Meeting Lok Samiti to discuss the Coca-Cola issue

One student from University of California, Santa Barbara came to my guest house to stay for a month. She was doing PhD in Sociology and was interested in globalization and water privatization in India. She was the first one in my life who told that Coca-Cola is a disputed company in India. I knew that there was a Coke plant in Varanasi but never knew that it was disputed. She wanted to meet Mr. Nandlal who was running movement against Coca-Cola in Varanasi. We called him and scheduled an appointment to meet. Krista wanted a translator because Mr. Nandlal Master doesn’t speak English. So she told me to work as her translator. Me, Lane and Krista went together to Mehndiganj where Mr. Nandlal Master lives and Coke is situated.

Nandlal Master had given me an idea of getting to his place but it was so complicated. After reaching Rajatalab, 3 Kms from Mehndiganj, we asked few locals about Nandlal Master and most of the people knew him and his place. By mistake we reached Coke’s plant and I thought to ask Coke’s security guard about Nandlal Master’s place which I realize a big mistake now. He immediately got angry at me as he heard Nandlal Master’s name. He just told me go and ask somewhere else. Finally few locals directed us the right way and we reached Lok Samiti’s office where Nandlal Master lives.

We talked Nandlal Master about the movement which sounded like a huge issue. He told us about a lot of disputed matter about Coca-Cola, Varanasi which I had never heard before. He said that Coke is disputed because of not following industrial hazardous waste act, fight with community, stealing of water, stealing of revenue, low wage to employees, land capturing of village committee etc……………….. It was a shock for me that all these things were going on in my city since past 5 years and I had never heard it before. I asked Nandlal about why people living in city don’t know about it so he replied that Coke buys advertisement from media and that is why media never wants to talk about this issue.

Krista wanted to interview locals about their water problems. Right after the first meeting from Mr. Nandlal Master we started interviewing locals. Krista was the most hard working girl I had ever met in my life. The temperature was terrible those days, about 45 degree Celsius but she never cared about it. I had problems sometimes but she always wanted to meet more and more people. We would meet people in their fields, at home or anywhere on road so usually we had to face the direct sun heat.

We interviewed more than 40 people in 25 days. We interviewed few government officials also like Pollution Control Board officers, Ground Water Authority officers, District Magistrate of Varanasi etc…….. Krista wanted to interview few Coke officials but she was never ever able to find one. We tried hard but never got sucsses. Now I have to transcribe all the audio recordings of interviews that was done in Mehndiganj.