in deep water

Coca-Cola to face criminal procedure for polluting water

coca-cola-reuters File photo

In a major boost to a civil society movement, a police case was filed on Friday against soda giant Coca-Cola for exploiting and polluting groundwater in Plachimada in Palakkad district.

The authorities have invoked the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 as the majority of the victims are from the Scheduled Caste Eravala community in Plachimada.

The case was filed based on the directions of Palakkad District Police Superintendent Debesh Kumar Bahara, said reports.

It is, indeed, a significant development for residents of Plachimada, who have been fighting a losing battle against Coca-Cola for years now. And for the first time, the soda giant will face the judicial process in the country, even though it had been accused of similar charges in other states.

The authorities will summon the top officials of the company from Kochi and Noida for questioning soon.

The fight led by residents of Plachimada was exemplary as it showed how a sustained and coordinated efforts from the civil society can cause a multinational company to shudder.

The Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Private Limited, a subsidiary of the Atlanta based Coca-Cola company secured the license to operate its production plant in Plachimada in 2000. However, two years after it started production, the local women began to raise protest banner accusing the company of over-exploiting the groundwater of the village.

Soon the opposing voice turned into a movement as it received support from various levels of the state government. Eventually the company was forced to shutdown its plant in 2005.

Although, the plant was closed, the fight of Plachimada residents is far from over. The protestors have been demanding a compensation package from the company for the environmental and social damage that it inflicted on the village.

Last year, the BJP-led NDA government sent back the Plachimada Tribunal Bill without forwarding it for the President's consideration. The Bill was passed by the State Assembly to make the company pay Rs 216.25 crore in damages to Plachimada residents.

The Centre wrote to the then UDF-led government to scrap the Bill terming it as “unconstitutional.”

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