delhi, for producing and selling bottled water and softdrinks with pesticide and other contaminants. Latest in the series is the $7.59 million penalty that Coca Cola agreed to pay in February 2009 to the City of American Canyon in Napa County, USA, for violations in wastewater treatment permit since 2005 till May 2008 that resulted in high concentrations of contaminants that interfered with the City's wastewater treatment process and posed an environmental hazard.

A former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, author, writer-columnist and an advisor to several institutions and reportedly nurturing political ambition, it is with shock and dismay that we, in your native Kerala, have to see you as a Member of the Advisory Board of Coca-Cola India Foundation [1]. We condemn your insensitivity and unconcern to align with the criminal Coca-Cola against the people of Kerala.

Velur Swaminathan, Secetary, Plachimada Adivasi Samrakshana Sangham

And

R. Ajayan, Convenor, Plachimada Samara Aikyadhardya Samithy

R Ajayan

Convener
Plachimada Solidarity Committee
Ph:- Res 0471-2730464
Mob- 09847142513
Res Add - Neerajam,

Kudappanakunnu,
Trivandrum-695043
Kerala, India

[1] http://www.cokefacts.com/PressCenter/Press_Release_Coca-Cola_India_Foundation_set_up_4th_Dec_07.pdf

In a press release from New Delhi dated December 3, 2007: […..] setting up of Coca-Cola India Foundation […]This Foundation with an initial corpus of USD 10 million would focus on a range of activities including water, the environment, healthy living and social advancement.” Mr. Muhtar Kent, President and COO, The Coca-Cola Company […] The advisory board members of the Foundation include Mr. Justice J. S. Verma, Former Chief Justice of India and Chairman National Human Rights Commission, Dr. Mithu Alur, Founder/Chairperson, Spastics’ Society of India and The National Resource Centre for Inclusion, Mr. Javed Akhtar, Poet, lyricist, script writer and social activist, Mr. Shashi Tharoor, Author and international civil servant, Mr. Bunker Roy of Barefoot College, Dr. Naresh Trehan, cardiologist and opinion leader, Mr. Roshan Seth, Actor, socialite and theater personality, Dr. (Mrs.) Shyama Chona, Principal, Delhi Public School. Mr. Yogesh Chandra is the CEO of the Foundation.

02 An Open Response to "an Open Letter to Shashi Tharoor"

Shashi Tharoor
An Open Response to "an Open Letter to Shashi Tharoor"
26 February 2009

Dear Mr Swaminathan and Mr Ajayan,

Thank you for sending me your letter on February 24. I note, however, that for several days prior to your sending it to me, you had already released it to the media and in various Internet forums. It would appear that your communication was therefore not designed to elicit a genuine answer from me, but rather to score political points. Nonetheless I am doing you the courtesy of taking your public charges in good faith and responding to them point by point.

You express your "shock and dismay" at my membership of the Advisory Board of Yatn, the Coca-Cola India Foundation and go on to "condemn [my] insensitivity and unconcern to align with the criminal Coca-Cola against the people of Plachimada." First of all, I should point out the difference between the Foundation and the company. I serve, alongside several renowned social activists and human rights leaders, under the chairmanship of the former Supreme Court Chief Justice and former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Justice J.S. Verma, on the advisory board of a purely philanthropic organization. The Foundation is financed by the Coca-Cola Company as part of its corporate social responsibility, which is a practice that I have encouraged around the world since my United Nations days, when UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched the "Global Compact" to encourage corporations around the world to adhere to certain globally-accepted principles and practices. Far from "aligning against the people", the purpose of encouraging such a Foundation is precisely to ensure that the company looks beyond its commercial bottom-line and serves the people of our country.

I have been, and remain, strongly committed to the belief that in our liberalizing economy, private sector companies should not only maintain the highest employment and labour standards, but also take pro-active steps to benefit the communities in which they operate. My membership of the Foundation's Advisory Board aims at promoting such benefits through a number of concrete projects, particularly in the area of safe drinking water, which is in such short supply in our country.

You level a number of charges against the Coca-Cola company's operations at the Plachimada plant, notably relating to ground-water exploitation and pollution of groundwater through toxic waste from its plant. As I stressed, I do not represent the company in any way, but I am fully aware that such charges led to the plant ceasing operations in 2004. Needless to say, far from being "unconcerned", I enquired into the matter to satisfy myself that these allegations had been thoroughly examined by the competent authorities. I note that a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court ruled, in a judgement dated 7 August 2005, that the company was not guilty of unfairly exploiting the groundwater, and that indeed the groundwater in Plachimada continued to dry up after the company ceased operations, leading the Court to conclude that other factors, including a shortage of rainfall, were to blame. The Court based its conclusions on a number of detailed independent expert studies, including one that the Court itself had commissioned from the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (CWRDM), Kozhikode, which is a part of the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and the Environment. I do not understand on what basis you are questioning the Kerala High Court's conclusions.

On the question of ground-water toxins and toxic sludge, I have seen reports from reputed governmental bodies, including the Kerala State Pollution Control Board and the Central Ground Water Board, New Delhi, refuting your charges. Once again, I am unable to understand the scientific basis for your continued charges against the company, and can only conclude that they are politically-motivated.

Finally, with regard to the discontinuation of the supply of drinking water by the company, I note that this supply in fact continued till December 2007, almost four years after the plant's forced closure, but that it was not practical for the company to continue beyond that date in view of its lack of operations in the area. The Court order required it to supply drinking water to the community only so long as it continued operations there. Nonetheless, the Yatn Foundation intends to give thought to developing a philanthropic project in Kerala in the area of drinking water, an issue to which I have personally attached the highest importance in my interventions on the Advisory Board.

Let me add, in conclusion, and with a heavy heart, how much I deplore both the content and tone of your letter. Since leaving the United Nations, I have been doing my best to promote investment into Kerala, which alone can generate the employment that is so desperately needed by our people. As a Keralite, I am ashamed that our people have to find work elsewhere in India and in the Gulf because the over-politicized atmosphere in Kerala discourages companies from investing in our state. The only result of your agitation over the Plachimada plant has been to close down an investment worth over Rs 80 crores in our state, which provided direct employment to 400 people and indirect employment to more than 5000 persons, including transporters, construction workers, and distributors. While all these people are now out of a job, no one has benefited from your continued protests. Instead, the image of Kerala as a place in which it is unwise for businesses to invest has been reinforced.

It is tragic that actions such as yours ensure that politics overrides the genuine needs of the people. If you are truly concerned about the well-being of the people of Plachimada, I would urge you instead to attempt to do what you can to persuade businesses like Coca-Cola to invest in Kerala and provide employment and drinking water to the people of our state. I would be pleased to join you in such an endeavour.

And instead of being dismayed by my service in such a Foundation, I urge you to applaud whatever help the other Advisory Board members and I can provide to steer the Foundation's resources towards helping people on issues like safe drinking water, energy resources, waste management, and the development of backward areas.

Yours sincerely,
Shashi Tharoor

03 An Open Reply to Shashi Tharoor

04 March 2009,

An Open Reply to Shashi Tharoor

Dear Sashi Thaoor

Our ‘open letter[1]’ of 14 February mailed to you on 24 February was neither to elicit an answer from you nor to score political points but to “condemn your insensitivity and unconcern to align with the criminal Coca-Cola against the people of Kerala” as clearly stated by us in that letter.

Thanks for your reply of 26 February which we found in www.huffingtonpost.com[2] that indeed speaks volumes about whether you speak for Coca-Cola or not, though you ‘do not represent the company in any way’ but serve the Coca-Cola India Foundation. Unlike others in the Advisory Board of the Coca-Cola India Foundation, you hope to represent the people from the state of Kerala to the Lok Sabha in the coming elections[3] and therefore accountable to ‘the people’. This makes all the difference from the rest of the members of the Advisory Board. The people of Plachimada too hail from your native district. Your reply out-rightly rubbishing the concerns of the people of Plachimada – primarily the Adivasis and Dalits – using selective and irrelevant arguments with imputed and contrived motives is indeed instructive enough.

The issues we raised are simple – the criminal liability of Coca-Cola in Plachimada. Here are some facts:

Did the Divisional Bench of Kerala High Court pronounce that ‘the company was not guilty’? This is gross misrepresentation of the facts. What was the case all about? The operative part of the judgement of 4 April 2005 (not 7 August 2005 as you state) itself is self-evident of what the case was all about. This is in three parts.
(a) ‘the Panchayat was not justified in resorting to steps whereby renewal of licence for the Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Private Limited was rejected well before a scientific assessment was made. The Panchayat had also no legal authority to cancel the licence for functioning the unit in the

Panchayat area for any of the reasons pointed out, at different occasions. The Panchayat is therefore directed to consider the application for renewal of the licence granted to the Company, for the coming year, or any block years, if such application is filed within two weeks from today. The Company will have the obligation to appraise the Panchayat that they possess licences issued under the Factories Act and clearance received from the Pollution Control Board. Within one week of such presentation, if the above two conditions are satisfied, the Licensing Authority of the Panchayat is directed to grant the licence …’

(b) ‘For the year 2005-06, taking notice of the average rainfall, that had been there in the locality, the Company will be entitled to draw groundwater, not exceeding 5 lakh of litres per day, without any right for accumulation in case of non-user per day.’

(c) ‘[…] There were no representations from any others, who posed to represent the general public Nevertheless, we feel that taking notice of the commitment to which reference and claim is made by the company, we have to direct that the company should actively involve in the community development programs for the people residing in the locality, especially in the matter of health and drinking water supply, at the supervision of the Panchayat. […] Since the early settlers and general public are apprehensive about the shortage of drinking water, this becomes an essential duty of the company. The factory is drawing water resources from the Plachimada watershed, and also perhaps from other regions of Chittur Taluk through suction. Therefore, a reasonable amount of the water so drawn are to be utilised for benefit of general public, and as directed by the Panchayat from time to time. This work of water supply is to be undertaken, and commenced before 30th of June 2005. The restriction imposed for its own consumption will not be applicable when water is drawn for this additional requirement.

On Pollution:

Proven pollution by Coca-Cola and the consequent refusal of KPCB to issue license to operate is the cause of the closure of its plant at Plachimada.

The Judgement of the High Court of Kerala lifting the ban imposed on the Company in the matter of production was on 07.04.2005. With effect from 09.03.2004 to 07.04.2005 the Company was not under operation, and it resumed production on 8.8.2005 based on the issues ‘Consent to Operate’ Order no. W/09/137/2000 of the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KPCB) with validity upto 31.12.2004. Coca-Cola submitted an application to KPCB on 20.09.2004 for renewing the ‘Consent to Operate’ with effect from 01.01.2005. This application was rejected by the KPCB vide its order 19.08.2005[4]

who stated unambiguously that “Since the functioning of the Company in the present manner causes severe environmental problems, including poisoning/contamination of well water, the undersigned, by invoking the powers conferred under Section 25(4), 27(2) and 33 A of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 refuses to issue the consent to operate and, by rejecting the defective application submitted by the Company to stop production of all kinds of products with immediate effect.” Amongst the reasons stated are:

“Cadmium was found in concentration in the range 200 to 300 milligrams per kilogram in the sludge from your effluent treatment plant...much above the tolerance/ permissible limit for hazardous wastes which categorically establishes that cadmium bearing raw material/materials are used in the production process or effluent treatment. Shri.S.K.K Warrier, Area Human Resources Manager of the Company has unequivocally stated for the Company…to the Members of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee that …ground water is not at all contaminated and that it conforms to the standard of drinking water laid down by Bureau of Indian Standards; therefore the source of cadmium is some other raw material used by you; but your application does not contain the particulars of the source of cadmium and is therefore incomplete.”
“[…] the Board had examined the sludge generated by the Company and it was found that it was containing the heavy metal cadmium at concentration of 200 to 300 mg per kg of sludge, which is 400 to 600% above the tolerance/permissible limit. The sludge of the Company is still in existence and the same contains the above mentioned concentration of cadmium….the Company at no juncture informed the Board about the use of cadmium or its compounds in any nature/form during the course of production of its different products.”
“[…] that the Board had conducted necessary studies in the areas in the vicinity of the Company and found the water of the well of Shri. Manikkam Chettiar and the water of the Common well of the Panchayat were contaminated by the seepage or spread of cadmium from the Company. In the meanwhile the Monitoring Committee…appointed by the Hon’ble Apex Court of India …noticed that due to the operation of the Company severe pollution was caused to the drinking water source...Hence specific instructions were issued to the local people not to consume the well water. Necessary instructions were issued to the Board to issue proper direction to the Company to provide drinking water facility to the local people who are affected due to the operation of the Company and further to direct the Company not to discharge effluent of any nature, unless the effluent is subjected to further treatment by using the advanced technology popularly known as Reverse Osmosis System. On the basis of the above directions issued by the SCMC, the Board”…ordered…”the Company to provide water supply to the people and to install Reverse Osmosis System or any alternate water purification system…the Company did not respond…the Board” directed “the Company to implement the directions of the SCMC. Though the Company had submitted its letter dated 22.04.2005 stating that it would provide water supply to the local community, no effective action was taken by the Company and no consent of the Board was sought so far to establish the reverse osmosis system or any other effective system for the better treatment and purification of the effluent treatment plant.
“[…] the Board” pointed “out the deficiencies detected in the Company’s application dated 20.09.2004 for renewing the Consent to Operate and further” directed “the Company to disclose the source of cadmium detected in the sludge as well as in the water of nearly wells. The Company responded to the letter dated 07.05.2005 of the Board by the reply letter dated 19.05.2005 justifying the application for renewal of consent as if the same were free from defects and claiming that the Company was enjoying deemed consent….The opportunity provided by the Board to the Company to rectify the defects in the application was unavailed by the Company.”

On Depletion

The High Court through its Divisional Bench Judgement of 4 April 2005 actually imposed restriction on Coca-Cola to consume only up to 500,000 litres per day when the rainfall is normal, and lesser otherwise, with a total ban if the rainfall was 30 percent of the average rainfall. This was based on the findings and recommendations of High Court appointed Investigation Team constituted vide Order WA/2125/2003 of 19.12.2003. The production permit issued by KPCB to Coca-Cola for its Plachimada plant was for the production on 561,000 liters of soft drinks per day which is estimated to require 21 lakh liters per day. Coca-Cola was restricted to extract just 25% by the High Court ruling, and that too if the rainfall is average or more.

Further, the reported continued drying up of ground water in Plachimada despite (a) the Coca-Cola plant closure since 2004, (b) claims of recharge of ground water by Coca-Cola including rainwater harvesting and (c) rains in subsequent years whatever they may be, can then only point out to one thing - the poor recharge capacity of the aquifer which has been drained out of its accumulated water over centuries.

Who Benefits?

There is an estimated 3,870 in 8448 households[5] who are the most affected in just 2 wards in an area of 60.79 sq kms who form the main backbone of Pladhimada struggle according to a study by the reputed Centre for development Studies of Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. This study reports for instance, 94 % experienced water shortage for drinking and other household uses, 51 percent report reduction in quality of available water, “almost all the households there have reported that the water in their dug wells got polluted ever since the year 2000” and “of the 33 drinking water dug-wells, water in 31 wells have become non-potable since the year 2000” (pg.51). The worst affected are the agricultural labour households and farming households (pg. 67). 79.4 % of the agricultural households reduced water consumption and 10.5 percent migrated to other places for work. In the case of farming households 72.1 percent reduced water consumption, 25.7 percent deepened wells, 10.6 percent dug new bore wells and 22 percent resorted to organized action for water supply amongst others. The coping and mitigation and livelihood strategies adopted by the people include labour migration, increased loans, changes in crops, augmenting water through government initiatives such as supply of potable water in tanker lorries, assistance under drought relief, temporary ban on water extraction by Coca Cola, inter governmental discussion between the Kerala and Tamilnadu government on Parambikulam-Aliyar Project, Nellimedu Drinkuing Water Scheme, and selection of Plachimada under jalanidhi programme for supply of safe drinking water.

Your claims of the loss of ‘direct employment to 400 people and indirect employment to more than 5000 persons’ due to the closure of Plachimada plant,’ that ‘no one has benefited from’ our ‘continued protests,’ that ‘politics overrides the genuine needs of the people’ and Kerala has been deprived by the closure of Coca-Cola plant should be seen in the above light. A costing of the negative fall outs directly attributable to the Coca-Cola plant, some of which are listed out briefly, will also bring to light whether Kerala had a net gain or loss from the Plachimada plant with reference to ‘development and growth’.

Further, the Kerala State government is considering the appointment of an expert committee to assess the environment damage caused by Coca Cola Plachimada plant as recommended by the Kerala Ground Water Authority for purpose of computing compensation liability of Coca-Cola[6]

Will you now be able to apply your mind whether we were “questioning the Kerala High Court's conclusions”, what “the scientific basis for” our “continued charges against the company” and your studied conclusion “that they are politically-motivated”and whether the struggle of the people are for ‘the well-being of the people of Plachimada’ ? And you “with a heavy heart”..“deplore both the content and tone” of our letter?

Let our people decide what is good for them.

Velur Swaminathan, Secetary, Plachimada Adivasi Samrakshana Sangham

And

R. Ajayan, Convenor, Plachimada Samara Aikyadhardya Samithy

Mailed to Shashi Tharoor at tharoor.assistant@gmail.com

Annexure I

14 February 2009

An Open Letter to Shashi Tharoor,

You are aware that Coca Cola plant at Plachimada, Palakkad in your native State of Kerala has been shut down since 2004 as they failed to get the requisite licenses from the Kerala Pollution Control Board and the Perumatty Panchayat. The primary reasons for this are:

Coca Cola polluted the ground water with deadly toxic and carcinogenic cadmium and lead which Coca Cola does not list under ‘raw materials’ and refuse to provide an explanation for their presence
Coca Cola distributed and spread around these deadly toxic and carcinogenic cadmium and lead through their waste sludge and slurry under the guise that these are good soil nutrients
Coca Cola did not supply piped water to the affected families as ordered by the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Waste
Coca Cola, as the single most largest extractor of ground water extracting at the highest rate, largest transporter of water to the outside through softdrinks, a non-essential luxury good, contributed the largest to the depletion of ground water

The anti Coca Cola struggle launched in 2002 in Plachimada by primarily the Adivasis and Dalits, is the longest popular struggle in the history of Kerala supported by the widest sections of the people of Kerala and of all political hues.

You may be aware that protests have been going on elsewhere in the country against many other Coca Cola plants as in Mehdi Ganj and Kala Dera for similar destruction of environment, water and livelihoods. You may also be aware about the allegations against Coca Cola for getting its own workers assassinated in Columbia through the drug mafia which was to be enquired into by ILO. Coca Cola products were also indicted by Centre for Science & Environment, New Delhi, for producing and selling bottled water and softdrinks with pesticide and other contaminants. Latest in the series is the $7.59 million penalty that Coca Cola agreed to pay in February 2009 to the City of American Canyon in Napa County, USA, for violations in wastewater treatment permit since 2005 till May 2008 that resulted in high concentrations of contaminants that interfered with the City's wastewater treatment process and posed an environmental hazard.

A former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, author, writer-columnist and an advisor to several institutions and reportedly nurturing political ambition, it is with shock and dismay that we, in your native Kerala, have to see you as a Member of the Advisory Board of Coca-Cola India Foundation [1]. We condemn your insensitivity and unconcern to align with the criminal Coca-Cola against the people of Kerala.

Velur Swaminathan, Secetary, Plachimada Adivasi Samrakshana Sangham

And

R. Ajayan, Convenor, Plachimada Samara Aikyadhardya Samithy

R Ajayan

Convener
Plachimada Solidarity Committee
Ph:- Res 0471-2730464
Mob- 09847142513
Res Add - Neerajam,

Kudappanakunnu,
Trivandrum-695043
Kerala, India

[1] http://www.cokefacts.com/PressCenter/Press_Release_Coca-Cola_India_Foundation_set_up_4th_Dec_07.pdf

In a press release from New Delhi dated December 3, 2007: […..] setting up of Coca-Cola India Foundation […]This Foundation with an initial corpus of USD 10 million would focus on a range of activities including water, the environment, healthy living and social advancement.” Mr. Muhtar Kent, President and COO, The Coca-Cola Company […] The advisory board members of the Foundation include Mr. Justice J. S. Verma, Former Chief Justice of India and Chairman National Human Rights Commission, Dr. Mithu Alur, Founder/Chairperson, Spastics’ Society of India and The National Resource Centre for Inclusion, Mr. Javed Akhtar, Poet, lyricist, script writer and social activist, Mr. Shashi Tharoor, Author and international civil servant, Mr. Bunker Roy of Barefoot College, Dr. Naresh Trehan, cardiologist and opinion leader, Mr. Roshan Seth, Actor, socialite and theater personality, Dr. (Mrs.) Shyama Chona, Principal, Delhi Public School. Mr. Yogesh Chandra is the CEO of the Foundation.

Annexure II

Shashi Tharoor
An Open Response to "an Open Letter to Shashi Tharoor"
26 February 2009

Dear Mr Swaminathan and Mr Ajayan,

Thank you for sending me your letter on February 24. I note, however, that for several days prior to your sending it to me, you had already released it to the media and in various Internet forums. It would appear that your communication was therefore not designed to elicit a genuine answer from me, but rather to score political points. Nonetheless I am doing you the courtesy of taking your public charges in good faith and responding to them point by point.

You express your "shock and dismay" at my membership of the Advisory Board of Yatn, the Coca-Cola India Foundation and go on to "condemn [my] insensitivity and unconcern to align with the criminal Coca-Cola against the people of Plachimada." First of all, I should point out the difference between the Foundation and the company. I serve, alongside several renowned social activists and human rights leaders, under the chairmanship of the former Supreme Court Chief Justice and former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Justice J.S. Verma, on the advisory board of a purely philanthropic organization. The Foundation is financed by the Coca-Cola Company as part of its corporate social responsibility, which is a practice that I have encouraged around the world since my United Nations days, when UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched the "Global Compact" to encourage corporations around the world to adhere to certain globally-accepted principles and practices. Far from "aligning against the people", the purpose of encouraging such a Foundation is precisely to ensure that the company looks beyond its commercial bottom-line and serves the people of our country.

I have been, and remain, strongly committed to the belief that in our liberalizing economy, private sector companies should not only maintain the highest employment and labour standards, but also take pro-active steps to benefit the communities in which they operate. My membership of the Foundation's Advisory Board aims at promoting such benefits through a number of concrete projects, particularly in the area of safe drinking water, which is in such short supply in our country.

You level a number of charges against the Coca-Cola company's operations at the Plachimada plant, notably relating to ground-water exploitation and pollution of groundwater through toxic waste from its plant. As I stressed, I do not represent the company in any way, but I am fully aware that such charges led to the plant ceasing operations in 2004. Needless to say, far from being "unconcerned", I enquired into the matter to satisfy myself that these allegations had been thoroughly examined by the competent authorities. I note that a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court ruled, in a judgement dated 7 August 2005, that the company was not guilty of unfairly exploiting the groundwater, and that indeed the groundwater in Plachimada continued to dry up after the company ceased operations, leading the Court to conclude that other factors, including a shortage of rainfall, were to blame. The Court based its conclusions on a number of detailed independent expert studies, including one that the Court itself had commissioned from the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (CWRDM), Kozhikode, which is a part of the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and the Environment. I do not understand on what basis you are questioning the Kerala High Court's conclusions.

On the question of ground-water toxins and toxic sludge, I have seen reports from reputed governmental bodies, including the Kerala State Pollution Control Board and the Central Ground Water Board, New Delhi, refuting your charges. Once again, I am unable to understand the scientific basis for your continued charges against the company, and can only conclude that they are politically-motivated.

Finally, with regard to the discontinuation of the supply of drinking water by the company, I note that this supply in fact continued till December 2007, almost four years after the plant's forced closure, but that it was not practical for the company to continue beyond that date in view of its lack of operations in the area. The Court order required it to supply drinking water to the community only so long as it continued operations there. Nonetheless, the Yatn Foundation intends to give thought to developing a philanthropic project in Kerala in the area of drinking water, an issue to which I have personally attached the highest importance in my interventions on the Advisory Board.

Let me add, in conclusion, and with a heavy heart, how much I deplore both the content and tone of your letter. Since leaving the United Nations, I have been doing my best to promote investment into Kerala, which alone can generate the employment that is so desperately needed by our people. As a Keralite, I am ashamed that our people have to find work elsewhere in India and in the Gulf because the over-politicized atmosphere in Kerala discourages companies from investing in our state. The only result of your agitation over the Plachimada plant has been to close down an investment worth over Rs 80 crores in our state, which provided direct employment to 400 people and indirect employment to more than 5000 persons, including transporters, construction workers, and distributors. While all these people are now out of a job, no one has benefited from your continued protests. Instead, the image of Kerala as a place in which it is unwise for businesses to invest has been reinforced.

It is tragic that actions such as yours ensure that politics overrides the genuine needs of the people. If you are truly concerned about the well-being of the people of Plachimada, I would urge you instead to attempt to do what you can to persuade businesses like Coca-Cola to invest in Kerala and provide employment and drinking water to the people of our state. I would be pleased to join you in such an endeavour.

And instead of being dismayed by my service in such a Foundation, I urge you to applaud whatever help the other Advisory Board members and I can provide to steer the Foundation's resources towards helping people on issues like safe drinking water, energy resources, waste management, and the development of backward areas.

Yours sincerely,
Shashi Tharoor

Annexure III

Phone General: 0471-2312910, 2318153, 2318154, 2318155 Chairman: 2318150, Member Secretary: 2318151

e-mail: kspcb@keralapcb.org; FAX: 2318152 Web: www.keralapcb.org

KERALA STATE POLLUTION CONTROL BOARD

Pattom P.O, Thiruvananthapuram –695004

PCB/PLKD/CE/32/99 Date: 19.08.2005

ORDER

The Kerala State Pollution Control Board issues ‘Consent to Operate Order no. W/09/137/2000 with validity upto 31.12.2004 to M/s Hindustan Coca Cola beverages Pvt. Ltd, Moolathara Village, Kannimari P.O, Chittur taluk, Palakkad district represented by its Occupier viz. Vineeth Kumar Gupta.

When the Occupier of M/s Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd hereinafter referred to as the ‘Company’, proceeded with the production, the local administrative authority viz. Perumatty Grama Panchayat refused license to operate the Company. The Order of the Panchayat restraining the Company from operating was challenged before the Honourable Government of Kerala and the Government have interfered with the Order of the Panchayat on necessary conditions. The decision of the Government to permit the Company to operate on conditions has been challenged before the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala and the Hon’ble High Court has interfered with the Order of the Government as per the Order dated 09.03.2004 and resultantly the Company had stopped production. The Judgement of the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala lifting the ban imposed on the Company in the matter of production was on 07.04.2005. With effect from 09.03.2004 to 07.04.2005 the Company was not under operation, and it resumed production on 8-8-2005.

The ‘Consent to operate’ order issued to the Company under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act was valid upto 31.12.2004. When the Company was not under operation in pursuance to the order of the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala, the Company had submitted application dated 20.09.2004 for renewing the Consent to Operate with effect from 01.01.2005. The above application for renewal of consent had the following defects:

The changes in raw materials, production process, products, waste generation and waste quality were not stated in item no.6 of the application.
Cadmium was found in concentration in the range 200 to 300 milligrams per kilogram in the sludge from your effluent treatment plant. The observed concentration is much above the tolerance/ permissible limit for hazardous wastes which categorically establishes that cadmium bearing raw material/materials are used in the production process or effluent treatment. Shri.S.K.K Warrier, Area Human Resources Manager of the Company has unequivocally stated for the Company in letter no. HCCBPL/PCB-22 dated 20.11.2004 addressed to the Members of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee that your source water viz. ground water is not at all contaminated and that it conforms to the standard of drinking water laid down by Bureau of Indian Standards; therefore the source of cadmium is some other raw material used by you; but your application does not contain the particulars of the source of cadmium and is therefore incomplete.

Since the application submitted by the Company was defective and further on the reason that the Company was not functioning with effect from 09.03.2004, the Board has not entertained the consent renewal application dated 20.09.2004 of the Company. As per the provisions of law and procedures being adopted by the Board, the consent renewal application would be considered on the basis of performance of the Company in the matter of pollution control measures. Since the Company was under the order of closure with effect from 09.03.2004, the nature of production envisaged and its resultant impact on environment could not be assessed by the Board within the period of 4 months of submitting the application dated 20.09.2004 for renewing the Consent to Operate. Since the application was found incomplete and defective, the Company was not entitled to claim the advantages envisaged under section 25(7) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act.

The Company had continued its production by virtue of the Consent to Operate granted by the Board with effect from 02.04.2002 to 09.03.2004. As per the provisions of law, it is mandatory on the part of the Occupier to inform the Board about the materials/components used for producing different products. It is the statutory obligation on the part of the Board to see that no adverse impact is caused at any stage to the environment, human beings as well as other being, from the discharge of effluents of all kinds/forms/nature.

In the meanwhile the Board had examined the sludge generated by the Company and it was found that it was containing the heavy metal cadmium at concentration of 200 to 300 mg per kg of sludge, which is 400 to 600% above the tolerance/permissible limit. The sludge of the Company is still in existence and the same contains the above mentioned concentration of cadmium. The Occupier of the Company at no juncture informed the Board about the use of cadmium or its compounds in any nature/form during the course of production of its different products.

It was in the above circumstances that the Board had conducted necessary studies in the areas in the vicinity of the Company and found the water of the well of Shri. Manikkam Chettiar and the water of the Common well of the Panchayat were contaminated by the seepage or spread of cadmium from the Company. In the meanwhile the Monitoring Committee (popularly known as the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee or SCMC) appointed by the Hon’ble Apex Court of India as per the Order dated 14.10.2003 in W.P.(C) 657/95 had held an inspection of the Company and its surrounding areas and noticed that due to the operation of the Company severe pollution was caused to the drinking water source of a large number of the Company severe pollution was caused to the drinking water. Hence specific instructions were issued to the local people not to consume the well water. Necessary instructions were issued to the Board to issue proper direction to the Company to provide drinking water facility to the local people who are affected due to the operation of the Company and further to direct the Company not to discharge effluent of any nature, unless the effluent is subjected to further treatment by using the advanced technology popularly known as Reverse Osmosis System. On the basis of the above directions issued by the SCMC, the Board had issued the letter bearing PCB/HO/HW/PLKD/542/04 dated 18.12.2004 to the Company to provide water supply to the people and to install Reverse Osmosis System or any alternate water purification system. When the Company did not respond to the above letter dated 18.12.2004 of the Board another direction dated 08.02.2005 bearing no. PCB/HO/HW/PLKD/542/04 was issued directing the Company to implement the directions of the SCMC. Though the Company had submitted its letter dated 22.04.2005 stating that it would provide water supply to the local community, no effective action was taken by the Company and no consent of the Board was sought so far to establish the reverse osmosis system or any other effective system for the better treatment and purification of the effluent treatment plant.

It was in the above circumstances that the Board has issued the letter dated 07.05.2005 bearing the no. PCB/PLKD/CE/32/99 pointing out the deficiencies detected in the Company’s application dated 20.09.2004 for renewing the Consent to Operate and further directing the Company to disclose the source of cadmium detected in the sludge as well as in the water of nearly wells. The Company responded to the letter dated 07.05.2005 of the Board by the reply letter dated 19.05.2005 of the Board justifying the application for renewal of consent as if the same were free from defects and claiming that the Company was enjoying deemed consent as provided for in Section 25(7) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act. The opportunity provided by the Board to the Company to rectify the defects in the application was unavailed by the Company. It was in the above circumstances that the Board had issued Show Cause Notice dated 01.07.2005 directing the Company to offer its explanation as to why the renewal of Consent to Operate applied for under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act should not be refused. The Show Cause Notice of the Board dated 01.07.2005 was responded by the Company by offering its reply/explanation dated 12.07.2005. In the above explanation, the Company had requested the Board to provide an opportunity of being heard by the Chairman of the Board and sought the permission to peruse the documents maintained by the Board in the matter of the Company.

In response to the request made by the Company in its explanation dated 12.07.2005, the undersigned heard the representatives of the Company on 28.07.2005. After the hearing, the Company had requested the undersigned to provide time upto 16.08.2005 to submit the written arguments against the dinging of the Board in the Show Cause notice dated 01.07.2005. Later the company has offered its written arguments vide letter dated 13.08.2005 raising the following contentions.

The Captioned Notice is the 2nd communication by the Department on the same subject and hence invalid.
The Captioned Notice is hit by statutory limitation.
The Captioned Notice ultra vires the functions of the Board.
Issuance of Captioned Notice stands adjudicated; further adjudication will amount to judicial indiscipline.
Prejudice against the Company.

The undersigned has considered the contentions of the Company as detailed in the explanation dated 28.07.2005, and the written argument dated 13.08.2005 in detail and conducted a scientific and technical study on the issues and on perusal of the entire data it is decided to inform the company as follows:

Though the Company admits the presence of cadmium in its sludge, no explanation is offered to the Board about the source of the cadmium. The proceeding of the Company forwarded to the SCMC, accompanied by report of an approved laboratory, categorically establishes that the ground water does not contain cadmium beyond the permissible limit. But in the sludge, more than 400 to 600% cadmium beyond the permissible limit is detected. The Company has not divulged the source of cadmium so far, inspite of the very specific direction issued by the Board.
It was detected by the board that due to the existence of cadmium in the effluent as well as in the sludge, the ground water in the vicinity was found contaminated. Though specific direction was issued to the company to provide drinking water facility to the people of the affected area and to provide Reverse Osmosis System or any other more efficient system for better treatment of effluent, the Company had failed to provide such facilities before commencing the production. Though the modern technology of Reverse Osmosis System was found adopted in the treatment of raw water to produce the water for use in the production purpose of various products of the Company, such system was not installed for the treatment of effluent at the effluent treatment plant (ETP). In the explanation offered by the Company, it was stated that the Company is having an ETP of capacity 8,00,000 litre/day. As per the records of the Board, the Company produces 8,00,000 litre of effluent per day, in its permitted capacity of production. Thus it is clear that the Company is having the facility to store the effluent only for one day of production. Therefore the Company shall be forced to discharge the effluent, on continued production, and if thus discharge is effected, the discharge shall definitely pollute the ground water. Therefore the continuation of production without establishing either reverse osmosis system or any other modern technology to further treat the effluent shall definitely lead to pollution problem. On enquiry it has been noticed by the Board that a similar plant of the Company owned in Tamil Nadu is having an ETP facility for 12,00,000 litre of effluent in which the Company has provided Reverse Osmosis System. But no such facility has been provided by the Company in Moolathara village, though the poisoning due to cadmium is detected in well water as well as in the sludge.
The Board on 07.05.2005 issued a letter to the Company to rectify the defects noticed in the application for renewal of consent as well as in the operation of the plant for which the company has submitted its explanation on 19.05.2005 was found unsatisfactory, the Board has issued the Show Cause Notice dated 01.07.2005. Therefore the letter dated 07.05.2005 calling upon the Company to rectify the anomalies/defects in that application as well as in the plant, and the Show Cause Notice dated 01.07.2005 to offer its explanation as to why the Consent to Operate should not be refused, are strictly in accordance with the provisions of law and free from any procedural/legal infirmities. Therefore the defense of the Company made in its argument that the ‘captioned notice’ (Show Cause Notice dated 1-7-2005) is the second communication by the Board on the same subject and hence invalid, is not a sustainable contention in law.
The company was not entitled to get the advantage of section 25(7) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974, since the application submitted by the Comp-any for renewal of consent was defective and the defects have been duly pointed out to the Company, at least 3 months before commencing the production after the closure of the Company on 09.03.2004, the production was commenced only on 08.08.2005. But the Company did not care to rectify the defects in the application though the deficiencies in the application were specifically brought to the notice of the Company by the letter dated 07.05.2005 of the Board. The Company can claim the advantage of Section 25(7) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974 only if the production in the plant was either commenced or ongoing prior to the receipt of the letter dated 07.05.2005 of the Board.
The judgement of the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka in Vijayanagar Education Trust (Regd.), Bangalore Vs Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, Bangalore in no way render assistance to the case of the Company since the judgement of the Karnataka High Court dated 04.01.2002 in W.P No. 23341 of 2001 was in entirely different situation and in the above judgement the finding of the Hon’ble High Court was that the possibility of pollutants entering the reservoir directly does not arise at all because the reservoir was situated 6 km away from the spot where the institution was to be established and specific direction was issued to the SPCB to insist on conditions for preventing the chance, if any, for causing pollution at a distance of 6 km of the reservoir. In the instant case, the poisoning caused from the hazardous waste containing cadmium to the well water of the nearby residents and the cadmium detected in the sludge generated by the Company establishes the direct nexuses between the Company and its poisoning capacity. Therefore the judgement of the Karnataka High Court shall not render any assistance to the Company in its case on hand.
Another judgement highlighted by the Company in support of its claim under Section 25(7) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, was Live Oak Resort (P) Ltd and another Vs Panchami Hill Station Municipal Council and another, of the Hon’ble Apex Court of India. The facts of the said case are entirely different from the case of the Company. The above decision was rendered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court when the Municipal Council had failed to communicate its decision on the application for permission for construction of a building. The facts and circumstances of the said case are entirely different from the facts of the Company at hand and the judgement delivered did not have any reference or relevance on environmental issues, where a Company directly causes pollution to the environment. Thus there was absolutely no statutory limitation on the captioned notice of the Board and the Company is not entitled to the advantage of deemed consent when it causes direct pollution to the ground water by adding poisoning substances.
The argument of the Company that the captioned notice ultra vires the function of the Board is totally incorrect and misconceived. The Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act contains different chapters on functions, powers etc. That such powers as on issue of consent, making complaint for imposition of penalty etc and such procedural matters as issuing of Show Cause Notice are not mentioned under the chapter on functions does not make those powers and procedures non-existent.
No Company/institution/individual gets the privilege to contaminate the water bodies, air and environment by interpreting or misinterpreting the provisions of law, including section 25(7) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act.
Regarding the proceedings taken place before the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala, the Board has got necessary information from the Standing Counsel. The contention raised by the Company that the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala had considered the validity and sanctity of the letter dated 07.05.2005 of the Board and the reply submitted by the Company dated 19.05.2005 etc are incorrect. The issue/dispute considered by the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala in the case of the Company were not produced before the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala along with an affidavit or statement either by the Board or by the Company, the Hon’ble high Court has not provided any consideration to the letter of the Board and the reply submitted by the Company.
The undersigned has perused the entire records pertaining to the action taken by the Member Secretary of the Board, in the issues involved with the Company. But no materials to substantiate the prejudice as alleged by the Company has been found. The undersigned is of the considered opinion that the Member Secretary has rightly discharged his duties and obligations as stipulated under law. During the course of hearing held on 28.07.2005 as well as in the reply statement and the argument note submitted by the Company, no material has been produced to substantiate the alleged prejudice of the Member Secretary of the Board.
In the above circumstances the undersigned is of the considered opinion that the operation of the Company causes severe pollution problems to the sub-surface and ground water, which is a common property of every citizen as well as the State. No person/institution/establishment/company has got the right to pollute the drinking water, as categorically declared by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India as well as the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala. Since the functioning of the Company in the present manner causes severe environmental problems, including poisoning/contamination of well water, the undersigned, by invoking the powers conferred under Section 25(4), 27(2) and 33 A of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 refuses to issue the consent to operate and, by rejecting the defective application submitted by the Company to stop production of all kinds of products with immediate effect. This is without prejudice to the liability of the Company to supply drinking water to the affected population of the area, as ordered by the Board.

For and on behalf of the

KERALA STATE POLLUTION CONTROL BOARD

CHAIRMAN

Mr.Vineeth Kumar Kapila
(Occupier, Hindustan Coca-Coal Beverages Private Limited, Palakkad),

Enkay Towers, Udyog Vihar,

Phase V, Gurgaon

Haryana – 122 106.

Mr.N.Janardhan,
Plant Manager,

Hindustan Coca-Coal Beverages Private Limited,

Kannimari P.O,

Palakkad – 678 534

Copy to :

Adv. Babu Joseph Kuruvathazha, Standing Counsel
Environmental Engineer, District Office, (Palakkad)
The Secretary, Perumatty Grama Panchayat, Vandithavalam P.O, Palakkad

[1] ‘An Open Letter to Shashi Tharoor’ See Annexure I

[2] An Open Response to "an Open Letter to Shashi Tharoor".
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shashi-tharoor/an-open-response-to-an-op_b_170172.html [Accessed on 3 March 2009] See Annexure II.

[3] Tharoor set to don Cong cap http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Interviews/Tharoor_set_to_don_Cong_cap/articleshow/4127342.cms [Accessed on 3 March 2009]

[4] KPCB Order No PCB/PLKD/CE/32/99 of 19.08.2005 is provided in Annexure III

[5] Nair, K.N, Antoniyto Paul and Vineetha Menon. Water Inscurity, Insttutions and Livelihood Dynamics. A Study in Plachimada, India, Centre for Development Studies, Dasnish Books, 2008.

[6] Expert panel to assess eco damage, The Hindu, 28 October 2008. http://www.hindu.com/2008/10/15/stories/2008101555310400.htm [Accessed on 3 march 2009]

R.Ajayan
Convener
Plachimada Solidarity Committee
Ph:- Res 0471-2730464
Mob- 09847142513
Res Add - Neerajam,
Kudappanakunnu,
Trivandrum-695043
Kerala, India

04 An open rejoinder by S.Faizi (Environmental Expert Member: Kerala Groundwater Authority; Chairman: Indian Biodiversity Forum)

From:* S Faizi [mailto:ecology@dataone.in]
*Sent:* Thursday, March 05, 2009 10:13 AM
*To:* 'tharoor.assistant@gmail.com'
*Subject:* Coca Cola/Plachimada: An open rejoinder to Mr Shashi Tharoor

From
S.Faizi
R2 Saundarya Apartments
Nandavanam
Thiruvananthapuram
biodiversity@rediffmail.com
(Environmental Expert Member:
Kerala Groundwater Authority;
Chairman: Indian Biodiversity Forum)

Mr.Shashi Tharoor

Chairman
Afras Ventures
230 Park Avenue, Suite 2525
New York, NY 10169

Dear Mr Tharoor,

I have read with interest your response to the Plachimada Struggle
Solidarity Committee’s criticism of your being in a PR project of the Coca
Cola company in India, in Hindu and the full text on a web site that carries
your PR material. I do not have a grain of opposition to your being in the
cola PR outfit, for it is natural for people like to you to be in places
like that. However, I am writing this public response to you in order to
address the misinformation contained in your letter, outdoing even the PR
staff of the company, and the unwarranted sweeping remarks you have made on
Kerala development.

The High Court Division Bench verdict in favour of the company that you have
referred to was made subsequent to a single bench verdict against the
company. And the Division Bench verdict is being challenged in the Supreme
Court by the Perumatti Panchayat and by the people’s groups agitating
against the company. The CWRDM-lead report was flawed in many respects, as
is being argued in the SC, which is also an issue of concern for CWRDM
scientists as the institution has suffered an erosion of credibility. The
very assumption of the report, in estimating the total groundwater
availability in Chitoor block, that 20 per cent of the rainfall can be
recharged is flawed as the Central Groundwater Board’s (CGWB) assessment in
2003 had put the recharge in areas such as Chitoor at 5-8 per cent. While
the committee report put the annual recharge in the block at 74.1 million
cubic meters (mcm), based on the CGWB’s scientific estimation of recharge
rate it is only between 16.6 to 33.2 mcms. The report also suppresses the
domestic and agricultural water needs. The central question in the High
Court case was not as much about pollution and depletion of water resources,
land pollution by heavy metals, or the right to life provision of the
Constitution, as about the power of the local panchayat to ask for the
closure of the factory. The Groundwater Dept, in a report on the groundwater
of Palakkad dist prepared in 2006, presented an alarming picture of the
state of groundwater in Chitoor block.

The legal status of groundwater has rightly become that of a public resource
with the enactment of the Kerala Groundwater Act which came into force in
2003. However, this law (as well as several other points from the
environmental jurisprudence) was not considered in the High Court case.
Groundwater was considered as a private resource, while the said law asserts
it as a public resource over which the appropriate agencies of the State
have control in public interest. And this change in the legal status of
groundwater is also going to be examined by the apex court.

You attempt to deny the toxic sludge. However, the Supreme Court Monitoring
Committee (SCMC), in its report following its site visit in August 2004, had
determined the presence of heavy metals (cadmium and lead) in the sludge,
and this was distributed by the cunning company to the unsuspecting farmers
as ‘fertiliser’. And the State Pollution Control Board had directed the
company to cease operations. The pollution of the well waters around the
factory was reported by independent labs and the SPCB also confirmed it by
asking the people not to use the water of the panchayat well it had tested.

I visited the area two weeks ago as a member of the expert committee
attached to the State SC/ST Commission and found the situation of the local
people, ST/SC in particular, extremely worrying- there is hardly any water
in the wells and where it is present it is not usable. Pollution of drinking
water is a crime under the SC/ST (Atrocities) Act. On 14-9-2004 the company
agreed to provide piped water to the residents of the area and the KPCB
had constituted a committee to oversee this activitiy. This was upon the
instruction of the SCMC, obviously as a compensation for the water crisis
caused by the company and it was not contingent upon the functioning of the
factory. The company reneged on this agreement too.

Polluter Pays Principle has become an integral part of our jurisprudence.
The Rio Declaration (principle 16) upholds this as well as the liability and
redress provision of the Biodiversity Convention (I had been a negotiator in
the formulation of both), among other multilateral soft laws and treaties.
And this is squarely applicable in the case of Coca Cola at Plachimada. This
was why the Kerala Goundwater Authority, after study by a subcommittee,
recommended to the govt at its 13th meeting in Oct 2008 that compensation
should be obtained from the company, on behalf of the people, for the
pollution and groundwater depletion it has caused. It also recommended to
make a comprehensive, multidisciplinary assessment of the damage caused by
the company to the environment, human health and agriculture. Bringing an
offender to justice is in the best common interest of business lest the law
abiding competitors are left at a disadvantage.

Your reference to the Global Compact was interesting. But you have carefully
withheld the information from your readers that this was a project that was
fiercely opposed by the civil society organizations. It was not a legitimate
UN activity, negotiated and agreed by a policy setting body such as the GA.
It was part of a series of initiatives to diminish the importance of the
need for corporate bodies complying with the domestic laws of the countries,
by introducing and promoting a voluntary code of conduct. It was also part
of the move to whittle away the powers of multilateral bodies such as
UNCTAD, supported by the developing countries. As a corporate boss you will
be proud to have promoted the Global Compact, but its real twin role as a
greenwash and as a means to belittle the importance of legal compliance is
obvious to the public. Corporate responsibility is a crooked term, what the
citizens expect from the corporates is corporate accountability to the laws
of the country. If Coca Cola, for example, is willing to comply with the
laws of the country, pay for the public resources it has used at the market
rate and pay compensation for the damages it has caused that will more than
suffice, we don’t need the Cola to take any responsibility for our
development.

As for your remarks on Kerala’s development scene, it was certainly uncalled
for. Kerala is one of the most globalised societies in the world, and we
were at the centre of open global trade until 500 years ago when the
Europeans came as savage invaders displacing the Arab traders. Your
accusations of Kerala as ‘over-politicised’ and this as a reason for an
imaginary discouragement of investment in the state are amusing right wing
cliché that fit very well with the intellectual immaturity that
characterizes your writings. It is an insult to India’s unity that you are
ashamed that Keralites work in other parts of the India. It is diametrically
opposed to the spirit of Kerala’s globalism that you are ashamed of our
people working in the Gulf and other countries. But you are saying this
sitting in an American city and heading a business firm in Gulf. And you
claim to be a Keralite when your web site proudly announces your fluency in
English and French but does not even mention Malayalam though our language
and its literature has a longer history than English. But such
contradictions are typical of an intellectual simpleton’s writings. The
Kerala model of development is an unavoidable term in the international
development discourse, not the least the UN’s, but you are blissfully
uninformed even about this. In child mortality, for example, we fare better
than the US city you live in. Empowerment thru political conscientisation is
at the core of the relatively high development indices we have achieved.
Your understanding of India, as seen in your writings, is no deeper than a
western tourist’s.

Let me refer to just a couple of such writings. In one of your articles you
have chauvinistically chided Indian women for giving up sari for western
dress. Even such chauvinistic opinions I have no problem in tolerating but
the fun is when you see the photo of the author of the silly article dressed
in western suit and neck tie totally alien to traditional male attire! And
in a subsequent article you narrated an anecdote where your Danish boss in
the UN abused the Indian kurta you wore as a surgeon’s coat and that made
you resolve not to wear the traditional Indian dress any more. As a
committed supporter of the UN cause and as a some times participant in UN
events, I take offence in the incident you narrated and your acceptance of
the same. As a multilateral body the UN respects the multiple cultures, and
if someone derogatively talked about a country’s traditional dress he should
not have been on the UN staff any longer, if someone had set a norm like
that it should have been brought to the attention of the concerned decision
making body. UN events indeed are also the occasion you find the most
fabulous traditional dress of women and men from west African nations, the
various Arab traditional dresses fromMorocco to Yemen, the elegant sheravni,
sari and churidar from south Asia, and so on. I myself presided over a youth
conference organized by Unesco/UNEP in Moscow in 1987 (part of Tbilisi+10)
wearing a white cotton kurta/pyjama, and nobody cared about what I wore (I
wouldn’t have allowed it either). And your sectarian mindset blamed the
Punjabis for giving masculine names for their daughters, forgetting that
what you have done with your own name isn’t anything different. Sasi is how
the masculine name is spelt in Kerala while Shashi, the way you spell it, is
a feminine name in north India!

Your reply talks of the anti-Cola activists scoring some political point. No
one can read any party politics in their letter, the Plachimada anti-Cola
struggle is beyond divisions along party politics. The ruling LDF supports
the Plachimada cause as much as the opposition UDF. And in the struggle
itself you find people of all political affiliations and creeds. We are all
one on the issue of justice, but you cannot perhaps understand that. But if
you are talking about politics with your ambition to get a seat in the
forthcoming Parliament election in view, I wish the Congress party gives you
a ticket, for it deserves you. That will be a good self punishment for the
Congress party for having allowed you once to embarrass the country with
your UN election.

Best regards

S.Faizi