Major Protest Planned Against Coca-Cola in India

For Immediate Release
November 27, 2005
Nandlal Master, Lok Samiti +91 9415300520 (Hindi) E: napm_up@yahoo.com
Suresh, Lok Samiti +91 9839017693 (Hindi)
Arundhati Dhuru, National Alliance of People's Movements +91 9415022772
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center [for International Inquiries] UK +44 7731 865591 US +1 415 336 7584 E: info@IndiaResource.org

London (November 27, 2005): A major protest is planned against a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Mehdiganj, near Varanasi, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh in India, on Wednesday, November 30, 2005.

Community members and supporters will converge in Mehdiganj to protest Coca-Cola's operations in the area that is causing severe hardships to the community, including water scarcity, polluted groundwater resources and land as well as violence and false criminal charges directed at community leaders opposed to the bottling plant.

The protest on November 30 comes a year after a major protest against the same bottling plant on November 24, 2004 in which close to 1,500 people marched to demand the closure of the plant. The police reacted violently, and over 300 protesters were detained, and some sustained serious injuries as a result of the unprovoked action from the police.

The protesters are demanding that the Coca-Cola company shut down its bottling plant in Mehdiganj because the plant is creating severe water shortages in the area, which has resulted in major hardship to the rural community who rely primarily of agriculture for their livelihoods.

With the slogan "In the Land of Milk and Honey, Pepsi-Coke - We Don't Want Any!!, the protest is also calling for compensation for the farmers affected by Coca-Cola's negligence, criminal inquiries into illegal land acquisition by the company, as well as a ban of both Coca-Cola and Pepsico products, which have been confirmed to contain high levels of pesticides in the Indian market.

The local campaign to shut down the Coca-Cola bottling plant has grown significantly stronger in the last year, and the local village council has revoked Coca-Cola's license as a result of the community opposition to the company's operations.

False criminal charges filed against key community leaders opposed to Coca-Cola's operations in the area border on the absurd, and one of the demands is to drop all criminal charges which have been invoked to harass the growing movement against Coca-Cola.

One of the movement's key leaders, Nandlal Master, was prevented from traveling internationally to build support for the campaign because the state authorities confiscated his passport-because of the criminal charges pending against him.

The Coca-Cola company is the subject of intense community-led campaigns all across India, and one of its largest bottling plants in India, in Kerala, has been shut down since March 2004 due to community pressure.

Various courts as well as state and national government agencies are beginning to challenge Coca-Cola's operations in India, which have caused severe damage to the lives and livelihoods of community members, as well as the environment.

Lok Samiti and the National Alliance of People's Movements are the key organizers of the November 30 protest, which comes at the end of a week long march around the state bringing attention to Coca-Cola's abuses.

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