Alarmed by the massive usage of groundwater by the Coca-Cola bottling plant which has led to water scarcity in the area, as many as eighteen village councils in PM Modi's constituency Varanasi are demanding the soft drink maker be forbid from drawing groundwater.
The villages in Mehdiganj area of Varanasi district claimed that they have been seeing water shortages since the plant started its operations in 1999.
"Elected village council heads represent the voice of the people, and they are clear that Coca-Cola is not welcome in Mehdiganj. It is time for Coca-Cola to pack up and leave," said Amit Srivastava of the California-based India Resource Center, which is supporting the village councils in their cause.
"Coca-Cola paints a pretty picture of itself internationally as a responsible user of water, but the reality in India is that it exploits groundwater at the expense of the poor, the women, children, farmers and livestock who have to live with less water because Coca-Cola mines groundwater in a water scarce area for profit," Reuters quoted Srivastava as saying.
As Mehdiganj is mainly agrarian, villagers in the area depend on groundwater for most of their requirements. Coca-Cola, which uses groundwater for production purposes, competes with local people for water, according to environmentalists.
Srivastava said the 18 village councils had written to the State Pollution Control Board, which gave a licence to Coca-Cola to open the plant, asking the officials to prevent the company from "extracting any more groundwater in the area."
The Central Ground Water Authority had declared Arajiline block, where the Coca-Cola bottling unit is located, as "over exploited" in 2011, he pointed out.
However, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages said that a study undertaken by the Central Ground Water Board in 2012 did not find any evidence to prove that company's groundwater usage had led to drying up of ponds, wells and hand pumps.
"The Central Ground Water Board observed that this depletion was not due to withdrawal of ground water by Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd (HCCBPL) plant," said a company statement.