India Insight

Tea, milk or lassi — is the beverage war worth it?

From a hefty trade deficit to shocking child malnutrition, there is no dearth of social or economic problems to be dealt with in India. Yet in the midst of all these issues, the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission has, in his wisdom, decided to wage a beverage war in India.

Montek Singh Ahluwalia wants to declare tea as the national drink of India by next year to commemorate the birth anniversary of India’s firstĀ indigenousĀ tea planter who was also part of the 1857 mutiny against British rule.

Ahluwalia’s declaration has already sown the seeds of another mutiny in India. Milk producers have thrown down the gauntlet, and are demanding that the “honour” should go to, well, milk.

Lassi (buttermilk) drinkers in Punjab argue the distinction should go to the original Indian drink, not something which is a British legacy.

It seems only a matter of time before the filter coffee, lemonade, coconut water, mango juice or whisky drinkers jump on to the bandwagon as well.

India’s “armchair advisers” join Facebook

Screengrab of Planning Commission's Facebook page

India’s Planning Commission has put a 21st century spin on the way it advises the government on how best to spend its money — by going on Facebook and asking India’s 1.2 billion people to have their say.

The government panel, which dates back to the times of India’s planned economy and was famously panned as an “armchair adviser” by a sitting minister, has invited Indians to post suggestions on a dedicated page on the social networking site.

The page is named after the “Twelfth Plan” of expenditure which spans the five years to 2017, which the influential panel is in the process of formulating.