Ladenge, Jeetenge! (Indefinite protest against Coca-Cola)
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Nandlal Master  

Civil society and people's movements raise a strong voice against Coke's pernicious treatment of human and environmental resources. Nandlal Master's article is an exhaustive manifest of grassroots struggle against the heavy-handed corporate-state uncivil union in India.

Dear Friends

We, the people of Mehendiganj wish to bring the attention of the whole world to the glaring example of an impending World Danger of Drinking Water in the form of its open commercialization by Coca Cola and Pepsi Companies. In fact the problem is not new to you, neither is your collaboration with us in our struggle against it, new. Yet we would like you to note some facts concerning the present condition both of the depletion of water and of our struggle against it.

The Hindustan Coca Cola company established its bottling plant in Mehndiganj village of Varanasi District of Uttar Pradesh, North India, in 1995. Ever since then, the people of Mehndiganj have been constantly protesting against it. The reasons for protest are manifold.

1. Illegal Possession of Village Land

The Company has forcefully occupied more than 33 decimal of village land despite the resistance and notices of the village authorities. District authority and the Court had found them guilty and issued notices to return this public land. But the money power of the company had no troubles in keeping the land against this country’s law and people.
The company had also escaped with the theft of stamp duty worth rupees one crore five lacs and seventy five thousand. Interestingly the Varanasi court had a judgment passed against them in this regard to pay a penalty of Rs. 3,01,50,000/- on 3 March 2003, which the company’s underhand power has succeeded to ignore to this day!!!

2. Coca Cola’s enormously Polluting Waste

The company had made false publicity among the villagers that their waste would be so pure as edible and manure. But the experiments and experiences have proved to the whole world that not only their waste but the Cola itself is poisonous!, that the polluted water which the company releases contains heavy content of Cadmium and lead which has in fact destroyed the entire agricultural crops of the area causing unbearable losses to the village farmers. Surveys have already manifested that various intestinal and skin diseases increase in the surrounding villages during the last five years. Many written complaints on this fact have been made to the administration. Both administration and Pollution Board have made study and discovered the truth of the sicknesses and losses. Despite all these documented facts none of these machineries have ever succeeded to take even a single step to take action against the company, nor to give compensation to the poor villagers.

3. Coca Cola’s unjust management against its Employees

Coca Cola is one of the highest profit making multinational companies of the world. But the local people have come to experience the cut-throat behaviors of the company to its employees. It has kept all its workers as non permanent. When the employees took steps to unite to demand for just wages, the company dared to use illegal forces, dismissed many and got 13 of its employee leaders implicate in fictitious crimes and court cases for which they are still being troubled.

4. Depletion of Ground Water by Coca Cola for Commercial purposes.

The most heinous crime against the people of Mehndiganj and against the whole of our country is the massive exploitation of ground water, about 250,000 liters of water per day! This colossal use of ground water has dried up open wells and run down the level of bore wells from 30 feet to 50 feet, in this Gangetic Plain so that more than 20 villages are undergoing terrible scarcity of water not only for irrigation but also for drinking! The drought of last two years has worsened this situation leaving people with no alternative than to drive away the exploiters of their drinking water!!

5. The Shamefully Poor Response of the Government to these Problems

The government of Uttar Pradesh has been saying that they are concerned about the awful condition of drinking water in the state, and is considering closing deep wells of the government for the sake of the shallow wells of the people.
The fact is that when water is drawn for irrigation only 8 to 10% of the water is used for crops, all the rest 90% returns to the source. But commercialization and chemicalization of water uses the total content of the water drawn out. We have only one question to the UP government, “Is it in a position to stop commercialization of ordinary people’s drinking water by Coca Cola”??
A parliamentary committee under the leadership of H’ble Sharad Pawar had found that Pepsi and Coke contained heavy contents of poisonous contents after a study on the recommendation of the NGO institution CSI. But all that the whole parliament could do was to remove these soft drinks from their canteens, hinting as if to the whole country that even if the entire nation goes to doom, what concerns to them is their own welfare!!

The people of Mehendiganj have been holding peaceful protests against Coca Cola according to the norms of democracy ever since we started to see the deadly dangers it is spreading in the whole area. The Mehendiganj panchayat had unanimously passed a resolution to cancel the license of the company in May 2005.

Now it has become clear to the people of Mehendiganj and to the whole common man of the country that our government is bought by such companies and their mafia to the extent that people are left with one single option to FIGHT UNTO DEATH, for their own survival. Now people and all People’s Movements have determined to fight this decisive battle. Now the government which runs with each hard earned penny of the common people and their vote will have to make a decision whether it is with the people or with the companies who fill their pockets. Now is the time to prove that power of justice and truth is still with the people and not with any corrupt politician.

So we the people of Mehendiganj have determined to sit on strike indefinitely in front of the Hindustan Coca Cola Bottling Plant at Mehendiganj indefinitely until the following demands of our people are fulfilled by the government.
1. Cancel the license of Coca Cola company
2. Prohibit the Coca Cola company from its daily exploitation of 2.5 million liters of ground water.
3. Release the public land illegally occupied by the company from the village panchayat of Mehendiganj
4. Stop the pollution caused by the wastes of Coca Cola, and compensate the people of Mehendiganj for the losses of life and crops.
5. Deposit the dwindled stamp duty of more than rupees 30 million into the treasury immediately
6. Take back all the fake cases into which Coca Cola has dragged our peaceful protesters, and its employees.
7. Ensure a country-wide block on the poisonous soft drinks of Pepsi and Coke

Hence may we request you to ensure your participation in this revolution physically with your presence and symbolically with your encouragement, support and contributions.

Contact NAPM at:


First published in Ghadar []