The colas have been canned in Kerala — or so chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan thinks. Big tempos of Pepsi and Coke still roam the streets and soft drink bottles are selling for impossible prices on the black market — a 300 ml bottle costs between Rs 20 to Rs 60. In short, the consumers have made short work of the ban on the cola twins.
A week after the government order, confusion reigns. Shopkeepers have no idea what to do with their stocks and food inspectors are a confused lot. Not a single distributor or retailer has been booked. Apart from the traders, it’s the beat constables’ time to make a killing. “Sprite is not banned. But the other day a constable fleeced me for selling the “banned” product,” rues a shopkeeper in Thiruvananthapuram.
In some cases, overzealous distributors have advised shopkeepers to keep the stock intact as the ban will be in force for a couple of days.
The government’s decision is being panned in various quarters for its “tokenism”. “Why just two? The Center for Science and Environment has detected pesticide residues in all 11 brands of Coca-cola and PepsiCo,” Ramdas, a sub-distributor of Pettah area in the city. The government is silent on the nine other brands —Pepsi Caffechino, Mountain Dew, Mirinda Orange, Mirinda Lemon, Duke Lemonade, 7 Up, Thums Up, Limca and Fanta. The other states that have banned all items branded by the CSE have done a better job, say some. A blanket ban on just two drinks is only a symbolic anti-MNC stance.
But Achuthanandan takes pride in banning them. “‘We feel it is a big achievement that we have been able to stop the production of both Pepsi and Coke in Kerala,” he said in his Independence Day address.