The Two-Day Chetavni Dharna concludes today (25 June 2014)

Union Water Resources and Social Justice Ministers Uma Bharti and Thavar Chand Gehlot meet Narmada Oustee’s Delegation. Assure that the NCA and Rehabilitation Sub Group will look into the demands, before taking further action

Hundreds of protesters issue strong warning to NDA Govt

CPM, Congress and AAP express solidarity with SSP Oustees

Group of MPs and Distinguished Citizens to visit Narmada valley before monsoon session

New Delhi, June 25 : The two day ‘Chetavni Dharna’ of hundreds of Sardar Sarovar Project affected families at Jantar Mantar concluded today with a strong warning to the Prime Minister and NDA Govt. to undertake a serious review of the illegal decision to raise the height of the Sardar Sarovar Project and assess the true costs and benefits of the Project, which is to cost Rs. 90000 crores, while the Govt. has decided to submerge 2.5 lakh people in the valley. In the name of Kutch and Saurashtra, Gujarat plans to dole out lakhs of hectares of command area land and water to the corporates and industries.

Briefing two key concerned Union Ministers Smt. Uma Bharti, Water Resources Ministry and Shri Thavaar Chand Gehlot, Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry, Medha Patkar and delegation exposed the illegality of decisions of NCA and clearance to the project by the sub-groups (Environment and R&R), on the basis of official documents, court orders and Ministerial correspondence and in violation of Court order.

Ms. Bharti accepted and directed the officials of the Narmada Control Authority to look in to the serious issues pointed out by the team and review the decisions in a participatory manner. We also learned that Mr. Gehlot was wrongly briefed by officials that the recent decision was in “compliance” of the Supreme court judgement while the reality is diametrically opposite and clearance to the dam is utter violation of the court.

Earlier in the day, Medha Patkar, Yogendra Yadav, AAP; Prashant Bhushan, Supreme Court lawyer, Nikhil Dey, of National Campaign for People’s Right to Information addressed the press. Mr. Bhushan condemned the fast – track clearance approach of the Modi Government in all matters and attempt to quell the voice of people’s movements, who are actually trying to raise real people’s issues in the country and challenge undemocratic decisions, as also loot of exchequer by massive corruption and corporate pandering.

Mr. Yogendra Yadav, pointed out that the SSP decision is not just one step by the NDA Govt. but is fully indicative of the approach of Mr. Modi, which they would like to continue for 5 years. This means decisions would be towards destroying environment, suppressing the legitimate rights and voice of people. He challenged the Govt. against submerging hundreds of villages while 1000 crore judicial inquiry into R&R corruption is ongoing and called the country’s aam aadmi and aam aurat to stand up against every undemocratic decision of the new government.

Medha Patkar expressed shock at the fact that decision of the Narmada Control Authority, is basically a political decision pushed by Mr. Narendra Modi, in violation of not just law and contempt of court, but also by bypassing the three concerned Union Ministers, Uma Bharti, Thavaar Chand Gehlot and Prakash Javdekar, all from Madhya Pradesh who had virtually no role in the decision making process. She urged Mr. Modi to face the reality, face, hear the people and come forward for a comprehensive review of the entire project, a duty which is bound, as Prime Minister of India.

Nikhil Dey, of NCPRI denounced those ministers who call themselves deshbhakts but actually work against the interests of the people, if acche din would come then it will for few people at the cost of bure din of millions of poor people. He expressed hope that the time is not far away when they will rise against this tyranny.

Brinda Karat, a long time voice of CPIM inside the Parliament and outside, openly challenged the arbitrary and anti people decisions of Modi Sarkar, be it the 14% rail fare hike, proposals to dilute labour laws of the country as also the move to drown 2.5 lakh people in the three states organized under a three decade old non-violent social movement. She recalled that even in 2006 the CPM supported the Narmda struggle, but over the past 8 years, not rehabilitation, but huge corruption in M.P. and corporatization in the garb of ‘dam’ and ‘development’ has been pushed.

Gautam Mody, Secretary of NTUI lent support to the struggle and called for coming together of farmers, workers and industrial labour to challenge the corporate agenda and the time has come when every people’s movement in the country have to start talking to each other and understand the deep rooted inter-linkages of the issues and tyranny of the political class.

People raised slogans that the country does not belong to Ambanis and Adanis but to aam aadmi and adivsis, the farmers, fisherpeople, workers, small traders and toiling masses,who represent 90% of the country’s population.

Speaking at the protest, Supreme Court Lawyer Sanjay Parikh stated that the stipulation of the Narmada Award and Supreme Court has been fully violated by the Governments, especially Madhya Pradesh where the illegal policy of encashment has led to absolute loot of tribasls and poor people and massive corruption.

Alok Agrawal, struggling for the rights of oustees for Indira Sagar, Omkareshwar etc for more than 20 years challenged the illegality in dam after dam including SSP and called for a complete review of the cascade of dams on the Narmada which is displacing lakhs of family and submerging lakhs of hectares of forest and agricultural land. Advocate Clifton D’Rozario, Organising Secretary AICCTTU, told the gathering that time has come again for the tillers and toilers to stand up against the ihuman displacement and provide an example to movements of this country.

Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal arrived at the protest yesterday and expressed full solidarity with the struggle and promised that their party would raise the issues both inside the Parliament and also across the country.

A team of MPs and distinguished citizens would visit the valley very soon, mostly before the beginning of the Monsoon session, to raise the issues both within the country and also at every national fora. Modi led Modi Govt.

Protest actions were also held in different cities of Mumbai, Pune by support groups and memorandums to the president were given.

Concluding the two day dharna, a mashaal juloos was undertaken by the protesters and was resolved that satyagraha will be held in every village of the submergence area,where thousands of families,schools, temples, mosques, ghats, markets, panchayats, lakhs of trees etc. still exit.

Meera, Bhagirath Dhangar, Yogini Khanolkar, Kailash Awasya, Kamla Yadav

Contact : 9818905316

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Coca-Cola Plant Shut Down Mehadiganj in India, Authorities Cancel License

Coca-Cola Plant Shut Down Mehadiganj in India, Authorities Cancel License
June 18, 2014

Varanasi, India: Coca-Cola’s bottling plant has been shut down by state government authorities in Mehdiganj in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India.

The Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) ordered the plant to shut down because it found the company to be violating a number of conditions of its license, or “No Objection Certificate” (NOC).

The Pollution Control Board, in its order dated June 6, 2014 (which we obtained yesterday), noted that Coca-Cola had failed to obtain clearance to extract groundwater from the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA), a government agency that monitors and regulates ground water use in water-stressed areas.

The groundwater in Mehdiganj has gone from “safe” category in 1999 when Coca-Cola started operations to “critical” in 2009, according to the CGWA. As a result, more ground water use restrictions are in place, including on ground water use by farmers and the community for drinking water.

The closure is a major victory for the community in Mehdiganj which has actively engaged the UPPCB, CGWA and other government agencies to shut down Coca-Cola’s plant. The campaign had also alerted the government to Coca-Cola’s failure to meet a key condition of a temporary license given to it – obtaining the clearance from the CGWA. The campaign, which enjoys widespread local support, had also sent letters from 15 village councils (panchayat) in April 2013 seeking closure of Coca-Cola’s plant.

UPPCB’s closure order also noted that Coca-Cola had increased its production capacity from 20,000 cases per day to 36,000 without the Board’s permission, and suggested that the company may have misled the Board about the actual amount of industrial waste discharge (which has remained constant, according to Coca-Cola, in spite of increasing production by 80%). The Board also cast doubt on Coca-Cola’s waste treatment plant, noting that the “Treatment System/Plant” was not operating “smoothly/properly”.

Coca-Cola had been seeking to expand the capacity of its existing plant in Mehdiganj five-fold, part of its aggressive growth strategy of India which in 2012 announced an additional $5 billion investment by 2020 as sales in industrialized countries decline or stagnate due to health concerns.

Coca-Cola has approached the National Green Tribunal (NGT), an environmental court in India, appealing against the decision of the UPPCB and has asked to be allowed to re-open its shut down facility. The NGT has not yet allowed the plant to reopen in the three hearings so far.

The closure of Coca-Cola’s bottling plant comes at the peak of Coca-Cola’s sales season in India, and the company has cited financial losses to the NGT as a reason for reopening the plant quickly.

Welcoming the closure of Coca-Cola’s plant, Nandlal Master of Lok Samiti who has spearheaded the local campaign said, “We knew it was a matter of time before the government acknowledged the demands of the community. This is a great victory and a welcome confirmation that local communities can successfully take on big, powerful business.”

Coca-Cola’s expanded facility in Mehdiganj has already been built but has not been able to begin commercial operations. The company also faces a major obstacle in its operations because some of the land acquired by Coca-Cola for its plant is community owned land and cannot be used for private purposes. In December 2013, local authorities passed an order to evict Coca-Cola from the illegally occupied land but Coca-Cola approached the courts and obtained a stay order.

Coca-Cola has also been forced to shut down another bottling plant in India in 2004 – in Plachimada in the state of Kerala, and faces legislation holding it liable for $47 million in damages as a result of its operations. The company is also the target of a major community campaign in Kala Dera in Rajasthan where the community is seeking closure of the bottling plant due to rapidly depleting ground water. Most recently, Coca-Cola’s plants to build a new factory in Charba in Uttarakhand were defeated almost as soon as the proposal was made public in 2013, testament to how quickly and efficiently communities can organize and network in India against problematic companies such as Coca-Cola.

“Coca-Cola’s thirst for profits in India have placed its business interests over the well-being of communities and the environment and this is not acceptable as the community of Mehdiganj has shown. We will ensure that Coca-Cola will face heightened scrutiny anywhere it plans to operate in India because the track record of the company is dismal”, said Amit Srivastava of the international campaigning group, India Resource Center.

Fore background on Mehdiganj and for more information visit http://www.IndiaResource.org

Contacts:
Nandlal Master, Lok Samiti (Hindi) +91 94153 00520
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center +91 98103 46161