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Rotten Meat Scandal In Kolkata: ‘I Am Angry And I Am Appalled’

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I am appalled and I am angry. Appalled at how unethical food businesses have become. Angry at how my people, from my city, have been feeding me rotten meat for the sake of a higher profit margin.

This has happened just when the country was shocked by the brutality towards women in Kathua, Unnao and so many other places across the nation – just when I imagined humanity couldn’t sink any lower!

Of course, the Kolkata Police have done a very commendable job uncovering the meat scandal. While the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Food Adulteration Act are in place, in light of the current scenario in Bengal, I am looking forward to the Criminal Amendment, 2017, that will “imprison food adulterers for 1 year with fine of 3 lakhs for non-grievous injury; imprison for 6 years with fine of 5 lakhs in case of non-grievous injury; and imprison for life with fine of 10 lakhs in case of death.”

Kudos to the Hon’ble Supreme Court for suggesting amendments in the case of Swami Achyutanand Tirth & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors., AIR 2016 SC 3626, and to the Law Commission of India for recommending it in its Report No. 264.

The scandal in Kolkata, however, has spread beyond Bengal and even into international markets of Nepal and Bangladesh, as per the media reports. This reminds me of two cases – (1) the modern concept of ‘tortious liability in negligence’ as developed by Donoghue v Stevenson (1932) UKHL 100; and (2) the rule of absolute liability adopted by the SC in MC Mehta v UOI, 1987 SCR (1) 819, commonly known as the Oleum Gas Leak Case.

And I wish the Judiciary would take suo motu cognizance of the gross violation of the consumer protection laws in this particular instance, not to mention the gross violation of the fundamental and Constitutional right to health as well. Already a certain number of people have consumed these foods, some of them in south Kolkata were reported to have fallen sick. There should be compensations given to them, on behalf of the Government, who couldn’t nip the scandal in its bud, thereby, negligently, allowing it to grow and spread for at least more than a year. It is the duty of the State to ensure public health, and it has miserably failed.

Having said that, here’s my concern – the psyche of the ones in the business, who have been knowingly feeding the customers rotten meat, is driven by a high-profit motive. So I ask this – are there no traces of adulteration in vegetarian and/or vegan foods served/sold by these suppliers and restaurants and food chains? Looking at the extent of food adulteration committed by the suppliers and food chains and restaurants, I am inclined to believe that the profit-making ‘ideology’ is not limited and restricted to the meat. The same ones also have vegetarian options on their menu and grocery. As the popular saying goes, “Once a liar, always a liar. Once a cheater, always a cheater.”

Now, as consumers, we can always get meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, etc., from our local farms, fishermen and markets, and cook them at home. But if the suppliers, restaurants, food chains and big farms are to be trusted again, the Food Adulteration Act and the relevant provisions of the IPC absolutely need to be water-tight. The police and the FSSAI need to be on high alert at all times. They need to conduct unannounced, random searches and raids at least once in two weeks. The same is to be done with fruit and vegetable farms and suppliers. The sale or acquisition of chemicals added to any and every kind of raw food should be made a punishable offence. Additionally, there should be a major transformation in the fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides used.

We consumers often end up consuming poisons sold to us, unknowingly, and this must end. Food is a basic human necessity and adulterating it is nothing short of a genocide. No one, I repeat, no one has the right to play with the authenticity of food and thereby, endanger the lives of tens of thousands of people.

I say this because from formalin to oxytocin, from meat to fruit, I am appalled and I am angry.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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