The worst calamities for Kashmir apart from natural disasters are the adulteration in food products and the sale of fake medicine!
Kashmiris have now become used to both natural and man-made disasters striking one after the other. In fact, Nature has been rather very kind and it is the fellow human beings whose material greed has turned into the instruments of disaster for the entire society. The journal of the Indian Law Institute carries an article about the survey conducted regarding food adulteration in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The article is in vol. 31 of March-April 1989. (pp 91-105). The survey about food adulteration conducted at that time about sends shudders through one’s body. Imagine how much “progress” and “sophistication” has been achieved by these adulterers! There is a legislation to check food adulteration. It is the duty of the Health Officer of the Municipal Corporationto check food adulteration and take action under the act. The cases are tried in the Municipal Court. One does hear off and on about action taken to check adulteration. In fact, sometimes even major companies get hauled up. Unfortunately, the material greed has become so much widespread that it is impossible to fully check food adulteration. The worst suffers are the people from the lower strata of the society including the large number of slum dwellers. It is shocking how some of the human beings administer virtual poison to their fellow human beings just for material greed.
A few decades back in early fifties one would not hear so much about food adulteration. Yes, one would come to know about water being added to milk to increase its quantity. Even that too was rare. Those days the Municipal Authorities would be emptying pitchers of milk into River Jhelum because the milk in these was diluted with water! The Municipal Health Officer of those days was a nightmare for all these criminals! Not now! People can get away with anything because of corruption having entered the Kashmiri blood stream. There have been instances of detergent and blotting paper being added to milk, powdered bricks, saw dust and many other dangerous and poisonous materials being added to some spices. Even the bakers have been adding some chemical agents to bread and other confectionary to make it crisp and presentable. Sometime back there were some cases registered against big firms dealing with various food products like milk and spices. However, after sometime the companies involved continued as before! One does not know what happened to those cases?
Adulterated food products are naturally bound to induce sickness among the consumers and they would need to be treated. The height of irony is that the drugs being prescribed for such and other illnesses too are fake! There is a massive racket of fake drugs in the State. There can be nothing more criminal than this! Again the cases of fake drugs have been there for quite some time. In 2013 there was a massive scam of fake drugs being supplied by the Jammu & Kashmir Medical Supplies Corporation to various hospitals. Two major supplies of life saving drugs to Kashmir-based government hospitals – antibiotic Maximizen-625 and Curesef – were found unfit and spurious by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, Ministry of health and family welfare, and the local drug control department. In another case, chalk and clay were found mixed in these drugs which had been supplied almost for two years. In fact, 500 babies that had died could be because of drug adulteration. The medical superintendent of the Children Hospital had admitted that the babies could have died due to spurious drugs. Some of the well-known brands of medicine including anti-biotics are reportedly faked in Jammu and then supplied in the valley through various outlets. They are not ordinary criminals but real murderers! They deserve to be hanged in public. Unfortunately the procedures to prosecute these criminals are so lengthy that they have every chance of getting scot free. One cannot depend solely on the government for getting rid of the menace. It needs social awareness and a strong peoples’ movement not only to ensure the trial and prosecution of the caught criminals but a total social boycott and complete ostracization of these criminals from the society. All the Civil Society groups should take up these issues and ensure prosecution of the persons caught adulterating food products and manufacturing and selling fake drugs. There is also urgent need for not only political leaders but all the religious leaders to take up the issue of food adulteration and manufacture and the sale of fake drugs. People have not only to be made aware of the widely present menace but also motivated to ensure hauling up and prosecution of the persons found guiltyof indulging in these offences.
Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired) Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir