Viewpoint: India Resource Center Commends Coke Coalition
By Amit Srivastava
Michigan Daily
January 19, 2006

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 so far.

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 of India.

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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India Resource Center (IRC) is a project of Global Resistance -- "Building Global Links for Justice"
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