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Desi drinks to rob colas of fizz
- Campaign to stress ill-effects of aerated drinks

For a change, it’s not politics that’s promising to take the fizz out of the colas produced and marketed by multinational giants.

Instead, health — and economic — concerns have brought the All-India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health and Jadavpur University together on a common platform to promote the culture of desi drinks, like fresh-fruit juices and lassi.

With the Bengal chapter of the Indian Medical Association also being roped in, the votaries of daab, lassi and the no-chemical fruit juices say they can take the battle to the cola bottle.

“We are confident that we can wean away the youth from the dazzling ads and promos, along with the drinks, offered by the multinationals,” asserted Institute scientist Basanta Ray on Thursday, even as spokespersons for the cola majors refused comment on the move.

For the launch of the swadeshi campaign, the team has chosen Santiniketan. The programme will be flagged off on June 26 in Tagore’s university town, in the presence of the vice-chancellors of Jadavpur University and Visva-Bharati, eminent doctors, food technologists, local entrepreneurs and students.

Soon after the June 26 event, back in Calcutta, a 60-member resource group will be set up, with participation from educational institutions, business and industry, art and culture. The panel will oversee the spread of the anti-cola campaign.

Technical and marketing expertise to push the desi drinks will be provided by JU’s food technology department, which has worked out the basis for a low-cost preservation of fruit juices, minus all chemicals that are harmful for the human body, say scientists.

“We will provide the scientific and commercial inputs to those interested in the project,” said Utpal Raychaudhuri of the department. “We have worked out the entire economics, which will enable those interested to make the project successful by using every locally-produced seasonal fruit.” Small-time entrepreneurs could band together by forming cooperatives to reduce the capital expenditure, he added.

The Santiniketan seminar will have a rerun in the city, involving students of leading schools and non-government organisations. Scientists associated with the project say they are confident of taking on the cola-makers’ glossy advertisements and their commercial muscle with the help of “reasoning”. A variety of data, analyses, pictures and slide-shows will provide the technical back-up.

Elaborating on the harmful effects of aerated drinks, veteran physician Durga Banerjee provided the example of a 16-year-old he had recently treated.

“The boy was gaining weight, but losing appetite and suffering from hyper-acidity. I treated him with an antacid, some vitamins and other medicines. After a fortnight, he came back with the problems refusing to go away. It was then that I learnt the boy consumed around six bottles of soft drinks daily. I asked him to give it up and then come back to me if he had a problem. He didn’t need to come back,” the doctor said.

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