Cola wars are passe. Cola peace is in. The raging controversy over pesticide traces in popular soft drinks has given birth to a new special interest group, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) of sorts, which wants only asks that people think about the whole issue with cool minds and not waste the country's time by hyping the issue beyond proportions.
The Centre for Sanity and Balance in Public Life, launched by Kishore Asthana, an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahemadabad, aims to discourage politicians, celebrities, companies and the media from wasting the country’s time and resources on issues which he says over-ride core issues bothering the country in the guise of public interest.
So what are the issues bothering this activist?
Asthana cites the Ayodhya temple issue, security in Hindu temples where stampedes kill people, the social evils of lotteries, and the use of text messages by television and mobile phone service companies to make money. Viewers taking part in SMS voting often pay six rupees per text message.
Asthana, who claims to have no love or hate for any cola company or the Centre for Science and Environment, which is waging a media battle over harmful substances in soft drinks, told Hindustan Times that he was only preaching against panic and pleading for sanity.
"Such controversies divert us from the main issue and are generally used for self-publicity. They are a violation of common-sense and lead to uninformed debate and knee-jerk reactions, causing avoidable harm to our social fabric," he said.
Asthana's organization plans to publish an annual‘Nero’s list” which would rank top 10 organisations and people in public life who it thinks waste the nation's time by harping on issues he calls "irrelevant and self-serving."