EDITORIAL

Risking public health

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It goes without saying that it is the responsibility of the government and its concerned agencies to ensure semblance of law everywhere within the territorial parameters of the state. Besides the big political and developmental issues, even everything mundane, if it concerns people of the state, too is within the government’s mandate, enjoining upon it to ensure that masses are not troubled. This is exactly where the role of the government and its agencies, particularly those vested with the responsibility of keeping an eye on the market places and ensuring that unscrupulous people and their practices are kept at bay, comes in.

But unfortunately, on this count there is not much to the government’s credit. The simple reason is that its agencies have perfected the art of turning a blind eye to the illegal practices which are no longer an aberration but a general rule as far as the business conducted in our market-places is concerned.

Take for instance the case of food stuffs sold here. Even as it is common place knowledge that adulteration of edibles has become a norm here, the agencies vested with the job of taking action against the greedy businesses and people associated with it, are desperately found wanting both in their will as well as wherewithal to deal with the problem. Now what could be a better example to substantiate the point than the fact that the Srinagar Municipal Corporation as well as Drug and Food Control Organization do not have even the basic laboratory facilities to analyze and check adulterated foods!

Interestingly SMC, which came into existence in 1886, has for the past over 12 decades of its being not even felt the need of such a facility. As for the Drug and Food Control agency is concerned, couple of decades back it had such a lab near Dalgate in Srinagar with a Public Analyst heading it. But then with the inception of militancy here and subsequent migration by Kashmiri Pandits, the Public Analyst, who happened to be from the community, also migrated to Jammu, leaving the entire lab almost dysfunctional for years. Even today people do not know much about the status of this lab!

Once in a while, SMC and Drug and Food Control authorities, and at times even the Consumer Affairs department officials inform public that their so-called checking squads have raided market-places and procured food samples for lab analyses to check them for adulteration if any. Thereafter, never ever are people informed about any subsequent action, not to mention of anyone being chargesheeted for adulteration! Instead what happens usually is that the food samples taken away from the markets are dumped into the cupboards of the concerned agencies, and the accused are simply given a clean chit. Of course it will be only too naïve to think that this happens without a cause – reason being the same as the ones which have attracted J&K enough notoriety of being the one of the most-corrupt states.

The consequence of all this is that the public safety and their health stand largely compromised. With poor masses left to the mercy of greedy adulterers, it doesn’t require an Einstein to think how it compromises their physical well-being. For instance, as per the doctors, presence of a simple chemical ‘oxytocin’ – although a banned drug, but which is usually given to cattle to increase their lactation, seeps easily into the human body through milk that people consume. There it could easily translate into hormonal imbalances, resulting in miscarriage among pregnant women, as well as eye and other problems among the newborns. It also leads to certain heart and neurological complications as well. Here it is not only the oxytocin, but even dangerous detergents and urea have been found in milk samples, and industrial dyes and synthetic colours and a whole lot of other dangerous chemicals have been found in so many other edibles, but no substantive action against the adulterers has come about from the concerned agencies.

Now one may ask, what action have the authorities taken against the milk companies whose samples as per the official claims were found substandard and contaminated with dangerous chemicals? What action has been taken against those whose spices were found adulterated? What about those using industrial dyes in foods? If this is the sorry state of affairs with a very common and essential edibles like milk, which because of its characteristic colour and taste is unlikely to accept much adulteration, one can only wonder what might be the case with other food stuffs, including spices, bakery, snacks and other things.

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