Part 1 – Stay Order Lifted. Coke, Open Happiness. Pepsi, Yeh Dil Maange More


Stay Order Lifted

The Madras High Court in its order last week has lifted the stay on using Thamiraibharani river water, it had put on Cola giants Pepsi and Coke. The stay had been put in response to two PILs (Public Interest Litigations) against these two cola companies. The PILs questioned the wisdom in granting access to the river water to these two cola companies (at very cheap rates) in these days of water scarcity and farmers not getting enough water for irrigation.  

Judges remove stay on ‘Colai’.

Justices A Selvam and P Kalaiyarasan of the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court, passed the orders on the grounds that the PILs targeted only cola companies and not other firms (including the Tamil Nadu Nadu State Government’s). SIPCOT (State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu) is the managing agency. It has been alloted 136 lakh litres per day (13.6 Million Litres per day) by the TN government to disburse to firms.

The Details

SIPCOT shares the water with 27 other companies, basis the rates and quantity agreed upon. Pepsi had been allocated 15 lakh LPD and Coke, 18 Lakh LPD. Pepsi and Coke contend that they are not even fully using the quota allocated to them. The Judges also raised concerns about the wastage of the Thamiraibharani river waters into the Bay of Bengal. A key point before the Honourable Court was that more than 5000 MCF (One MCF is 1000 cubic feet) of water is discharged into the Bay of Bengal. The Cola companies claim that they use less than 50 MCF of the above.     

Cool Chilli’s Comments

Prima Facie, the Judges have arrived at a decision which seems fair from the following perspective.

  1. If the government in its wisdom had granted rights to parties for their business / commercial interests, it is good for the Judiciary to give weightage to honour that. This will increase trust in the ‘Make in India’ thrust.  India had unseated China in 2015 in Foreign Direct Investment last year. Now the Chinese President is wishing to finetune his own ‘Make in China’ policy.    
  2. One of the Plaintiffs who had raised the PIL seems to have had an ulterior motive to get back at one of the Cola companies. The cola company had terminated his services as a Lawyer due to unethical practices.  

Questions Raised 

The Judges have also raised questions on how the Cola Companies’ usage of water is affecting farmers’ livelihood. Also why the agitators have not raised objections against other firms which are also using the water provided by SIPCOT.

The villagers maybe do not have the heart to ask for the closure of a unit that they perceive as important or at least benign, for eg. one making affordable, mass-use medicines. 

 Continued in Part 2…..


Related Reading

Protest in Tamil Nadu Intensifies after High Court Judgement

A Sustainability Report from the Pepsi site

Coke’s Sustainability Section has much less content on Water