Counter-Cola: A Multinational History of the Global Corporation

Responses to Coca-Cola's Return

First, there was concern about The Coca-Cola Company and its material and symbolic products were foreign elements that would change Indian values and culture. Hindu-nationalist elements attacked Coca-Cola as a contaminating influence on traditional Indian culture and bodies.[1] 

Second, when an Indian environmental NGO concerned with environmental regulation of water quality discovered actual contamination by pesticides in Coca-Cola’s bottled drinks, it created uproar in the mainstream media and the middle class, resulting in a consumerist crisis of confidence in the imagined quality of the commodities produced by global corporations. This media firestorm grew all the way up to a major feature film, incisively titled: Corporate (Madhur Bhandarkar, 2006). 

But the focus of this digital chapter is on a third response:  the movement of rural peasant communities against Coca-Cola’s privatization and pollution of local groundwater as an increasing expanse of the country falls into a crisis of water scarcity.  This movement articulated one of the most powerful critiques of corporate globalization and Indian liberalization, illuminating the dispossession of the resources of the rural poor for the consumption of those on the other side of an increasingly widening economic divide.   
[1] Anikendra Nath Sen, “Right Wing Rainbow,” Times of India, November 8, 1993, p. 16; Luke Harding, “Let Them Drink Coke,” The Guardian, June 29, 2000.


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