Kerala to set up tribunal to get compensation from Coke



Thiruvananthapuram: The LDF government in Kerala on Wednesday decided to set up a special tribunal to realise compensation from multinational softdrinks giant Coca Cola for the "serious losses" caused to people, environment and agriculture by its plant at Plachimada in Palakkad district.

The state cabinet took the decision based on the report of a government appointed high-power committee which quantified the losses inflicted by the plant of the Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Ltd, the Indian subsidiary of Coca Cola, at Rs 216.26 crore, chief minister V S Achuthanandan told reporters.

The law department had been asked to work out the details of the proposed tribunal, he said.

However, the company, which had run into legal tangles quite often over the issue, stuck to its position that the committee was set up with "a pre-determined and unproven conclusion" that operations of the plant had caused loss to the residents of Plachimada.

In its reaction to the cabinet decision, Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd said in a statement that numerous scientific studies and investigations by independent experts and the Kerala Government itself had shown that the plant was not the cause of local water-shed issues.

The Coca Cola plant at Plachimada had been virtually dysfunctional for the last four years as it was the target of agitations by resistance groups.

The company had faced problems with the government which had even banned sale of Cola products in the state, but lifted it on the basis of an high court order.

The cabinet took the decision after overruling certain reservations expressed by principal secretary (industries) T Balakrishnan on rushing to conclusions on the recommendations of the high power committee.

The panel headed by additional chief secretary K Jayakumar had submitted its report two months ago.

"I have already conveyed to you the cabinet decision", Achuthanandan shot back when reporters asked about the official's views contradicting LDF's position on the issue.

He said the report had concluded the Coca Cola plant had inflicted "serious losses" in terms of health of local people and caused agricultural and environmental harm. Newly born babies in the area were suffering from serious health problems like underweight, he said.

The loss quantified by the committee was apart from the depletion of ground water sources caused by the plant.

-PTI