S. Faizi, environment expert member of the high-power committee on Plachimada, has criticised the failure of the government in introducing a Bill for securing compensation to the victims of the environmental degradation caused by the Coca-Cola plant at Plachimada in Palakkad district.

In a statement here on Monday, Dr. Faizi said that invisible forces in the government were blocking Cabinet clearance for the introduction of the Bill in the Assembly. Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, contrary to his public posture, had yielded to bureaucratic pressure and had disregarded the Bill.

He recalled that the committee, through intensive work of 11 months, had assessed the loss suffered by the people of Plachimada at Rs.216.26 crore. It had calculated the loss based on voluminous evidence, that depletion and pollution of groundwater in the area had been caused by the Coca-Cola company. It had recommended that the State government legislate a tribunal to secure compensation for the victims, based on the universally accepted ‘polluter pays principle' and other robust legal provisions.

Following the submission of the committee's report in March 2010, the government had examined and accepted the recommendations and decided to create the recommended tribunal. A draft for the Bill had been submitted to the government and the fate of the draft remained mysterious, in spite of the assurance of Water Resources Minister N.K. Premachandran to the last session of the Assembly that the Bill would be introduced in the February session of the House.

The draft Bill had been reviewed and amended by the Water Resources Department, Law Department and the Chief Minister's office. But, the elements that were working against the committee from its outset seemed to have gained ground in the government.

“I had agreed to serve the committee seeing the political commitment the government (as well as the Opposition) had in addressing the critical issue through the due process of law, assuming that the repeated failures of the statutory bodies of the government to address the problem will not be repeated. It is distressing that the govt is dragging its feet now. If the govt has any concern for its people and their scarce natural resources, it must immediately introduce the tribunal bill in the Assembly, where the Opposition has also committed to support it, failing which the government should proclaim the tribunal as an Ordinance.”

Dr. Faizi added that he would seek legal options to hold the government accountable for wastage of public money if it was disregarding the report. The work of the committee, composed of 15 directors of departments and independent experts and chaired by Additional Chief Secretary K. Jayakumar, had caused considerable expenditure, although he had voluntarily refrained from accepting any fee or travel expense for the work.

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