Thousands March and Rally Against Coca-Cola in India

"Drinking Coke is Like Drinking Farmer's Blood in India"

For Immediate Release
November 14, 2004

Nandlal Master, Lok Samiti (Hindi only) +91 94153 00520 (Translations can be arranged by contacting Amit Srivastava)
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center Email: amit(AT)IndiaResource.org
Nov 14-16 (US) +1 415 336 7584, Nov 17-21 (UK) +44 7731 865591, Nov 22-25 (India) +91 98103 46161

Varanasi, India (November 14, 2004): A 250 km march between two Coca-Cola bottling facilities in India is underway to bring attention to problems created by the Coca-Cola company in India.

Thousands of people are expected to take part in the march and rally between two Coca-Cola bottling plants - in Ballia and Mehdiganj - both in the state of Uttar Pradesh, from November 15-24, 2004. The march will end will a large rally in Mehdiganj, near the holy city of Varanasi, on November 24.

Marchers are calling for the revocation of Coca-Cola's license to operate because of severe hardships created for communities as a result of water shortages and pollution created by the Coca-Cola company. The march comes after a series of defeats for the Coca-Cola company across India, through orders by the courts and various government agencies.

A pattern has emerged as a result of Coca-Cola's bottling operations in India. Communities living around the bottling facilities are experiencing severe water shortages, and the remaining scarce groundwater, along with the soil, has been polluted by Coca-Cola's practice of dumping its wastewater into the nearby fields. There are also serious irregularities in the manner in which Coca-Cola has acquired the land for its bottling facility, and many farmers are yet to be compensated for the use of their land.

Over 70% of Indians make a living related to agriculture, and water shortages and pollution of the groundwater and soil by Coca-Cola in India has had a disastrous impact on communities, particularly farmers and low-income communities.

"Drinking Coke is like drinking farmer's blood in India," said Nandlal Master of Lok Samiti and the National Alliance of People's Movements, a key organizer of the march and rally. "Coca-Cola is creating thirst in India, and is directly responsible for the loss of livelihood and even hunger for thousands of people across India," continued Master. "Water and land are essential to life, and challenging Coca-Cola is a fight for our survival. We have to shut it down," said Nandlal Master.

Coca-Cola has become the target of numerous communities across India who are demanding that Coca-Cola shut down its bottling facility because of water shortages and pollution. The single largest Coca-Cola bottling facility in India, in Plachimada, Kerala, remains shut down because the local village council (panchayat) is refusing to issue it a license to operate. Community leaders from Coca-Cola affected communities across India are also joining the march and rally in Uttar Pradesh.

"Coca-Cola will pay for its crimes in India and internationally," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, a group that works with local groups in India to coordinate the campaign internationally. "We will take this battle to where it hurts Coca-Cola the most- the US and the European Union, its largest markets." The international campaign to hold Coca-Cola accountable has also joined forces with the Colombian trade union, Sinaltrainal. Coca-Cola is charged with complicity in the murder, torture and intimidation of trade union organizers at its bottling facilities in Colombia.

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