Beside World Social Forum 2004 in Mumbai

India facing the challenge of globalisation

11 March 2004 by Eric Toussaint , Denise Comanne

While participating in the World Social Forum 2004 in Mumbai, several members of the CADTM delegation (Committee for the abolition of the third world debt) were in touch with various NGOs and social movements in order to assess some current struggles such as the one against the Coca-Cola Company in Kerala. They tried to understand the specificity of the Indian social background, particularly the caste system, by focusing on the Dalits, who represent about 200 million inhabitants out of a total of one billion Indians. They are the victims of traditional and age old oppression, and we wished to meet the men and women among them who did something to put an end to this situation. It was also an opportunity to find out about various aspects of the Indian current reality: from the issue of street children to the effects of neoliberal policies on some economic sectors like tea production. The trip to India made it possible for us to speak with a large number of activists who are active in several fields: environment, human rights, health, education, housing, languages [1], culture, gender, religions [2]. It was interesting to try and understand how they perceive the World Social Forum and the world alternative movement in which they are actors. We started in Mumbai, the town where the fourth Word Social Forum took place. Then we travelled to the state of Karnataka, some thousand kilometres from Mumbai, to the southwest. Finally, we went to Kerala.


Mumbai where dignity is an everyday struggle

Mumbai (Bombay at the time of the British Empire) has about fourteen millions inhabitants and is the capital of the state of Maharashtra (100 million inhabitants). Half of the inhabitants of Mumbai live in subhuman conditions. In fact, seven million people live in slums where they crowd in utterly precarious conditions. Eight inhabitants out of ten in the slums depend on the public tap to get water. Its distance from dwellings is on an average seventy meters and women to get water must stand in a queue for one and a half hour every day. You get up before dawn in Mumbai to use and store water for the day because the public authorities supply the precious liquid only between five and seven o’clock in the morning. You need to see Mumbai to understand the inhuman character of a system that generates permanent injustice. You face utter poverty wherever you go in Mumbai: you cannot escape the appalling view of the hundreds of thousands of people living along the roads just beside open-air sewage exuding putrid stench. Underfed people, with no possibility to take a bath, are busy around their ‘homes’, which often consists of a length of plastic stretched between two wooden poles. Promiscuity is common. To preserve a sense of dignity is a battle every moment for those million damned of the earth.

But what do public authorities do? Obviously, their reluctance to intervene led them to give up investing in collective water supply and sewage system. Public transport is limited to a minimum. Schools and hospitals cruelly lack all necessary amenities. The textile and steel plants, which once generated tens of thousands of jobs over decades, have (almost) all been closed down. Millions of people live off small jobs in the informal sector. Air pollution in Mumbai takes appalling proportions. Mexico or Bogota, though highly polluted, look like countryside compared with the Indian megalopolis.

Mumbai demonstrates the inefficiency of the open market to guarantee every man and women the satisfaction of the most basic human rights.

Just before the World Social Forum began, Vikas Adhyayan Kendra (Centre for Development Studies) organised series of interactive sessions and visits for CADTM delegates to familiarise with the socio-economic issues of the city of Mumbai as well as VAK’s activities.

What is VAK?

Vikas Adhyayan Kendra (VAK), member of CADTM international network, is a secular voluntary organisation established in 1981 to be an interface between Scholars, Academics and Social Activists; to initiate the process of social awakening through critical reflection and alternative discourse thereby contributing to strengthening people's struggles towards the goal of a just and more humane social order.
VAK works with grass-roots organisations by providing them with data, research studies and advocacy material related to their work. Major areas of concern since 1981 have been: a) Dalits and Adivasis, b) Gender Rights, c) Livelihood Security, d) Environment and Ecology, e) Religion and Society: Secularism and Communal Politics, f) Theory and Practice of Social Transformation, and g) Ideology and Culture.

Geographically, though VAK's activities have focused primarily on the region of Western India - Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat - the orientation and spread of a number of its activities have been essentially of a national character. The choice of the region of Western India was primarily because of its economic, ecological, cultural etc. similarities between these regions, and their people who have also been linked through popular movements.

Apart from the co-ordination office in Mumbai, VAK has established Programme Units in Goa and Gujarat.

The Goa Programme Unit focuses on the prevention of child sexual abuse and the protection of the rights of the children to live in dignity. VAK has initiated a number of activities such as Campaigns, Advocacy, Open Schools for Street and Beach children, Seminars, Consultations to address the growing phenomena of pedophilia and other forms of child sexual abuse related to tourism. VAK also has initiated network of organisation on the West Coast working to prevent sexual abuse of children.

In Gujarat the activities are mainly centered on human rights issues of minorities and issues of Muslim Womens' Rights and Empowerment, issues of democracy, communal harmony, training workshops for elected Panchayat members, gender training, and legal action etc.

Specific Activities :

Specifically VAK is engaged in the following activities:

1. Study and Research
2. Consultations and Training Programmes
3. Documentation
4. Direct Community Action

Campaign, Advocacy and Coalition Building

This entails developing and promoting more focussed advocacy, lobbying and campaigning strategies ranging from Dalit to gender rights and from rights of minorities and children to the struggles of the people for livelihood and against suppression of human and democratic rights and erosion of cultural values. The programme also seeks to promote and strengthen civil society organisations in building solidarity- action networks on critical issues affecting the lives and "rights" of the people, to challenge the structures, cultures and dynamics of violence, inequality and injustice, and for the promotion of participatory, democratic politics and economics which makes people as the centrality of the social process.

The major social clusters of concerns have been the urban and rural poor, Adivasis, Dalits, children and women. In recent years, VAK has concentrated on issues of livelihood and food security, combating fundamentalism/communalism, promoting democracy and rights and exposing parochial and sectarian cultural expressions.

Visit to the Slum in Mumbai

A visit to the slum was a very deep experience for the CADTM delegates. It was not the worst of slums, far from it. The presence of a majority of stone-built homes and of numerous little shops testifies to the age of this area where more than five hundred families are gathered. They have organized themselves to make the most of what little they have but the sight is nevertheless desolating. Open-air sewage, lack of drinking water, underfed children and adults. The visit to the area hospital led by Mercy Muricken, the wife of the director of Vikas, made tears come to the eyes of the ten foreign visitors. The hospital, which consists of a room of ten to five, receives dozens of patients every day. Among the most frequent diseases, we find diarrhoea due to unsafe drinking water, worms in the stomach, serious anaemia, lack of weight (malnutrition), tuberculosis, malaria. The mortality rate reaches thirty per cent in the area. The number of poor people who commit suicide to escape poverty is high. The African delegates of the CADTM who came from Kinshasa, Brazzaville, Abidjan, Niamey and Bamako were unanimous: what they saw in Mumbai was far beyond the overwhelming poverty in their countries. Victor Nzuzi of the Democratic Republic of Congo asked: “How can the authorities of a country that built the nuclear bomb, which produces millions of cars and computers, which owns great drug industries, allow such a situation to last?” We must look for the answer in the abysmal inequality in the share Share A unit of ownership interest in a corporation or financial asset, representing one part of the total capital stock. Its owner (a shareholder) is entitled to receive an equal distribution of any profits distributed (a dividend) and to attend shareholder meetings. of wealth and incomes, in the greed for maximum profit Profit The positive gain yielded from a company’s activity. Net profit is profit after tax. Distributable profit is the part of the net profit which can be distributed to the shareholders. , in the state’s failure to fulfil its duties towards the citizens of this country, in the massive privatizations and in the opening of the Indian economy to transnational corporations. Samba Tembely from Mali was thinking aloud after the visit: "Our African governments try to justify the insufficiency of public services on grounds of the poverty of the country and the state. This is not convincing even if their words are not unfounded. But here in India, an industrialised country of the third world endowed with important natural resources, we can understand more clearly that it is the capitalistic system itself which is responsible for the misery of the majority of the population. Here the conditions are such that every inhabitant can have a decent life and yet the majority live in want”.

The BJP, a right-wing nationalist party, has dominated the Indian political life over the past few years. It has systematically kindled the Indian nationalist feeling and launched an arms race, notably in nuclear weapons, with neighbouring Pakistan. Simultaneously, it has encouraged racist and ethnic moves on the part of the Hindu majority leading to actual pogroms in the state of Gujarat: almost three thousand people were killed two years ago, almost all of them Moslems. The persons responsible for the slaughters were encouraged and protected by the highest leaders of the BJP, some of them being ministers in the current state government. The BJP has systematically fostered communalism, that is, the use of the religious identity of a community for political purposes. During the election campaigns, there is no or almost no question of any discussion of the great social or economic issues, communalist ideas prevail. It is literally a deadly issue. The Congress Party (Gandhi’s and Nehru’s inheritor) which had dominated political life for a long time after the independence in 1947 progressively abandoned its policy of social pact and state intervention. It no longer carries any social message. Pushed back into the opposition by the BJP at the national level (although still in power in some of the states that make up the Indian federation), it wants to return to power at all costs and makes alliances everywhere to reach that end. The traditional leftwing, essentially two communist parties (The Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India - Marxist) are in power in West Bengal and are often in the government in Kerala. They have representatives in the National Parliament. They are sharply criticized by the social movement’s activists for their conciliatory attitude towards the neoliberal attack. They are reproached with not matching their acts to their socialistic rhetoric. Their acceptance of the increasing interference of industrialized countries’ transnational corporations into the economic life of states where they are in the government attracts particular criticism. To complete this political survey we must mention small socialist parties (two of them part of the BJP coalition in the current government, [3] and some are inspired by Gandhi), and also of a dozen radical left parties, most of them coming from the division of the two communist parties in the 1970s and 1980s. The two traditional communist parties (CPI, CPI-M), several formations of leftist radicals and some socialist parties were present at the Word Social Forum through their mass organizations (trade unions, youth and women groups).

In international political matters, India who has long maintained a close relationship with the Soviet Union has changed her tack and has recently taken a drastic turn by becoming pro United States and pro Israel.

It is also to be noted that the World Bank World Bank
The World Bank was founded as part of the new international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944. Its capital is provided by member states’ contributions and loans on the international money markets. It financed public and private projects in Third World and East European countries.

It consists of several closely associated institutions, among which :

1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 189 members in 2017), which provides loans in productive sectors such as farming or energy ;

2. The International Development Association (IDA, 159 members in 1997), which provides less advanced countries with long-term loans (35-40 years) at very low interest (1%) ;

3. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which provides both loan and equity finance for business ventures in developing countries.

As Third World Debt gets worse, the World Bank (along with the IMF) tends to adopt a macro-economic perspective. For instance, it enforces adjustment policies that are intended to balance heavily indebted countries’ payments. The World Bank advises those countries that have to undergo the IMF’s therapy on such matters as how to reduce budget deficits, round up savings, enduce foreign investors to settle within their borders, or free prices and exchange rates.

is very active in India, which is one of its main borrowers. The World Bank has had a leading role in collaboration with the Ford Foundation in launching the green revolution in the ‘60s. This led to a radical farming transformation (without a deep agrarian reform) by the systematic use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, herbicides and laboratory created seeds. The disastrous effects of the green revolution have been analysed notably by the ecofeminist Vandana Shiva (see Eric Toussaint, “Your Money or Your Life”, chapter 10, Haymarket Books and PlutoPress, Chicago-London, end of 2004). The World Bank was also strongly involved in promoting mega dams over rivers for harvesting water and manufacturing electricity. The opposition of the population affected (displaced and dislocated) by them led the World Bank to withdraw from some projects like the one for the dams on the Narmada River. Today, it urges the national and local authorities to further open the Indian economy to foreign investments and demands a policy of recovering costs in the projects it supports in water supply, in health or education, a policy which actually excludes a large part of the Indian population from access to basic services.

Now that we have a general image of the country, we can move on to some examples of concrete actions carried out by movements that took part in the World Social Forum.

An initiative to help street children and prevent child labour

On 25 January 2004, we met our partners associated with Vikas Adhyayan Kendra at Mysore in the state of Karnataka (SW of India). The association Rural Literacy & Health Programme (RLHP) [4] has initiated a number of actions intended to help the most exploited sections of the population. A major activity aims to return street children to activities that can fulfil their expectations and provide them a human life environment. At Mysore as in many towns and cities in the Third World many children have to live in the streets because their families cannot afford to look after them. Public authorities do not do anything about the problem. The first step taken by RLHP educators consists of talking to those children who beg or work in the streets (including prostitution). Establishing a relationship of mutual trust takes time as well as patience and tact. It is not an easy task to convince a child that she or he ought to leave the world of the streets. Two houses about 40 km apart currently host 22 girls and some forty boys respectively. As soon as a child is ready to leave the streets the family is searched. RLHP favours family re-insertion, but this is far from easy.

Once children have joined the association, they are prepared to get education and ultimately ease their social insertion. Each child is individually prepared to enter primary school. In addition to normal classes, they can attend supplementary sessions organised by the association’s staff that also help them with their homework.

Girls are also introduced to yoga, singing songs about childhood, Indian classical dancing, sowing, and computer literacy while boys are involved in sports activities and introduced to carpentry, mechanics, and computer literacy too. The education project apparently emphasizes the importance of a critical approach.

The two homes are located in a healthy environment outside the city. The rate of failure is low whether among girls or among boys. Only 1 to 2 pc fail to get integrated, and return to their lives in the streets.

Imagine the picture. When we entered the room, the girls were all sitting in the lotus position on mats along three walls. Some were very young (four or five), others were already teenagers. They introduced themselves with their first name and age. Then we duly introduced ourselves. We talked for about an hour. It is not easy to move from Africa and Europe to the world of these girls, but with lots of smiles, we managed. The girls started a very long and very beautiful song, which gave us an opportunity to look at them properly and experience wonder and awe. They sang that all children have a right to education and culture, that child labour should be abolished. Their faces radiated the beauty of joy. Their eyes had the direct look of people who feel at one with themselves and we could cry when we thought of the terrible life of pain and suffering they were escaping. One of them, aged four, as cute as anything, could hardly speak, probably as a result of some unspeakable trauma, but she joined in the singing in whispers and smiles. Once the song was over, two girls put a cassette on and started to dance a spellbinding traditional dance through which we understood that it was not just part of cultural learning but also a way of re-appropriating their bodies, of asserting their own dignity. Tears were again brimming in our eyes.

The RLHP action is part of a global struggle to abolish child labour and guarantee that all children get an education. At Mysore in March 2003 RLHP organised a national conference for the abolition of child labour as part of the Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL a network of 5,400 members belonging to 17 states [5]). For three days, some 1,200 children and 800 activists who had come from all corners of the country considered how best they could achieve their aim. Public authorities were questioned. A street demonstration was organised. We have to keep in mind that child labour is related to the poorer families being heavily in debt. Indebted parents who cannot pay back a private moneylender may have no choice but to let him have one (or several) of their children. The lender will make them work as long as the loan is not repaid, and in some cases the interest Interest An amount paid in remuneration of an investment or received by a lender. Interest is calculated on the amount of the capital invested or borrowed, the duration of the operation and the rate that has been set. rate is so high that children actually become slaves since there is no way their parents could ever pay back the exorbitant amounts that are demanded of them.

The Dalits’ struggle for housing and dignity

Kuduremala is the name the Dalit community gave to the housing estate they built themselves, close to the university. This successful experiment in occupying landed estates and building houses was carried out by some 120 families who nearly all belong to the Dalit caste [6] with the help of the association Rural Literacy & Health Programme (RLHP).

The land was first occupied at the beginning of the 1970s when families who had been ejected from their original houses settled on university property next to a creek but without any other facility (no drinking water, no electricity, no road) Fifteen years later there were about 118 shacks in the slum since other ejected people came from neighbouring states. In 1987-1988, the slum leaders contacted RLHP in order to improve their position and legalise the occupation of the land. The poverty among Kuduremala inhabitants was terrible: 97 pc were illiterate, 95 pc of children worked with their parents in jobs such as house servants, coolies, or garbage collectors. They accompanied them on dumps to try and get hold of some saleable items. 95 pc of marriages occurred at the early age of 13 to 17. The infant mortality rate reached 35 pc.

With the help of RLHP the slum’s dwellers set up structures that would represent them legally with public authorities. Women started a women’s organisation. The community, now represented by a legal structure, the Abhivruddhi Sangha (CBO = community based organization) joined the Mysore Slum Dwellers’ Federation which gathers some thirty thousands people in 54 Mysore slums. The community then asked public authorities for title deeds on the university estate they occupied. Faced with a threat of ejection from the university they organised a protest march of 5,000 participants with the help of the Federation, while the community itself consisted of no more than 500 people. They eventually had their occupation made legal.

On the strength of this, they created a remarkable community village (they enjoy a really high quality of life compared with the Mumbai slums). It required years of efforts. They demanded and received building materials and donations in cash from various authorities. With this, over two years, they built 118 houses for an average amount of about 500 euros a house. To achieve this they hired the services of about ten professional masons who guided the work. Once the houses were built, they were distributed among them with title deeds in the names of both husbands and wives. Water and electricity were installed by public authorities, who also paved the roads and built a bridge on the creek.

A school was built a short time ago. Education is free and the teacher’s salary is paid by the public authorities. The inhabitants have also built an impressive community centre where the steering board (elected for two years) and the various committees in charge of such issues as education, health care and security hold their meetings. They organised a common saving system through which they supply a small shop. The change in terms of human development is staggering: the infant mortality rate has plummeted child labour has almost disappeared, 98 pc of children go to school. The sense of their own collective and individual dignity has risen accordingly.

The community functions democratically. Members elect a steering board that is in charge for two years, during which time other potential candidates are selected and groomed, indeed the idea is that responsibility must rotate. Those candidates are often spotted in the work they do within committees. The committee for education, for instance, must see to it that all children actually attend school and meet parents if this is not the case. Committees are created as the need arises.

We visited the Kuduremala housing estate on Sunday 25 January 2004. Flowers decorate the houses, trees give shadow, street vendors sell vegetables from their handcarts, old people stop to talk in the middle of the streets, children are playing about. When we asked how such a successful experiment could be extended to all the slums in India, Philomena answered, “We’d need 50 more years”. Still, young Dalits of this neighbourhood are not content with their caste’s subaltern position. Thanks to their community’s support, they train for jobs that are traditionally not open to Dalits.

Two members in charge of the community participated in the WSF in Mumbai as part of a delegation sent by the Mysore Slum Dwellers’ Federation; they were quite enthusiastic about the event, saying, “If this kind of thing is organised in all countries, things are bound to change.” 25th of January will stay in our memories because of the quality of the dialogue we could have with several people in charge of the housing estate community. We talked about neo-liberal globalisation and invasion of local markets by goods produced by transnational corporations. When we asked what fundamental changes were needed to improve the human condition one of the delegates to the WSF said, “We have to change laws on succession. When somebody dies his possessions must go back to public authorities that should distribute them with the good of the commonwealth in mind.” To which we answered that “indeed if the dead person’s possessions beyond a given level necessary for family life (including housing) were distributed to the community by public authorities the current system through which goods are accumulated by more and more limited number of people would be deeply shaken.” The words of this Dalit who lives in his body the crushing weight of a system based on inequality at birth had a universal bearing and pointed to the issue of alternative tracks along which we could change the world. [7]

Kerala tea producers affected by the opening up of the Indian market

Tea production in Kerala is jeopardised by neo-liberal globalisation and the subsequent opening up of borders. Indeed, on the Indian market,Keralateamustbe sold at between 62 and 80 rupees per kilo to provide a decent income for producers. Tea coming from Kenya, Vietnam or China is sold at 35 rupees. In 2003 thirteen factories stopped working, which involved the loss of 6,000 jobs and so the loss of any income for many families.

Masco Tea works with a credit agency that loans money to tea producer unions: tea plants require 4 to 5 years before being truly productive. The Masco Tea factory was opened in 2000. The factory has modern equipment and qualified personnel. At that point the Indian government increased the opening up of the Indian market to tea imports. Tea imported from Kenya, Vietnam or China gained in market share at the expense of Kerala tea. In addition, since the occupation of Iraq in March 2003, the Masco Tea factory has lost its main export market. The bank has had to invest more money to save the producers. Masco Tea cooperative is in danger of bankruptcy if prices do not go up rapidly.

Masco Tea works with over 8,000 tea producers who provide the factory with tea leaves: bankruptcy would be a social disaster. Small producers earn approx. 50,000 rupees per year (slightly less than one thousand euros), medium producers earn 100,000 and the largest earn up to 150,000.

What prospects are there? Kerala tea is of good quality therefore we can always hope for prices to go up on the international market. But any increase, if due to speculative movements, can only be short-term. Stabilised relations with Pakistan could also open up a market.

The cooperative director considers that the opening up of borders letting foreign, cheaper products invade the Indian market must be stopped. Third world countries are fighting fiercely to gain market shares. All parties will lose on a long-term basis, as the race is on to bring down prices. This implies lower income for tea producers. The same logic can also be applied to other products. The cooperative director is pessimistic: he stresses that the government is entirely involved in the neo-liberal process, especially given the loans received from the World Bank in exchange for these policies.

Coca-Cola must leave Plachimada and India!

A factory of the multi-national company, Coca Cola, set up premises in Kerala (State in the southwest of India) in 1998, in Plachimada. Authorisation was given by the Left Front government (the Left Front is made up of the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India - Marxist). Since that date, the Congress party is back in government after having won the elections in Kerala and provides support for Coca Cola. The factory, covering a dozen hectares, employs 370 workers who produce an average of 1,200,000 bottles per day. 130 workers have permanent jobs. They are paid the equivalent of 1 euro per day (60 rupees for men, 50 rupees for women. In January 2004 1 Euro = 55 rupees). All other workers are temporary and are often recommended by local politicians. Temporary workers recommended by political leaders get an amount of 100 rupees per day. Only 30 to 50 workers were recruited among local inhabitants.

When beginning its activities, Coca Cola launched an advertising campaign to convince locals that there would be major positive impact on the region, mainly in terms of employment.

The reality has been quite the reverse. We stress that until now the region had no problems in terms of access to water supply. But to produce soft drinks for all of south India (Coke, Fanta, Kinley water, Thums Up, Limca, Maaza, etc.), the company dug six wells from which it extracts more than one million litres of water PER DAY, rapidly drying out the ground water table on which roughly twenty thousand people depend.

Six months after the launch of the company, the local population noted that the level of water had dropped in the wells from which they draw their water. The water has changed colour and is no longer fit for consumption: rice cooked with this water smells putrid. Food cooked in this water rots rapidly. Drinking this water causes skin allergies, diarrhoea, vomiting, hair loss and eye irritations.

Analysis of the water undertaken in laboratories in India and Great Britain at the request of a defiant population has shown an abnormally high level of lead and cadmium. Long-term consumption of cadmium may lead to emphysema, prostate cancer and cancer of the kidneys.

The salt content of the water has increased due to the lower level of the water table. The production of rice and coconuts has dropped dramatically (75% for coconuts) due to lack of water. This is particularly upsetting as coconut milk is rich in proteins and minerals: coconut milk is a complete drink while coca cola is just water with sugar and flavouring. This situation is affecting a population of 20,000 people almost entirely made up of Dalits or tribals. [8]

Their main occupation is: working the land, either working for farmers or as small farmers. The main farming products are rice, coconuts, and various vegetables. The lack of water caused by Coca Cola affects them directly. The loss in income is substantial. Women are particularly affected as the damage caused to water quality by Coca Cola forces them to seek drinkable water outside the affected area. They must cover 1.5 - 2km to find drinkable water. This represents a loss of 50% of their income as the time lost in seeking water means they can do less paid work.

The situation quickly became unbearable and led to mass demonstrations. On 22 April 2002 a demonstration and a symbolic picket at the factory entrance brought together approx. 2,000 people, mainly of tribal origin. Since this date, a permanent picket stands before the company and many other actions are underway. Action has mainly been taken by women, more prepared to fight since they are more directly affected. They also collect food for the picketers. Some women give up 10 rupees out of their daily wage of 50 rupees to support the campaign. Radical demonstrations have been forcefully repressed by the police (bought by Coca Cola): 240 people were arrested at one demonstration, 140 are threatened with prosecution. These demonstrations have attracted the attention of the population beyond Plachimada: villages are joining in the battle, schoolchildren visit the picket line and organise boycotts of Coca Cola products. Unfortunately, the media is not helping the campaign: Coca cola controls the action of the media which need its financial support (advertising).

Faced with such intensive resistance, the government wished to close the factory, but the American embassy intervened to prevent this, arguing that it would be a bad signal to foreign investment and threatening legal action. Therefore, for the time being, neither party is giving in. Governments from left and right all have one priority, bringing in foreign investment: they demand no conditions or precautions, not even compliance with national legislation. For some demonstrators, the situation is worse than under English occupation, as the politicians are on the enemy’s side.

The Law has looked into the issue. The “Panchayat” (local elected authority) has decreed that Coca Cola must stop production. Coca Cola has appealed to the High Court of the State of Kerala (state level appellate court - first with a single judge hearing the case). The sentence of the judge of the High Court specified that subsoil water was public property that no party could own. Farmers may take a quantity of water from the subsoil in direct proportion to the area cultivated. And not more. Consequently, Coca Cola is not authorised to use more than a farmer with a dozen cultivated hectares. Coca Cola was given one month to find alternative sources of water supply.

Coca Cola appealed to the division bench of the court with two judges which suspended the initial judgement and granted a later deadline to Coca Cola (10 February 2004) for precise information on the quantities of water extracted from each well. As was the case with the previous judgement, this is important particularly as it obliges Coca Cola to be transparent: Coca Cola is obliged to install meters on each well to ensure that public authorities can determine the exact quantity of water extracted.

In Plachimada, in any case, they are determined: we will continue to fight on whatever the obstacles; our catchphrase is “Coca Cola must leave Plachimada and India”.

Addendum: People's victory against Coca Cola

Message sent to Eric Toussaint by Ajit Muricken (Vikas director) on 6 February: “The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) constituted by the federal government look in to the violation of water quality norms and ground water use by the Coca Cola and Pepsi companies has now come up with their own findings and with a serious indictment of the Coca Cola company for not adhering to any quality norms for carbonated drinks. The pesticides content of these beverages is much higher and hazardous for health. The same parliamentary committee had also looked into the Coca Cola plant at Plachimada, Kerala. Vikas has submitted its Case Study on Plachimada to the JPC. The JPC findings are very much in line with our own investigations".

The following are extracts of the report of the JPC on the Coca Cola plant at Plachimada:

"Cola plants at Plachimada in Kerala have polluted water, depleted it, reduced crop yield and caused skin disorders and other ailments. This must be resolved. Sludge discharged by these plants could be monitored by an existing committee on hazardous waste management."

"Following this report the Chief Minister of Kerala issued a statement to take stringent action against the company but we have to await the action to be taken and which is yet to be defined. I am very happy that Vikas Case Study has been partly instrumental in getting the adverse verdict against the Coca Cola Company”.

Message received from Penny Bright on 19 February: People's victory in India! Coke plant forced to close after community protests!

Update from BBC Coca-Cola water ban 'unfortunate' Coca-Cola has suffered protests in India in recent months Soft-drinks giant Coca-Cola says it is unfortunate it has been banned from using ground water for one of its bottling plants in southern India. The Kerala state government says the four-month ban is necessary because of a severe drought in the area. The decision follows a petition by locals, who have complained that the Coca-Cola plant is depleting ground water and emitting toxic sludge. The company strongly denied the charge. The state's high court is to rule soon.

BBC has followed the story - you can find this and the link on:

Message sent on 19 February by Vandana Shiva:

Dear Friends,

Great news - A victory for the women and Panchayat of Plachimada. The government has ordered that the Coke Plant in Plachimada, Kerala be shut down. Thanks for your support to the movement against Coke.

With love and regards,
Dr. Vandana Shiva

(*) Denise Comanne and Eric Toussaint are leading members of CADTM (Committee for the abolition of the third world debt). Eric Toussaint is coauthor of The Debt Scam: IMF, World Bank and the Third World Debt, VAK publications, Mumbai, 2003; author of Globalisation: Reality, Resistance and Alternatives, VAK publications, Mumbai, 2004 and of Your Money or Your Life. The Tyranny of Global Finance, Pluto Press, London, 1999 and VAK publications, Mumbai, 1999 (a new edition will be available end of 2004 edited by Haymarket Books and PlutoPress, Chicago-London).

Translated by the Coorditrad translators team.


[1There are 17 regional languages and hundreds of dialects.

[2Four religions of international importance were founded in India: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. In terms of number of members, the Muslim community in India is the third largest in the contemporary world. Christianity was established in India during the first century after Jesus Christ by the apostle St. Thomas. The Jewish religion was brought to India during the same period. The Zoroastrians, who fled Persia in the ninth century, chose India as their new homeland

[3Samata is one of the two socialist parties in the BJP government coalition, is a member of Socialist International. The party is led by national defence minister George Fernandez, long time friend of Willy Brandt of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) and leader of the Socialist International.

[4Email address: rlhp at

[5The Indian Federation consists of 28 states with each a state assembly and a state government

[6Caste belonging is determined by birth. The Dalit caste consists of about two hundred million people. It is the most starkly oppressed. Its members are traditionally considered untouchable because impure. Although the Indian constitution abolished untouchability and guaranteed equality among Indian citizens, the caste system is still deeply rooted in every reality. The upper class, the local elite, the land owners, who generally belong to upper castes, see to it that it lives on as a source of cheap and expendable manpower since in practice Dalits cannot apply to qualified jobs.

[7The succession issue was much debated in the 18th century, and later was a source of debate between Bakunin, Proudhon, and Marx.

[8Tribals represent 7% of the Indian population. Tribals are indigenous populations which originally lived in the forests. The caste system does not apply to them.

Eric Toussaint

is a historian and political scientist who completed his Ph.D. at the universities of Paris VIII and Liège, is the spokesperson of the CADTM International, and sits on the Scientific Council of ATTAC France.
He is the author of Greece 2015: there was an alternative. London: Resistance Books / IIRE / CADTM, 2020 , Debt System (Haymarket books, Chicago, 2019), Bankocracy (2015); The Life and Crimes of an Exemplary Man (2014); Glance in the Rear View Mirror. Neoliberal Ideology From its Origins to the Present, Haymarket books, Chicago, 2012, etc.
See his bibliography:
He co-authored World debt figures 2015 with Pierre Gottiniaux, Daniel Munevar and Antonio Sanabria (2015); and with Damien Millet Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank: Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers, Monthly Review Books, New York, 2010. He was the scientific coordinator of the Greek Truth Commission on Public Debt from April 2015 to November 2015.

Other articles in English by Eric Toussaint (636)

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Denise Comanne

Was a militant feminist active in local and international struggles against capitalism, racism and patriarchy. She was one of the founders of CADTM along with Eric Toussaint and others.
A tireless revolutionary, Denise struggled for Human emancipation from all forms of oppression to her last day.
She died suddenly on 28th May 2010 shortly after taking part in a memorial forum for the fifty years independence of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
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