Srinagar, Apr 25: The State High Court today came down heavily on the State Government for its failure to curb the menace of food adulteration in the State which has caused life threatening diseases.
After statements of the State Counsel and the Commissioner Food Safety and Standards who was present before the Court, HC said it is enough to shock conscience of everyone as there is no equipment to check the quality of food stuff.
“The statement made is enough to shock conscience of every sensitive soul, inasmuch, as, there is no paraphernalia available in the State of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with mandate contained in Provisions of FSS Act 2006”, Division Bench of Justice MH Attar and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey said.
Court rejected the compliance report of the authorities with the remarks that it does not comply with the court directions issued on last date. “The respondents have to respond to the suggestions placed on record in writing by the learned amicus. They shall also give full details about the issue raised on last date. The details shall be provided by or before the next date”, DB directed.
Court expressed its serious concern on part of the authorities who are entrusted with the duty to allow the people to consume pure and hygienic food after proper checking and testing. “There is no testing laboratory worth the name under this Act in the State of Jammu and Kashmir” court said and observed: “It appears that people of the State are made to consume adulterated food. All those, who are responsible to check this adulteration, probably have forgotten to perform their statutory duty”.
Court further directed that in terms of previous order information sought shall be responded adequately as also the suggestion of amicus curie be also adequately responded by or before April 27 on which date the case be considered for further adjudication.
Court on last date of hearing had sought information with regard to number of officers/officials, who are required to be posted in terms of FSS Act 2006 and how many such officers are in place.
Court had also sought full particulars of all those persons/companies/corporations, who are manufacturing and processing any food product in the State adding the information of those who have been convicted and sentenced under the Food Safety Act.
But in compliance report there is nowhere mention about these information except location of two testing laboratories one according to the report is situated at Dalgate Srinagar and other one at Patoli, Mangotrian Jammu.
Court after a long deliberation in the matter on various issues questioned the authorities if there is such kind of lack of deficiency in the department then how you allow the food stuff in markets without cross check.
Court observed to the State Counsel that ‘people do not matter for you but money matters for you. How you allow the people to consume the food without its proper check if you do not have the checking facility (Laboratory)’ adding with ‘there is nothing but nexus. Who will compensate those who suffered with chronic diseases’.
Court has also been informed that the Commissioner /Secretary Health and Medical Education is holding the additional charge of Food Commissioner as according the amicus B A Bashir (Sr. Advocate) submitted to the court that four years ago there was an assurance by the Government in one of the PILs dealing with the issue that there would be full-fledged Food Commissioner in a short span of time.
It has also been brought to the notice of the court by the amicus BAB that food testing laboratory in the Valley is only for the name sake but it lacks equipment, infrastructure and manpower to check the adulterated consumption of food in Valley and there is no mechanism in place to check the purity of eatables.
The suo-moto proceedings with regard to issue of food adulteration have been taken by the High Court after it was reported in media that consumption of adulterated and carcinogenic food items in the Valley are at alarming proportion.
In its suggestion by Advocate B A Bashir to which court has also sought response from the Government, seeks arraying Chief Secretary of the State as respondent with Commissioner /Secretary H&ME Department, Secretary Health and Family Welfare Government of India, Director Health Services of both divisions of the State, Commissioners of Municipal Corporations of both divisions, Drug Controller of the State, all Deputy Commissioners of the State and all recognized Food Testing Laboratories in the State.
Amicus curie in his suggestions said that the PIL involves security and protection of precious lives of lakhs of people who are consuming different food items which are allegedly contaminated and carcinogenic causing terminal diseases.
It is further stated in the suggestions that situation is aggravated by lack of scientific facilities for checking and testing the contaminated food items like food testing laboratories, equipments, man power(both technical & non-technical) as also the supervisory staff.
Advocate Bashir also submited that the Food Safety & Standards Act is applicable to whole country and the State of J&K so it must have scientific committee or panel of advisory committees at Central level and to execute the provision of laws of the said Act.
It was reported in various press reports that food testing laboratory in the Valley lacks equipment, infrastructure and manpower to check the adulterated consumption of food in Valley. It is said that the adulterated food is leading to multiple diseases among people, including cancer whose rate had doubled in the Valley during the past less than a decade.
The lone Food Testing Laboratory (FTL) of the Valley situated in Srinagar is said to be having ancient and outdated equipments while old methods are put into practice to test samples of foods.
About the food items like oils, milk etc consumed by general masses according to the reports are contaminated and such kind of adulteration have flooded the markets of the Valley as there is no mechanism in place to check the purity of eatables.