As the Environment Expert Member of the Plachimada High Power Committee (HPC) that investigated the environmental devastation caused by the Coca Cola Company in the Kerala village of Plachimada, I am shocked to find the Cola company playing the role of a key sponsor at the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival.
While more and more cultural and literary events should take place in India and across the world so that the creed of humanity can be promoted and the sensibility of the society is elevated, it is an ominous threat to the future of the creative writing domain itself that such events are being sponsored by avaricious corporations like the Cola.
The HPC has found that the Cola company had devastated the local ecology and livelihood of the people in Plachimada village by drying up the aquifer and polluting the soil and waters of the area with deadly cadmium and lead, violating at least eight laws of the land.
The damages were estimated to be at a minimum of Rs 2160 million. And the Kerala Legislative Assembly passed a Bill establishing a Tribunal for enabling the victims to seek compensation from the company, which is now waiting for Presidential assent. Shiva Ganga of Tamil Nadu and Mehdiganj of Uthar Pradesh too have been tormented by the Cola giant. And Kala Dera village is not too far from Jaipur.
It is deplorable that a cultural event is seeking partnership with such a company that was once expelled from the country and is found to be liable to criminal culpability besides providing compensation. And it is a company that instead of showing the sense of remorse has been engaged in an false propaganda campaign against the HPC chaired by an additional chief secretary of Kerala and denounced the Bill passed by the Kerala Assembly. And in Delhi they are deploying all their powers to foil the democratic process of issuing Presidential assent to the Bill by influencing the Home Minister who is still holding the Bill sent to him in March for forwarding to the President.
Unfortunately, the Cola is not the odd man in the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival. DSC Limited was a principal beneficiary in the Commonwealth Games scam! Rio Tinto is known for human rights violations across the global South, behaving like a colonial government in some small countries.
This festival is tainted. This literature is impure. It tells of the ethical values of the writers who are participating in it. Even Berthold Brecht might not have imagined the fall of the writers to such a level when he warned uncaring writers of the likelihood of being put on trial by the people in future.
The context in which Salman Rushdie had to cancel his visit to India is deplorable; this and the context that refused MF Hussain even the opportunity to die in his own country inflict deep injury on our democracy. And if the writers throw away ethical values this wound will deepen dangerously.
Ecologist, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, [email protected] mob 9497012590