Following a recent boycott of two major soft drink brands- Pepsi and Coca Cola in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, the Kerala Vyapari Vyavasaya Ekopana Samithi (KVVES) and Kerala Vyapara Vyavasaya Samithi (KVVS) are jointly moving to boycott soft drinks from these brands. Both the trade associations want shopkeepers to stop stocking and selling cold drinks from other multinational companies as well. The main reason stated for the boycott is over use or misuse of the State’s water resources.
According to KVVES State Secretary, T Naseeruddin, the multinationals haven’t been following proper protocol to manage waste generated from their factories. He had also stated that he expects shopkeepers to stock and promote local cold drinks like coconut water. Post boycotting of cold drinks by these companies in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, several shopkeepers apparently approached him to move for such a ban.
If executed, close to seven lakh shopkeepers and merchants will stop stocking and selling cold drinks from Pepsi Co and Coca Cola India. Both KVVES and KVVS expects cooperation of the State Government in this matter.
“The boycott is part of protest against misuse of the State’s ground water resources by these companies while manufacturing these cold drinks. We want the state government to come to a decision regarding proper usage of water resources instead of going out on a total ban. A total ban, would obviously create problems for many big and small-time traders and merchants. We hope the government comes to a definitive decision regarding this soon and makes proper provisions and regulations for the proper functioning of these MNCs,” says State Secretary of KVVS, ES Biju.
Recently, Tamil Nadu Traders Federation (TNTF) and Consortium of Tamil Nadu Traders Association (CTNTA) are asking shopkeepers to promote local brands by boycotting two major cola companies, Coca Cola and Pepsi. The groups have been stating health and environmental reasons. Close to 20 lakh shops associated with these groups will boycott the soft drink brands. Post boycott in Tamil Nadu, Secretary General of the Indian Beverages Association, Arvind Verma said that he was deeply disappointed in the decision considering that both the brands had contributed considerably to the country’s economy and provided employment to a considerable amount of people.
According to Senior Hydrologist and District Officer, Ground Water Department, Palakkad, Thomas Scaria, “On the basis of a complaint by the local Panchayat in 2012, Pepsi Co.’s factory at KINFRA industrial park Kanjikode, received a stay order from the Court to use up to 600000 lakhs litres of water a day. But recently due to problem of water shortage and decision of the State’s Disaster Management Authority to restrict companies that use water as a raw material, they were given a notice to reduce water usage to up to 1.5 lakh litres a day till May 31st. So far, they have been using close to one lakh litres of water a day and as per the SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system, they have been following these orders. However, we aren’t aware of any impending decision to boycott or ban cold drinks produced by these companies.”
Back in 2006, Kerala State Government moved to ban soft drinks by companies like Pepsi Co. and Coca Cola. The reason stated back then was the presence of pesticides in these drinks. The move to ban however was quashed within a month by a division bench of Kerala High Court following pleas by the companies involved. Three years ago, in 2003, KVVES opposed the boycott of Pepsi Co. and Coca Cola by the CPI(M) government that wanted to protest against the US government’s invasion of Iraq. The reason for the same was stated as lack of support from the CPI(M) government three years ago when KVVES wanted to boycott products by Hindustan Lever. A final decision regarding the current plans to boycott will be taken by next Tuesday, March 14th. Will this boycott be a long-term one? Only time will tell.
Cover image courtesy: Mathrubhumi