Tuesday, March 31, 2009

21. Belch out the Devil

Till the other day, there was a definite charm about him. Following his rejection to the coveted position at the united nations, he overexposed himself by writing on anything and everything. Any intention of reading him is gone (nor that I had any) following his close allegiance to the one and only Coca-Cola. That he's contesting from Thiruvananthapuram and yet defending his love for it (Coke) is a paradox that only the literate electorates of the constituency will take a call on. Let good sense prevail (amid the electorates) as I wish conditional luck to Shashi Tharoor. I suspect if this posting will reach him but if Max Martin's report in Mail Today (March 22, 2009) is any indication, half of any election is won or lost in the cyber space (in Kerala).

Following my article on Coke's dubious claims on groundwater recharging aimed at diverting attention from its water-guzzling business in the Economic Times in May 2008, an email was received from one of those who was apparently engaged (`employed' is more appropriate expression) in a groundwater recharging project of the Coca Cola Foundation rubbishing my position. The respondant felt the foundation was doing excellent work and that any fears regarding `milking the aquifers dry' were unfounded. Tharoor is behaving in much the similar way, taking Coke's deft public relations (Coke's global publicity budget is a little over US$ 2 billion) as `news' and forcing many uninitiated minds to believe him.

I'm afraid Shashi Tharoor has got his facts wrong, I repeat `absolutely wrong'. My own information on the subject has been padded by authoritative writing by Mark Thomas. For those who may not be familiar with Thomas, he's an ace television comedian (Channel 4 in UK) and journalist who has travelled across the world to document Coke's dubious (criminal) escapades in his book `Belching out the Devil' (Beacon Press, 2007). Mark's stunning revelations on Coke's child rights abuse in El Salvador, labour intimidation in Colombia, monopolistic trade practices in Mexico and robbery of groundwater in India will prompt every sane mind to proclaim: belch out the devil.

Placchimada and Kaladera were part of Thomas' travel itinerary, wherein he verified `facts' to the last digit. The groundwater recharging systems were definitely in place and these do have the `potential' to recharge as much groundwater as the company extracts. Shashi Tharoor is likely to jump at this, asking: so where is the problem? The problem is that it doesn't rain as much in the region to help the rainwater harvesting systems realise its `potential' of recharging at a pace with which water is being pumped out on a daily basis. No wonder, farmers in and around Kaladera (near Jaipur) complain loss of agriculture due to drying up of village wells. And, the fact is that the company has been using 3.8 litres of freshwater to generate a litre of carbonated drink.

Pardon me for my political naivety but I had a notion that voting for an educated-affluent could be the finest exercise of one's franchise, believing that such an elected representative will not only take `wisest' decisions but would be less `corrupt'. But I think in political matters it's erroneus to count on `individual honesty'. To quote Swaminathan Aiyar: `Critics have accused Abraham Lincoln and Manmohan Singh of being hypocrites who advertised their personal honesty but agreed to dirty deals to promote their political aims. Singh not only formed a council of ministers that included seven politicians facing criminal charges but won vote of confidence with the help of currency notes being waved (first time ever) on the floor of the house'. The message: don't get charmed by `integrity' and `honesty'!

With millions of young electorates to exercise their constitutional rights for the first time during upcoming parliamentary elections, it is the test of their ability to `pick' the best. I hope the above narrative helps them in `belching out the devil' - in Thiruvananthapuram and the rest of the country.

No comments: