struggle against Coca Cola in Kerala
Also see, Police crack
down at a anti-Coke agitation
Water? Drink Coke!
An Appeal to the WSSD - Global People's Forum to refuse and return
the sponsorship of Coca Cola, as it has devastated the livelihood resources
of the Tribals, Dalit Landless, Small and Marginal Farmers of the State.
It is shocking to note that Coca Cola is one of the sponsors of the World
Summit on Sustainable Development - Global People's Forum. How come the
culprit who destroys the livelihood resources of the marginalized people
axing their sustainable development, be saluted for sponsorship?
Therefore, we call upon the Civil Society Secretariat to immediately declare
openly that it is refusing and returning the sponsorship and should issue
a statement of warning to Coca Cola to immediately stop such assault on
the common resources and thereby depriving the common people their rights
over the natural resources. It should call upon it immediately to close
down the production unit in Kerala and provide monetary compensation to
the affected people. The Global People's Forum should also call upon the
Government of India to take action against the crime committed by Coca
Cola and to order the closure of the plant.
The Anti Coca Cola PEOPLE'S Struggle Committee consisting of several people's
organisations including Janakeeya Cheruthunilpu Vedi (JCV) a constituent
organisation of All India PEOPLE'S Resistance Forum (AIPRF), Adivasi Struggle
Committee, etc., spearheaded the struggle.
The struggle against the Plachimada Plant of Coca Cola was launched on
22 April 2002 with a symbolic blockade and an ongoing continuous picketing/dharna
by mainly the Adivasis, particularly by women and children, belonging
to the Eravalar and Malasar communities classified by the government as
The Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd established this unit in 1998-99
in a 40-acre plot (previously multi-cropped paddy lands) at Plachimada
of Perumatty Panchayat in Chittur Taluk of Palakkad District, Kerala about
5 kms west of the Tamilnadu border of Pollachi in Coimbatore District
and 30 kms east of Palakkad on the Palakkad-Meenakshipuram-Pollachi Road.
About 70 permanent workers and 150- 250 casual labourers are employed
in the factory.
From this plant, every day 85 lorry/truck loads of beverage products each
load containing 550-600 cases and each case containing 24 bottles with
300 ml capacity leave the factory premises. In its 17-hectare land, more
than 65 bore-wells were sunk to extract the ground water for the production
of Coke and Maza. Every day 15 million liters of ground water is extracted
by Coca Cola at free of cost. Bottle washing involves the using of chemicals
and the effluents are released without treatment contaminating the ground
water creating a water crisis for the Tribals, Dalits, and the farmers.
As the livelihood resources are affected, the employment is also affected
pushing them further to the vicinity of the poverty situation. Now, we
could imagine the role of Government whether it would be on the side of
the people or giving protection to Coca Cola. The police is giving protection
to Coca Cola and the people waging struggle especially women and children
are behind the bars.
The site is located a few metres away from the main irrigation canal from
the Moolathara barrage. The site is located about three kms away from
the Meenkara dam reservoir, a few hundred meters west of Kambalathara
and Vengalakkayam storage reservoirs and two kms away from the main Chitturpuzha
Bottle washing that involves the use of chemicals, the sludge from the
plant mainly from the products brought to the factory site after the expiry
date, etc., are carried here. While earlier the foul smelling dry sedimented
slurry waste was "sold" as fertilizer to the unsuspecting farmers
which was later given "free" and now, with protests and objections,
is surreptitiously dumped on the way side and on lands at night even going
beyond the state boundary into the villages of adjoining Pollachi Taluk
of Coimbatore District of Tamilnadu. The ground water and hence, also
water from the open wells has rapidly depleted in this perennially rich
paddy growing belt (paddy is abandoned now with the mostly landless Adivasis
loosing their jobs also). The water turns turbid or milky on boiling and
is unfit for drinking, bathing, and washing clothes, etc. Already over
1000 families have been affected in the surrounding villages within a
radius of five kms, of which a quarter are Adivasis and the rest Dalits
and other non-Adivasis. The villages severely affected are the colonies
of Adivasis and Dalits such as Plachimada, Vijayanagaram, Veloor, and
Madhavan Nair colonies in the Perumatty Panchayat and the Rajeev Nagar
and Thodichipathy colonies in the Pattanamchery Panchayat. They facing
acute water shortage and are getting contaminated water.
It is ironic that Coca Cola is one of the sponsors of the World Summit
on Sustainable Development - Global People's Forum.
Mass Arrests of Adivasis
On the 9 June 2002, the agitation against the Coca Cola Plant at Plachimada
in Palakkad District, Kerala, entered the 49th day. Dharna and picketing
were going on without respite in front the Coca Plant by the Eravalar
and Malasar who are Adivasis officially classified as Primitive Tribes.
In the evening, a protest rally took place. This time the police had refused
permission to use the mike. The peaceful protesters symbolically dumped
the extremely foul smelling dry sedimented slurry waste that Coca Cola
had been dumping in the surrounding villages surreptitiously in the fields,
in front of the Coca Cola Plant. The police officials were continuously
attempting to provoke the protesters using abusive language. A few metres
away, a meeting began which was to be addressed by a number of activists
from across Kerala and adjacent parts of Tamilnadu.
As the meeting progressed, one of the protesters was beaten in front of
the plant without any provocation whatsoever. When the police was questioned,
they announced that they were arresting the protesters. About 130 protesters
were arrested of whom 30 were women and 9 were children, mostly babies,
at around 5 pm and taken to the Chittoor Police Station. Blouses of 5
Adivasi women were torn and some senior officials were particularly keen
to abuse and threaten the protesters with further physical attack. Incidentally
the arrested included all those who had come to participate in the struggle
from elsewhere to extend their solidarity which included environmental
activists, struggle groups fighting industrial pollution elsewhere in
the state as Phillip Morris Carbon Plant, activists of National Alliance
of PEOPLE'S Movement, National Front for Tribal Self Rule, All India Coordinating
Forum of Adivasis/ Indigenous PEOPLE'S, All India Students Association,
office bearers of PEOPLE'S Union For Civil Liberties of Kerala (as well
as PUCL activists from Tamilnadu), etc.
All Party Meet Opposes the Anti Coca Cola Struggle
Earlier and very significantly, on the previous day (8 June 2002) the
hurriedly cobbled up from amongst the Coca Cola workers who are contract
and daily wage labourers under the banner of "Thozhil Samrakshana
Samithy" (Job Protection Committee) had organized an all party protest
meeting in Plachimada attended prominently by the local leaders of Janatha
Dal (Perumatty Panchayat where Plachimada village is located is the only
Panchayat in the State controlled by Janatha Dal), CPI (M) and BJP. This
meeting was highly provocative and threatened the anti Coca Cola protesters
with violence. This is also to be connected to the provocative and brutal
behaviour as well as the mass arrests by the police against the peaceful
protest and constitute a turning point in the struggle for the rights
of Adivasis for survival and resources for life - water.
Earlier on 28 May 2002, 11 activists were arrested at nearby Vandithavalam
when they were campaigning there. Another 9 were also arrested from amongst
the protesters in front of the plant.
Coca Cola had approached the High Court seeking protection to their property.
Any way ever since the launch of the struggle there has been a huge police
contingent stationed at the Coca Cola plant to protect it. The struggle
committee filed a counter and the high court ordered the police to protect
As the message of the struggle has spread to the surrounding areas, there
has been spontaneous blackening or damage of Coca Cola hoardings in various
parts of Chittoor taluk.
A massive rally demanding the Closure of the Plant Coca Cola Virudha Samara
Samithy (Anti Coca Cola Struggle Committee) organized a mass rally and
public meeting at Plachimada on 4 August 2002, which marks the 105th day
of the continuous ongoing struggle against the Coca Cola monster that
began in 22 April 2002. About 300 people have been arrested until date
in this peaceful democratic struggle on false cases despite vicious attempts
of the Coca Cola Company to thwart the struggle by various means. More
than a 1000 people, mostly Adivasis belonging to the Eravalar and Malasar
Communities participated. Adivasis from Wayanad, Kannur, and Nelliampathy
also participated. Led by the children and women, the rally commenced
at Pallimukku in Vandithavalam about 6 kms away from Plachimada in the
evening about 3.30 p.m. braving the welcome intermittent drizzle.
The spirited march thundered along the route, encouraged by large sections
of the public all along the route. The slogans that reverberated in this
picturesque region surrounded by hills and rivers reflected the determination
of the people to reassert the rights to survival - water in this instance
- not only for them but also for future generations. The government and
political parties were out rightly condemned for their total sell out
to Coca Cola and the MNCs, global capital and imperialism in general.
A massive police force was conspicuously and menacingly deployed all along
the route and especially at the Coca Cola factory where they had provided
a formidable protective ring. Veloor Swaminathan, an Adivasi leader and
Convenor of the Samara Samithy presided over the public meeting. He spoke
on the experience of the struggle, which has entered the 105th day where
it was the Adivasis, the agricultural labourers, and other oppressed who
had all along been active in the forefront of the struggle.
He exhorted other sections of the population of the area who have been
actively supporting the struggle as well as the silent supporters to come
out now for it is time to throw out Coca Cola from the place. He appealed
to the exploited workers of Coca Cola factory, who are overwhelmingly
casual labourers to realize the historical task of the struggle for their
long-term benefits and that of the society, to now join the struggle.
The Chairperson, Venugopal Vilayodi, provided the background to the struggle,
the issues and the manner in which the oppressed people here have been
pushed to a struggle by Coca Cola Company - a do or die struggle - as
the very livelihood is threatened. Recalling that on 22 April, the struggle
was inaugurated by the Ms. C.K Janu, the "black pearl" of Kerala
and the leader who had forced the government of Kerala to agree to the
demands of Adivasis of the state for land rights and autonomy long denied
to them for which she and her comrades are fighting.
He reminded that the Coca Cola has provided a meager employment to some
300 who are casual labourers and are thus denied labour rights, with a
handful who are regular employees. He reminded the workers that with the
closing down of the factory, their employment is not threatened as the
struggle has also called for the conversion of the factory premises into
employment generating ecologically safe production centres such as handloom
which can provide jobs to thousands. This is the responsibility of the
government. The struggle has also exposed all the political parties, from
the right to the left, that behind the veil of pious rhetoric, have all
turned to be petty brokers for the Coca Company. But then this is not
an isolated phenomenon but a widespread phenomenon all over the country
with globalisation and opening up for predatory capital that destroys
people and livelihood resources.
G.N Saibaba, General Secretary of All India PEOPLE'S Resistance Forum
(AIPRF) that is a forum of movements all over the country involved in
intense resistance for the rights of the oppressed, in his inaugural address
praised the people of Plachimada and surrounding villages for their unflinching
thirst for freedom from neo-colonialism and imperialism. He went on to
remind that Coca Cola was indeed foolish to think that they can get away
with the loot, destroying the life sustaining water from this backward
The news of this struggle
in this remote corner tucked away amidst the greenery, the mountains,
and rivers which is already threatened to become a catastrophic calamity
of transforming into a desert, has travelled wide. He reminded that similar
valiant struggles are going on over the country against the MNCs and their
arrogant plunder backed by imperialist and fascist forces. In the long
run, he reminded, that truth and justice will prevail and victory shall
belong to the oppressed masses.
The meeting was addressed by leaders of various movements such as A. Bhoomaiah
(Telangana Jana Sabha of Andhra Pradesh), Kumar (AIPRF, Karnataka), C.R
Neelakantan Namboothiri (writer and activist with Pooyankutty Samrakshana
Samithy and National Alliance of PEOPLE'S Movements, Ernakulam, Kerala),
Senkottaiyan (Dalit Liberation Party, Tamilnadu), Thomas Mathew (NAPM,
Kerala), M.S Selvaraj (Vyavasayikal Thozhilalar Munnetra Sangam, Nilgiris,
Tamilnadu), Advocate Shina (Janakeeya Cheruthunilpu Vedi, Kerala) Nagapandi
and Leelavathi (Palanimalai Adivasikal Viduthalai Iyakkam, Kodaikanal,
Tamilnadu), Gopalakrishnan, (PEOPLE'S Union for Civil Liberties, Coimbatore,
Tamilnadu) and Jayachandran (Tamilnadu Green Movement), amongst others
besides Shivan Kutty and C. Bhanu from the Samara Samithy. The meeting
ended with a glorious tribute to the people in struggle, especially the
women and with renewed determination to expand the struggle moving to
the phase of the closure of the Coca Cola factory at Plachimada
This is not merely a struggle against Coca Cola but all capital that is
predatory destroying lives, resources, and environment.
(a) Immediate closure
of the Coca-Cola Factory.
(b) Hindustan Coca-Cola
Beverages Pvt. Ltd be held fully responsible and liable for the destruction
of livelihood resources of the people and environment.
(c) Initiate criminal
action against Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd and make accountable
for the ecocide with responsibility to restore the environment.
to all those adversely affected by the Coca-Cola Unit.
(e) Withdraw the
false cases filed against the protesters and their supporters.
(f) Throw out Coca
Cola from India.