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Drinking water to be privatized in Kerala, India

There are news reports now about a state government decision to privatize the drinking water supply in Kerala. The private sector would own 51 percent of the new company, the government 26 per cent, and the Kerala Water Authority 23 per cent. Kerala is a state located in the south-west region of India on the Malabar Coast with a population of more than 33 million people. Thiruvananthapuram is the state capital.

The Times of India reports, “Former water resources minister N K Premachandran … called the decision to set up the Kerala Drinking Water Supply Company Limited an attempt to weaken the Kerala Water Authority.” The Deccan Chronicle adds, “The Opposition LDF has slammed the move alleging privatization of water supply. It says the move is against the state’s water policy which clearly states that water supply is not a business but a primary responsibility of the Government.”

In April 2012, Water Resources Minister PJ Joseph said that water delivery was a public utility service which the government did not wish to privatise.

The move has been opposed by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, one of the biggest assembly of workers and classes in India, and also the Water Literacy Campaign. Given the history of trade unionism in the state, it is likely that the unions in the water sector will also oppose the move.

New Delhi-based Blue Planet Project organizer Madhuresh Kumar comments, “The State Government of Kerala is taking a U-turn from its earlier position of no privatisation and has gone ahead with the formation of a company, paving the way for the privatisation of the water supply earlier managed by Kerala Water Authority.”