The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Cola heat on Aamir
- BJP targets actor in pesticide uproar

New Delhi, Aug. 3: Smash a few soft drink bottles and while going about it, don’t forget to smash one, figuratively, in Aamir Khan’s face.

In the middle of shrill and almost unanimous cries in Parliament for no less than banning soft drinks made by multinationals, the BJP took a sideswipe at thanda-matlab Aamir.

“I want to ask Aamir Khan where all his ethical values have disappeared'” V.K. Malhotra, the party’s deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, said.

Aamir, who endorses Coca-Cola, had earned the BJP’s wrath by joining the camp of protesters against the Narmada dam and speaking up on the Gujarat riots.

Malhotra did not name the other big stars — Shah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik Roshan — who promote soft drinks.

The other jewel in India’s crown, the cricket team, also shines on the caps of soft drink bottles. Malhotra didn’t mention the cricketers either.

He explained why. “His (Aamir’s) heart was bleeding for the farmers some time back. What happened to those sentiments when he went around promoting a product that caused immense suffering to farmers by depleting the groundwater table in several states'”

In the outrage against soft drink companies after the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) tests showed high levels of pesticide in some bottles, the BJP and the Left spoke in one voice.

Gurudas Dasgupta, the CPI member, wouldn’t be happy with banning just soft drinks. “Pepsi, Coke and junk food should be banned,” he said.

Outside, footsoldiers of the BJP’s student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, broke soft drink bottles on university campuses.

Malhotra said: “Coke and Pepsi should bebanned. Their advertisements should be banned. All sports bodies, including cricket associations, should stop promoting Coke and Pepsi.”

Then he turned on Aamir. The BJP has led a campaign against the actor after he came out in support of Medha Patkar, who leads the Narmada Bachao Andolan, and criticised Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.

An undeclared ban was imposed on Aamir’s Fanaa in Gujarat while Modi’s supporters went around burning the film’s posters across the state.

Malhotra carried on against Aamir for a while before he was interrupted with a question about the BJP’s own track record on soft drinks. He had to admit that BJP-ruled states had not taken any action.

“We will find out what is happening in the states. We will definitely ask the states to take appropriate action,” Malhotra said.

He diverted the attack towards the central health ministry for not prescribing standards for soft drinks.

The first CSE report on soft drinks had come out in 2003, when the BJP was still in power. Parliament intervened and a joint parliamentary committee was set up to probe whether soft drinks contained pesticides. Towards the end of the same year, the committee recommended that standards should be set for permissible limits of various elements in the soft drinks.

The Bureau of Indian Standards was entrusted with the task. It was to come out with the recommendations on March 29 this year when the ministry prevented it from finalising the report on the ground that it would form its own committee to set standards.

The Congress said the decision to ban soft drinks lies with the states. “This is a state subject,” said parliamentary affairs minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi.

Das Munshi, who had a bitter argument with the CPM’s Mohammad Salim on the issue earlier, said the Centre could not stop any industry in states.

“Incidentally, the first Coke plant was launched in Kerala by a CPM chief minister. It was expanded by the CPM in Bengal,” he said, taking a dig at his Left partners, some of whom demanded the ban on soft drinks.

Email This Page