Special Correspondent

State Government asked to follow the Kerala example

JAIPUR: Activist groups have asked the Rajasthan Government to follow the Kerala example to put a ban on the sale of Coke and Pepsi in the State. If the water-rich Kerala could do it now, a perennially water-scarce State like Rajasthan should have done it even earlier, they argued.

Talking to media persons here over the weekend, Sawai Singh, convener of the Jan Sangarsh Samiti, a joint front of various groups, demanding closure of soft drink manufacturing units in the State, said the Rajasthan Government's move to ban Coke and Pepsi from schools was an appreciable step.

However, falling short of a total ban, the soft drinks units operating here would continue to pose a threat to the health of the people and lead to over exploitation of precious ground water, he said.

Mr.Singh said that the stand of the agitating groups stood vindicated with the recent report of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on the presence of pesticides beyond the permissible limits in the soft drinks. "If soft drinks are not good for children it is surely harmful for the grown-ups as well," he asserted.

The groups, which include Rajasthan Samagra Sewa Sangh, Samata Sainik Dal, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Women's Rehabilitation Centre and Vividha, announced a demonstration in front of the Coca Cola plant at Kaladera in the outskirts of Jaipur on August 22. The activists would break the bottles in front of the factory and bloc the roads, Mr.Singh informed while asserting that the protest would be peaceful.

Detailing the consumption of water by soft drink manufacturing units, Mr.Singh charged that the soft drinks factories located in Jodhpur, Alwar and Udaipur besides the one at Jaipur were responsible for the steep decline in the ground water levels in the respective areas.

The representatives from the villagers around Kaladera said the ground water levels had gone down to 100 feet in the area now from 30 feet at the time of the installation of the plant--a charge that had been challenged by the management of the unit several times in the past.