Pepsi and Coca-Cola can use water from Thamairabarani River in Tamil Nadu, a court in India said lifting a four-month ban on the two beverage rivals, but the fight is still bubbling as a ban is likely to curb revenue.
Thursday’s ruling came as a relief to the global giants amid fresh concern over a state-wide boycott of their products by shops and restaurants that began on Wednesday.
The Madras High Court bench in Madurai dismissed petitions seeking a ban on using water from Thamairabarani River to the bottling plants of Coke and Pepsi in Gangaikondan village, Tirunelveli district.
A petitioner representing the Tirunelveli District Consumer Protection Association argued that the two firms were guzzling 3 million liters of river water every day when farmlands are drying up amid a severe drought.
The firms, however, said they were using only surplus water from the river.
The two-judge panel asked the petitioner why he was selective in filing a case against the beverage giants when other companies were using more water than the two from the river.
The ruling came a day after thousands of shops and restaurants in Tamil Nadu launched a statewide boycott of both Coca-Cola and Pepsi products. The protesters are demanding promotion of local brands of soft drinks and steps to end exploitation of natural resources.
“This is unjust. I love Pepsi and this protest violates my right to choose as a customer,” said Prem Anand, a young businessman living in Coimbatore.
The Indian Beverage Association said the protest goes against the spirit of the so-called “Make in India” campaign by the federal government. The association said the protesters were also ignoring the fact that the beverage firms are providing direct employment to 2,000 families and indirect jobs to over 5,000 families in the state through their vast supply chain.
The call for a ban on Pepsi and Coca-Cola products was heard even during the protests over the bull taming sport called jallikattu earlier this year.
Tamil Nadu’s neighboring state Kerala witnessed a rally in 2002 against the operation of a Coca-Cola bottling plant at Plachimada in Palakkad district. The protest by indigenous people led to the closure of the company’s Plachimada unit in March 2004.