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Sunday, Dec 19, 2004

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NGOs plan campaign against soft drink companies

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, DEC. 19. Some non-government organisations have formed an alliance to launch an all-India campaign against soft drink companies. They propose to form human chains next month around the bottling plants of the two most popular soft drinks — Coke and Pepsi — to force their closure.

Announcing this here at a joint press conference, the Director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, Vandana Shiva said her organisation, along with the Azadi Bachao Andolan and a few others would surround the 87 bottling plants of Coke and Pepsi on January 20. Also present at the press conference was Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan who has filed a public interest litigation (PIL) petition in the apex court asking the Government to regulate these companies.

`Jan panchayats'

Banwarilal Sharma of the Azadi Bachao Andolan said Action Committees had been formed in almost all States. After surrounding the bottling plants, there would be `jan panchayats' at the sites where judges, and officials of the company would be invited to listen to people's complaints in relation to pollution and depletion of water around the areas where these companies extract groundwater — free of cost — for manufacture of their product. "They would then be served notice to `Quit India,'' Mr. Sharma said.

"Our fight is against those powers who do not accept our scientific, legal and parliamentary decisions with regard to safety and standards. They are playing with our future generations as these soft drinks, along with junk foods are a major cause of obesity in children. We will not allow them to take a drop of water to convert into poison,'' he declared.

Mr. Bhushan, along with some NGOs, has filed a PIL in the apex court for the Government to constitute an expert committee to implement the findings of the Joint Parliamentary Committee which was set up to study the levels of pesticides in Coke and Pepsi after a Delhi-based NGO — the Centre of Science and Environment — broke the news that they were not adhering to standards.

Mr. Bhushan said the PIL sought an evaluation of the health aspects of the ingredients, a regulation of the chemical additives in the soft drinks and to make it mandatory for these companies to disclose all the contents in the cold drinks.

The PIL also sought the control and regulation of "misleading'' advertisements of soft drinks.

The NGOs want the Centre to get the soft drink companies to implement various State-level court orders. Recently, the Rajasthan High Court also asked Coke and Pepsi to display on the labels the contents and level of pesticides in the cool drinks manufactured by them.

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