Jaipuria Group's Pepsi venture under Maoist attack in Nepal
Kathmandu, Dec 5 - India's Ravi Jaipuria Group, which is the sole bottler of Pepsi in north India and Nepal, has shelved its plans to expand in the Himalayan republic after being virtually shut down by a powerful trade union affiliated to the Maoists.
Less than a fortnight after introducing the first multinational eating chains in Kathmandu -- Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) -- the group has decided not to invest an additional Nepali Rs. 1 billion to build a second bottling plant in the Terai plains.
The decision came after the All Nepal Industrial Labourers' Association affiliated to the Maoists stopped production at the Pepsi plant in Koteshwar in Kathmandu valley nine days ago and even locked up officials inside their offices.
Eventually, police had to intervene and free them.
In a surprise move, the chairman of the group, Ravi Jaipuria, flew to Kathmandu Friday in his private aircraft to announce that the prevailing insecurity in Nepal and threats faced by officials had made the organisation decide not to pump in further money till the scenario improved.
"We regret to announce that we have decided to withdraw our decision to invest an additional Nepali Rs. 1 billion in Nepal," Jaipuria said. "The safety and security of senior officials forced me to take this decision."
The announcement came on the day Nepal's coalition government basked in world limelight after Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal held a cabinet meeting at a height of 5,542m, in the lap of Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world.
However, while the Nepal government pledged to campaign to save the Himalayas and increase the green cover in the nascent republic, the state of security almost six months after the formation of the new government has been rapidly deteriorating despite assurances by the ruling alliance.
Varun Beverages, owned by the Jaipuria Group and handling the Pepsi operation in Nepal, had also planned to introduce Budweiser beer in Nepal this month.
On Nov 22, its sister concern, Devyani International, opened the first Pizza Hut and KFC outlets in Kathmandu with plans to expand in Pokhara.
During the 10-year insurgency waged by the Maoists, Nepal's industries had incurred heavy losses due to continued extortion, shutdowns and even direct attacks on some multinational companies.
In 2006, they heaved a sigh of relief when the guerrillas signed a peace pact and agreed not to target industries or call strikes. However, the peace pact has been increasingly fraying as fresh discord deepens between the Maoists and the ruling parties.
On Wednesday, the industrial sector will have its insurgency nightmares resurrected with the Maoist trade union enforcing a nationwide strike in the trade and transport sectors as part of the fresh protests resumed last month.
The Maoist trade union said the strike is in protest against President Ram Baran Yadav preventing the Maoist government earlier this year from sacking the chief of the army and putting the military over civilian supremacy.
The presidential move caused the fall of the Maoist government in May and unleashed street protests by the formerly underground party.
The strike will be followed by a three-day general strike nationwide from Dec 20.
Should that too fail to get a response from the government, Maoist chief and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda has warned his party would seek to impose an indefinite shutdown. (IANS)