Thursday, August 10, 2006

No Pepsi, No Coke – It’s No Joke!

Instead of the question ‘What is wrong with Pepsi and Coke’, one could as well ask ‘What is right with Pepsi and Coke’. Going by the public ire which is spreading like wild fire against the two giant cola companies symbolizing America, such questions have become very important and relevant.The latest trouble for the cola companies was triggered by a report by Centre for Science and Environment made public revealing that their soft drinks contained pesticides more than the permissible limits. Reacting sharply, several state governments have imposed ban on the sales in schools, colleges and hospitals. The Kerala government, however, has stolen the thunder by packing the American companies lock, stock and barrel; their production and distribution licenses have been revoked.
This is not the first time that Pepsi and Coca Cola are in the soup. Way back in the year 1977, George Fernandes had raised a battle cry against them and at that point of time America-bashing became fashionable as the nationalistic sentiment appealed to most. Three years back, a full Joint Parliamentary Committee backed by experts had found merit in the complaint made against the same two giants for having pesticide residues. No lesson seems to have been learnt by the law enforcement agencies, the cola companies and the public at large.
Why the anti-cola stir has spread so quickly through the length and breadth of the country can be appreciated if one delves into Indian psyche. After two centuries of foreign rule, nationalism is still pervasive though it has got subdued in the circumstances of liberalization turning nations to a global village. No other thing has made the masses more conscious of this radical change in India as Pepsi and Coke have done. In many villages, drinking water is still the scarcest thing and villagers have to trudge miles to get it. But one can get colas there for the asking.
Indians are now waking up to the fact that Eastern habits and practices as followed by their ancestors holds the secrets to good health and instant junk-foods as well as colas are harmful for the bodies. Swami Ramdeoji, who has been advocating openly and loudly to ban aerated drinks even before the present battle-lines were drawn, has become a household name for millions of his followers. So CSE got a pick-a-pack from the renowned guru and the nationalism fervor has caught the imagination of the masses.
Already full page advertisements have been put by the cola companies to tell the public that there is nothing wrong with the quality of their products. The film star Sharukh Khan who endorses Pepsi in their ads has threatened to go to USA to drink Pepsi if it is banned in India. What is disgusting is his counterclaim in asking ‘Does not water or mother’s milk also contain such harmful chemicals’. That does not answer why one should buy this costly foreign poison in the first place!
Some have taken refuge behind the argument that this cola-bashing may affect FDI inflows. Then should we allow the cola companies to play havoc with the health of masses just because investors may shy away from India? We do not have to appease USA on this score.

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