Indian Farmers Sued for Growing “Lays Potatoes”. Where is the Social Media Boycott Brigade?

Social Commentary

Indian Farmers Sued for Growing “Lays Potatoes”. Where is the Social Media Boycott Brigade?

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

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few years ago, the CEO of Snapchat made a cardinal mistake that effectively ended the app’s good run in India. During an internal meeting in 2015, he apparently claimed his app was for rich people only, and that it had no place in “poor countries” like “India and Spain”. When the report was made public in 2017, he denied that he’d ever made the statement, but the collective “oof” that emanated from the subcontinent was heard across the world – with thousands calling for the boycott of the app, and hundreds more accidentally leaving bad reviews for Snapdeal in fits of anger.

So it came as a big surprise that when, yesterday, PepsiCo gave us its own version of late-stage capitalism, the response was a giant fuckall. The corporate, for those who haven’t heard yet, sued four farmers in Gujarat for growing what they call “Lays Potatoes” but the rest of the world calls “glorified cardboard.” The farmers were asked to pay ₹1.05 crore each, an amount, we’re sure, none have seen in their lifetimes, but is spare change for the corporate.

It’s a shockingly evil situation, but then again “corporate screws over farmer” is far from being the most unique headline in the world. What is more surprising this time is the surprise absence of the “boycott crew”, a group of Indian social media commenters that wait on the sidelines until a corporate does something that goes against their views, and then shouts them away.

The most recent example of this came just two months ago when Surf made an advertisement about a young friendship between a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy on Holi. The boycotters went crazy, asking why religion had to be included in the video. A similar situation played out after a tea advertisement showed one man leaving his aged father behind at Kumbh, and the boycotters thought their religion was under attack. Then in March, when China blocked a UN vote to designate Masoor Azhar a terrorist, they were back, this time declaring war against all products “Made in China” – Tweeted from OnePlus6T.

The farmers were asked to pay ₹1.05 crore each, an amount, we’re sure, none have seen in their lifetimes, but is spare change for the corporate.

Each time a brand has put a foot out of line, these thousands of boycotters have been willing to change their shopping lists, just so they won’t have to hear another word offending their sentiments.

PepsiCo, meanwhile, merely shafted over the farmers by suing them for more money than they’ve ever seen, and later defended it as a warning for other farmers looking to grow “Lays potatoes”. The reaction to the news has been relatively mild, considering PepsiCo is now pulling off schemes that even Mojo Jojo would be proud of. Not even one person has left bad reviews of Lexi pens. Seriously, not to sound like a rival cola company employee or anything, but where the fuck have all the boycotters gone this time?

Now I’m not advocating boycotting 100 per cent of the corporates in the world. I’m sure there are several employees of PepsiCo around the world who, like us, disagree with this move as much as we do, but deserve to remain employed. Plus, as we’ve seen with the whole Colin Kaepernick situation in America (he appeared in a Nike ad after refusing to stand for the national anthem), it doesn’t really work (Nike’s sales increased by 31 per cent). Still, we need to ask, in a country that’s usually so vocal about boycotting everything that doesn’t fit its narrative, how did we leave this one out – especially when we’re bombarded on a daily basis with reports of farmer suicides?

If we needed more evidence of the fact that most of our country doesn’t even think about farmers much, this is it. Rich urban kids think they live in a shack behind Nature’s Basket, Bollywood actors keep dancing on all their produce, and politicians think their homes are a great place to get a free lunch a week before elections. I guess we shouldn’t expect more from the social media outrage gang, it’s not like sentiments were hurt or anything.

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