Tamil Nadu traders boycott of cola kicks in

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In a move that has surprised many, prominent traders' associations in Tamil Nadu have chose to boycott Coke and Pepsi, the two most popular beverages sold in India by foreign manufacturers.

However, many stores across Chennai are still selling the drinks, something which Vikram Raja, the president of the Traders Union, said is not a cause of worry.

More than a million shopkeepers are expected to comply with the ban. However, in November, the Madurai bench of the Madras high court granted an interim injunction restraining Coca-Cola and PepsiCo from using the waters from the river. The state is passing through a severe drought at this time. As a result, farmers don't have enough water left to irrigate their lands.

The handful of bottling plants run by the two companies in Tamil Nadu have been the site of angry protests, with permission to build at least three new facilities being withdrawn amid violent rallies by farmers.

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Two major trade bodies - the Federation of Tamil Nadu Traders Associations (FTNTA) and the Tamil Nadu Traders Associations Forum (TNTAF) - said they proposed the ban after seeing young people coming out in huge numbers last month against a ban on the local bull-taming festival, jallikattu.

In case of Jallikattu, a big argument against its ban was that organisations like the Indian wing of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was supporting it because it was funded by foreign entities. This encouraged them. They say a ban on Coca-Cola and Pepsi might work in the state.

With Pepsi, Coca-Cola and other brands out of the way, local brands of soft drinks and drinkables are expected to make a killing. They contain a lot of harmful substances, which we believe, will lead to deterioration in consumers' health. "We are promoting Indian soft drinks, and will encourage better sales of fruit juices", he said. IBA issued a statement saying, "it was against the proven fundamentals of robust economic growth".

Pepsi and Coca-Cola together provide direct employment to 2,000 families in Tamil Nadu and more than 200,000 retailers earn over Rs400 crore by selling products made by both companies, the IBA added. There has been no comment from either of the businesses yet.

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