Second Massive Protest Against Coca-Cola in India in New Year

Community Commemorates Thousand Day Anniversary of Vigil Against Coca-Cola in Kerala

For Immediate Release
January 13, 2005

R. Ajayan, Plachimada Solidarity Committee +91 98471 42513 (India)
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center +1 415 336 7584 (US)

Plachimada, Kerala, India (January 13, 2005): On January 15, 2005, over a thousand people are expected to take part in blockading the entrance to Coca-Cola's single largest bottling plant in India - in Plachimada, Kerala - to demand that the bottling plant shut down permanently.

January 15 also marks the 1000th day anniversary of a permanent dharna (vigil) that has been set up directly in front of the factory gates by the local community groups rallying against the Coca-Cola plant in the southern state of Kerala.

In Plachimada, Coca-Cola is guilty of creating severe water shortages for the communities in the vicinity, polluting the groundwater and soil, and also distributing toxic waste as fertilizer to farmers in the area. The combination of water scarcity and pollution of land and groundwater in the area have had a dramatic impact on the largely agricultural based community. Particularly hit hard are Dalits (lower castes), Adivasis (Indigenous People) as well as women, who now have to travel longer distances to fetch potable water.

The Coca-Cola Virudha Samara Samithy (Anti Coca-Cola People's Struggle Committee) and the Plachimada Solidarity Committee are the organizers of the January 15 activities.

Some key demands of the community groups include:
  • The Coca-Cola plant in Plachimada be shut down permanently by the government
  • All affected community members be compensated for losses incurred as a result of Coca-Cola's indiscriminate practices
  • All cases against protesters brought in the past be dismissed
  • Coca-Cola initiate a rehabilitation program for workers who will be laid off
Coca-Cola's bottling plant in Kerala has remained shut down since March 9, 2004. The panchayat (local village council) has refused to renew Coca-Cola's license, and the case is being heard in the Kerala High court to decide who has jurisdiction over the matter. Coca-Cola, in a move that significantly undermines democracy, is insisting that the local village council has no jurisdiction over the matter, and that the state government does. The panchayat is an elected body at the local level, and was championed as the basic unit of democracy in India by Mahatma Gandhi.

In another significant move, the Kerala High court validated the concerns of the community in December 2003 when it ruled that Coca-Cola has to seek alternative (to groundwater) sources of water for its bottling plant.

The January 15 demonstration is the latest in a series of large demonstrations against the Coca-Cola company in India. On January 6, 2005, over 500 people demonstrated in Mehdiganj, Uttar Pradesh at the site of another Coca-Cola bottling plant, accusing it once again of depleting the common groundwater resource and polluting the groundwater and soil. On November 25, 2004, over 1,500 people marched to the gates of the same Coca-Cola bottling plant, demanding its closure.

At least six communities across India are campaigning against Coca-Cola, and the intensity of the community-led campaigns is growing rapidly as Coca-Cola resorts to using its public relations machinery to quell the growing crisis. The head of marketing for Coca-Cola Asia Pacific has been moved to India from Hong Kong.

"Plachimada is not just a local issue, but a global one. It shows how large multinationals get away with profiting at the expense of people. It also symbolizes the huge potential we have in communities, such as in Plachimada and in India, who stand up and refuse to be taken for granted anymore," said R. Ajayan of the Plachimada Solidarity Committee, a coalition of over 30 groups in the state of Kerala, and one of the key organizers of the January 15 events.

The January 15 events are receiving support from a diverse range of social movements around the world. One of India's most prominent social movement leaders, Medha Patkar of the National Alliance of People's Movements, will be joining the blockade, arriving directly from the tsunami-hit region in Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu.

Coca-Cola is also becoming the target of campaigners internationally, particularly in the US and the European Union, some of its largest markets. "We will make it increasingly difficult for Coca-Cola to do business in the US and EU, as well as in emerging markets, such as India and Brazil, until it cleans up its act in India," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, a bi-national (US-India) group that campaigns internationally to hold Coca-Cola accountable.

Supporters of the campaign are advised to send a fax to Coca-Cola by visiting http://www.IndiaResource.org/action/faxcoke.php

For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org


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