Coca Cola, Pepsi
Coca Cola, PepsiReuters

The Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangam, one of the biggest trade associations in the state, has backtracked on its announcement that it would ban the sale of Pepsi and Coca-Cola across the state and said that it has only asked its members to not sell products manufactured by the two foreign companies.

The Tamil Nadu Traders Federation, another big trade association, has also asked its members to stop the sale of products manufactured by Pepsi and Coca-Cola from March 1, 2017. This comes a day after the Tamil Nadu Assembly passed an amendment Bill allowing the traditional bull-taming sport of Jallikattu to be held across the state.

"We have more than 15 lakh members in our organisation. We have told all our members not to sell Pepsi or Coca-Cola products," Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangam President Vikram Raja told the News Minute. The head of the Tamil Nadu Traders Federation Vellaiyan also said that it wasn't banning Pepsi and Coca-Cola products, but was just asking its sellers to not sell products manufactured by the two companies. 

"We have told members not to sell these products at all. This includes every single product manufactured by these companies. There are 6000 smaller associations which come under our Federation. We do not have the authority to ban it, so we are asking members not to sell it. Many reports have found that such products contain pesticides and are poisonous to one's health. It is duty of the government to ban these products, but since the government is unwilling to do so, we decided to do it," Vellaiyan told the News Minute.

Protesters at Marina Beach in Chennai had also demanded that products of Pepsi and Coca-Cola be banned in the state. They had accused the two companies of robbing off the farmers and the general public of the state of their water resources, especially from Thamirabarani River, only to use it to manufacture aerated drinks when farmers across Tamil Nadu were facing severe drought.

Vellaiyan said that the protest had been going on since a long time but the government always favoured the corporates.

"During the jallikattu protest, we saw many youngsters talking against foreign products, and we figured out that we have public support. Tamil Nadu is not getting water from Cauvery or Mullaperiyar, the only water we have is from Thamirabarani, even that water is being taken by these companies," Vellaiyan said.

The Madras high Court, in November 2016, had ordered the State Industrial Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu (SIPCOT) to stop the supply of water from the Thamirabarani River to Pepsi and Coca Cola, which use several lakh litres of water for the manufacture of their products. SIPCOT operates a special economic zone in Gangaikondan in Tirunelveli.

The ruling was welcomed by farmers and activists in the region who have been fighting against the two companies and the state government for several years. They believe that the companies have uninterrupted and cheap supply of water, thereby depleting the ecosystem, while farmers of the region face severe shortage of water and poor monsoons annually.