Food Safety

Some bigwigs at the Srinagar Municipal Corporation obviously deem themselves beholden to powerful politicians representing lobbies and mafias rather than responsible for citizens and the interests of their well-being. In at least a couple of incidents in recent months, food inspection teams have been upbraided for imposing fines on commercial establishments with political connections. A prominent and high-profile hotel, found stocking large quantities of stale and mouldy food items, got off the hook, perhaps by a single telephone call to some minister, and the inspection team did not know what hit it, its members left ruing the day they decided to do their duty conscientiously. These were matters which made it to the public ken, inevitably through the media. There is no guessing what other nefarious goings-on characterise the working of the SMC which had been turned into a money-minting machine – in addition to selectively overlooking massive food adulteration in lieu of monetary gratification at the highest levels –  due to its authority to permit and sanction constructions big and small. Though it is not relevant to the subject at hand, the massive violations of the so-called Srinagar Master Plan, serve as an indicator of how deeply some top figures in the Municipality are in league and nexus with the politician-and-ill-gotten-big-money syndicates. Such lucrative enterprises and postings cannot sustain unless their murky proceeds are channelized to the very top of the political and the bureaucratic spectrum.

In the most recent case indicating how food safety offenders have protection from the highest levels of the government, special inspection teams set up in distress by the SMC health officer have been grounded by the joint commissioner of the municipality on the pretext that the health officer had stepped beyond jurisdiction. That the health officer in question had felt compelled to set up another squad within one month of a previous one being shut down speaks, on the one hand, of the magnitude of the food safety crisis in the city, and on the other, of the ineffectualness of the SMCs conventional mechanisms and their compromised nature. The same health officer had to go through a harrowing time at the hands of an individual at the very top of the state’s political executive for initiating action against a dairy producer marketing sub-standard milk. Earlier this year, a damning central report revealed that over seventy per cent of Kashmir’s milk supply was heavily adulterated. After weeks of foaming at the mouth about ”taking serious note” of the issue and “taking strict action” against those found responsible, the government finally came out with the big news that it would approach the central agency for the identities of the adulterating dairy companies. (This was precisely timed with arguments appearing in these columns that instead of its mendacious hemming-and-hawing, the government should take such a step, and rather, should  have taken it just when the report surfaced.) Since then nothing has been heard, either from the government, or from the section of the media it used to peddle its lies, about the identities of the adulterating companies or action taken against them. Need one say more? 

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