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Pepsi, Coca-Cola boycott: Who will be targeted next in Tamil Nadu?

Here we go again. Protectionism in the name of patriotism has always been a given. That’s why three post independence generations paid top dollar for crummy and cheap cars like the Ambassador and the Fiat. And drank Vimto and Rooh Afza.

Representational image. AP

Representational image. AP

Now, we want to attack Pepsi and Coca-Cola (Tamil Nadu being the battlefield) for exploiting groundwater resources and harming the human body).

So, add the sauce of saviourhood to the patriotic fervor and then replace the phoren pests with local fizzy drinks which miraculously will exploit the same water sources but, somehow, will be less harmful to the digestive system.

What a load of baloney. Using this sudden surge of care because sugar laden drinks will harm public health to create political capital through disturbances is so unnecessary.

Sending these two iconic brands to the guillotine but doing nothing about gutka, paan, cigarettes, beedis, a range of churans, chuna, paan bahar, monosodium glutamate, rotgut, saturated fats, cooking oils of dubious pedigree, adulterated foodstuffs, colour-injected fruits and vegetables, hormone-treated meats is hypocritical in the extreme.

Commerce does not know boundaries: it is universal and cannot be turned into a monopoly. India suffered that closed-door policy right to the eighties where only four or five families controlled consumerism for nearly a billion people.

Here we are calling on the world to join us in multiple ventures and opening our doors to the best. And then we send out a message so contrary in spirit: our commercial considerations are predicated to chauvinism of the most naked kind.

Does this old and tired trick of attacking western companies still work? Will we, as a nation, continue to fall for it? Surely, by now we can see through the gimmicks and resist being, once again, called upon to settle for local products of questionable quality.

If, for one moment, one believed that goodness of heart is the engine behind the intent and that—the Indian equivalents to replace foreign goods, whatever they may be, are competitive and neither environmentally hostile nor harmful to the consumer—and have, by some miracle, discovered a magical formula for safe consumption, it would be worth dumping the foreign option.

But to simply whip up resentment and twist the jingoistic knob to the right in the hopes that the public will settle for a second-rate alternative is a policy that should be stopped in its tracks.

Today, Pepsi and Coke. Tomorrow, McDonald's and KFC. What about pizza parlours and roadside Chinese food cooked in recycled oil?

Might as well get rid of all the new range of cars and bikes and go back into that five family nest where we were mutely enslaved in our buying rights.

Once governments start determining what’s good for us the red flag is already whipping in the ill wind. But add to that the deceit and the deliberate flavor of nationalism by targeting only foreign companies and we might as well just surrender on this ‘Make in India’ dream.

People who feel strongly that the devil is not Indian and often stir up emotions with xenophobia better get one fact straight. If we become isolationist again, there may be no coming back from that.

Safeguard the environment. Lay down strict rules. Follow procedures. Keep a watchful eye on water use and pollution. But stop with the arbitrary j’accuse…Indians have gotten a lot smarter and a lot more global. If they want an international fizzy drink full of sugar and fat that's harmful to their health then so be it.

Especially when there is nothing local to match it.

Updated Date: Mar 04, 2017 15:26 PM

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