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Kerala official in the dock over pro-Coke comment news
26 May 2010

The Kerala cabinet has asked the state chief secretary to get a clarification from a senior bureaucrat for his expression of regret over the state's ''failure to save'' the troubled Coca Cola plant at Plachimada, which has been dysfunctional for the last few years over environmental allegations.

''The chief secretary has been asked to get a detailed clarification from T Balakrishnan on his remarks,'' chief minister V S Achuthanandan told reporters today after a cabinet meeting. He added that the statement of Balakrishnan, principal secretary (industries), ran counter to the Left Democratic Front government's stand.

While addressing a business meet at Kozhikode two days back, Balakrishnan said it was ''rather unfortunate that the Coca Cola plant could not be saved from virtual closure''.

Achuthanandan had yesterday criticised the official for his remarks. ''The views aired by the official ran counter to that of the LDF government as protecting those extracting water is not our policy,'' he said.

Environmentalists and local agitators have accused the Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Ltd plant of depleting ground water and grievously harming the environment.

Balakrishnan's statement has caused embarrassment to the government as a high powered committee set up by the cabinet recently recommended steps to realise compensation from Coca Cola for ''losses'' caused to people in the plant locality in Palakkad district.

Balakrishnan had made the remark in the presence of industries minister Elamaram Kareem, a Communist Party of India (Marxist) member in the cabinet. Kareem, however, distanced himself from the views of the senior official, making it clear that the government did not share his opinion.

A multi-member committee set up by the government had two months back recommended steps to realise Rs216 crore as damages from the multinational beverages giant ''for losses it caused to people in the area''.

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Kerala official in the dock over pro-Coke comment