India is a country plagued by incalculable internal problems that are working overtime to preclude any attempt made by it to ascend the developmental graph. Some of the germane problems that have majorly contributed to this are corruption, poverty, illiteracy, caste system, religious fanaticism, terrorism, overpopulation, the absence of good healthcare facilities, lack of quality education in semi-urban and rural areas etc. While these factors continue to wreak havoc on the lives of the people, an even more deleterious scourge with the potential to ravage generations is making things even worse.
Food is one of the necessities for the sustenance of life. A pure, fresh and nourishing diet is most essential for a healthy society and country. Ever wondered how safe are the foods that we eat on a daily basis? It’s indeed difficult to not get carried away with the bright red carrots or the sparkling green chillies, the unusually shining apples or the visibly sweet watermelons available in abundance these days. However, behind all the allure lies a camouflaged death trap that’s taking the entire populace in its grasp slowly but surely. We are talking about the menace of food adulteration. Be it milk, rice, pulses, local sweets, fruits, vegetables, vegetable oil, ghee, honey, almost every single thing we consume today is contaminated. And this abuse takes place to quench the greed of the traders/producers who want to inflate their profits at any damn cost and save a few bucks.
Food adulteration in India starts from the field itself where pesticides and fertilisers are overused. So, high level of pesticides is a kind of contaminant present across all range of food in India. Numerous unfair means are adopted to give that extra shine, colour and sweetness to fruits and vegetables. Bananas and mangoes are exposed to carbide that generates ethylene gas that in turn helps them to ripen quicker than usual. Vegetables such as bitter gourd, lady’s finger, pumpkin, cabbage etc. are dipped in copper sulphate water to make them look greener. Brinjals are coated with oil that adds a sheen to them; apples are lightly touched with wax to make their coat look impressive; carrots get dipped in red-water, watermelons are injected with red colour and sugar syrup to make them red and taste sweet from inside. Sadly, there’s nothing edible left these days that has not been changed, diluted or degraded in some form or the other.
Rice, a staple food in this country and a favourite with the adulterators is admixed with marble chips, mixing sand, chalk etc. Another highly consumed product, pulses meet a similar fate. Common adulterants used here are asbestos for polishing, metanil yellow for colour and soluble coal tar for shine. All these kinds of stuff are carcinogenic and compromise consumers’ health big time.
The rage for local sweets in almost all parts of the country makes it easy prey for the adulterators who stuff them with sulphur dioxide, starch, aluminium to enhance their visual appeal and save cost at the same time. Argemone and papaya seeds are added to mustard oil to augment its weight. All these lead to grave health hazards and the most vulnerable are the young, elderly and those with immunity issues.
India is an incredibly strange country where patriotism is often associated with and expressed only during cricket matches, major sporting events or maybe something like a surgical strike against terrorists. However, patriotism is never the love for one’s nation alone but the love for one’s fellow citizens coupled with a sincere and deep consideration for their well-being also. It’s simply inconceivable how some sections of the trader community across the country are flouting all norms with impunity thereby putting our present and future generations at high risk. Such is the avarice that those indulging in this business knowingly turn a blind eye at this utter brazen disregard for human life. Patriotism has been thrown out of the window here with countrymen jeopardising the country’s future to gratify their lust for money and very little or perhaps nothing being done to suppress this abominable phenomenon.
There cannot be a greater irony than the fact that in a country where 30% of the population lives below the poverty line, there should have been less stress on food adulteration and more on making enough food available for all. But in India, it takes little for greed to overpower virtue, which most often finds itself in the back seat.
The present situation is awfully grim with serious question marks being raised on the safety & survival of the future generations of this country. The corruption of justice can be gauged from the fact that despite the extensive damage caused by food adulteration, the offenders who are apprehended walk away unscathed most often. Interestingly, the police have no authority even to make arrests as it lies solely with the FSSAI officials, thus leaving them with ample scope and opportunity to manipulate things and protect the culprits.
In a country like ours where morality dies a thousand deaths every day, it’s moronic even to think that the perpetrators would ponder over the hazards associated with the menace one day and stop proliferating it altogether. The Law Commission in 2017, alarmed by the growing tentacles of food adulteration across the country, made some exhilarating recommendations that provide some hope in these otherwise despairing circumstances. It recommended increasing the penalty on defaulters from a fatuous Rs.1000/- to Rs.10 lakhs and raising the jail-term from 6 months to imprisonment till death. Such stringent punishment along with unfailing probity from the authorities concerned can play a vital role in containing this nuisance. Three Indian states viz. Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal had implemented the same much before the recommendations were made because food adulteration is a concurrent subject that allows both the states and the centre to enact laws or make changes to the existing ones. But three out of twenty-nine states is too small a number and more states, in fact, all, need to enforce it conscientiously to avert this steady, organised ruination taking place in the country.