Kash­mir: Food Adul­ter­ation — a grave is­sue

Views from Sri­na­gar

Pakistan Observer - - KASHMIR -

DR. JAVID IQBAL HE JK High Court tak­ing suo- motto no­tice of food adul ter­a­tion and not­ing sub­se­quent GK news re­ports as PIL is be­ing widely wel­comed. The is­sue is grave; there can­not be two opin­ions about it. It touches peo­ple’s lives on a daily ba­sis, hence ju­di­cial in­ter­ven­tion is timely. There are in­fras­truc­tural deficits in food ad­min­is­tra­tion. The struc­tured mech­a­nism is not in tune with ‘ Food Safety and Stan­dards Act ( FSSA) 2006’. The act sets norms for ad­min­is­tra­tive hi­er­ar­chy in food ad­min­is­tra­tion, which have not been abided by. It is the will of the state gov­ern­ment that is ques­tion­able. The adage holds, ‘ where there is a will, there is a way’.

The Court has rightly ob­served that the lat­est sta­tus re­port filed by re­spon­dents is suf­fi­cient to in­di­cate that peo­ple of the state have been left to mercy of God. The ob­ser­va­tion of the Court im­plies that Aam Admi fig­ures in equa­tion only when votes are needed. Oth­er­wise there is no of­fi­cial com­punc­tion, even in as sen­si­tive a mat­ter as food adul­ter­ation, which could prove haz­ardous for peo­ple’s lives.

In rare in­stances where of­fi­cials do act, it is li­able to end in an over- drive, where norms set by FSSA are not ob­served. It could be summed up as too lit­tle usu­ally, and in rare in­stances too much. Ei­ther way norms are vi­o­lated, as ra­tio­nale is not adopted. In a state­ment that has ‘ shaken’ the Court, the of­fi­cial ad­min­is­tra­tively re­spon­si­ble has ad­mit­ted that there is ‘ no para­pher­na­lia avail­able in the state of Jammu and Kash­mir in ac­cor­dance with the man­date con­tained in pro­vi­sions of Jammu and Kash­mir Food Safety and Stan­dards Act 2006.’ In spite of the ad­mis­sion how­ever, J& K Food Con­trol Or­ga­ni­za­tion ( FCO) has re­sorted to bank­ing on in­ad­e­quately equipped food safety Lab here for test­ing sam­ples in­stead of en­sur­ing fool- proof scru-

Ttiny of sam­ples out­side the State. The plea ad­vanced by the of­fi­cials, in the present case As­sis­tant Con­troller JK DFCO makes a poor case. “We are fol­low­ing the statutes of FSSA ( Food Safety and Stan­dards Act) 2011. It says that a sam­ple can be sent to a lab other than the state lab only if the of­fi­cer con­cerned is not sat­is­fied with the test re­port,” so said the of­fi­cial. The of­fi­cial fails to ex­plain how sat­is­fac­tory could be the test­ing in the face of food com­mis­sioner’s ad­mis­sion and the ob­ser­va­tion of the Hon’ble Court, which was no­tice­ably ‘ shaken’ by the ad­mis­sion.

While it is ap­pre­cia­ble that of­fi­cial ma­chin­ery is get­ting ac­ti­vated af­ter the Court con­sid­ered sub­se­quent re­ports by GK as rea­son enough for ju­di­cial in­ter­ven­tion, the re­gret re­mains that food ad­min­is­tra­tion with­out in­fras­truc­tural build- up may not be able to ac­com­plish, what it needs to. The ad­min­is­tra­tive hi­er­ar­chy in place plus sci­en­tific struc­tur­ing for ef­fec­tive mon­i­tor­ing of food prod­ucts re­main ques­tion­able. Milk sam­ples col­lected were sent to what the Hon’ble Court ob­ser­va­tion noted as rick­ety lab­o­ra­tory fa­cil­i­ties. In­ci­den­tally milk is an item in which Kash­mir Val­ley is at­tain­ing a mea­sure of self- suf­fi­ciency. While of­fi­cial su­per­vi­sion is highly ap­pre­ci­ated, it may not lead to damp­en­ing the grow­ing in­dus­try and dis­cour­ag­ing en­trepreneur­ship. The grow­ing in­dus­try, one of rare suc­cess sto­ries in val­ley is gen­er­at­ing much needed em­ploy­ment.

It is be­ing al­leged in busi­ness cir­cles that norms en­tailed in FSSA 2006 are not fol­lowed in let­ter, some are even ques­tion­ing the spirit be­hind the ac­tion taken. Se­lec­tive leaks to me­dia spark a me­dia trial, much be­fore the trial in the court of law. From the man­ner of sam­ple col­lec­tion to loop­ing in the man­u­fac­turer to keep him in­formed of the charges lev­elled, much that is en­tailed in FSSA reg­u­la­tions re­main far from be­ing fol­lowed.

FSSA lays down the num­ber of spec­i­mens to be col­lected, ob­tain­ing the sig­na­ture of the ac­cused on the spec­i­mens, and pro­vid­ing the man­u­fac­turer the chance to get the ques­tion­able prod­uct tested in a cer­ti­fied lab­o­ra­tory on his own, in ad­di­tion to test­ing un­der­taken by food ad­min­is­tra­tion. Cross check­ing by get­ting the prod­uct tested in more lab­o­ra­to­ries than one en­sures fair­ness. The level of charge is also of im­por­tance in con­tem­plat­ing ac­tion. Charges may vary from la­cu­nae in la­belling the prod­uct to a prod­uct which is sub­stan­dard, and ul­ti­mately to the prod­uct be­ing po­ten­tially haz­ardous.

While the Hon’ble Court has jus­ti­fi­ably di­rected own­ers of food man­u­fac­tur­ing and pro­cess­ing units to file af­fi­davits in­di­cat­ing the man­ner in which they fol­low FSSA 2006, it is to be seen whether the court di­rec­tive ap­plies only to lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers, leav­ing the ones with man­u­fac­tur­ing units lo­cated out­side the state out of its am­bit? As such, more or less 95 per­cent food prod­ucts mar­keted in JK State are from pro­cess­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing units lo­cated out­side the state, hence there is jus­ti­fi­able ap­pre­hen­sion in lo­cal busi­ness cir­cles that the Hon’ble Court ob­ser­va­tions and di­rec­tives might put them at a grave dis­ad­van­tage, leav­ing out of state man­u­fac­tur­ing and pro­cess­ing units free to op­er­ate, as they may. It is to be ex­pected that in fol­low- up of the case, the Hon’ble Court would take a com­pre­hen­sive look to al­lay the fears of lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers. Yaar Zinda, So­hbat Baqi.

— Cour­tesy: GK [ Re­union is sub­or­di­nate to sur­vival] [ The au­thor is doc­tor in medicine, a so­cial ac­tivist, and a se­nior colum­nist]

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