The Madurai bench of the High Court deferred the verdict, questioning petitioners for only attacking the multinational companies (MNCs) and not other industries that were also dependent on the river’s water.
D A Prabhakar, chairman, Federation of Consumer Organisation – Tamilnadu and Pondicherry (FEDCOT), said, “The court has taken into consideration our appeals and will give its verdict in the next month.”
“Meanwhile, we have brought this to the court’s notice that any company drawing water from water bodies within the state of Tamil Nadu would require approval from the Water Utilisation Committee (WUC), which is a state government body to regulate the usage of water,” he added.
“These MNCs have not obtained any approvals from the WUC over drawing water from River Tamirabarani,” Prabhakar said.
Opposing FEDCOT’s views, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola held that they had been purchasing water required for manufacturing of their products legally from the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu (SIPCOT), which is a dedicated industrial area with special provisions of water from River Tamirabarani.”
Prabhakar stated, “The MNCs purchase water at a very low price (Rs 37.50 per 1,000 litres), and sell their packaged water at Rs 20 per litre in the market.”
On FEDCOT’s view that drawing water would affect agriculture, the co-packers of the southern region for PepsiCo held that the other industries in the region were drawing much more water, while the cola giant was actually drawing a very small amount of water.
“We have put before the court that the approvals from the WUC should be obtained by these MNCs as all local beverage manufacturers comply with these regulations. It is their duty to operate with obtaining the necessary approvals, especially in such a region, where water is scarce,” informed Prabhakar.
Gopal Subramani, managing director, Podaran Foods India Pvt Ltd, Kangayam, said, “The state law is equal for all the food and beverage manufacturers. Obtaining approvals from the respective bodies is the duty of every food business.”
“The local food brands have obtained all the needed approvals, while these MNCs simply skip the process and purchase water, which is a public resource,” he added.
“For the above reasons, and to uphold the local brands and promote the Make in India campaign, we, traders and distributors have decided to boycott the products manufactured by MNCs,” Subramani added.
The bench also suggested that a campaign be initiated to create awareness among people, so that they do not use or buy products the manufactured by these MNCs or that the PIL consider the overall context of the water drawn by industries.
Meanwhile, the Madras High Court stated that it would give its final say on the issue on March 2, 2017.