Plachimada, May 2007
Mylamma, Kerala’s Anti-Coke Crusader
The life and initiatives of one of the fire-brand leaders of the anti-coke struggle of Plachimada in Kerala.
“They came to our village with glittering offers; that our people would get many job opportunities in the plant; the overall development of our village would be taken care of; the economic growth of the area would be strengthened etc. We waited and waited… nothing miraculous happened. On the contrary, six months went by, slowly we started facing the reverse effects. Except a few, nobody from the locality was given jobs. The water level in the wells of the surrounding colonies showed a sharp depletion. The quality of the water -its odour, taste, hardness- got worsened. It became non-potable. We stopped using it. We were forced to fetch water from a distance of three to five kilometres. Several uncommon diseases started showing their neck out. The farmers around the plant stopped cultivation due to severe shortage of water. This was another thunderbolt on us that took away our daily little earnings. We were forced to migrate to faraway lands, seeking for some work or other to make our living. Suddenly we felt terribly helpless, facing the fact that we were being robbed. Our precious water resource had been stolen… lakhs of liters every day… Where would I get some fresh and pure drinking water any more? How many kilometers should we have to walk to fetch a drop of water? Who will compensate the heavy loss incurred upon us by this giant plant?”
These lamentations synchronized with anger and despair were from a 55 year old lady, Mylamma, a resident of Vijayanagar colony in Plachimada village in the southern Indian state of Kerala, situated adjacent to the mega bottling plant of Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd. Company. She was one among the firebrand leaders of the anti-coca cola struggle of Plachimada, which took off about five years back.
A leader emerging
She has been one of the leaders in the villages, along with other tribal leaders who kept the struggled against the multi-national alive despite the attempts by the global company to use every trick in the book to break the people’s resistance. She kept at the bay some of the outside political influences out to exploit the people’s struggle. At the same time she was the product of the people’s democratic process.
She belonged to an Adivasi family. When she began to organize the poor women of the village she was about fifty years old. She was presumably illiterate but she upheld the rights of the villagers for their water and its sources. Mylamma became a source of inspiration for all those who stand for nation and oppose imperialist penetration. In truth Mylamma was fighting hegemonization. While she was fighting she contracted Psoriasis all over her body which she believed to be the result of drinking poisonous water adulterated with cola chemicals. Scabies began to haunt her. And Mylamma is no more today and she died at the age of fifty seven which is no old age according to Kerala standards. Strenuous efforts and hard work aggravated her disease and she had to succumb to death.
But the cause for which she fought and won and lost still remains unresolved. People of Plachimada and for that matter the people of the whole world should continue this struggle until victory is achieved. Water is a free source of life to all and the best beverage which nature gives us. The legacy of Mylamma continues to encourage people everywhere to fight for their due rights over natural sources.