On the 8th April a division bench of the High Court of Kerala permitted Coca-Cola to extract up to 500,000 litres of water from the common groundwater resource per day at its Plachimada facility to the surprise of the community, who have kept the bottling facility shut down, be intense pressure, for over a year now. The local Perumatty village council (Panchayat), which had refused to renew Coca-Cola's license to operate, citing it for over-extraction of water. [read more]

"It was a decision that acknowledged the growing resentment against the multinational company," said A. Krishnan, Panchayat President and a member of the Janata Dal, a constituent of the opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala. "The Panchayat's decision was based on Section 232 of the Kerala Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 giving the local body sufficient authority to notify that no place within its jurisdiction shall be used for purposes offensive or dangerous to human life or health," said Mr. K.N.Unnikrishnan, Special Grade Secretary of the Panchayat.

The 2005 Supreme Court ruling was in response to Coca-Cola's appeal of the December 16, 2003 Kerala High Court ruling, which had ruled Coca-Cola's heavy extraction of water from the common groundwater resource to be 'illegal' and ordered it to seek alternative sources of water for its production. Significantly, the 2003 ruling noted that even if it was assumed that Coca-Cola could extract water safely, it should not be allowed to do so because "the underground water belongs to the general public and the 2nd respondent [Coca-Cola] has no right to claim a huge share of it and the Government have no power to allow a private party to extract such a huge quantity of ground water, which is a property, held by it in trust."

Yet there is no law to regulate groundwater extraction for private enterprise in India, thus Coca Cola could continue their plans. C.R. Bijoy, a prominent Indigenous people's rights activist commented that, "In the absence of such a law, it makes it difficult to protect natural resources from such predatory behavior by private companies." So it has been left to community members, campaign supporters and Coca Cola shareholders to fight the corporation through protest.

In Wilmington, Delaware USA, Tuesday, April 19 Close to twenty shareholders spoke on behalf of campaigns from India and Colombia at the company's Annual General Meeting, where strong concerns over Coca-Cola's gross violations of human rights and depletion of water resources dominated. Neville Isdell, chairman and chief executive of Coca-Cola, had to end the meeting rather than hear from fifteen more shareholders who were still waiting to speak. [ Statement from Plachimada, India to Coca-Cola Shareholders Meeting ]

In order for an effect to be made on the corporate giant the International Community must hit it where it hurts; Sales. This protest needs to be made everywhere that Coca-Cola has conquered. Various government agencies as well as courts continue to rule against Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola is even banned from sale in the Parliament of India. Whilst Internationally, 12 colleges and universities have already banned Coca-Cola from their campuses in the US, UK and Italy, and many more are expected to follow.

This is a story not unlike many in which corporations play the antagonist; where the rights of everyday people, and the future of their communities are caught between profit and law, made my powers whose existence are beyond their own. Summarised aptly by C.R. Bijoy; "This issue is about much more than the extraction of water by Coca-Cola itself. The issue is about who has the fundamental decision making power over the use of natural resources, and it is about the survival of the people."

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