Coca-Cola Pulling an 'Enron' by Not Reporting Liabilities in India

For Immediate Release
April 19, 2005

Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center, US +1 415 336 7584 E: amit(AT)IndiaResource.org
R. Ajayan, Plachimada Solidarity Committee, India +91 9847142513
Nandlal Master, Lok Samiti, Mehdiganj, India (Hindi only) +91 9839017693

Wilmington, Delaware, US: The Coca-Cola company is misleading its shareholders by not reporting serious liabilities the company has incurred in India.

Coca-Cola is holding its Annual General Meeting in Wilmington on April 19, 2005, and over a hundred protesters will be speaking, both inside and outside the meeting, to bring attention to Coca-Cola's shortcomings.

Coca-Cola's practices in India have come under increasing scrutiny, and have led to a series of indictments and actions by various authorities, including the Parliament of India, the state government of Kerala, the High Court of Rajasthan as well as a committee of the Supreme Court of India.

One of Coca-Cola's largest bottling plants in India remains shut down for over a year now because the local village council has refused to renew the company's license, citing it for over-extraction of water.

Communities living around Coca-Cola's bottling plants across India are experiencing severe water shortages, and the remaining groundwater and the land has been polluted as a result of Coca-Cola's operations in the area. The company has also distributed its toxic waste as fertilizer to farmers around some of its bottling plants. All the allegations made against the Coca-Cola company have been substantiated by various governmental and independent agencies.

Tests by numerous agencies, including the Government of India, have confirmed that Coca-Cola products in the Indian market place contained high levels of pesticides - including DDT - and would never be allowed in the US and EU markets because they fail the standards miserably.

Literally tens of thousands of rural people across India are impacted by Coca-Cola's drying up of groundwater resources. Over 70% of Indians make a living related to agriculture, and creating water shortages and poisoning the remaining water and land has drastic consequences.

A major effort, led primarily by rural India, has emerged to hold Coca-Cola accountable for its abuses. Thousands of villagers across India are demanding that Coca-Cola plants shut down immediately; the community be compensated for loss of livelihood; and the laid off workers be rehabilitated by the Coca-Cola company.

"We will not rest until we have shut down Coca-Cola's factory which is destroying our lives and livelihoods," said Nandlal Master of Lok Samiti, one of the main groups in India spearheading efforts to close Coca-Cola's factory in Mehdiganj in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Thousands of villagers have marched against the Mehdiganj plant in the last six months.

"We have decided to intensify our struggle to shut down Coca-Cola's plant permanently," said R. Ajayan of the Plachimada Solidarity Committee, a key group working to permanently shut down Coca-Cola's plant in southern India.

The community-led struggles in India are also receiving tremendous support internationally, and the campaign has partnered with the trade union campaign from Colombia which charges Coca-Cola with complicity in the murder, torture and intimidation of trade union organizers in Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia.

College and university campuses, particularly in the United States and United Kingdom, have been key in bringing the issues from India and Colombia to national and international attention. Critical campaigns are underway at the University of Michigan and Rutgers University to stop doing business with the Coca-Cola company because of its unethical practices.

In the UK, an active student campaign has just secured a significant victory that could mean banning Coca-Cola products from over 750 student unions - virtually every college and university in the country. The National Union of Students has passed a motion to verify the allegations being made in India and Colombia. A confirmation of the allegations - which is very likely - can result in the ban of Coca-Cola. The National Union of Students holds a 25% stake in the procurement agency which contracts with Coca-Cola, and as such, wields significant influence.

"Coca-Cola's liabilities in India - both short and long term - are huge, and it will have to pay a price. By not disclosing its liabilities in India and Colombia, the Coca-Cola management is pulling an 'Enron' on its shareholders," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center.

For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org


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