Major Rally Against Coca-Cola in India

Communities Oppose Proposed Coca-Cola Bottling Plant

For Immediate Release
August 10, 2005

T. Fatimson +91 98421 65146 (India)
Amit Srivastava +91 98103 46161 (India) E: info@IndiaResource.org

New Delhi (August 10, 2005): In a major show of force, over 1,500 people rallied against a proposed Coca-Cola bottling plant in Gangaikondan village in Tirunelveli district in southern India on August 9, 2005.

Communities from across the southern state of Tamilnadu converged in Gangaikondan to oppose a proposal by South India Bottling Company Private Limited (SIBCL) - a Coca-Cola franchisee - to set up an Indian Rupees 280 million (US$ 6.5 million) soft-drinks unit in the village.

Water scarcity is a common problem in the region, and a broad based movement has emerged to stop the Coca-Cola plant from coming up - insisting that a bottling plant will further exacerbate water scarcity in the area. Communities contend that water needs for drinking and agriculture are not being met, and such a water-intensive factory has no place in the area.

"We are demanding that Coca-Cola quit India," said T. Fatimson of the Campaign for Right to Livelihood and Food Security, one of the organizers of the rally. The rally coincided with the anniversary of the "Quit India" movement, initiated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1942 demanding an immediate end to British colonial rule in India.

Coca-Cola company officials, along with their franchisee, SIBCL, have refused to make public full details of the bottling plant, in spite of repeated demands from the community. As a result, many questions remain unanswered. India Resource Center investigations, for example, have found that while the franchisee claims to have secured permission for extracting 500,000 liters of water per day, the state Pollution Control Board documents have earmarked 900,000 liters for the plant.

Coca-Cola's operations in India have come under intense scrutiny as many communities are experiencing severe water shortages as well as contaminated groundwater and soil, directly as a result of Coca-Cola's bottling operations. A massive movement has emerged across India to hold the Coca-Cola company accountable for its actions.

Community representatives from Plachimada and Sivagangai, sites of two successful campaigns against Coca-Cola in India, were also present at the rally, and a delegation from Gangaikondan had visited Plachimada in early August. The Plachimada plant, one of Coca-Cola's largest bottling facilities in India, has remained shut down for seventeen months now because the village council has refused to renew its license, citing the company for causing water shortages and pollution.

Various political parties as well as a broad range of groups, such as the South Tamilnadu Merchants Association and the Tamilnadu Government Employees Association participated in the rally, indicative of the growing discontent over Coca-Cola's operations in India.

The Supreme Court of India will be hearing three cases relating to Coca-Cola's crimes in India, and calls for shutting down Coca-Cola bottling plants are getting stronger across India, with literally tens of thousands of community members involved in the campaign to hold the company accountable. The state government of Kerala has also moved the Supreme Court of India to challenge Coca-Cola's crimes in India.

"This is a formidable proactive move by the people of Gangaikondan to oppose the Coca-Cola factory. Communities across India have learnt the lesson that Coca-Cola causes water scarcity and pollution. Business as usual will be increasingly hard for the Coca-Cola company in India," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization working closely with local campaigns in India.

Coca-Cola's sales have dropped 14% in the last quarter (April-June) in India, and the company is undergoing major reorganization in the country, including a change in the top leadership, in an effort to contain the growing opposition.

For more information, including India Resource Center's investigation, visit www.IndiaResource.org


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