Kochi: Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan Sunday lashed out at soft drink giant Coca Cola and said a tribunal will be set up to recover the cost of socio-economic damages caused by a now-shut plant of the company in the state.
Inaugurating a new unit of a state-owned public sector undertaking, he said the management of the closed factory of Coca Cola at Plachimada in Palakkad district had cheated the people of the state and the government.
"The sanction for them was given after it was found out that some jobs would be created but the company cheated both the people and the government," he said.
He said that his government will be setting up a tribunal to recover the cost of the damages caused by the soft drink factory, through its operations at Plachimada.
A nine-member expert panel headed by additional chief secretary K Jayakumar has put the cost of socio-economic damages caused by the company at Plachimada at Rs.216.26 crore.
"The entire place has been seriously damaged and it has caused a loss of more than Rs.200 crore and the place will take a very long time to get back to its original shape," said Achuthanandan, referring to the damage caused to the surroundings of the unit.
The bottling plant at Plachimada was set up in 1999 and the sanction for the company to begin operations was given by then ruling Left Democratic Front government under Communist veteran EK Nayanar. Achuthanandan was the convenor of the front.
It started operations after public opposition and a series of court cases and it closed down in 2004.
"The company had to pack up its bag and leave. It happened because of a sustained campaign and also due to the stand taken by the court," said Achuthanandan, pointing to the legal battle over damages caused by the unit.
The chief minister also hit out at a senior Kerala bureaucrat, without naming any one, and said some officials find the policies of his government unfavourable.
Early this month, Industries Secretary and Additional Chief Secretary T. Balakrishnan appeared to be in trouble with the Kerala cabinet asking the chief secretary to inquire and submit a report on the statement made by the former favouring Coca Cola.
Balakrishnan, who has been holding this post for the past five years, kicked up a controversy at a seminar organized by the state-owned Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation when he said that Kerala is the only state in the country where the bottling plant of Coca Cola was closed down and they were unable to do anything.
"Some people still favour the policies of the previous government, but we are very clear... We have our own policies and that is why such people lament against polices," said the chief minister.