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17 December, 2011

NAPM hails direct action at Coca Cola's Plachimada plant

Activists at Coca Cola's Plachimada factory on Saturday -- Photo: Robin Keraleeyam

The following is a statement issued by the National Alliance of People’s Movements in New Delhi hailing the direct action by activists at the Coca Cola plant in Kerala:

Twenty-two members of Plachimada Coca-Cola Virudha Samara Samithi and Plachimada solidarity forum including Vilayodi Venugopal, N. P. Johnson, N Subramanyan, Fr. Augustine, M N Giri and Sahadevan walked into the premises of the Coca Cola Factory and courted arrest. When produced in court, the Magistrate ordered their release on furnishing personal bond but they refused to take bail in protest against apathy on the part of state government and the delaying and subverting tactics in favour of Coca Cola.

NAPM hails the action of these activists and salutes their courage for choosing to do this to bring home the dire need for quick passage of the ‘Plachimada Coca-Cola Victims’ Relief and Compensation Claims Special Tribunal Bill, 2011.

It needs to be noted that based on the report submitted by the Plachimada High Power Committee appointed by Goverment of Kerala, the Plachimada Coca-Cola Victims’ Relief and Compensation Claims Special Tribunal Bill, 2011 was passed by the Assembly on February 24, 2011. The Bill was sent by the Governor of Kerala to the President through the Union Ministry of Home Affairs on March,30. The Home Ministry sent it to various related ministries for their comments on April 17.. They were then supposed to forward the Bill to the President with the consolidated comments.

The decision to send the Bill to the President was taken by the State Law Department, although there was no issue of repugnance and hence there was no need for Presidential assent. There is no question of repugnance as the law deals, in its operative part, with entirely state subjects, namely, losses in agriculture, health care, animal husbandry, job loss and groundwater contamination.

Very recently, the Union government has referred the Bill back to State government but till date the State Law Ministry has not done anything on this. We fail to understand this delay, when in the State as well as at the Centre the Congress party is in power in coalition. Is this delay part of a larger design? Is the government trying to serve the interests of the Coca Cola Corporation? It is extremely shameful that the governments at the State and the Centre are neglecting the demands of the suffering communities and the elected Gram Sabha. We all know that continuous Satyagraha has been going on since Earth Day in 2002, which has now completed almost a decade. How long are they expected to wait?

Amidst all this the Kerala government is planning to give distribution rights to Coca Cola for providing drinking water to government hospitals in the state. Union Minister of State for Food K.V. Thomas declared that months back. It was sustained people's movements and pressure from groups across the country which forced the government to enact this special tribunal Bill. It is high time the government brought this enactment into force and justice is done to the suffering communities and Coke is held responsible for their corporate crimes and made to pay for this. Our struggle to hold the corporations accountable will continue until justice is done to the people.

Medha Patkar,Sandeep Pandey, Gabriele Dietrich, Prafulla Samantara, Geo Josh, Hussain master, Gabriele Dietrich, Suniti S R, Rajendra Ravi, Ramakrishna Raju, Anand Mazgaonkar, Vimal Bhai, Madhuresh Kumar.

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