Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State Government has proposed shifting the controversial Coca-Cola bottling plant at Perumatty in Palakkad district to some other location where it will not encounter public resistance.

The Government made this proposal at a meeting convened by Principal Secretary for Industries T. Balakrishnan here on Tuesday. Vice-president of Hindustan Coca-Cola Deepak Jolly; general manager for the company's South India operations N. Janardhanan; the former president of the Perumatty panchayat A. Krishnan; and the Palakkad district industries officials attended the meeting.

The meeting was part of continuing efforts to find a solution to the dispute over the Coca-Cola bottling plant, which remains closed since March 2004 following public agitation and court cases over the alleged overexploitation of the groundwater resources of the area by the company. Alleged pollution caused by the company's effluents had added another dimension to the controversy.

According to information received by this newspaper on what transpired at the meeting, the company's officials did not respond either positively or negatively to the suggestion. They said they wanted time to study the proposal from all angles.

At the meeting, Mr. Balakrishnan probed whether the Perumatty panchayat, by any chance, would issue licence to the company to resume its operations. The licence was withdrawn in the wake of allegations about the depletion of the groundwater table in the area. Mr. Krishnan ruled out the chance.

Mr. Balakrishnan then wanted to know Tuesday's meeting was part of the ongoing efforts. We have been engaging with all stakeholders to bring about a win-win situation for all."

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