Viewpoint: India Resource Center Commends Coke Coalition
I am writing to commend the significant work done by the student Coalition
to Cut the Contract with Coca-Cola. The persistence of the coalition
has resulted in one of the most prestigious institutions of higher
learning — the University of Michigan — serving notice to the Coca-Cola
Company that business is not as usual. The suspension of Coca-Cola’s
contract at the University is arguably one of the most successful
actions of international solidarity that the campaign has experienced
The actions at the University have put further pressure on Coca-Cola,
demanding that it clean up its act in India.
The student-led campaign at the University is part of a growing movement
to hold Coca-Cola accountable. In the last two months alone, more
than 3,000 people have marched in different parts of India to demand
accountability from Coca-Cola, and many more demonstrations are expected
in the next month. The courts have started validating the concerns
of the communities in India through their rulings, and even the state
government of Kerala has aligned itself with these communities by
challenging Coca-Cola’s right to extract water in the Supreme Court
I continue to be disappointed by Coca-Cola’s response. The company
continues to deny responsibility for the crimes it has committed in
India and has embarked upon an ambitious public relations exercise
to somehow “spin” the problems away. The campaign to hold the Coca-Cola
Company accountable will continue to grow until the company embarks
on genuine initiatives involving the primary stakeholders — the communities
— to solve the crisis.
I am also alarmed by the language adopted by the University administration
in its correspondence with the Coca-Cola Company, repeatedly crediting
the company with acting in good faith. Even a cursory consultation
with communities in India suggest otherwise — that Coca-Cola continues
to act with arrogance in India while the adverse impacts of its operations
in India continue to increase.
The campaign welcomes an investigation into the issues in India at
any time — as long as it is truly independent. The current process
is extremely flawed. Coca-Cola created a committee to coordinate carry
out an independent investigation into allegations against its operations
in India and Colombia, but in the initial meetings neither the India
Resource Center nor the communities in India were informed, invited
or consulted. It was only after strong student intervention that Coca-Cola
was removed from the commission. The commission has not yet met on
the Indian issues, and we are concerned about the University placing
too much faith in this “one-sided” process. The commission enjoys
no credibility whatsoever in India primarily because Coca-Cola has
been consulted at every step of the way, and communities in India
have been excluded.
I agree with the Coke coalition that the campaign to hold Coca-Cola
accountable is far from over. I will continue to work with the coalition
to ensure that the University continues to remain a Coke-free campus
until the demands of communities in India are met.
Srivastava is a representative of the India Resource Center. The India
Resource Center is a project of Global Resistance and works against
corporate globalization in India.
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