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Time to milk this opportunity

In a welcome move, the Supreme Court has advised the central government to make milk adulteration a punishable offence with punishment amounting to life imprisonment for anyone who indulges in the dubious practice. The apex court has suggested to the central government that the Food Safety and Standards Act be amended in the approaching winter session of Parliament and also said that the unethical practice should be completely curtailed in the states as well. If we look at some of the facts that the National Survey on Milk Adulteration 2011 brought forth we would be appalled to know that Indians are consuming water, detergents, urea, starch, glucose, caustic soda and formalin in the name of milk.

What is even more disturbing is the fact that these contaminants are not only being used to increase the thickness and viscosity of milk but are primarily being used as preservatives to help the milk being preserved for a longer time. States like Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal, Mizoram, Jharkhand and Daman & Diu have a 100 per cent non conformity record with food safety standards. How can a reason as absurd as difference between demand and supply of milk be given to cover for the criminal act? If there is shortage of milk, it is due to the fact that milch cattle are kept underfed and in unsanitary conditions. There is no regulation to keep a check on the conditions that they survive in and the central and the state government’s should make it mandatory for cattle owners to feed them properly, clean their surroundings everyday and not let them roam as stray animals where they are stoned and are severely abused too.

People living in the tremendously expanding urban agglomerations have to bear the brunt of this menace in far greater numbers than their rural counterparts. This is an understood fact as milk producers in rural India practise active animal husbandry whether or not they are given any sort of incentive by the respective state or the central government. In urban areas on the contrary, the milk producing livestock is unabatedly exploited due to the demand that needs to be met. The apex court has rightly pointed out that the six months punishment mentioned in the Food Safety and Standards Act is grossly inadequate.

The court had also earlier asked states to amend the law as has been done by Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Odisha. Even the Indian Council of Medical Research in a report published long back had mentioned that detergents, caustic soda, formalin and even water in milk cause food poisoning and gastrointestinal complications and that the other synthetic compounds cause impairments, heart problems, cancer and even death. The centre should act on its own accord and make the states fall in place too.
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