By Nirant Kasliwal:
Coca-Cola is a soft-drink which has become synonymous with perhaps one of the best ways to escape this excruciating heat. If Coke doesn’t suit one’s taste, they probably savour either Fanta, Limca, Thumbs Up, Sprite, Maza or one of the Minute Maid flavours- all of which are Coca-Cola products. The omnipresence of the drink and its popular advertisements can be seen from the mere fact that the Christmas icon, Santa Claus, has his current red and white avatar due to a Coca-Cola advertisement dating back from the 1930’s! On the other side of the coin, lies the dark side of the Cola major.
The Coca-Cola Corporation has brought darkness to thousands of homes across the nation. From Uttar Pradesh to Kerala, Coca-Cola has been accused of drying up groundwater and local wells. The farms were left parched but the devil was not done yet; it ensured that the little water left was poisoned.One of the largest Coca-Cola plants used to operate from the Plachimada village of Kerala. Women from the village complained that the little water was left was undrinkable and when used for bathing, it burned their eyes and led to skin problems.
Groundwater isn’t the only issue. The Central Pollution Control Board found that the sludge from Coca-Cola’s Uttar Pradesh factory was contaminated with high levels of cadmium, lead and chromium. Astonishingly, Coca-Cola was distributing this toxic waste sludge as ‘free fertilizer’ to tribal farmers who live near the plant. Such careless disposal of the sludge and the waste-water results in the pollution of the agricultural lands, local water supplies as well as the food chain. At stake are the very lives and livelihoods of thousands of people who live around the bottling plant premises, who are primarily farmers.
These brutal assaults on mother nature have rendered her helpless. The environmental harm by Coca-Cola should not and cannot be ignored. Coca-Cola’s track record in India is indicative of an arrogant company that operates with impunity. The crops dried and withered as the ‘thanda’ MNC bottled our favourite cold drink to be sent to the next happening party. The thirst for drinking water crippled farmers in Kerala and Varanasi alike as they bottled cold drinks to quench the thirst of the elite.
The accusations against Coca-Cola are equivalent to murder charges; a farmer without water, neither for crops nor drinking, cannot possibly survive. We, as India’s youth have been accused of aiding and abetting the murderer by continuing our support for its commercial operations. The soft drinks we drink, are hugely responsible for painful environmental wounds. Thousands of farmers and their families bleed as we cool our throats with water from parched lands.
Drinking coke is like drinking farmer’s blood. With every sip you drink, you consume a pint of farmer and his family’s blood. Not only are you drinking his blood, but also of generations that will live where your drink was bottled, for the wounds of pollution take decades to heal. The next time your heart desires for something chilled in the summer heat, ask yourself: “Do I still want to drink chilled ‘blood’ to quench my thirst?”