The State Cabinet will take up the K. Jayakumar Committee report on the ecological damage caused by Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Company at Plachimada in Palakkad district at its meeting here on Wednesday.
The Cabinet has before it the conclusions and recommendations of the 14-member Jayakumar committee, which has estimated the damage caused by the cola company at Rs.216.26 crore, as also a lengthy report by Principal Secretary (Industries) T. Balakrishnan questioning all the major inferences of the committee and arguing that the factory be allowed to resume operations after implementing an industrial water supply scheme in the area.
Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan has already gone on record that the government is proceeding with the constitution of a tribunal to assess and realise the damages caused by the company, mainly based on the Water Resources Department's choice of the tribunal option over the proposal for the constitution of an authority at the Central level. The Water Resources Department is clearly unhappy about the stand taken by Mr. Balakrishnan and, according to persons in the know of things, is likely to push for the constitution of a tribunal. Of crucial importance would be the stand to be taken by the Communist Party of India Ministers. Party general secretary A.B. Bardhan had written to the Chief Minister urging him to take action to compensate the people of Plachimada.
Meanwhile, S. Faizi, environment expert in the Jayakumar committee, has come out strongly against Mr. Balakrishnan's contentions. In a letter to the Chief Ministers and members of the Cabinet, he has pointed out that Mr. Balakrishnan's arguments were meant only to help the cola company if and when it goes to court against any decision to be taken by the government on the issue. The factory, he has pointed out, was closed down on the intervention of a monitoring committee appointed by the Supreme Court and the Kerala State Pollution Control Board.
Mr. Faizi told The Hindu here on Tuesday that the Principal Secretary's argument about the company's claims to groundwater in the area was born out of his lack of knowledge about the National Water Policy 2002 and the Kerala Water Policy of 2007 both of which gave priority to domestic use and agriculture over the claims of industries.