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Food Adulteration Biggest Scourge of India

Disease, poverty, backwardness and corruption put together have not troubled the people so much as adulteration of food. No food item is spared. Vegetables are injected with deadly drugs to accelerate their growth. It robs them of their natural flavour and causes medical problems to the consumer. Once in the market, they are further soaked in other deadly chemicals to give them colour, freshness and brightness. Unless soaked in water for hours and cleaned properly before cooking, they can cause immense health problems including cancer. Many vegetables, lentils and rice leave colour while washed. Edible oils are openly adulterated. Dals or lentils are mixed with some other inedible variety like the kesari dal. Fruits are given some kind of an acid wash, which makes them look healthy and fresh, even as they are rotten to the core having been kept in the cold stores for too long or their inferior variety. The buyer has to throw them away, as the freshness gives way to its rot within less than 12 hours after the effect of the chemical recedes. Sweets are coloured by inedible chemical colours (gone are the days when saffron was used for colouring and fragrance). Bottled water is contaminated and can cause severe diarrhea if you go by the label on the bottle alone. Unbranded water is invitation to tragedy, especially at the inter- state bus stands or railway stations. Cakes, biscuits and chocolates of the market leaders too have been found to contain insects. Soft drinks are largely fakes and a daylight robbery on the pockets of the consumers. Fake medicines alone are a business running into thousands of crores. As a commoner, you can’t get any edible product free from adulteration.

As if adulteration was not enough, the consumer is further cheated by the seller by short weighing or measuring such as 890 ml for 1 l or 900 gms for 1 kg or 90 cm for 1 mtr.

The law for “prevention of food adulteration” or ensuring correct weights & measures exists, but has failed to remedy the situation. Now the government has enforced another law in its place: The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, effective August 5, 2011. Stringent provisions of this Act are expected to improve the situation. It prescribes fines up to Rs 10 lakhs and life imprisonment for causing death. This legislation is capable of ending the menace of adulteration. But all depends on its sincere implementation.

There is no political will to do so, as the adulterer is also the District President or State President of the ruling political party! Besides, in an environment of ubiquitous corruption, implementation of such a strong law is like dreaming with your eyes open. State governments are likely to plead their inability on grounds of lack of manpower or other infrastructure. Resistance will come in several forms. Only a determined government can put the fear of the law in the hearts of the adulterer, who has no regrets for killing thousands of innocent men, women, children and the elderly by his sins of adulteration of food. Since they have no fear of the Hell as they don’t see it, let them have the experience of the Indian jails!

The National Capital Territory of Delhi expects its government to make Delhi the model state for implementation of this law. The lead taken by the Delhi government will put moral pressure on the neighbouring states, who are the biggest culprits in supplying adulterated food items to the Delhi consumers. Consumers all over India will demand of their respective governments similar implementation of the new law. More than 50% of the public anger in Delhi is due to adulteration and underweighing and undermeasuring  or shortchanging. It is the housewife who faces this problem on a daily basis and curses the government all morning and in the evening. And they constitute more than 50% of the population, even after discounting the blind supporters of the government ignoring all their failures. We go with the better half.

The Delhi government can enlist the voluntary services of the experienced retired high ranking  public servants, as they consider the elderly an “asset” in one of their slogans painted at DTC bus stops and elsewhere, to cope up with the temporary constraints of staff or infrastructure. Launching the scheme of checking food adulteration in full steam will achieve same magical results as green fuel did to reducing pollution in Delhi.

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