Counter-Cola: A Multinational History of the Global Corporation

Thanda Means Toilet Cleaner

But the collective action and communication have been successful – the movements put pressure on local regulators who shut down plants in Plachimada in 2004, in Mehdignanj in 2014, they shut down a just-built $24 million dollar new production line (which would have filled 600 PET bottles a minute); and in 2016, after production slowed over several years as Coca-Cola encountered protests and the reality of water scarcity, Coca-Cola finally shuttered its bottling operations in Kala Dera.[i]
While The Coca-Cola Company made efforts to localize its product in the Indian cool of “thanda” water, the movement against the enclosure of this resource attempted to globalize its resistance through that very brand commodity.  “Thanda” may have come to mean Coca-Cola, but in Mehdiganj it is no longer associated with Indian cool.  Rather, as graffiti painted on the sides of farmhouses neighboring the plant shout to those who pass by, “Thanda means toilet cleaner.[ii]  For The Coca-Cola Company, it was its multinational ubiquity that enabled the very transnationally-linked activism of its challengers to emerge and express their environmental critique.  And for one of Mehdiganj’s protest songs to enjoin listeners:  “Now come out from the circle of people who speak the language of Coca-Cola.  And do something.”[iii]
[i] Preetika Rana, “Coca-Cola Closes Plant in India,” The Wall Street Journal, February 10, 2016,
[ii] “Thanda matlab toilet cleaner” was popularized by television yogi Swami Ramdev who appropriated Coca-Cola’s advertising tagline to make it a catchphrase to dissuade his practitioners from consuming soft drinks (as well as fast food, foreign beauty products, etc.) with both health discourse and more exclusionary rhetoric of traditionalism, bodily purity and nationalism in response to India’s neoliberalization and the subsequent flood of consumer goods by multinationals.
[iii] Lok Samiti, Jahar Ba (circa 2005)

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