July 23, 2013
New Delhi, July 21 : In a shocking and highly condemnable incident police brutally attacked the peaceful gathering of villagers, yesterday, who were removing the illegally laid effluent pipeline of the Nitta Gelatin Company in village of Kathikudam in Thrissur District of Kerala. The people were discharging the legal responsibility of removing the pipe laid through a private citizen’s land without his consent and through the Panchayat land against the order of the Panchayat. While it was the natural duty of the police to support the Panchayat and the people in enforcing the Panchayati Raj Act of Kerala, they launched a rabid war on the people. Women and children were illegally arrested along with entry into houses damaging the property and verbal abuses by the Police. More than 70 of the protesters were in various hospitals in Angamaly and Chalakudy seeking medical help for the injuries they suffered, while some of them were rushed to ICU with more serious injuries.
Kerala, is much touted for its decentralisation of power and development planning but this incident and earlier the struggle around Coca Cola factory in Plachimada exposes that commercial interests often take precedence over the constitutional rights of the citizens. The Company is a joint venture of Kerala Industrial Development Corporation and Nitta Gelatin Co. set in 1975, starting production 1979 and uses per day 130 tons of crushed animal bones, 1,20,000 liters of hydrochloric acid, and 20 tons of lime. It also uses ferric chloride, alum, caustic soda and other unknown chemicals. It has been discharging large quantity of toxic effluents in river Chalakudy, main source of drinking water in nearby areas and distributing sludges as fertiliser to farmers in nearby villages, something which Coca Cola also did. Huge profit from the company operations goes to the Japanese counterparts of the company, the Nitta Gelatin Inc and Mitsubishi Corporation.
It is unfortunate that despite the fierce struggle led by people’s group Action Council against the plant since 1996, State government has connived and failed to respond to the challenge and demands of the many nearby and downstream villages which have been demanding closure of the plant. The presence of huge tanks storing 30 lakhs liters of hydrochloric acid at the densely populated area of Kathikudam makes the situation potentially catastrophic and renders a nightmare to the local inhabitants. It makes them panicky as and when they read industrial disasters elsewhere in the country or outside. It is a disaster in making and unfortunately government of Kerala has failed to protect the lives of people and instead chose to attack the villagers yesterday.
Disrespect to the law of land, non-compliance of rules and regulations issued by the local governments, blatant denial of abject truths, harassment of Action Council members arresting and implicating them in fake criminal cases, misleading the courts, bribing police and public servants, and manipulating the media are common characteristics of both Coca Cola and NGIL.
The lessons we learned from the Union Carbide case and the Coke controversy are enough to be more vigilant in the matter of foreign investments in our land, something which no one in power seems to care. Those industrial initiatives, no mater how big they are and how fabulous are their promises, should not be allowed to enter the country if they do not conform themselves to the laws of the land.
NAPM demands that Kerala Government heading to people’s struggle immediately shut down NGIL plant at Kathikudam, initiate long term measures for treatment of land and water, compensate people for loss of livelihood, health and take action against the officials who ordered brutal lathi charge on the gathering yesterday, which was incidentally inaugurated by Prof. Sara Joseph, Congress MLA T.N. Pratapan, who is fully supporting the struggle, Vilayoty Venugopal (convener Plachimata struggle) and attended by many others.
Given the current circumstances we have all the reason to believe that NGIL IS AN IMPENDING DISASTER just like Bhopal Gas tragedy in 1984, both plants belonging to the same era. Victims of Bhopal tragedy are yet to get justice even after nearly three decades and we must all unite to stop any such tragedy at Kathikudam.
Medha Patkar, C R Neelakandan, Geo Jose, Prafulla Samantara, Gabriele Dietrich, Sister Celia, Major General (Retd.) Sudhir Vombatkere, Arundhati Dhuru, Suniti S R, Hussain Master, Vilas Bhongade, Dr. Sunilam, Suhas Kolhekar, Bhupender Singh Rawat, Kamayani Swami, Mahendra Yadav, Rajendra Ravi, Vimal Bhai, Seela M, Madhuresh Kumar
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