Kerala village says 'no' to cola

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By JOHN MARY in Thiruvananthapuram
  • Published 18.09.05

Thiruvananthapuram, Sept. 18: The colas are losing their fizz in Kerala.

Yet another village, the coastal hamlet of Perumathura, has declared itself cola-free with residents pledging not to consume or sell Coca-Cola or Pepsi.

R. Ajayan, the convener of the state’s anti-Coke solidarity committee, administered the pledge in the village, some 15 km from here.

Two other places that have said “no” to colas are Plachimada, the home of the Coke unit in Palakkad district, and Kuttiyadi in Kozhikode district. In both places, activists have set up check-posts barring the passage of cola-laden vehicles.

The Solidarity Youth Movement, a pro-Jamaat-e-Islami organisation, is running the anti-cola campaign elsewhere in the state. It has a strong presence in Perumathura, which comprises 3,000 families, 99 per cent of them Muslims.

The 2-sq-km hamlet falls under three local council areas of Katinamkulam, Chirayinkeezhu and Azhoor. Most people are engaged in fishing or coir-making.

The Solidarity Youth Movement’s “anti-imperialist and anti-globalisation war” has the support of other organisation heads too, like the Swatantra Matsyathozhilali Federation leader T. Peter and Congress district committee treasurer M.A. Latheef.

“We’ll ensure that our village remains out of bounds for the multinational soft-drink majors,” said Sunil Hassan, who is also a reporter with the Jama’at-e-Islami-backed Madhyamam daily and also a Solidarity Youth Movement local leader.

Beverage industry sources, however, said the attempt to block colas from being sold in these places would not have any impact on sales in Kerala, which already has the lowest per capita consumption in the country. The average per capita consumption in the state is roughly three drinks (600 ml) whereas in Delhi it is 55 drinks. “What dent can it make on cola sales in 2 sq km in a coastal hamlet where most people anyhow do not drink colas?” a top industry source asked.

But Ajayan, who is the anti-cola campaign leader, said the fight was symbolic. “We are not bothered, for now, how much less cola is sold across the state as a result of the campaign. It proclaims a growing anti-imperialist trend in Kerala.”

This is not the first time that Kerala has been the focus of anti-cola agitations.

Coca-Cola and Pepsi sales plummeted after the Anti-Iraq Occupation Forum, headed by CPM legislator T.M. Thomas Isaac, called for the boycott of American and British goods.