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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

Delhi's Fried Chicken Blues


TWO FLIES AND A garbage can? These are apparently enough for a fast-food outlet in Delhi to lose its license. As the BJP conclave was under way in Bombay last week, the Municipal Corp. of Delhi served a closure order on the capital's only Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurant, owned by U.S. multinational PepsiCo. Health officials said they found two flies in the outlet's kitchen and a can of garbage outside the premises. Never mind that most eateries in Delhi do not even have a license. Several days before the Nov. 11 order, the head of the capital's BJP municipal government, Madan Lal Khurana, said he would not allow KFC to operate in Delhi because it served nothing but "junk food."

The action was widely perceived as nothing but harassment. "Imagine canceling the license of a restaurant on finding two flies," says a disbelieving Ajay Banga, PepsiCo's local marketing director. Delhi officials had insisted that placing garbage cans outside the restaurant was unlawful, he recounts. They had earlier seized chicken samples from the KFC outlet on Khurana's orders. The government then said the samples contained excessive levels of monosodium glutamate (MSG) seasoning as well as the prohibited food additive sodium aluminum phosphate. The findings were withdrawn after KFC proved that the alleged SAP was really baking powder.

KFC is also under pressure in Bangalore. Its outlet there was closed in September by local authorities because of alleged high levels of MSG. The southern city is ruled by the Janata party, an opposition group like the BJP. KFC won an order to reopen and now serves customers under police protection. It has also brought local Delhi officials to court. Says Sandeep Kohli, chief of PepsiCo Restaurants International: "I suppose all this is happening with [the 1996] elections in mind." The question is whether fast-food politics will end after the polling is over.

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