Soft drink giant Coca Cola has caused socio-economic damage amounting to Rs.216.26 crore in Plachimada village of Kerala's Palakkad district, said a report submitted to state Water Resources Minister N.K. Premachandran here.
A nine-member panel headed by Additional Chief Secretary K. Jayakumar presented the report Monday to the minister. Jayakumar said the government should set up a tribunal and compensate the loss suffered by the villagers of Plachimada.
'What we have found out is that the company has committed a crime which is punishable. About Rs.84.16 crore worth of damage to agriculture, Rs.62.10 crore cost to pollution of water sources, Rs.20 crore each for cost of water provided and wage loss and opportunity cost and Rs.30 crore loss on account of various health problems has occurred,' he told reporters.
Premachandran said: 'The report would now be examined by the government and suitable action would be taken.'
The Coke bottling plant at Plachimada was set up in 1999. All the sanctions were provided to the company by the then ruling Left government under Communist veteran E.K. Nayanar. Following a sustained campaign against the Coke plant, the plant was closed down in 2004.
The panel, constituted by the V.S. Achuthanandan government last year, came up with the report after visiting surrounding areas of the plant four times and having detailed talks with the villagers. However, there was no interaction between the panel members and the Coke officials as the company did not appear before the panel.
The Adivasi Samrakshana Sanghom (ASS), which was in the forefront of the campaign, welcomed the panel's decision and asked the Kerala government to ensure that the damages are recovered from the soft drink giant.
'We heard about the contents of the report from the media and we are happy to hear the good news. In fact, we have asked a damage of Rs.4,500 crore, taking into account the loss incurred by this operation on our future generations also,' ASS representative Mariyappan told IANS.