MULTINATIONALS ON THE RUN IN INDIA
London: July 12, 2005: The Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Private Limited, a subsidiary of the Atlanta based Coca-Cola company, has threatened Mr. Sharad Haksar, one of India’s celebrated photographers, with a lawsuit.
Mr. Haksar, a leading international photographer and winner of the 2005 Cannes Silver Lion, has placed a large billboard in one of Chennai’s busiest areas – one of India’s largest cities – with his own “work (which) is solely an expression of creativity.”
The billboard features the ubiquitous red Coca-Cola wall painting, commonly found across India. In front of the Coca-Cola ad is a dry water hand-pump with empty vessels waiting to be filled – a common scene in India, particularly in Chennai. (See image above and here.)
On July 11, 2005, the law firm of Daniel & Gladys, who represent Coca-Cola’s Indian subsidiary, sent a letter to Mr. Haksar threatening him with serious legal actions unless the billboard was replaced ‘unconditionally and immediately’. Coca-Cola would seek Indian Rupees 2 million (US$ 45,000) for “incalculable damage to the goodwill and reputation” of Coca-Cola, and also sought an ‘unconditional apology in writing’.
Mr. Haksar said, “I have no intentions of issuing any apology. Because I have not committed anything wrong. If Coke pursues this legal course, my lawyers shall take appropriate counter action.”
Mr. Haksar’s billboard highlights the severe water shortages being experienced by communities that live around Coca-Cola’s bottling plants across India. A community close to Chennai, in Gangaikondan, has already held large protests – protesting against an upcoming Coca-Cola plant. In the neighboring state of Kerala, in the village of Plachimada, Coca-Cola has been unable to open its bottling facility for the last 16 months – because the community will not allow it to.
Coca-Cola is in serious trouble in India. A massive rural movement has emerged to hold the company accountable for creating water shortages and polluting the remaining water and soil.
“We appreciate Mr. Haksar’s efforts and we condemn Coca-Cola’s attempts to silence a public discourse on the issues,” said Amit Srivastava of the international campaigning organization, India Resource Center. The campaign continues to receive tremendous public support internationally and has put the Coca-Cola company on the defensive.
The recently held Live – 8 concerts pulled out with negotiations with Coca-Cola over sponsorships because of public opposition, spearheaded by the India Resource Center. Coca-Cola was also banned from the Make Poverty History March as a result, on July 2, 2005, a march of close to 300,000 people in Edinburgh in Scotland.
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center
T: +44 7731 865 591 (UK) +1 415 336 7584 (US)
Mr. Haksar’s work can be viewed at www.sharadhaksar.com.
For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org.