My agro scientist-friend puts it beautifully. ‘At times, I wonder how we all survive. The poisoning of food begins at the stage of sowing the seed. For ‘healthy’ growth of the crop, pesticides are used. The sapling comes out quickly and the farmer knows the story of its fast growth. Spray of urea is done at regular intervals. The farmer is happy to see the golden harvest. The government statistics speak great about the bumper crop prospectus. The farmer is bent upon making the maximum out of it, no matter about the means, fair or foul. The entire humankind, the city folks in particular, are after all making money. Why not the farmer? The wheat arrives at the market, and pesticides are used again for its storage, to protect it from the ready- to- attack rats. The wheat reaches the bread manufacturing point, preservatives and colors are added to the flour to make the products like biscuits and bread tasty and marketable.
Consumers buy the burger, the vegetables in the helpings in it are chemically treated, and the sauce that he enjoys contains colors and preservatives. What’s the end-result? Where is that freshness which was the hallmark of fruits and vegetables some decades ago, has vanished? The consumer extends a cordial invitation to diseases unknown in the past, by consuming virtually poison day after day, unwittingly though!
This is the story of the production of cereals and vegetables. The consumer buys the goods; he pays his hard-earned money. He uses articles of food in good faith and suffers the consequences. The Government is aware of the problem. It has constituted the Quality Council of India (QCI).The Government of India and the Indian Industry has joined together. This is a non-profit autonomous body. A perfect legal entity registered under the Societies Registration Act. Its intentions are noble. To establish accreditation structure in the country, disseminate information on quality and related standards, and spread the message of quality movement, by giving it strategic direction.
It has done everything that is possible theoretically. It has established National Accreditation Boards as per the relevant international standards, Bodies to certify quality management systems, authority to carry out third party inspections, quality management personnel and training courses, established testing and calibration laboratories, conducted seminars, study tours, instituted quality award schemes, held competitions etc.
What we need today is not great projects and giant seminars with oratorical flows by high dignitaries and theoreticians, in the air-conditioned seminar halls of five-star hotels. The need of the hour is noble individuals, men of integrity of simple lifestyles to implement the projects! Officials with uncompromising honesty! Incorruptible!
When profiteering and aggrandizement for wealth dominates ethical standards in business what is the result? Read this stunning revelation. “If you have been giving your kids honey bought from the market in the hope that it will help boost immunity and fight bacterial infections, this could come as a shock.
According to a study carried out by the Centre for Science and Environment, most honey brands being sold in the country contain varying amounts of antibiotics and their consumption over time could induce resistance to antibiotics, lead to blood-related disorders and injury to liver.”(1)
The reports names twelve brands. They are: Dabur, Himalaya, Patanjali, Baidyanath, Khadi (a Govt. enterprise), Gold, Himflora, Mehsons, Hitkari, Umang, Capilano and Nectaflor. The last two are imported brands, from Australia and Switzerland. Only Hitkari honey is free from antibiotics.
Another “study conducted by Pune-based National Institute of Virology, revealed that most water purifiers don’t remove viruses and do not completely eliminate water-borne viruses like Hepatitis E.”(2)
The duplicate products’ market is a parallel industry in India. In the corrupt set up, it is thriving and fetches huge profits to those who run it with impunity. The persons caught engaged in adulteration of food articles, those who use harmful chemicals in vegetables and fruits, are let off with light punishments and fines of not much consequence. The judicial process to book them is slow, lengthy and time-consuming. The people of the nation cannot afford such a colossal neglect. Rather they should not! Consumer awareness has definitely picked up in the country than what it was a decade ago, but justice through Consumer Courts is again a slow-moving judicial process.
A big, profit-making company would not mind shelling out a few thousands by way of payment of fines. Every manufacturing unit has the internal quality control systems. But that is not the issue. One often reads alarming reports in the newspapers how synthetic milk is prepared and sold in the packing of established brands. In a case reported, a super stockiest of an established apparel brand was found manufacturing duplicate products of the same company and passed them on to the distributors and the consumers bought them in good faith by paying high prices believing that they are buying the branded products.
As a remedial measure, I suggest an expert committee of eminent personalities, retired judges, and president of community organizations that should be given judicial powers. In a nut shell the committee should have the powers to:
- Issue arrest warrants.
- Seal the establishment, confiscate and destroy the adulterated goods on the spot. Their driving license, passport should be cancelled.
- Order sealing of the bank accounts/lockers.
- The committee should act as a judicial body to conduct enquires/hear arguments with a time-frame of 90 days to give the final verdict, which cannot be challenged in any court of law. The immovable property of those found guilty should be confiscated. The minimum imprisonment in cases of food adulteration should be 10 years RI.
The above measures may appear somewhat harsh. For successful functioning of democracy and to secure the interests of the common man, the consumer, they are absolutely essential.
(1) Report in Times of India of 2010-09-16, New Delhi Edition.
(2) Report in Times of India of 2010-09-17, New Delhi Edition.