Special Correspondent

Allege Health Ministry is bowing to MNCs' pressure to delay notification on soft drinks manufacture

  • NDA allies, Samajwadi Party members stage walkout
  • Left MPs, Priyaranjan Dasmunsi have a heated argument
  • Demand to withdraw `slow poisons' from markets

    NEW DELHI: The Opposition and the Left parties in the Lok Sabha sought a ban on Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola and other soft drinks following the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) study that exposed the presence of a high quantity of pesticides in them. They accused the Government, particularly the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry, of "bowing" to pressure from the multinational companies to delay notification of the norms for the manufacture of soft drinks.

    Not satisfied with the Centre's response on the issue, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) allies and the Samajwadi Party members staged a walkout while the Left MPs had a heated argument with the Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi who said the Government would soon notify and send the Food Safety and Standards Bill, as passed by Parliament this week, to the President for his assent and empower the States to take action. Cutting across party lines, all MPs barring those of the Congress demanded a ban on these drinks.

    Denying allegations that there was "collusion" between the Health and Family Welfare Ministry and the multinational companies manufacturing soft drinks, Mr. Dasmunsi said after the United Progressive Alliance Government took over, the Prime Minister had been keen on bringing in a comprehensive law on public health. "We have passed the legislation, it needs Presidential assent before it is notified and sent to all States," he said.

    N. Krishnadas (CPI-M) and Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) demanded a ban on colas and some other soft drinks and suggested that the Government ask these companies to withdraw their products from the market, describing these as slow poisons.

    Mohammad Salim (CPI-M) said the issue also involved the "dignity" of the House as the recommendations of the JPC were not being taken seriously.

    Anil Basu (CPI-M) and Mr. Salim also spoke of the possibility of "collusion" between the Health Ministry and the cola companies. This evoked a sharp response from Mr. Dasmunsi who said it was wrong to bring politics into the matter.

    Deputy leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) V.K. Malhotra said the cola companies should not be allowed to advertise their products.

    Raising the matter during zero hour, Ramjilal Suman (SP) said the House was perturbed over the newspaper reports that quoted the study, particularly the delay in notifying the norms as suggested by the JPC. He condemned the Health Minister's response to the study in which he reportedly said "there was nothing to investigate."

    Prabhunath Singh (JD-U), D.P. Yadav (RJD), Reoti Raman Singh (SP), Ramdas Athawale (RPI-A) also sought a ban.

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