Silence on Khyber

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A court on Monday fined Valley’s leading milk manufacturing brand Khyber Agro Farms Private Limited with Rs 9 lakh after the milk produced turned out to be laced with “detergent, urea and other dangerous chemicals not only in milk but other edible products.” The Judicial Magistrate sentenced company’s head of operations to six months imprisonment for violating various sections of Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. The court also blamed the company for the increased number of cancer patients in the Valley. The Food Analyst Hamidullah Dar was also criticised for not discharging his duties and his removal was ordered. This is the second time in the past three years that the brand’s milk has been found to be spurious.  The court passed severe strictures against Dar. “Person like Mr. Hamidullah Dar is more dangerous than a fatal disease like cancer for the entire nation and [his] incapacity or compromise with the nature of the job like Food Analyst Kashmir cannot be accepted by any standards of expectations where lives of the citizens are involved,” the court said. Following this the State Government moved to ban Khyber milk  and ordered recall of the brand’s milk and milk products from the market.

However, the government order is not without its irony. It once again took a court intervention to galvanize it into action – albeit its officials must have been long aware of the adulterated milk products being supplied to the market. But as court rightly observed, either due to dishonesty or because of the sheer incompetence, they let this slow poison be consumed by the people.   

But while court has done its bit and the government has grudgingly followed the directions, our civil society which cries loudest over political issues is silent. There is no statement from many active civil liberties groups, and so called champions of the food safety. There is also no statements from our clergy. Even no comment from the political parties across mainstream-separatist divide. National Conference is silent, PDP is silent and what is more, even Hurriyat is silent.  Why? There is no rational explanation for this. Is our sense of outrage trained to  respond to the political issues only? Because these offer instant attention. Doesn’t  our collective health and that of our kids matter? Shouldn’t  we demand with equal energy and the lung power a safe food for ourselves? More so, when we shell out hefty amount for it.

One would expect all our leaders, civil society activists and the clergy would be up in arms. Or, at least, issue their respective little statements to the press. Or Imams would at least inform the people at the mosques. But nothing of the sort has happened. This sense of indifference towards the environmental, food safety and health issues is appalling. And it is this general apathy which emboldened Khyber to put milk on the market despite government ban. It is this general apathy that the company hasn’t still cared to explain its side of story, not bothering to even issue a press release. This refusal to explain and defend itself is tantamount to admission of the guilt. Certainly we are a very, very politicized society but it is time we also care about our environment and of course our health too.

 

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