High on the success of their protest against the ban on Jallikattu, the people of Tamil Nadu have gone one step further. Now they are calling for a self imposed boycott of multinational brands such as Coke and Pepsi. Since a ban is considered unconstitutional, the state’s biggest merchants’ associations – Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangam and Tamil Nadu Traders Federation, have appealed to their members not to sell these products from the 1st of March, 2017. The reason is three-fold:
- The health concern that these soft drinks pose is one of the main reasons.
- Many local brands were unable to flourish due to the competition unleashed by these MNCs which had deep pockets
- Most importantly, massive exploitation of groundwater to manufacture aerated drinks, by these companies and bottling plants in many parts of the state.
A M Vikramaraja, President of Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangangalin Peramaipu, the association that represents 6,000 affiliated associations and 21 lakh shops, said he would campaign among traders and consumers about the evils of these multinational brands in the lead-up to March 1. Many hotels, restaurants and shops in Coimbatore, along the National Highway and some in Madurai and Trichy have already stopped selling soft drinks marketed by the MNCs.
SIPCOT had allotted 31.54 acres of land to both the MNCs in 2004 at Gangaikonda Cholapuram in Tirunelveli district and also permitted them to source water from the river upto 15 lakhs litres each at a rate of Rs 37.50 for every 1,000 litre. Current market price of Pepsi or Coke is more than Rs.40 per litre. Bottled mineral drinking water by either of these two companies costs at least Rs.20 per litre.
Due to the drought like situation, there had been an unprecedented number of farmer deaths and suicides in the last harvest season. As the river Thamirabarani is the only source for drinking water and agriculture for people in Tirunelveli and its neighboring districts, the Tirunelveli District Consumer Protection Association secretary D.A. Prabakar sought the Madurai High Court’s intervention to direct the Government to stop the two MNCs from drawing water from the river. He also told the court the PWD did not grant permission to SIPCOT to allow the companies to draw water.
In November 2016, the High Court showed concern over the suffering of farmers facing acute water scarcity and passed an order of interim injunction restraining Coca Cola and Pepsi from sourcing water from Thamirabarani river in Tirunelveli district.
The Jallikattu agitation brought forth the pent-up ill feelings against these multinational companies and during the Jallikattu agitation, the idea to boycott soft drinks from the two multinationals was formed.
The two MNCs are now worried as so far they were dominating the soft drinks and bottled water market in the state of Tamil Nadu. In another development, people have started demanding that A2 milk (milk by the Indian breed of Cows) be supplied to them, since it is healthier. It remains to be seen how far-reaching the effects of this agitation will be.
Jai Hind !!!