Indian Authorities Threaten to Demolish Coca-Cola Plant
The local revenue administration ordered demolition of the Mehdiganj plant last month in Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh, saying it was built on village council land and was “illegal.”
The village administration earlier imposed a 126,000 rupee (US$2,000) fine on Hindustan Coca Cola Company Pvt, a unit of Coca-Cola, the world’s largest soft-drinks maker.
India is one of Coke’s fastest-growing markets thanks to an expanding middle class. Coke announced last year completion of work to expand the Varanasi bottling facility which can produce 600 polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles a minute.
Subordinate Revenue Administrative Officer Manoj Rai said he plans to “implement the demolition orders in a couple of days. There is no question of not following the order.” But Coca-Cola India spokesman Kalyan Ranjan said the company has “all the documents to prove our land ownership,” adding the soft drinks maker had “appealed against this order.”
Further comment from Coca-Cola was not immediately available.
The Varanasi bottling plant, one of 58 that Atlanta-based Coca Cola has in India, has been at the center of protests for years with demonstrators accusing the company of creating major water shortages through excessive extraction of water and polluting groundwater and soil.
Similar public protests have been held against Coke’s bottling plants in other parts of the country, alleging depletion of ground water and pollution. The company has consistently denied the allegations.
The tussle between industry and locals in Varanasi reflects a wider fight in India, where efforts to modernize have often encountered protests by villagers who make up over half of the country’s 1.2-billion population.