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Tharoor defends his stance

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Shashi Tharoor
Shashi Tharoor

Special Correspondent

Justifies operation of Coca-Cola India at Plachimada in Palakkad

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Former Under Secretary General of the United Nations Shashi Tharoor has defended his association with the Coca-Cola India Foundation Yatn and justified the operations of Coca-Cola India at Plachimada in Palakkad district.

In a rejoinder to an open letter published by the Plachimada Solidarity Committee criticising his association with Yatn, Mr. Tharoor said that Yatn was a purely philanthropic organisation. “The Foundation is financed by the Coca-Cola Company as part of its corporate social responsibility, which is a practice that I have encouraged around the world since my United Nations days, when UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched the ‘Global Compact’ to encourage corporations around the world to adhere to certain globally-accepted principles and practices.” The purpose of encouraging such a Foundation was to ensure that the company looked beyond its commercial bottom-line.

Mr. Tharoor, who is a member of the advisory board of Yatn, added that he aimed at promoting a number of concrete steps, particularly in the area of safe drinking water.

Referring to the charges against the company, he said the Division Bench of the Kerala High Court had ruled in August 2005 that the company was not guilty of unfairly exploiting the groundwater and that the depletion of groundwater at Plachimada continued even after the company ceased operations in 2004.

The court had concluded on the basis of scientific studies that other factors, including shortage of rainfall, were to blame.

“On the question of groundwater toxins and toxic sludge, I have seen reports from reputed governmental bodies, including the Kerala State Pollution Control Board and the Central Ground Water Board, New Delhi, refuting your [Solidarity Committee’s] charges.”

The company had supplied drinking water to the local people till December 2007 though the court order had required it to supply drinking water to the community only so long as it continued operations there.

He said that the result of the agitation by the Solidarity Committee over Plachimada was to close down a plant with investment of Rs.80 crore that provided direct employment to 400 people and indirect employment to more than 5,000 persons.

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