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Coca-Cola asked to pay the environmental costs


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A new chapter has added to the corporate crimes and activism in India. Soft drink major Coca-Cola has been asked by the government of Indian State Kerala to pay $47m in compensation for alleged environmental damage caused at a bottling plant in the state.

The said plant in the Palakkad district was shut down in 2005 after prolonged protests by the locals alleging massive ground water exploitation and waste dumping by the US corporate.

Now the Kerala government has accepted the findings of an investigation and asked Coca-Cola to pay for the environmental damage it has allegedly caused.

The company is accused of depleting the groundwater in the area, as well as damaging farmland and the local environment, by dumping waste between the years 1999 and 2004.

However, Coca-Cola has issued a statement disputing the findings and claimed that scientific investigations carried out by various agencies proved that the plant had not caused any environmental damage.

Considering the financial and political clout of US corporations, it is too early to conclude the chapter. But will other state governments show similar courage against corporate crimes?

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Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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