For archive purposes, this article is being stored on TheWE.cc website.
The purpose is to advance understandings of environmental, political,
human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues.

 

April 16 / 17, 2005
Message in a Bottle
How Coca-Cola Gave Back to Plachimada
By ALEXANDER COCKBURN
Plachimada, Kerala
W hizzing along the road in the little Tata Indica, driven prestissimo by Sudhi, we crossed the state line from Tamil Nadu into Kerala, branched off the main road and ended up in the settlement of Plachimada, mostly inhabited by extremely poor people.
There on one side of the street was the Coca-Cola plant, among the largest in Asia, and on the other a shack filled with locals eager to impart the news that they were now, as of April 2, in Day 1076 of their struggle against the plant.
Coca-Cola came to India in 1993, looking for water and markets in a country where one third of all villages are without anything approaching adequate water and shortages are growing every day.
Indeed India is facing a gigantic water crisis, even as Coca Cola and other companies haul free water to the cities from the countryside and water parks and golf courses metastasize around cities like Mumbai.
The bloom was on neoliberalism back then when Coca-Cola came in, with central and state authorities falling over themselves to lease, sell or simply hand over India's national assets in the name of economic "reform".
They still are, but the popular mood has changed.
The apex posterboy of neo-liberalism, Chandrababu Naidu of Andhra Pradesh, feted by Bill Clinton, John Wolfenson and Bill Gates and such nabobs of nonsense as Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, was tossed out in elections a year ago.
Naidu's fans in the west and indeed in India's elites, were thunderstruck.
The reason was simple.
Below the top tier, hundreds of millions of Indians went to the polls last year to register a furious No.
There are hundreds of parables to explain this.
Here's one, courtesy of Coca-Cola.
Predatory practices to eliminate competition
Across India's give-away decade Coca-Cola took over some 22 Indian bottling companies, capturing their marketing and distribution systems and easily beating back various legal assaults for predatory practices to eliminate competition.
Senior civil servants and politicians, some of them pocketing covert subventions, made tremulous speeches about the New India.
Meanwhile out in the real world of the Indian countryside, Coca-Cola's bottling plants were getting less enthusiastic reviews.
Coca-Cola had sound reasons in zoning in on Plachimada.
A rain-shadow region in the heart of Kerala's water belt, it has large underground water deposits.
The site Coca-Cola picked was set between two large reservoirs and ten meters south of an irrigation canal.
The ground water reserves had apparently showed up on satellite surveys done by the company's prospectors.
The Coke site is surrounded by colonies where several hundred poor people live in crowded conditions, with an average holding of four-tenths of an acre.
Virtually the sole source of employment is wage labor, usually for no more than 100 to 120 days in the year.
Ushered in by Kerala's present "reform"-minded government, the plant duly got a license from the local council, known as the Perumatty Grama panchayat.
Under India's constitution the panchayats have total discretion in such matters.
Coca-Cola bought a property of some 40 acres held by a couple of large landowners, built a plant, sank six bore wells, and commenced operations.
Level of their water dropped sharply
Within six months the villagers saw the level of their water drop sharply, even run dry.
The water they did draw was awful.
It gave some people diarrhea and bouts of dizziness.
To wash in it was to get skin rashes,a burning feel on the skin.
It left their hair greasy and sticky.
The women found that rice and dal did not get cooked but became hard.
A thousand families have been directly affected, and well water affected up to a three or four kilometers from the plant.
True, earth-shaking reforms of Kerala's Communist government
The locals, mostly indigenous adivasis and dalits had never had much, after allocation of a bit of land from the true, earth-shaking reforms of Kerala's Communist government, democratically elected in 1956.
And they had had plenty of good water.
On April 22, 2002 the locals commenced peaceful agitation and shut the plant down.
Responding to popular pressure, the panchayat rescinded its license to Coca-Cola on August 7,2003.
Four days later the local Medical Officer ruled that water in wells near the plant was unfit for human use, a judgement reached by various testing labs months earlier.
All of this was amiably conveyed to us in brisk and vivid detail by the villagers.
Then Mylamma, an impressively eloquent woman, led us down a path to one of the local village wells nearby.
It was a soundly built square well, some 10 feet from side to side.
About five feet from the top we could see the old water line, but no water.
Peering twenty feet further down in the semi-darkness we could see a stagnant glint.
Walk a 4-kilometer round trip to get drinkable water
Today, in a region known as the rice bowl of Kerala, women in Plachimada have to walk a 4-kilometer round trip to get drinkable water, toting the big vessels on hip or their head.
Even better-off folk face ruin.
One man said he'd been farming eight acres of rice paddy, hiring 20 workers, but now, with no water for the paddy, he survives on the charity of his son-in-law.
The old village wells had formerly gone down to 150 to 200 feet.
The company's bore wells go down to 750 to 1000 feet.
All manner of toxic matter began to rise too
As the water table dropped, all manner of toxic matter began to rise too, leaching up to higher levels as the soil dried out.
The whole process would play well on The Simpsons.
It has a ghastly comicality to it.
When the plant was running at full tilt 85 truck loads rolled out of the plant gates, each load consisting of 550 to 600 cases, 24 bottles to the case, all containing Plachimada's prime asset, water, now enhanced in cash value by Cola's infusions of its syrups.
Also trundling through the gates came 36 lorries a day, each with six 50-gallon drums of sludge from the plant's filtering and bottle cleaning processes, said sludge resembling buff-colored puke in its visual aspect, a white-to-yellow granular sauce blended with a darker garnish of blended fabric, insulating material and other fibrous matter, plus a sulphuric acid smell very unpleasing to the nostrils.
Coca Cola was "giving back" to Plachimada, the give-back taking the form of the toxic sludge, along with profuse daily donations of foul wastewater.
Company told the locals the sludge was good for the land
The company told the locals the sludge was good for the land and dumped loads of it in the surrounding fields and on the banks of the irrigation canal, heralding it as free fertilizer.
Aside from stinking so badly it made old folk and children sick, people coming in contact with it got rashes and kindred infections and the crops which it was supposed to nourish died.
Lab analysis by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board has shown dangerous levels of cadmium in the sludge.
Another report done at Exeter University in England at the request of the BBC Radio 4 (whose reporter John Waite visited Plachimada and broadcast his report in July of 2003) found in water in a well near the plant not only impermissible amounts of cadmium but lead at levels that "could have devastating consequences", particularly for pregnant women.
Sunil Gupta swore the sludge was "absolutely safe"
The Exeter lab also found the sludge useless as fertiliser, a finding which did not faze Coca-Cola's Indian vice-president Sunil Gupta who swore the sludge was "absolutely safe" and "good for crops".
Plachimada is in a district, the Perumatti Panchayat, ruled by the Janata Dal (Secular).
M.P. Veerendrakumar is the President of the Kerala state unit of this party and represents the constituency of Kozhikode in the Indian Parliament.
Veerendrakumar is also chairman and managing director of Mathrubhumi, a newspaper which sells over a million copies a day in Malayalam, Kerala's language.
The producers of India's first high-budget animation movie
A zookeeper tends to Addwaita, a giant Aldabra tortoise, inside an enclosure at the Alipore Zoological Garden in Calcutta, India, in this 2005 photo.

Addwaita, meaning the 'The One and Only,' was recently given his name after officials realised he had been nameless all through his chronicled age.

Believed to be as old as 255 and has been has been living at the zoo since its establishment in 1875, he is said  to brought from Aldabra and Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean by the then British rulers of India during the rule of the British East India Company.

According to records, four tortoises were brought to Calcutta by British seafarers from Seychelles, known for its
giant tortoises, and presented to Lord Robert Clive.

While three of the tortoises died as the new environment did not suit them, Addwaita ruled the Latbagan estate of Clive in
North Calcutta till he was gifted to the zoo in 1875.

It is also possible that Adwaitya was owned by the Ezras, a wealthy Jewish trading family who lived in lived in Calcutta from the 18th century.   The Ezras were known for their philanthropy and interest in zoological matters.

As befits his size and age, Adwaitya treated his admirers with benign aloofness.    Most of the time they would see him sitting in front of his favourite platter of vegetables and wheat bran, chewing on a choice titbit in a meditative fashion.

Addwaita died of liver failure March 23, 2006

Picture: AP/Bikas Das

(left)
A potter paints an earthen pot used for offering holy water to the Hindu Goddess Durga in Alopibagh area of Allahabad, India, Saturday, April 1, 2006.
Hindus are observing the nine-day long Navratri festival, or festival of four nights, dedicated to the three main Hindu Goddesses Parvati, Lakshmi and Saraswati, that began March 30.
(right)
A zookeeper tends to Addwaita, a giant Aldabra tortoise, inside an enclosure at the Alipore Zoological Garden in Calcutta, India, in this 2005 photo.
Addwaita, meaning the 'The One and Only,' was recently given his name after officials realised he had been nameless all through his chronicled age.
Believed to be as old as 255 and has been has been living at the zoo since its establishment in 1875, he is said to brought from Aldabra and Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean by the then British rulers of India during the rule of the British East India Company.
According to records, four tortoises were brought to Calcutta by British seafarers from Seychelles, known for its giant tortoises, and presented to Lord Robert Clive.
While three of the tortoises died as the new environment did not suit them, Addwaita ruled the Latbagan estate of Clive in North Calcutta till he was gifted to the zoo in 1875.
It is also possible that Adwaitya was owned by the Ezras, a wealthy Jewish trading family who lived in lived in Calcutta from the 18th century.   The Ezras were known for their philanthropy and interest in zoological matters.
As befits his size and age, Adwaitya treated his admirers with benign aloofness.   Most of the time they would see him sitting in front of his favourite platter of vegetables and wheat bran, chewing on a choice titbit in a meditative fashion.
Addwaita died of liver failure March 23, 2006
Photos: AFP/Percept Films, AP/Bikas Das
Refused to run any ads for Coca-Cola
Veerendrakumar, a forceful man in his late sixties and a former federal minister, tells me that for the past two years Mathrubhumi has refused to run any ads for Coca-Cola and the company's other brand names drinks such as Mirinda, 7 Up, Sprite, Fanta, Kinley Soda, Thums Up.
Veerendrakumar's group includes in its ban ads for Pepsi, which he says has a plant ten kilometers from Plachimada that has produced the same problems.
He says his company's net loss of advertising revenue amounts thus far to some 30 million rupees, more than $700,000, a very hefty sum in Kerala, though far, far less ­ as he told India's parliament in Delhi, than what farmers around Plachimada have collectively lost through crop failure consequent on the loss of water.
"The cruel fact", Veerendrakumar told the Indian parliament as he handed over a well-documented report on the toxic outputs of the plant, "is that water from our underground sources is pumped out free and sold to our people to make millions every day, at the same time destroying our environment and damaging the health of our people.
For us rivers, dams and water sources are the property of the nation and her people."
Hopes the courts will do the right thing and grease Coca-Cola's wheels
The locals won't let the plant reopen, to the fury of Kerala's present pro-Coke government, which has tried, unconstitutionally, to overrule the local council (it told the panchayat it could only spend $5 a day in public money on its case) and hopes the courts will do the right thing and grease Coca-Cola's wheels.
Kerala's High Court did just that last week, and the panchayat, helped by private donations, is now taking its cased to India's Supreme Court.
K. Krishnan, President of the Perumatti Panchayat, where the Coca-Cola plant is situated, has withstood all blandishments, which is more than can be said about many other individuals.
Drive along almost any road in Kerala and you'll see cocoanut palms.
What Keralites term as tender cocoanut water really is good for you.
Ask any local rat.
A trio of biochemists at the University of Kerala recently put rats on it and their levels of cholesterol and triglycerides sank significantly, with anti-oxidant enzymes putting up a fine show.
For the rats dosed on Coca-Cola the tests readings weren't pretty, starting with "short, swollen, ulcerated and broken villi in the intestine and severe nuclear damage".
"What is the use of the Coca-Cola Company," cried Phulwanti Mhase of Kudus village, in Maharashtra state, where women wash clothes in dirty puddles after Hindustan Coca-Cola built a plant there.
"These are outsiders.
They take our water, filter it and then resell it to us at a price."
Phulwanti is cited (in a very useful pamphlet put out by the All India Democratic Women's Association) as issuing this brisk précis of Marx's Capital from the vantage point of her teashop from which can be descried the outlines of the plant, which churns out sodas including a mineral water called Kinley.
Phulwanti has one bottle of Kinley in her store for people passing through, remarking, "I get angry.
This is our water and they sell it to us for 12 rupees, which is what a tribal woman would make for eight hours' work."
Taking a leaf out of the self-realization catechism, Coca-Cola flaunts its slogan in Hindi, "Jo chahe ho jahe", meaning "Whatever you want, happens" , translated by the local women as "Jo Coke chahe ho jahe", "Whatever Coke wants, happens."
But not in Plachimada.
SC issues notice to Coca Cola on Plachimada unit
NEW DELHI, AUG 12 (PTI)
The Supreme Court today issued notice to soft drinks major Coca Cola on a plea by Perumatty Gram Panchayat seeking to stay two Kerala High Court orders that allowed the company's Plachimada-based bottling unit to draw five lakh litres of ground water a day.
A Bench comprising Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice B N Srikrishna tagged the application with the main petition challenging the April 7 order of the High Court that asked the Panchayat to renew the licence of Hindustan Coca Cola Bevarages Ltd to enable it to draw ground water.
The bench also issued notice to the Kerala government on the application filed by the Panchayat.
The Panchayat did not renew the licence of the soft drink major on the ground that the company had not received clearance certificate from the Pollution Control Board.
Later, the Kerala High Court again directed the Panchayat to renew the licence of the company.
The Panchayat had contended that it had a right to refuse drawal of large quantities of ground-water by Coca Cola, keeping in view the interests of agriculture and domestic consumers.
India: Everything Gets Worse With Coca-Cola
by D. Rajeev Inter Press Service, August 22, 2005
Women from near Plachimada begin their milelong trek in search of water in a region suffering both from three years of scant rainfall and the loss of water table from the use by a Coca-Cola factory.

Photo: Mathruboomi Daily photo by Madhuraj
Women from near Plachimada begin their milelong trek in search of water in a region suffering both from three years of scant rainfall and the loss of water table from the use by a Coca-Cola factory.
PLACHIMADA, India — In the end it was the 'generosity' of Coca-Cola in distributing cadmium-laden waste sludge as 'free fertilizer' to the tribal aborigines who live near the beverage giant's bottling plant in this remote Kerala village that proved to be its undoing.
On Friday, the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) ordered the plant shut down to the jubilation of tribal leaders and green activists who had focused more on the 'water mining' activities of the plant rather than its production of toxic cadmium sludge.
''One way or another, this plant should be shut down and the management made to pay compensation for destroying our paddy fields, fooling us with fake fertilizer and drying out our wells,'' Paru Amma, an aboriginal woman who lives in this once lush, water-abundant area, told IPS.
Chairman of the KSPCB, G. Rajmohan, said the closure was ordered because the plant ''does not have adequate waste treatment systems and toxic products from the plant were affecting drinking water in nearby villages'' and that the plant ''has also not provided drinking water in a satisfying manner to local residents''.
Apparently, the generosity of the Coca-Cola plant was limited to distributing sludge and waste water free and did not extend to providing drinking water to people seriously affected by its operations.
In a statement Saturday, Coca-Cola said it was ''reviewing the order passed by the chairman of the Pollution Control Board, Kerala state,'' and that ''going forward, we are in the process of evaluating future steps, including a judicial review''.
The KSPCB closure order is only the latest episode in a see-saw battle between Coca-Cola and the impoverished but plucky local residents ever since the Atlanta-based company began operating its 25 million-dollar bottling plant in this village, located in the state's fertile Palakkad district, in 2001.
Along the way, pollution control authorities, political parties, the judiciary and global environmental groups, starting with Greenpeace International, became involved in the dispute and Plachimada grew into a global symbol of resistance by local people to powerful trans-national corporations trying to snatch away their water rights.
Although the local people had begun protesting against their wells running dry months after the plant began operations, serious trouble for the company began a little more than two years ago when a local doctor declared the water still available in the wells unfit for consumption.
In July 2003, a BBC Radio-4 report, after carrying out tests at the University of Exeter in Britain, pronounced the sludge as dangerously laden with heavy metals, especially cadmium and lead and already contaminating the food chain.  The sludge also had no value as fertilizer, the report said.
Cadmium is a known carcinogen which causes kidney damage while exposure to lead can lead to mental derangement and death and is particularly dangerous for children causing them severe anemia and mental retardation.
The BBC report quoted Prof.  John Henry, leading toxic expert and consultant at St Mary's Hospital in London, warn of ''devastating consequences for those living near areas where this waste has been dumped and for the thousands who depend on crops produced in these (paddy) fields''.
In August 2003, the KSPCB, ordered the plant to stop distributing sludge to farmers, but then its official, K.V. Indulal, charged with carrying out investigations, unexpectedly announced that he found contamination levels ''not beyond tolerable limits''.
Allegations of bribery and corruption by Coca-Cola followed and the official Indulal is presently under investigation by the state's Anti-corruption Bureau which carried out raids on his residence and properties spread across three Kerala cities earlier this month.
The Kerala High Court initially supported the Plachimada villagers and in a Dec.16, 2003 ruling, ordered Coca-Cola not to mine water through its deep bore wells but allowed the plant to draw water in amounts comparable to that normally used for agricultural or domestic purposes in the area.
Coca-Cola approached the court after the panchayat (elected local body) cancelled the plant's operating licence for mining water and a single judge ruled that the state government had no right to allow a private party to extract large quantities of ground water which it deemed ''property held by it (the government) in trust''.
But on Apr. 7 this year, a High Court bench allowed the plant to extract up to 500,000 liters of water a day saying that existing laws on water ownership were inadequate.  The ruling angered activists and triggered off a series of clashes outside the gates of the plant between agitating local people and police.
''The High Court ruling is a great disappointment to everyone concerned with Coke's abusive practices around the world,'' said Corporate Accountability International's executive director Kathryn Mulvey in a statement.
Mulvey predicted that resistance to Coke's practices in Plachimada and throughout India would only grow.  ''We join with community leaders and allies around the world in calling on Coke to close the Plachimada facility permanently, and to pay back the community for the damage it has caused,'' she said.
Nevertheless, on the strength of the court ruling, the plant resumed what were described as 'trial operations' on Aug. 8 after the 561,000-liter capacity plant that manufactures such brands as Coca-Cola, Limca and Fanta had lain shut for 17 months.
Barely ten days later, on Friday, the KSPCB stepped in with its closure order for inability to explain the high cadmium levels and for failing to provide piped drinking water to people, whose wells had become contaminated, as required by the body.
Internationally-known environmental scientist and activist, Vandana Shiva, who leads the New Delhi-based, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, has alleged that after Coca-Cola was restrained from dumping sludge or distributing it as fertilizer, it had begun injecting waste into dry boreholes and contaminating deep-water aquifers.
It has not helped Coca-Cola that the discovery of heavy metal in the sludge in 2003 followed findings by the Center for Science and Environment (CSE), another well-known, New Delhi-based non-governmental organization, that nearly all colas and 'mineral water' produced in India contained unacceptably large doses of commonly-used pesticides.
The CSE findings seriously dented the image of Coke and its rival Pepsi, both of which were banned by nationalist governments for decades in India and allowed to return only when this country began a process of economic reforms following a serious balance of payments crisis in 1991.
Said Veerendrakumar, member of parliament and editor of the influential 'Mathrubhumi' newspaper: ''The fact of the matter is that that water from underground sources is being pumped out free, bottled and sold to our people to make millions for cola companies while destroying the environment and damaging public health''.
''We welcome the order shutting the factory down,'' said R. Ajayan of the Plachimada Solidarity Committee, which was largely responsible for approaching the KSPCB.  ''We have to continue to work with the state government to ensure that Coca-Cola abides by the order and that there are no more violations''.
Coca-Cola is already in deep trouble in India, its sales having dropped 14 percent in the last quarter (April-June), and the company is presently undergoing major reorganization and changing its top leadership in an effort to stem plummeting popularity.
The state government has announced that it will also challenge in the Supreme Court Coca-Cola's claim to extract water taking advantage of the fact that existing laws on who owns groundwater are vague.
''We welcome the actions by the state agencies in Kerala to stop the arrogance and criminal activities of the Coca-Cola company,'' said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, an international campaigner.  ''These actions are major victories for the community of Plachimada, which has all along been demanding that the state do what it is supposed to do — safeguard the interests of the community''.
Sunita Narain, who led the CSE's high-profile investigation and exposure of the presence of pesticides in colas manufactured in India, said the real value of the Plachimada struggle lies in the fact that it has highlighted the role that local communities can have in protecting groundwater resources.
In January 2004, the agitating villagers received a boost when global activists converged on Plachimada for a three-day World Water Conference and joined in demonstrations in front of the main gate of the Coca-Cola plant, one of the largest in its chain of 27 plants in India.
Jose Bove, who leads 'Confederation Paysanne' (a left-leaning union of peasants and farmers in France), declared that the struggle at Plachimada was '' part of the worldwide struggle against trans-national companies that exploit natural resources like water''.
Bove was joined by Maude Barlow, the Ottawa-based author of 'Blue Gold', a book on corporate theft of water resources, in pledging to turn Plachimada into another Cochabamba — the city in Bolivia where people-power thwarted plans to turn the water supply system over to the U.S. transnational Bechtel five years ago.
The question of toxic materials in the sludge distributed to farmers by the Coca-Cola factory as fertilizer was also highlighted, among others, by Inger Schorling, a delegate from Sweden and a green member of the European Parliament.
A 'Plachimada Declaration' adopted at the end of the conference asserted that people everywhere should ''resist all criminal attempts to market, privatize and corporatize water''.
© Copyright 2005 IPS — Inter Press Service
 
Saving the World’s Seeds
— Dr. Vandana Shiva
Thank you for joining us on Catalyst Radio.
Would you start by talking about some general issues surrounding globalization.
Dr. Vandana Shiva:   Well those of use who are concerned about the globalization that has been contrived and yet made to look as if it is a natural evolutionary step, we are concerned about the injustice and undemocratic system on which it is based.
And everything we said, fifteen years ago, when these rules were being put in place, very artificially, under GAT and then became the WTO rules, or on the financial side as the instrumentalities and conditionalities of the World Bank and IMF, what we said fifteen years ago turns out
not to have been an exaggeration but an underestimation of the devastation of both nature, society and economies.
I had talked about the WTO agreement on agriculture as the death knell for Indian farmers.
Every year 16,000 farmers are being killed.
They are taking their lives, but I don't think they are taking their lives.
It is that they are being pushed to the edge of survival — through the indebtedness that is an inevitable result of turning them into a market for Monsanto seed, and, on the other hand disposable items, when Cargill and ConAgra have to dump subsidized grain through a liberalized agreement.
When I started to fight intellectual property rights in the WTO, I was concerned about patents on life. And seed patents now we can see what they are doing.
American farmers are being harassed, fined for three million dollars, and the crime is seed saving?
What could be a worse situation for humanity? To turn something as valuable as saving seeds for the future into a criminal activity.
Similar laws have just been passed in India, two weeks ago.
I think anyone who doesn't resist this kind of globalization is not being fully human, is not exercising their duties.
Catalyst Radio:   You spoke about how this is being played out around water, around water globally.   I wonder if you could say more about that with water as an example.   Specifically the impact in your country, in India.
Dr. Vandana Shiva:   Well, three major issues around water co-modification that are creating new movements in India — a new generation of ecology movements, a new generation of social justice movements, a new generation of human rights movements — the first is the mining of very, very scarce and precious ground water.
In remaining pockets — that wasn't destroyed by 'Green Revolution,' which is the name given to industrial agriculture — this mining is now being done by Coke and Pepsi.
This culture in which they are bringing more soft drinks for sale, more bottled water for sale as Kinley's and Aquafina, they are mining for every plant that they have set up in the five years since they came back to India.
One point five to two million liters per day leaving a water famine.
People are resisting because woman are having to walk ten, twenty, thirty miles to find water. The Coke, Pepsi campaign I believe is going to intensify in the future.
Woman in Carela organized to shut a plant down. Coke has just manipulated the courts to undo an earlier court judgment. We are going to have to continue to resist.
The second, very, very major issue is World Bank driven privatization of water in urban areas.
Deli being a prime case where the urban supply is being handed over to Sways.
On the one hand this means privatization the sacred Ganges.
On the other hand it means an increase in tariffs, ten times to fifteen times, excluding the poor, drawing the public access that was guaranteed to everyone.
The third very, very huge movement that's emerging is around two hundred billion dollar river linking project.
It is basically a river linking diversion project.   It is a privatization project.
Because you can't privatize rives as free flowing systems. You can only privatize them after you have locked them in dams and captured them in canals.
These three major privatization movements are also being countered by people's movements to keep water in the commons, keep it as a public good, defend it as a human right.
Catalyst Radio:   I just came back from Guatemala where we have been interviewing people about the so called trade agreement, the CAFTA trade agreement, which is almost an unknown factor here.
How much of a role does commercial media, does corporate media play in keeping people in the dark about these very important trade agreements, these economic policies that impact all of our lives.
Dr. Vandana Shiva:   I think it is the key, to push anti-people policies through.
It is the key to making slavery appear like freedom.
It is the key to not allowing the stories of resistance to reach others. Because for that people draw solidarity, people draw energy, people draw strength.
That's why it becomes absolutely necessary to create alternate means of communication between people because the dominant corporate media has become one big lie.
Catalyst Radio:   You mention the danger of people getting information about what is happening because it builds solidarity.
The World Social Forum happened again recently, what are some of the things you have seen happen as you have traveled around the world with regard to these issues, in terms of people networking, coalition building and the types of resistance that are taking place all around the globe?
Dr. Vandana Shiva:   Well I will give you just three very simple examples of movements that have spread very rapidly.
A few years as Monsanto started to push genetically modified crops and food around the world using all the instruments of corruption of governments, of WTO rules, we started to talk about declaring regions GM free.
Freedom zones just as we used to have nuclear free zones.
There are more than five thousand freedom zones in Europe now.   And even in the United States counties are starting to organize and have referendums.
It is a movement that is just multiplying.   People are learning from each other and saying we can do that too.
We don't have to wait until a WTO gives us freedom.   Freedom is ours to exercise and live.
The Coke, Pepsi campaigns as they have built up.   The issues of communities in the south loosing their water have got deeply connected to concerns of northern campuses.
With the entire mafia rule around Coca-Cola plants and the killing of trade unionists who are trying to organize, two ends of the Coke campaign are starting to join together to find new ways to reclaim freedom for communities.
And the third, very, very, big issue that has multiplied as people have talked to each other, I believe is the seed issue.
You know I started to work on seed patenting, seed conservation in 1987 onwards when I first came to the GAT agreement. There used to be four or five people one could pick up the phone and talk to.
Today there is not a country where there isn't a movement for farmers rights, where there isn't a movement to save native seeds, and where there isn't a movement to challenge patents on life and patents on seed.
So I think this communication outside the dominant media — and these are issues absolutely shut out and censored in the dominant media — but outside the dominant media people are communicating with each other and the realities are getting connected to deal with the handful of greedy giants.
When we start to exchange notes, it's five corporate seed companies, five water giants, five agribusiness giants, that's what we are up against across the worlds.   In the United States as much as India and Guatemala and Germany.
Catalyst Radio:   You talked about seed patenting and the dilemmas with that.
Could you say a little more about what the dangers of that are. About the biological dangers of having homogenous seed production.
And what that means to people, particularly people in indigenous populations around the world, which are the ones that hold this rich treasure of centuries of knowledge.
Dr. Vandana Shiva:   The first problem that starts with the patenting of seed is that corporations do not sell seed according to what is adapted to local climate, or what farmers need.
They sell seed according to where they have been able to do the quickest manipulation.
So that using that manipulation they can claim novelty.
Claiming novelty they can claim patents.
I've been of the view that genetic engineering was an excuse to enforce patents on seed.
It was an unnecessary step in improving breeding.   We don't have a single improved crop through genetic engineering.
We got herbicide resistant crops and we have BT toxin crops.   Neither of which are improvements from nature's perspective, from farmer's perspective.
Now if you just look at the world.   Where is the highest rate of expansion of crop varieties?
It's in genetically engineered Soya, genetically engineered corn, genetically engineered canola, and genetically engineered cotton.
So you are getting the food base of the world, which should be something like ten thousand crops, being reduced to four genetically engineered crops.
None adapted to any ecosystem.
All of them in the hands of one company, Monsanto, controlling something like ninety-three, ninety-four percent of all GM seeds sold anywhere in the world.
So you have the problem of mono-cultures, of homogeneity, but you also have the problem of total control of the seed supply.
And that total control of the seed supply has many social and economic implications.
First implication is that farmers who used to save seed, and who used to be able to exchange seed, are now treated as thieves of intellectual property.
It also means that the cost of seed start to skyrocket because farmers must pay royalties, must pay technology fees, must buy seeds annually, and a zero cost input in farming has ended up being the highest cost input in farming.
In addition, corporations like Monsanto ensure that farmers alternative supplies are destroyed by other legal trips — seed laws, compulsory legislation like the Iraqi '81 order, like the Indian Seed Act, and through that they ensure that farmer's alternatives, genetic diversity, biodiversity, specially in the countries that are home to genetic diversity are wiped out.
Which is a threat not just to those communities.
It is a threat to humanity.
It is a threat to our food supply.
It is a threat to our security.
Catalyst Radio:   Quite often people who dismiss the concerns of people like yourself are sharing, they keep saying that all we have is a criticism.   That what we are is always against, not what we are for.
Can you say something about what this global movement is really asking for.   Asking for what we want to happen.
Dr. Vandana Shiva:   You know, before I started to fight against patents in seed, I started to first save seed.
Because you cannot afford to critic a system to which you cannot offer an alternative.
First of all, those who are destroying alternatives, will then treat the absence of alternatives as the reason for their existence.
Secondly, you really do not have the moral authority to demand a shift if you have not been able to show that there are other ways, and better ways to do things.
On seed saving, we firmly believe seed is a common resource.
Seed is a common heritage.
And so we actually do what we believe in.
We create community seed banks from which farmers can take the seeds they need according to their agriculture, according to their cropping systems.
Seeds in a free exchange of a common property.
In agriculture, when we critic globalization of trade, and we critic the control of agriculture in the hands of a few giants, and the technologies of non-sustainability, we do the farming and the trade that allows farmers to have alternatives.
Widow of suicide farmer
Navdanya organization that I founded has trained more that two hundred thousand farmers in India to go corporate free and chemical free.   And corporate seed free.
Our farmers have increased their income three-fold. They have reduced their expenditure by ninety percent.
The only place in India where farmers are not getting into debt is areas where they are practicing sustainable organic farming.
And are engaging in fair trade where they set the terms of the market, rather than the genocidal terms created by the ConAgra's and the Cargill's.
And in the case of water, we conserve water.
We conserve every drop.
We make our contribution to building up and rebuilding our common legacy and then we have the moral right and the authority to say you will not mess around with our water.
Because it is water that we share.
It is water that we conserve collectively.
And it is water to which access for all must be guaranteed.
April 1/2, 2006
A Bull Market for Sensex, Fashion Models and Farmer Suicides
Where India's Brave New World is Headed
By P. SAINATH
Nagpur Rural (Maharashtra)
F ARM SUICIDES in Vidharbha crossed 400 this week.
The Sensex share index crossed the 11,000 mark.
And Lakme Fashion Week issued over 500 media passes to journalists.
All three are firsts.   All happened the same week.   And each captures in a brilliant if bizarre way a sense of where India's Brave New World is headed.
A powerful measure of a massive disconnect.   Of the gap between the haves and the have-mores on the one hand, and the dispossessed and desperate, on the other.
Of the three events, the suicide toll in Vidharbha found no mention in many newspapers and television channels.   Even though these have occurred since just June 2 last year.
Even though the most conservative figure (of Sakaal newspaper) places the deaths at above 372.   (The count since 2000-01 would run to thousands.)   Sure, there were rare exceptions in the media.   But they were just that - rare.
It is hard to describe what those fighting this incredible human tragedy on the ground feel about it.   More so when faced with the silence of a national media given to moralising on almost everything else.
In the 13 days during which the suicide index hit 400, 40 farmers took their own lives.   The Vidharbha Jan Andolan Samiti points out that the suicides are now more than three a day - and mounting.
These deaths are not the result of natural disaster, but of policies rammed through with heartless cynicism.
They are driven by several factors that include debt linked to a credit crunch, soaring input costs, crashing prices, and a complete loss of hope.  
That loss of faith and the rise in the numbers of deaths has been sharpest since last October.
That's when a government that came to power promising a cotton price of Rs.2,700 a quintal ensured it fell to Rs.1,700.   A thousand rupees less.
When 322 of 413 suicides have occurred since just November 1, you'd think that is newsworthy.   When the highest number, 77, take place in March alone, you'd believe the same.
You'd be wrong, though.   The Great Depression of the Indian countryside does not make news.
But the Sensex and Fashion Week do.   "There is nothing wrong," an irate reader wrote to me, "in covering the Sensex or the Fashion Week."   True.  
But there is something horribly wrong with our sense of proportion while doing so.
Every pulse beat and flutter on the Sensex merits front-page treatment.   Even if less than two per cent of Indian households have any kind of investments in the stock exchange here.
This week's rise does not just mark the highest ever.   It makes the lead story on the front page.   That's because the "Sensex beats Dow in numbers game."
The strap below that headline in a leading daily reads: "Dalal Street's 11,183 eclipses Wall Street."   It's moved to 11,300 since then.
On television, even non-business channels carry that ticker at the right hand corner.
Keeping viewers alert to the main chance even as they draw in the number of deaths in the latest bomb blasts.
At one point, the mourning for President K.R. Narayanan was juxtaposed to the joys of the Nifty and the Sensex.   The irony does get noticed but it persists.
The great news for Fashion Week lovers is that this year will see two of them.
There's a split in the ranks of the Beautiful People.   Which means we will now have 500 or more journalists covering two such events separately.  
This in a nation where the industry's own study put the Indian designer market at 0.2 per cent of the total apparel market.
Where journalists at such shows each year outnumber buyers - often by three to one.
Contrast that with the negligible number of reporters sent out to cover Vidharbha in the depths of its great misery.
At the LFW, journalists jostle for `exclusives' while TV crews shove one another around for the best `camera space.'
In Vidharbha itself, the best reporters there push only the limits of their own sanity.
Faced with dailies that kill most of their stories, or with channels that scorn such reports, they still persist.   Trying desperately to draw the nation's attention to what is happening.
To touch its collective conscience.   So intense has been their tryst with misery, they drag themselves to cover the next household against the instinct to switch off.
Every one of them knows the farm suicides are just the tip of the iceberg.   A symptom of a much wider distress.
The papers that dislike such stories do find space for the poor, though.   As in this advertisement, which strikes a new low in contempt for them.  
Two very poor women, probably landless workers, are chatting: "That's one helluva designer tan," says the first to the other.
"Yeah," replies the other.   "My skin just takes to the Monte Carlo sun."   The copy that follows then mocks them.   "You'll agree," it says, "chances that the ladies above rub shoulders with the glitterati of the French Riviera are, well, a little remote."
It throws in a disclaimer, of course.   "We don't mean to be disrespectful ... "
But "this is a mere reminder to marketers that a focus on customers with stronger potential does help."   That is an ad for the `Brand Equity,' supplement of a leading newspaper group.
Nearly 5,000 shanties were torn down in Mumbai in the same eventful week.   But it drew little attention.
Their dwellers won't make it to the French Riviera either.   Those in media focus, though, might.
Mumbai's planned Peddar Road flyover, seen by some of the metro's mega rich as hurting their interests, grabbed yards of newsprint and endless broadcast time.
There was barely a word seen or heard from those whose homes were razed to the ground.   Meanwhile, more and more people flee the countryside for urban India.   Candidates for future demolitions.
In the village, we demolish their lives, in the city their homes.
The smug indifference of the elite is matched by the governments they do not vote in, but control.
When the National Commission for Farmers went to Vidharbha last October, it brought out a serious report and vital recommendations.
Many of these have become demands of the farmers and their organisations.
At its Nashik meeting in January, the All-India Kisan Sabha (a body with 20 million members) called for immediate implementation of the NCF report.
Instead, both the Centre and the State Government have sent more and more `commissions' to the region.
To `study' what was well known and already documented.   It's a kind of distress tourism now.   It just adds the sins of `commissions' to those of omission.
Favouring corporates
The damage is not only in Vidharbha but across the land.
Why is the Indian state doing this to its farmers?
Isn't farming, after all, the biggest private sector in India?
Because being private isn't enough.   Ruthlessly, each policy, every budget moves us further towards a corporate takeover of agriculture.
Large companies were amongst the top gainers from distress sales of cotton in Vidharbha this season.   The small private owners called farmers must be sacrificed at the altar of big corporate profit.
The clearest admission of this came in the McKinsey-authored Vision 2020 of Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh.   It set out the removal of millions of people from the land as one of its objectives.
Successive governments at the Centre and in many States seem to have latched on to that vision with much zeal.   In some ways, the present United Progressive Alliance takes up where Mr. Naidu left off.
Where are those being thrown off the land to go? To the cities and towns with their shutdown mills.   With closed factories and very little employment.
The great Indian miracle is based on near jobless growth.   We are witnessing the biggest human displacement in our history and not even acknowledging it.
The desperation for any work at all is clear in the rush for it at just the start of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme.   Within a week of its launch, it saw 2.7 million applicants in just 13 districts of Andhra Pradesh.
And close to a million in 12 districts of Maharashtra.   Note that the Rs.60 wage is below the minimum of several States.   Know, too, that many in the lines of applicants are landed farmers.
Some of them with six acres or more.   In the Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh, a farmer who owned eight acres of paddy fields was a person of some status 10 years ago.
Today, he or she, with a family of five, would be below the poverty line.   (If that's the case with landowners, imagine the state of landless labourers.)
If the State Government's role in Vidharbha is sick, that of the Centre is appalling.
Making sad noises is about as far as it will go.
As the NCF report shows, much can be done to save hundreds of more lives that will surely otherwise be lost.   But it avoids that path.
Its vision of farming serves corporates, not communities.
And the media elite?
Why not a Vidharbha week?
To report the lives and deaths of those whose cotton creates the textiles and fabrics that they do cover.
If just a fourth of the journalists sent to the Fashion Week were assigned to cover Vidharbha, they'd all have many more stories to tell.
P. Sainath is the rural affairs editor of The Hindu (where these two pieces initially ran and the author of Everybody Loves a Good Drought.
Sunday, 17 July, 2005
Coke tries to can Indian poster
By Monica Chadha
BBC News, Delhi
Poster in Madras, India. Courtesy Sharad Haksar
Coca-Cola says it wants to resolve the matter amicably
Soft drinks giant Coca-Cola has threatened an Indian photographer with legal action for using its logo in a poster depicting water shortages.
The poster, in Madras, shows a line of water containers and a hand pump with a Coca-Cola logo in the background.
A spokesman for Coca-Cola India said a copyright infringement notice had been sent to photographer Sharad Haksar.
Activists have accused Coca-Cola and Pepsi of depleting ground water — claims the firms both strenuously deny.
Coca-Cola India spokesman Vikas Kotchhar confirmed to the BBC that a legal notice had been sent to Mr Haksar for infringement of trademark.
He said they were in talks with Mr Haksar to resolve the issue amicably.
Nike encounter
The legal notice states Mr Haksar should remove the billboard immediately and issue an apology to the company or face further legal action and a possible fine of two million rupees($46,000).
Cola protesters in India

Indian protesters have campaigned against the cola companies
Indian protesters have campaigned against the cola companies
Mr Haksar — who runs his own advertising agency — told the BBC he had no intention of hurting the company's sentiments or infringing its trademark.
"They are my client, I've done work for them. I would be stupid to fight with my clients," he said, describing the poster as "quite harmless".
Mr Haksar added: "The hoardings are a personal issue I have maintained in Madras for the past three years wherein I take a social issue each month and highlight it through pictures.
"As a photographer, it is my take on the severe water shortage in the state and across India. It is a fact and an irony that there is a shortage of drinking water while Coca-Cola is available everywhere."
Mr Haksar said he should be allowed freedom of expression.
This is not the first time his pictures have got him into trouble.
The billboard prior to the Coca-Cola one depicted a small boy urinating on a wall sporting the logo of US giant Nike with its brand line, "Just Do It".
Nike also sent a letter through its lawyers to Mr Haksar.
He said the issue was resolved peacefully though he had kept the hoarding on for an additional month as he wanted to show that he would not bow to pressure.
Mr Haksar said the Coca-Cola poster was due to come down at the end of July but he would keep it up if the legal action continued.
The Joy of Toxic Cola
By Miranda Kennedy, AlterNet
September 5, 2003
Coca-Cola isn't keeping it real in India.
Neither is its fierce rival, Pepsi.
America's most beloved brands are facing a firestorm of criticism for dangerously high levels of pesticide residues in their locally-made sodas.
The well-respected research group, the Center for Science and Environment (CSE) in New Delhi, found traces of lindane, malathion, chlorpyrifos, and even the banned DDT in Indian-bottled Pepsi and Coca-Cola drinks.
CSE says pesticide levels in the Indian samples are respectively 36 and 30 times higher than EU safety standards.
And not surprisingly, when the same group tested bottles sold in the U.S., they were pesticide-free.
When the toxic-cola report hit the Indian papers, Hindu nationalist activists smashed Coke and Pepsi bottles in the streets and tore down advertising billboards.
Members of Indian parliament immediately ordered a ban on the products in their canteen, and even threatened to revoke Coke and Pepsis licenses if the claims were verified.
Universities across the country stopped supplying the sodas, while bottling plants were sealed off in some states.
Coke, like many other multinationals, has had a rocky relationship with the Indian government.
In the late 1970s, the government kicked the company out of the country for refusing to locally manufacture its secret syrup.
In 1993, Coke reentered the Indian market on the heels of its rival Pepsi with a vengeance.
Of the 200 countries where the drink is sold worldwide, India now has the fastest growing market.
Today, the Atlanta-headquartered Coca-Cola and New York-based PepsiCo enjoy an absolute duopoly in the Indian soft drinks market.
Together they own all the twelve brands of sodas tested by CSE.
So it is no wonder that the two companies, despite their fierce rivalry, immediately closed ranks and threatened legal action against CSE.
Nor was it surprising when the U.S. embassy in New Delhi spoke out in defense of the two American companies, describing them in the media as highly reputable and responsible firms.
To settle the controversy, the Indian government decided to expedite its own tests of the products, even as the companies panicked about falling sales.
The verdict released last week was mixed, but not lethal for the U.S. multinationals.
The Indian health minister told parliament that while the government also found pesticide residues in the soft drinks, the levels fell within national standards for packaged drinking water and were, therefore, safe to drink.
Both Pepsi and Coke immediately ramped up a public relations campaign aimed at wooing back the Indian public.
They held a joint press conference, where the Indian CEOs of the local subsidiary posed for cameras clutching bottles of their respective brands.
Pepsi placed ads in the national papers advising consumers, "refresh your faith and don't hold back your tastebuds."
Soft drink vendors hung up posters proclaiming "Coca-Cola refreshes you with world-class and safe products in India."
Not quite.
"The reason we found differences between U.S. and Indian products," explains Sunita Narain, head of CSE, "is because these industries are regulated in the U.S. but not in India.
The companies may say we have global standards, but this is not true.
There are no global standards."
Most countries, including the U.S., do not have standards for soft drinks.
While the companies test individual ingredients for toxics according to global standards, they follow local standards for the main ingredient of the bottled drinks: water.
In the U.S. and European Union, water used in soft drinks and bottled water is stringently monitored.
Indian water standards, however, are shockingly low.
The water is only required to be "potable," and the meaning of that word is not legally defined.
Ground water processing is completely unregulated, and the two companies have not voluntarily set any standards for their products.
While Coke and Pepsi may have emerged relatively unscathed from the cola wars, the political battle is far from over.
The health ministers announcement caused a furor in parliament, with MPs accusing the Hindu nationalist BJP government of being paid off by Coke and Pepsi.
The presence of multinational companies remains a sensitive subject in India.
And Coca-Cola's other practices are not likely to help its cause.
The largest Coca-Cola plant in India has also been accused of putting thousands of farmers out of work by draining the water that feeds their wells and poisoning the land with waste sludge.
The plant in the southern state of Kerala, which uses 1 million liters of water a day, has been the target of protests from the local village council that is calling for its closure.
Furthermore, the state's Pollution Control Board recently found cadmium at toxic levels in sludge samples from the plant.
The plant has been distributing this sludge as "organic fertilizer" to local farmers.
The pollution board asked Coke to stop emitting sludge from the factory, but the company continues to claim their waste makes a good "soil conditioner."
Environmental groups have long complained that giants like Coke and Pepsi callously disregard public well-being.
Sunita Narain of CSE says she targeted the Indian government rather than Coca-Cola or Pepsi simply because any efforts to control and regulate multinationals have always failed.
She hopes the government will discover their regulatory backbone and force multinationals to comply with tighter norms.
But Ravi Agarwal, director of Toxics Link in Delhi, says the onus falls squarely on the companies, irrespective of local standards: "It is the governments responsibility to provide essential foods, but Coke and Pepsi are brands that go beyond food value.
They are responsible for upholding their own international standards."
Apart from regulation, consumer boycotts are often the best check on corporate misconduct, but it isn't clear whether the bad publicity will affect sales.
Kailash, whose small bakery in New Delhi is bright with blue Pepsi signs, says he is still feeling the effects.
"Sales have gone down, way down," he sighs.
He has stopped stocking glass bottles, the most popular way to buy cola in India.
"If the doctor tells you, 'you are going to die,' you are scared," he says, "Then when the doctor tells you, now you are okay, do you just turn around and believe him?"
Others like Gauri, an MBA student, have decided to take the leap of faith.
As she flips open a can of Diet Coke in one of the capital's bustling markets, Gauri admits that she and her friends stopped drinking the sodas after the first report.
"But Coke is a big company and it's been around for so long," she says. "I presume that the company would follow health standards, even in a country like India."
Sadly, however, for many, toxic pollution is just a fact of daily life.
"We know there are pesticides in everything," shrugs 19-year-old Rahul. "There are pesticides in the soil. Through the soil we get fruit, we get the vegetables that we eat."
There may, however, well be a silver lining in this tale of corporate neglect.
Prompted by an earlier study by CSE that fond unsafe pesticide levels in bottled water (including some owned by Coke and Pepsi), the government voted to adopt the European Union's standard for bottled water as of January 2004.
Now, thanks to the toxic-soda controversy, the Indian government is moving toward setting enforceable water regulations.
"We have to fix certain safety standards," admits Prasad Rao, the Indian health minister.
"Today, water is not included in our Prevention of Food Adulteration act which guides food standards. We have to revise our norms for drinking water."
In other good news, Nepal and other neighboring South Asian countries have begun testing their locally-bottled Coke and Pepsi for toxics.
And while many Indians have started drinking soda again, experts like Agarwal believe that the debacle is actually a defining moment for food safety and consumer awareness in this country.
Miranda Kennedy is a writer and radio journalist based in New Delhi.
 
August 18 / 19, 2007
Footsoldiers of Freedom
The Last Battle of Laxmi Panda
By P. SAINATH
Countless ordinary Indians sacrificed much for Independence without a thought of reward.
As India celebrates its 60th anniversary, much of that generation has died out.
The numbers of freedom fighters are rapidly dwindling.
Most are very old, and several are ailing or otherwise in distress.
Many in rural India, like Laxmi Panda, have lost much and gained little.
L axmi 'Indira' Panda did not accept the invitation of the Orissa Governor and his wife to attend the Republic Day function in Bhubaneswar and then join them for tea at the Raj Bhavan.
They even included a privileged Parking Pass for her car.
But Laxmi did not bother to reply.
Nor did she make it to their Independence Day event either.
Laxmi Panda has no car and lives in a tiny room in a chawl in Jeypore town of Koraput district.
An improvement on the ugly slum where she has spent most of two decades.
Last year, she did make it to the I-Day event since local well-wishers bought her train ticket.
This year, she can't afford it.
She laughs as she shows us the invitation and the parking pass.
The only connection she has ever had to a car: "My late husband was a driver four decades ago."
This Indian National Army (INA) fighter still proudly holds on to a published photo of herself, with rifle in hand.
People who sacrificed a great deal and then went back to everyday lives
Laxmi is one of countless rural Indians who fought for the country's freedom.
Ordinary people who did not go on to become famous as leaders, Ministers or Governors.
Just people who sacrificed a great deal and then went back to everyday lives after Independence.
Most of that generation has died out as the nation celebrates its 60th anniversary.
The few who remain are in their late 80s or 90s and many are ailing or otherwise in distress.
(Laxmi herself is an exception to the age group. She joined the INA in her early teens, and is only now closing in on 80.)
The number of freedom fighters is dwindling rapidly.
Orissa State recognizes Laxmi Panda as a freedom fighter, which entitles her to a meager monthly pension of Rs.700 [US $17].
This went up by Rs.300 last year.
Though for many years, no one knew where to send her the money.
However, freedom fighter status has been denied to her at the Centre despite several INA legends of that time corroborating her claims.
"They said in Delhi I haven't been in jail," she says.
"And it's true, I haven't.   But then many fighters of the INA did not go to jail.   Does that mean we didn't fight for freedom?   Why should I lie for my pension?"
Kadam kadam badhaye jaa
Laxmi was one of the youngest members of Netaji Bose's Indian National Army.
She was perhaps the only Oriya woman to have enlisted with the INA and joined its camp in Burma, certainly the only one living.
She says Bose personally gave her the new name of Indira, to avoid confusing her with the far more famous Laxmi (Captain Laxmi Sehgal) at that time.
"'In this camp,' he told me 'You are Indira.'   I was too young to understand much.   But from then on, I was Indira."
Laxmi's parents were killed in a British bombing sortie while working in the railways in Burma.
After that "I wanted to fight the British.   My senior Oriya friends in the INA were most reluctant to involve me in anything.   They said I was too young.   I begged to join in whatever capacity, even a menial one.   My brother Nakul Rath was also a member and he disappeared in the war.   Years later, someone told me he had come out and joined the Indian army and was in Kashmir, but how could I even check?   Anyway, that was half a century ago."
"In the camp I met Lt. Janaki, and saw the likes of Laxmi Sehgal, Gowri and other famous INA fighters," she says.
"We went to Singapore in the later part of the war," she recalls, "With, I think, the Bahadur Group."
There she stayed with Tamil sympathizers of the INA and even picked up a few words of the language.
She signs her name Indira in Tamil in front of us, to prove her point.
And she proudly sings the first verse of the INA anthem: "Kadam kadam badhaye jaa, khushi ke geet gaye jaa. Yeh zindagi hai kaum ki, tu Kaum pe lutaye jaa."
("Step by step we march forward. And sing the songs of happiness. This life belongs to the community, so for the community sacrifice yourself.")
I miss them
Of her photo in INA uniform, with a rifle, she says it was "taken after the war, at a reunion and when we were disbanding."
Soon, "I married Kageshwar Panda in 1951 in Berhampur and a lot of Oriya INA members came for my wedding."
She is nostalgic about her old INA comrades.
"I miss them.   Even the ones I did not know well, I wish I could see them again.   You know, once I heard that Laxmi Sehgal was speaking at Cuttack, but I could not afford to go.   I wish I could have seen her just once at least."
The only chance I ever had of going to Kanpur — I fell ill at that time.   Now where will there ever be a chance?"
In the 1950s, her husband got a driver's license "and we worked for some years near Hirakud.
At that time, I was happy and I did not have to labor for a living myself.   But he died in 1976 and my troubles began."
She worked variously as a store helper, a labourer, and as a domestic servant.
Always for a pittance.   Saddled with an alcoholic son who had several children, all in bad shape.
But the Central government has simply not responded
"I asked for nothing," she says.
"I fought for my country, not for reward.   I sought nothing for my family either.   But now, at the end of this chapter, I hope at least my contribution will be recognized."
Ill health and poverty combined to crush her a few years ago.
That's when a young journalist of Jeypore, Paresh Rath, broke the story.   Rath also moved her from the slum to her single room residence at his own expense and looked after her medical needs.
Panda was recently hospitalized following an illness.   She is at her son's place for now, despite her misgivings about his habits.   Other stories followed Rath's.
And she once even made it to the cover of a national magazine.
"When we did the first story, she did get some help," says Rath.
"The then Collector of Koraput, Usha Padhee, was sympathetic.
She got Laxmi Rs.10,000 [US $245] from the Red Cross Fund as medical aid.
And also assured her a piece of government land.
But Padhee left the district on transfer.
Some people in Bengal also sent her some donations."
However, this soon died down and she was back to square one.
"And yet it is not just a matter of money," Rath points out.
"Even if she gets the Central pension, how many years will she enjoy it?   It is really a matter of pride and honor for her.   But the Central government has simply not responded."
Dilli chalo
After many frustrating attempts, Laxmi was allotted a piece of government land at Panjiaguda village in this district late last year.
But she still waits and hopes for a house on it under a government scheme.
For the present, Rath has funded the making of a better room adjacent to her old one and hopes to move her into it soon.
She has a little local recognition now.
A few organizations have come forward to press her case.
"Tomorrow," she told me on August 14, "I will hoist the flag at the Deepti School here. They asked me to."
She is proud of that, but worries she does not have a "proper saree to wear to the function."
Meanwhile, the ageing INA soldier plans her next battle.
"Netaji said 'Dilli Chalo.' That's what I will do after August 15 if the Centre does not recognize me as a freedom fighter by then. I will sit down in a dharna at Parliament," says the old lady.
"Dilli chalo, that's what I will do."
And so she will, maybe some six decades late.
But with hope in her heart.
As she sings, "kadam, kadam, badhaye jaa "
MON 863 — Rats fed Monsanto GM corn due for sale in Britain developed abnormalities in blood and kidneys
Kite flown to protest cultivation of GM maize.
A kite is flown to protest against the cultivation of GM genetically modified maize.

France is Europe's top agricultural producer.

In a cavern under a remote Arctic mountain, Norway will soon begin squirreling away the world's crop seeds in case of disaster.

Dynamited out of a mountainside on Spitsbergen island around 1,000 km (600 miles) from the North Pole, the store has been called a doomsday vault or a Noah's Ark of the plant kingdom. 

The European Space Agency said nearly 200 satellite photos this month taken together showed an ice-free passage along northern Canada, Alaska and Greenland, and ice retreating to its lowest level since such images were first taken in 1978.

Arctic ice has shrunk to the lowest level on record, new satellite images show, raising the possibility that the Northwest Passage that eluded famous explorers will become an open shipping lane.

The 16 September 2007 Arctic minimum ice extent falls below the minimum set on 20-21 September 2005 by an area roughly the size of Texas and California combined, or nearly five UKs.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center, NSIDC, judges the ice extent on a five-day mean.

Arctic sea ice shrank to the smallest area on record in 2007, US scientists have confirmed.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said the minimum extent of 4.13 million sq km (1.59 million sq miles) was reached on 16 September, 2007.

The figure shatters all previous satellite surveys, including the previous record low of 5.32 million sq km measured in 2005.

Earlier this month, it was reported that the Northwest Passage was open.

Image: DDP/Michael Kappeler

A kite is flown to protest against the cultivation of GM genetically modified maize.
France is Europe's top agricultural producer.
In a cavern under a remote Arctic mountain, Norway will soon begin squirreling away the world's crop seeds in case of disaster.
Dynamited out of a mountainside on Spitsbergen island around 1,000 km (600 miles) from the North Pole, the store has been called a doomsday vault or a Noah's Ark of the plant kingdom.
The European Space Agency said nearly 200 satellite photos this month taken together showed an ice-free passage along northern Canada, Alaska and Greenland, and ice retreating to its lowest level since such images were first taken in 1978.
Arctic ice has shrunk to the lowest level on record, new satellite images show, raising the possibility that the Northwest Passage that eluded famous explorers will become an open shipping lane.
The 16 September 2007 Arctic minimum ice extent falls below the minimum set on 20-21 September 2005 by an area roughly the size of Texas and California combined, or nearly five UKs.
The National Snow and Ice Data Center, NSIDC, judges the ice extent on a five-day mean.
Arctic sea ice shrank to the smallest area on record in 2007, US scientists have confirmed.
The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said the minimum extent of 4.13 million sq km (1.59 million sq miles) was reached on 16 September, 2007.
The figure shatters all previous satellite surveys, including the previous record low of 5.32 million sq km measured in 2005.
Earlier this month, it was reported that the Northwest Passage was open.
Photo: DDP/Michael Kappeler
Rats fed on a diet rich in genetically modified corn developed abnormalities to internal organs and changes to their blood, raising fears that human health could be affected by eating GM food.
The Independent on Sunday can today reveal details of secret research carried out by Monsanto, the GM food giant, which shows that rats fed the modified corn had smaller kidneys and variations in the composition of their blood.
According to the confidential 1,139-page report, these health problems were absent from another batch of rodents fed non-GM food as part of the research project.
The disclosures come as European countries, including Britain, prepare to vote on whether the GM-modified corn should go on sale to the public.
A vote last week by the European Union failed to secure agreement over whether the product should be sold here, after Britain and nine other countries voted in favor.
Forced into retirement
...That research, which was roundly denounced by ministers and the British scientific establishment, was halted and Dr Arpad Pusztai, the scientist behind the controversial findings, was forced into retirement amid a huge row over the claim.
Dr Pusztai reported a "huge list of significant differences" between rats fed GM and conventional corn, saying the results strongly indicate that eating significant amounts of it can damage health.
Freeze on commercial genetically modified crops not allowed under EU rules
French anti-globalization icon Jose Bove takes part in a demonstration against the Genetically modified crops in 2006.

A total freeze on commercial genetically modified crops is not allowed under EU rules, the European Commission said Friday, September 21, 2007.

France is Europe's top agricultural producer.

In a cavern under a remote Arctic mountain, Norway will soon begin squirreling away the world's crop seeds in case of disaster.

Dynamited out of a mountainside on Spitsbergen island around 1,000 km (600 miles) from the North Pole, the store has been called a doomsday vault or a Noah's Ark of the plant kingdom. 

The European Space Agency said nearly 200 satellite photos this month taken together showed an ice-free passage along northern Canada, Alaska and Greenland, and ice retreating to its lowest level since such images were first taken in 1978.

Arctic ice has shrunk to the lowest level on record, new satellite images show, raising the possibility that the Northwest Passage that eluded famous explorers will become an open shipping lane.

The 16 September 2007 Arctic minimum ice extent falls below the minimum set on 20-21 September 2005 by an area roughly the size of Texas and California combined, or nearly five UKs.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center, NSIDC, judges the ice extent on a five-day mean.

Arctic sea ice shrank to the smallest area on record in 2007, US scientists have confirmed.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said the minimum extent of 4.13 million sq km (1.59 million sq miles) was reached on 16 September, 2007.

The figure shatters all previous satellite surveys, including the previous record low of 5.32 million sq km measured in 2005.

Earlier this month, it was reported that the Northwest Passage was open.

Image: AFP/Olivier Laban-Mattei

French anti-globalization icon Jose Bove takes part in a demonstration against the Genetically modified crops in 2006.
A total freeze on commercial genetically modified crops is not allowed under EU rules, the European Commission said Friday, September 21, 2007.
France is Europe's top agricultural producer.
In a cavern under a remote Arctic mountain, Norway will soon begin squirreling away the world's crop seeds in case of disaster.
Dynamited out of a mountainside on Spitsbergen island around 1,000 km (600 miles) from the North Pole, the store has been called a doomsday vault or a Noah's Ark of the plant kingdom.
The European Space Agency said nearly 200 satellite photos this month taken together showed an ice-free passage along northern Canada, Alaska and Greenland, and ice retreating to its lowest level since such images were first taken in 1978.
Arctic ice has shrunk to the lowest level on record, new satellite images show, raising the possibility that the Northwest Passage that eluded famous explorers will become an open shipping lane.
The 16 September 2007 Arctic minimum ice extent falls below the minimum set on 20-21 September 2005 by an area roughly the size of Texas and California combined, or nearly five UKs.
The National Snow and Ice Data Center, NSIDC, judges the ice extent on a five-day mean.
Arctic sea ice shrank to the smallest area on record in 2007, US scientists have confirmed.
The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said the minimum extent of 4.13 million sq km (1.59 million sq miles) was reached on 16 September, 2007.
The figure shatters all previous satellite surveys, including the previous record low of 5.32 million sq km measured in 2005.
Earlier this month, it was reported that the Northwest Passage was open.
Photo: AFP/Olivier Laban-Mattei
The new study is into a corn, codenamed MON 863, which has been modified by Monsanto to protect itself against corn rootworm, which the company describes as "one of the most pernicious pests affecting maize crops around the world".
      Women who eat GM foods while pregnant risk endangering their unborn babies        
Friday, 7 September 2007
Hindus upset over ban on holy dot
By Amarnath Tewary
BBC News, Bihar
Lakshman Mishra

Mr Mishra has worn the tilak throughout his career

Photos: Prashant Ravi
Mr Mishra has worn the tilak throughout his career
A senior official in India's Bihar state faces suspension for wearing the Hindu red mark on his forehead at work.
Lakshman Mishra, deputy director of the agriculture department, is accused of breaching a new government dress code.
He says he has worn the mark, or tilak, on his forehead at work for 30 years and it is his religious right to do so.
His colleagues support him — nearly all of them arrived at work on Friday wearing red marks in protest, and unions are threatening mass action.
Suicide threat
Mr Mishra's troubles began in August when new guidelines were issued on what state government officials could wear at the office.
His department head, CK Anil, warned Mr Mishra that he considered his tilak to be in breach of the code.
When he refused to remove it, Mr Anil recommended him for suspension.
No one should be suspended for wearing a holy tilak as it's a matter of personal choice
Bihar Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh
Mr Anil is a young, no-nonsense civil service high-flier who has already reprimanded staff in another department for spitting out betel leaf they had been chewing at work.
He is currently not taking calls from the media.
Many people in northern India wear the red holy mark on their foreheads and it is a common sight in government offices.
Mr Mishra says he has no intention of giving up the practice.
"I've been sporting the red holy dot on my forehead for the last 30 years of my career," he told the BBC.
"It has religious sentiment for me and if somebody goes on harassing me on this pretext I'll have no option but to commit suicide."
Anger
Barring some senior officials, all the employees of the state agriculture department went to work on Friday with tilaks on their foreheads in protest at his treatment.
Civil servants protest in Bihar.

Civil servants came out in protest on Friday

Photos: Prashant Ravi
Civil servants came out in protest on Friday
They laid siege to Mr Anil's office and demanded he withdraw his recommendation that Mr Mishra be suspended.
"The officer's move has hurt our religious sentiments and as our protest against his order we've come to the office today adorning our foreheads with the red dot.   Let him suspend all of us now," said union leader Baidyanath Yadav.
Several other state government unions are also angry and are threatening mass protests if his suspension order is not revoked with immediate effect.
Even state Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh agrees, saying "no one should be suspended for wearing a holy tilak as it's a matter of personal choice".
India 2011
Antibodies from women with infertility used in creation of GMO food
IMF through their implementation of austerity policies defacto exploit and loot the wealth of Third World nations and facilitate the long term asset stripping and resourcing stealing of such unfortunate countries
Quite a lot if you look at the whole Capitalist Western system which is rigged to exploit the masses and especially vulnerable Third Word nations in favor of the few, again in the West.
Globalization, Monetarism and Deregulation all sounded so great when they are expounded enthusiastically from the early 1980's, by the USA and their well funded fronts in academia and the global media as a globalist International Banker policy.
Anglicised elite of India lording it up in London, NY and heaven knows where with looted assets.
       Illuminati manipulation of oil energy resources      
       World rich elite taking advantage of middle class and poor      
     India and corporations 2011 — Deregulation, oil price, elite accumulation of wealth      
     In India a bill was introduced to make it a crime to question the safety of GMOs      
Vandana Shiva — Globalization project is creation of corporate states
Rural India — The Deadly Gambles of Farming
Unspeakable grief and horror
                        ...and the circus of deception continues...
Most recent 'Circus'    click here
— 2014
— 2013
— 2012
— 2011
— 2010
— 2009
— 2008
— 2007
— 2006
— 2005
— 2004
— 2003
Circus of Torture   2003 — now
He says, "You are quite mad, Kewe"
And of course I am.
Why, I don't believe any of it — not the bloody body, not the bloody mind, not even the bloody Universe, or is it bloody multiverse.
"It's all illusion," I say.   "Don't you know, my lad, my lassie.   The game!   The game, me girl, me boy!   Takes on interest, don't you know.   T'is me sport, till doest find a better!"
Pssssst — but all this stuff is happening down here
Let's change it!
 
For archive purposes, this article is being stored on TheWE.cc website.
The purpose is to advance understandings of environmental, political,
human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues.