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Kerala retailers ready to boycott Coca-Cola and Pepsi

LiveMint logoLiveMint 08-03-2017 Nidheesh M.K.

Bengaluru: Pepsi and Coke bottles may disappear from shop shelves in Kerala, a week after the same happened in Tamil Nadu.

Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi (KVVES), the largest apex body of traders in the state with over a million members, called for a boycott of soft drinks by PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt. Ltd and Coca-Cola India on Wednesday, alleging over-extraction of groundwater at its two plants in Kerala.

The retailers, however, shall wait until a meeting with chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan slated for next Tuesday before going ahead with its implementation, said KVVES state president T. Naseeruddin over the phone.

According to Naseeruddin, 700,000 retailers will withdraw the products of the two companies from their shops and instead promote local beverages.

The development comes at a time when big distilleries are facing heat over large-scale groundwater extraction, with the rest of the state reeling under what is estimated as the worst drought in a century. The agitations are especially pronounced against a plant of PepsiCo in Palakkad district, which is wracked by drought. Local population and regional wings of political parties, including that of ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM, are up in their arms against the plant, reported The Hindu in February.

PepsiCo and Coca-Cola spokespersons didn’t respond to calls and messages.

In August 2006, the previous CPM government under chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan had banned the sale and manufacturing of Coke and Pepsi in the state, over concerns of safety and water extraction. However, the ban was later quashed by Kerala High Court reasoning that the state had no power to introduce such a ban.

The state government did appeal against the order in Supreme Court, but it agreed to the high court’s view on the matter and refused to stay the lower court order.

Last week, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo received relief from a bench of the Madras high court, which allowed them to draw water from a river in Tamil Nadu for their bottling plants.

The ruling came a day after a majority of 1.5 million retail outlets in drought-hit Tamil Nadu stopped selling products made by the two companies, heeding a call by a local traders’ association.

Sounak Mitra contributed to the story.

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