It was in 2015 that a study by Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences had revealed a sudden jump in the number of cancer cases In Kashmir. The cases registered with the Regional Cancer Centre at Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, had more than doubled since 2007. The number which was 2097 in 2007 had gone up to 4438 in 2015. Ever since, the number has only further grown. The cancers of the gastro-intestinal tract have witnessed the disproportionate increase, accounting for over 30 percent of cancers in Kashmir. The SKIMS study has blamed the growing incidence of cancers to “food habits and life style patterns” as also to the consumption of the high salt content foods. Many dyes, used in industries and sometimes in foods, are also thought to act as human carcinogens. And some of these dyes, like carmoisine and tartazine, have been found to be used as a coloring agent in many edibles, spices and condiments in Kashmir.
In recent years, food contamination and the adulteration has emerged as a major issue in Kashmir. Hazardous agents have been found to have been used even in the food products of some major corporate houses. In 2014, this forced the high court to pass serious strictures against them. Across India too it has been found that two out of three Indians drink milk laced with detergent, caustic soda, urea and paint. A nationwide survey conducted by India’s food regulator FSSAI has found that over 68 percent of the milk sold in the country did not conform to standards laid down by the agency. Sadly, successive J&K Governments have so far done little about the growing food adulteration , which has now been proven to be one of the factors leading to rise in cases of cancer in Valley. In fact, J&K government doesn’t even have a fully staffed food testing laboratory. Nor a fully equipped lab to test the quality of the food products being sold on the market. The rise in cancers, therefore, is a wake up call. The government has to get cracking on the unscrupulous traders and expose the use of chemicals and dyes in the food. And at least, to start with, there has to be a campaign to create more awareness of the ways in which our food is adulterated. This can enable people to make more informed decisions about what to eat and what not. The new administration under Lieutenant General Girish Chander Murmu will certainly earn a lot of goodwill if it takes concrete steps against the food adulteration in the Union Territory.