Coke Under Attack from Indian Activist in US
Ratna Bhushan
Times of India
June 14, 2005

NEW DELHI: It is the second recent example of a US-based Indian causing trouble for an MNC giant. After Seattle-based attorney Harish Bharti made McDonald's Corp cough up $10 million as compensation for lacing its french fries with beef tallow, now California-based Indian activist Amit Srivastava has mobilised a movement against Coca-Cola India in US.

The basis of his allegations include Coke lacing its soft drinks with pesticide residue, giving away toxic sludge to farmers as fertiliser, and depleting ground water in India. Srivastava's public protests have already started causing damage to Coca-Cola. About six colleges in US have decided either to ban the beverage at their campuses or not to renew contracts with Coke.

The website Srivastava is involved with, www.indiaresource.org, has had over 1,400 people demanding the closure of Coke's Kerala plant. Conducting tours of college campuses in US and addressing students on the 'story of Coca-Cola in India', Srivastava has said, "It is destroying lives, it is destroying livelihoods and it is destroying communities all across India." When contacted, a Coca-Cola India spokesperson denied all allegations.

"All our plants meet global environment standards," he said. He added that "Srivastava is unwilling to either meet Coke India officials or tour our plants, despite several personal invitations." Coca-Cola's troubles in India do not seem to be diminishing.

Both Coke and rival Pepsi now face a Rajasthan High Court order directing them to declare levels of pesticide residue on labels of soft drinks bottles. Industry experts say labelling of pesticide content on soft drink bottles will severely dent sales.

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