500 Arrested in Rally Against Coca-Cola in India

For Immediate Release
June 9, 2005

R. Ajayan, Plachimada Solidarity Committee (India) T: +91 98471 42513
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center E: amit(AT)IndiaResource.org T: +44 7731 865 591 (UK)

Plachimada, India (June 9): Over 700 community members and supporters marched to the Coca-Cola factory gates on Wednesday, June 8, in Plachimada, Kerala, to demand that the plant be permanently shut down.

The protesters were met at the gates by a large cordon of police officers, and close to 500 people were arrested. Police also attacked a woman protester, who had to be taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. All protesters were released by the end of the day.

The major protests, organized by the Coca-Cola Virudh Samara Samiti (Anti Coca-Cola Struggle Committee) and the Plachimada Solidarity Committee, comes two days after the local village council (panchayat), under pressure from the Kerala High Court, conditionally renewed Coca-Cola's license for three months.

The Coca-Cola bottling plant in Plachimada has remained shut down since March 2004 because the local village council has refused to renew Coca-Cola's license to operate, citing the company for causing severe water shortages to the community.

On June 5, the local village council renewed Coca-Cola's license for three months and with thirteen conditions.

The Anti Coca-Cola Struggle Committee and the Plachimada Solidarity Committee have vowed not to allow the company to re-open its plant in Plachimada.

"The people of Kerala will not allow the factory to reopen," said R. Ajayan, convener of the Plachimada Solidarity Committee. "Coca-Cola must respect the wish of the community, and the community does not want the plant to restart," continued Ajayan.

The community in Plachimada has been experiencing severe water shortages after Coca-Cola started operations in the area, and the remaining groundwater as well as soil has been polluted as a result of Coca-Cola's bottling operations. The company was also distributing its solid waste, later found to contain high levels of lead and cadmium, to farmers in the area as fertilizer.

The community of Plachimada has been engaged in a three year battle to hold the Coca-Cola company accountable, and local and international support for the campaign continues to grow rapidly.

In addition to seeking the permanent closure of the plant, the protesters also demanded that the Coca-Cola company accept the authority and jurisdiction of the village council, and stop challenging the village council.

The Supreme Court of India is set to hear an appeal from the village council in the near future, and the Coca-Cola company has not decided whether it will reopen the plant, according to media reports.

The organizers of the Wednesday protest have indicated that they will increase the pressure on the company locally to ensure that it cannot re-open.

Supporters of the campaign are asked to send a fax to the Coca-Cola company by visiting http://www.IndiaResource.org/action/faxcoke.php

For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org


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