Plachimada: On the Frontlines of the Fight for Water Democracies

Summer 2006

Gavin Alle Raders : Anthropology

Mentor: Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Anthropology

Conflicts over the control of natural resources lie at the heart of wars, violence, and terrorism worldwide. Water is the most precious resource for over 800 million farmers in India who depend on the groundwater for their physical and cultural survival, and water has been held for millenia to be the common property of all beings, to be maintained and distributed democratically at the decentralized village level. Control over water was transferred to the state during British colonial rule, and today rain and groundwater is being privatized by multinational corporations who view its scarcity as an opportunity for immense profits. I will conduct ethnographic research in Plachimada, Kerala, where local farmers used non-violent direct action tactics to shut down a Coca-Cola bottling factory that had quickly depleted the groundwater and contaminated surrounding soils. I will be a participant observer at the 24 hr./day vigil in front of the plant and interview leaders of the movement for water democracy.

Gavin Raders is a fourth year anthropology student and political/human rights activist. He has organized with members of SOJA and USAS to successfully pressure the UC system to phase out the sweatshop production of UC apparel and instead support unionized factories that pay a living wage. He looks forward to learning from grassroots organizers in India who have employed non-violent direct action tactics to challenge destructive corporate globalization.