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No More Coke And Pepsi
In Indian Parliament

The Hindu, India
07 August, 2003

Indian Parliament was today quick to banish from its premises the soft drinks manufactured by Pepsi and Coca-Cola following allegations by a non-governmental organisation on Tuesday that they contained toxic pesticides.

This was announced by the Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Food Management, E. Ahamed, in the Lok Sabha during a discussion on the issue.

Mr. Ahamed (IUML) said that supply of all the drinks listed in the report of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) should be discontinued on the premises. With the House approving this unanimously, orders were issued for the removal of refrigerators of the two companies and any other promotional material they may have put up in the canteens.

Later, the Union Health Minister, Sushma Swaraj, said a comprehensive report would be presented to the House on the issue as soon as possible. Further, the Government would be guided by the collective wisdom of the House on the matter.

The issue came up soon after close of question hour and preoccupied the House for a considerable while as at least 20 members had given notices to speak on the subject. Conceding the importance of the issue — much to the chagrin of Ram Vilas Paswan (Lok Janshakti Party) who had given a notice for discussing the unemployment issue — the Speaker, Manohar Joshi, allowed a discussion.

Cutting across party lines, members expressed concern about the startling revelations of the CSE study; given the popularity of these brands among the younger generation. Some members demanded a ban on the soft drinks while others such as Ramji Lal Suman of the Samajwadi Party and A.K. Premajam of the CPI(M) questioned why these companies were allowed to maintain a quality standard in India that was lower than that acceptable one in the developed world.

B. Saroja (AIADMK) demanded legislation regulating soft drinks in the country and made out a case for providing security to the CSE director for coming out with such a report. Kerala MPs said the waste of a Coca-Cola plant in Palghat was contaminating the water. While there was near unanimity in the House on the issue, a discordant note was struck by V.K. Malhotra of the BJP when he accused the Opposition of politicising the issue.