Saturday, August 28, 2010


Shirking of responsibility? That is what it is when a supposed to be responsible democratic government of a country like India states openly that it has done its duty to the citizens by "asking" the state governments to strictly implement the food laws of the country! It was only a few days ago a senior minister in GOI promptly declared that percentage wise incidences of adulteration is coming down but a closer look at his statement revealed that the number of samples picked up for testing was just a few thousand from the market, a minuscule part of millions of packs of food sold in the country every day!. The country is becoming a laughing stock of the world when it comes to food safety in the domestic market and even the establishment of the high profile FSSAI with full "Authority" 2 years ago has made little difference at the ground level. GOI seems to be groping in the dark regarding the extent of adulteration of food that is prevalent in the country and even now it is contented with issuing "orders and instructions" without any serious intention of pursuing them. How come the food "adulteration" industry in the country has become so powerful that a sovereign government cannot do much to rein in their heinous activities? When the government says it has only "advisory' powers in administrating the food laws, some thing is seriously wrong with the system that is in vogue and earlier this is addressed better it will be for the country.

"The Centre on Thursday pitched for taking strict action against those who indulge in adulteration of food items, and urged states to implement the existing law strictly. Besides, it decided to ask the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to undertake a detailed study to determine the effects of harmful chemicals on human beings, including oxytocin and calcium carbide, which are being injected in vegetables and fruits to ripen them faster. Sale of any adulterated and misbranded article of food is an offence punishable with minimum imprisonment of six months and a fine, which is not less than Rs 1,000. In case, adulterated food stuff causes death or grievous hurt, the offence is punishable with imprisonment, which may extend to a life term and a penalty that shall not be less than Rs 5,000. Last week, TOI had reported how a section of farmers and traders in a bid to make vegetables and fruits look garden fresh were relying on injecting chemicals that could cause nervous breakdowns, sterility and various neurotic complications. Replying to a calling attention motion in the Rajya Sabha, minister of state for health Dinesh Trivedi said on Thursday ICMR and Indian Council of Agriculture Research would carry out a new study to quantify the level of damage such chemicals are causing. On administration of all safety laws, he said: "Action against persons who indulge in production and trade of adulterated or misbranded food articles is taken by the concerned state and UT governments". His remarks immediately prompted members in the Upper House to say that the government should not shirk its responsibility by saying the matter concerns only states. Trivedi, however, said: "The Centre lays down the standards for various food articles and regulations on use of additives, labelling and contaminants. It primarily plays an advisory role in its implementation besides carrying out various statutory functions/duties assigned to it under the various provisions of the Act. It also issues appropriate directions and alerts for keeping strict vigil on the quality of food items within their respective jurisdiction for ensuring safe and wholesome food for consumers".

Is it not a pity that the parliamentarians, supposed to be the guardians protecting the well being of the citizens are more concerned about raising their own salary, perks and pension than forcing the ministers to exercise their administrative responsibilities for which they are elected and paid for? With the judiciary embroiled in painful delays in meting out justice and extensive corruption eating at the vitals of the society, fraudsters and adulterators are having a field day sucking the system to amass fabulous fortunes unhindered. Is it not an irony that those consumers in other countries importing foods from India are more fortunate in getting products with more quality and better safety than the common man in the country because of the stringent standards insisted upon and enforced by the foreign buyers?. Despite periodic declarations by junior as well as senior officials of FSSAI, about their grandiose plan for remedying the situation, the wait for a better to morrow when clean and safe water and foods with government backed assurance, continues with no end in sight to the present sorry mess.


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