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.