Sunday, May 12, 2013


Water is a precious material which is increasingly becoming scarce with each passing day. Compared to the position India was fifty years ago vis-a-vis water availability, the situation has become grave with drinking water becoming a commercial commodity, sold at exorbitant prices by the bottling industry to exploit the scarcity situation to the hilt. Governments at the Center as well as in the States vested with the responsibility of ensuring the well being of the citizens failed the nation by decades of maladministration and mismanagement as far water conservation and protected water supply are concerned. In a way if the industry is laughing all the way to their banks, thanks are largely due to the politicians and bureaucrats who run the governments! While in many cities in Europe, Canada and the United States active campaigns are undertaken to persuade citizens to consume the protected water supplied to them so that bottled water consumption is discouraged, in India practically every tap that supplies water is a source of danger to the citizens unless the same is filtered and boiled before consumption!  What a paradox! To add insult to the injury, the processors of water pay scant attention to the quality of product sold by them and recently many independent investigators who monitored the quality of water sold by many brands found that they do not conform to national standards prescribed in the statute books. Here is a take on this sorry situation in the country.

"After complaints about safety of bottled water sold in the national capital, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has written to the food regulator to check the bottling plants supplying such drinking water in Delhi and their water sources.  T he minister has also written to the Food Safety and Standards Association (FSSA) to check the chemical contents in the water bottles sold in and around Delhi and whether they are fit for human consumption. In a letter to FSSAI, which is responsible for maintaining standards of quality in anything consumed by people, Azad today asked the food regulator to depute teams to check water samples of all water sources and test the plants of bottling companies. Health Ministry sources said Azad's letters follows numerous complaints received by him about poor quality of bottled water sold in the open market. The Minister asked the regulator to check the contents of chemicals and ascertain their permissible limits to check if the bottling companies are using proper purification systems. Sources say the complaints refer to certain water sources from where the bottling plants are getting raw water and allege that the companies are using chemicals above the permissible limits to purify the water. Sources said the water samples of all brands, including those manufactured by top MNCs and government-run companies, would be taken".

What can one make out of the "Letter" from the Health Minister of the country to the FSSAI in which he "orders" the latter to "check" the quality of water marketed by the industry in Delhi only? Does this mean that citizens living in other parts of the country need not have any safety assurance from the industry? Probably the industry seems to have taken a cue from the Minister's obsession with Delhi and accordingly they are sending their sub-quality product consignments to far way places like Kerala! Health Minister in a country has the responsibility to ensure supply of food and water with impeccable quality and safety through the enormous vigilance infrastructure controlled by his ministry. As a guardian of health of its citizens he should have seen to it that all the municipal and panchayat areas are provided with safe drinking water. In stead he is doing a semantic exercise by writing letters to an office which is located in the same area from where his Ministry is also working! Can there be more insult to the citizen than this? One  wonders whether he had sent his letter through Indian Post or through courier service and whether the FSSAI has really received it!   


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