Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Respected Friends,A few days back I was flipping through a anewsletter published by Coca Cola India. I learnt that Children Relief and You (CRY), an NGO which was founded 25 years back for making the lives of children better is a recipient of funds from the Coca Cola Company. The sufference of the people of Plachimada, Mehendiganj etc. amply demonstrate the tyranny of this company against our people.In this sense, ‘joining hands with Coca Cola means betrayal to masses’. I would like to say a word of caution to those friends who consider Marx, Lenin, Charu Mazumdar, Gandhi, Lohia, Ambedkar, Jayaprakash and Vinoba as their ideals but due to some reasons have befriended the Killer Coca Cola Company. However they need to realise that in doing so, they are betraying the same people they work with.All of us are involved in people movements and believe in social action. We need not remind ourselves that we oppose any and every form of imperialism, communal fascism,dictatorships, inequality and exploitation.Forums like National Alliance for Fundamental Right to Education (NAFRE ) and Voice of People (VOP) that are promoted by CRY, have repeatedly voiced these concerns. A large number of organizations, networks and alliances like NAFRE and VOP (Uttar Pradesh) and others like Sarokar ( Uttaranchal), Jan Morcha (Rajasthan) and Weben (West Bengal), Crej (Jharkhand) are either funded by or coordinated by CRY. Few networks have also been created at the initiative of CRY (see CRY website-crynetworks Page 1 of 1-through supporting networks, CRY provides a platform to partners- CRY is also part of many state level aliances and national issue based alliances like CACL/NAFRE). The funding partner of these networks directly intervenes in its activities, policies, decision-making processes and internal orgnisational structure through deputed Directors or/and Managers that work under the instructions of CRY. These deputed officials are also members in the Executive Committee of networks like NAFRE and VOP. CRY puts pressure on these networks through its appointees.Stating from my personal experiences as working very closely with the CRY officials in the Conferences of NAFRE & VOP and as a member of NEC of NAFRE and and Founder General Secretary of VOP, I felt that CRY officials seem to reveal the tendency of pushing their own agenda.Ford Foundation as well as Coca Cola Company are the funding partners of CRY (see CRY website- CRY-FAQ Page 1 of 2 [CRY has also periodically received support from International organizations like the Ford Foundation and NORAD] and Newsletter of Coca Cola India, June 2004, Page 3). Surely, these partners are capable of pressing their demands on CRY.Ingrid, CEO of CRY has also stated that CRY must respond to its Donors (see CRY website CRY News Page 5 of 5- ‘How can NGO credibility enhanced? Just by remembering where our resources come from and ensuring that we can deliver accountability to those people’). If CRY derives its funds from Ford Foundation and Coca Cola, can its programmes and policies be ever opposed by Cry and its partners organisations? As we accept funds from such an institution are we disregarding the fact that Ford Foundation resorted to pressure tactics that was directed against democratic institutions and peoples movements especially the left movement in our country? We are acutely aware of its long association with CIA. In this context, any friendly ties with such an agency would seem little more than ‘tyranny’. CRY even shies off to provide information regarding its funding partners to those NGO’s, activists, forums, networks with which they work and resource persons of their programmes like Com. D Raja of CPI who was a guest in VOP’s plenum at Lucknow in the first week of October 2004. If one visits CRY website, information of CRY’s relationship with Ford Foundation is available. However, Coca Cola’s association with CRY cannot be traced revealing its duplicity.On one hand CRY sponsered Alliances and Networks like NAFRE and VOP that give a harken call ‘to fight against imperialist globalization and communal fascism to safeguard the economic liberty and democracy’, on the other hand it is working hand-in–glove with Coca Cola Company. Can these two principally antagonistic ideas get together? Are the networks like NAFRE and VOP meant to work at the grassroots of remain loyal partners to CRY? Should people who are part of these networks take part in agitation against Coca Cola’s beastly actions against local communities or maintain a brazen silence in favor of Coca Cola Company and its actions. Is not Coca Cola Company a flag-bearer of the brutal face as revealed by neoliberalism along with other multinationals? Do companies like Coca Cola not become impediment in way of our economic freedom? What should be the nature of our relationship with Coca Cola Company? How do we need to respond to peoples actions against Coca Cola Company in Plachimada (Kerala), Singhachavar-Mehndiganj, Satharia (Uttar Pradesh), Wada (Maharastra), Hazipur (Bihar), places in Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu who are fighting against this beast to protect their lands, water resources and consequently their livelihood. What would be our role in these acts of social action? Are we going to become part of the criminal conspiracy against our own people by seconding what Coca Cola is engaged in?I would also like to share my concerns on the fate of the struggles of the deprived population for jal, jungle and zameen, Child Rights, Human Rights, Abolition of Child labor, Empowerment of dalits and women and the other oppressed factions of the society, protection of democracy and economc freedom. Can we as workers,partners, fellows and network initiated by CRY work towards the above stated goals? After accepting funds from agencies that specialise in imperialistic loot and plundering and comprise the heart of global capital, can one work for creation of a people based development process?Another fact that needs to be debated is the fact that CRY sponsored networks and partners invite leadership of BJP, VHP (part of Sangha Parivar) in their programmes. Do we not need to respond to it? Can this in any way help project these networks and partners as concerned regarding empowering dalit and other oppressed sections in attmpts to create a society with secular foundations?It is high time that we decide what side of the fence are we? Are we partners of Coca Cola or we stand in solidarity and struggle with peoples movement in Plachimada and Mehndiganj?With regards,Dhirendra Pratap Singh634, AV Colony, IIJhusiAllahabad (Uttar Pradesh)November 30, 2004 b
(Dhirendra Pratap Singh is a former office bearer of Allahabad University Students Union)

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