A day after Traders Federation in Tamil Nadu called for a ban on sale of Coca Cola and Pepsi soft drinks, the Madras High Court quashed the petition filed to ban water supply to multinational cola makers Pepsi Co and Coca-Cola in Tamil Nadu.
Food processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said that a sales ban on Coca Cola and Pepsi in Tamil Nadu is against the democratic values of the country and would only foster black marketing.
Badal rued that "politics" was being played on the issue, and such a ban was against the democratic values of the country.
"I am not in favour of banning things because this gives rise to black marketing," she told PTI when asked about her comments on the development in Tamil Nadu and its impact on FDI.
The Minister, who is currently on a visit to Japan leading a delegation of industry body CII to woo investments in Indian food processing sector, said: "As a democratic country, we have the right to eat what we want to eat."
President of the Traders Federation in Tamil Nadu, A M Vikrama Raja on Wednesday declared drinks as 'toxic' for consumption. "About 70 per cent of the (15 lakh) traders have decided to boycott the sales of Coke and Pepsi from Thursday onwards for their toxic nature. Whatever you find on the shelves of the stores are leftover stocks and those not taken back by the (distributing) agencies," he said.
Raja had earlier proposed a ban on sale of these brands at the height of pro-jallikattu protests in the state in January, where it was widely claimed that many international groups may have been behind the ban on the bull taming sport.
She added, "Someone who wants to drink Cola will find Cola despite all odds. This (the ban) will increase black marketing and corruption."
Raja had then said that the youth and students who were part of that movement had extended their support to the cause of banning these soft drinks.
Reacting to the call to boycott products of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo India, the Indian Beverage Association said it was "deeply disappointed".
"This is against the proven fundamentals of robust economic growth, and against the clarion call of Make in India," it said.
IBA noted "the products manufactured by Coca-Cola and Pepsi are of global standards and one of the safest available."
Citing a Supreme Court order of 2013, which had reportedly d an FSSAI panel's submission that ingredients present in aerated beverages "do not pose any health hazard," IBA, an organisation of non-alcoholic beverage industry, said the boycott call "violates the rights of the consumer to exercise choice."
Raja said that there was no estimate available on the revenue for traders from cola sales or the losses they could incur by boycotting them but insisted that the move was undertaken for "health awareness" of the people of the state.
"Health takes priority for we traders over revenue," he told a private news channel.
He claimed there was a 70 per cent dip in the sales of these cola brands ever since there was "awareness" among students during the pro-jallikattu protests "when many of them decided to stop endorsing such international brands."
Raja had earlier said that the traders were opposed to the cola giants not because they were part of an MNC conglomerate but because of their "toxic nature."
As many as 15 lakh of the 20-odd lakh stores in the south eastern state of Tamil Nadu were selling cola brands manufactured and marketed by Coca Cola and Pepsi, running into several hundreds crores of rupees, he had said earlier.
Both Coca Cola and Pepsi have bottling units in Tamil Nadu.
(with inputs from PTI)