By Shelly Mahajan:
“Access to safe water is a fundamental human need and therefore a basic human right”
-Kofi Annan, United Nations former Secretary-General
If you were to buy gallons of drinking water every time you buy your house ration along with packets of Maggi or Nescafe, how do you think you would react?
Yes, soon that could be a reality.
World’s largest consumer goods company, Nestle (which gave us Kit Kat) has a plan, a plan for world’s seven billion and above huge population. The Swiss-based food processing giant is on a mission to privatize water universally. After a series of scandals to its credit, denouncing the right to water being an unalienable right hardly comes across as a shock but more like a planned business strategy that has been in the pipeline for a long time now.
Not a long time ago, a documentary, ‘The Dark Side of Chocolate’ exposed how Nestle procured cocoa beans from Ivorian plantations that practices child slave labour of children between the ages of 11 to 16 years . The company also follows discriminatory practices against women cocoa growers.
In 2008, a Chinese-made Nestle milk product was found to contain melamine resulting in hospitalization of 860 babies and death of six infants due to kidney damage .
This is the same company that supports consumption of Genetically Modified food, has a worrying health and ethics record for its infant formula and monitors any online denigration of itself .
The company that has gone out of its way to commodify man’s essential need also stands aloof to the concern of millions who would not be able to afford the fluid, once privatized. Time and again, Nestle has proved that all it means to do is business, making every drop of water on the planet a private good, soon to be turned into a prodigy of branding.
England, under Margaret Thatcher, Philippines, Argentina, Bolivia are examples of states that experimented with commercialization and private sector involvement in water systems. However, the impact has been hugely unsatisfactory. United Nation’s Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) carried an assessment of the impact of water privatization. The report speaks volumes about commercialized nature of the measure, often with companies refusing to commit to concessional agreements and failing to provide clean, equitable and universally affordable access. As a result, in countries like Bolivia and Argentina such a step ended in disappointment, terminated operations and civilian manifestations.
Nestle has already done enough damage with its mineral water production. It is known to manipulate ground water resources by creating deliberate shortages and suck up gallons of water away from public reach causing deprivation and depletion .
In my view, restricting control of natural resources in hands of those few with business interests is absolutely unwarranted. Let’s not add another dimension to the already prejudiced world. Do you think a company that enjoys insensitive standpoints, interprets differed opinions as intemperance and worries only about its share of numbers is good enough to take care of our ‘human right’ to safe drinking water?