Punjab : Quickly Turning into Land of Adulterated Food………...by Pushpinder Singh Gill
September 26, 2021: Punjab has not only been recognized as land of five rivers but it also identifies with its riches concerning healthy foods and natural diets. A common Punjabi is known for its strength and vigor and his fitness holds second to none. For centuries the people of Punjab have faced countless invaders not only to protect their own heritage and culture but also to save the sovereignty of India. Punjab has been identified as the fortified arm of India ready to face every adversary and it contributes maximum manpower in the armed forces of the country.
The ferocity of the enemy cannot defeat the people of this sacred land but now a new enemy has cast its deep shadow and we are fastly losing the battle to this adversary. This new enemy is adulteration and its tentacles are reaching fast and far to cover almost everything that concerns our health.
Once known as the land of milk, lassi, butter, ghee and robust people, Punjab is in the grip of a serious problem of adulteration in all kinds of food items. After a severe dip in water and air quality, the state is now in serious grip of adulteration menace.
In August 2019, out of a total of 494 milk samples collected, 252 were found to be adulterated and out of 575 samples of milk products (including butter, ghee, ice-cream), 307 were found to be adulterated.
In both cases around 60 percent of the samples randomly taken were found to be adulterated which is an alarming figure. The local milk producers are regularly adding Urea and Caustic Soda to compensate for the adulteration being done in the milk in huge proportions without taking into consideration their health consequences.
This milk is being consumed by all members of the family, especially the small infants and elderly parents, adversely affecting their nascent developing body parts and doing irreparable damage to their brain and health.
Apart from supply-demand constraints, the cost of these products have emerged as a big factor in their wide circulation. The genuine cheese available in the market costs around Rs. 300, whereas the fake one can be easily supplied to shopkeepers at around half the rate. To facilitate these operations, the State has emerged as home to ghost dairies, whose only activity is to manufacture and facilitate the marketing of adulterated milk products.
Most of the products being made in these ghost dairies are being sold to sweet shops, restaurants and bakeries, where they are openly sold and used in other products. It has been an open secret in the State and authorities turn a complete blind eye to all such nefarious activities.
Another common input in making of fake cheese and khoya is usage of skimmed milk. The formula is simple i.e. one part of poor quality substandard skimmed milk powder along with three parts of starch are mixed and then refined oil or hydrogenated Oil is added for fat content to meet the standards. An officer on condition of anonymity said that toilet cleaning sulphuric acid is used to coagulate milk while making cheese and similarly soy milk being coagulated with chemicals is passed off as paneer.
The adulteration of milk starts right from the primary source i.e. the actual farmer who is using oxytone injections to milk the animals and increase their yield almost on a daily basis. This milk is then further passed to milk-sellers who increase its quantity by putting banned chemicals and further pass on this contaminated supply to those who are making milk products.
That is the final stage of adulteration and then the product is openly sold to the consumers without a blink of the eye. This game has been going on in Punjab for years now and hospitals are filled with people having gastric problems.
According to data provided by the Animal Husbandry Department, there are 52 lakh buffaloes and 21 lakh Cows in Punjab and they collectively produce approx.. 360 lakh litres of milk daily and this quantity seems enough to fulfill the requirements of the State but it is only the greed of making money which boost the spurious milk industry. Punjabi’s sweet tooth and taste for delicacies further push-up the demand of milk and milk products.
The recent development is the marketing of pure ghee and its different variants available in the market. Animal fat, Crushed animal bones for granular texture plus cheap palm oil and essences are being widely used to manufacture spurious ghee which is cost effective but have very dangerous health consequences. These components can cause blockages in the circulatory system, cause heart problems, damage brain tissues, cause liver failure etc. to mention a few of the problems. These aspects cannot be taken casually as they are responsible for serious health damage.
With the festival season approaching quickly, the buses and trains to Punjab are loaded with fake khoya coming mainly from UP and other far off states. These huge quantities are then aggressively used in making sweets and other products being sold openly in the market to gullible people.
Punjab is on a complete path to disaster – we have polluted our natural resources doing immense damage to them, most of the stuff we eat is adulterated and we are standing on the verge of a health catastrophe. The State’s tube-wells being run on free electricity are pumping out acidic and polluted water which is being generously fed to our crops which are then consumed by all.
There has been overuse of pesticides and chemical fertilizers in the State and they are causing huge health issues. All the fruits and vegetables available in the State are being ripened with the help of banned calcium carbide and it’s an open fact as this banned chemical is easily available in shops.
Punjab is now home to dangerous pesticides like Round-up, which have been globally held responsible for causing cancer and other serious mental illnesses. Malathion is being widely used in the State and its ill-effects are very serious. The Punjab is now known for cancer trains being run to other parts of India as constantly common people are being afflicted by this disease.
All industrial waste and sewerage is being dumped into what were earlier considered as sacred rivers. Just two years ago the water running up-to Pakistan was fully contaminated because of massive effluents being over-spilled from distillery of a powerful politician in Punjab.
Lakhs of dead fish were there to be seen and after two years, no action has been taken on anybody. In last ten years a large no. of industrial units in Punjab have drilled bore wells in their premises and are dumping their dangerous chemical effluents in them. Now tube wells in certain regions of Punjab are pumping out that contaminated water and it is also being consumed by livestock and humans as well.
In Spite of this being an open secret no action has been initiated at any level. This is slow poisoning and human genocide is progress, where common people are sufferers. If harsh steps are not taken immediately, an entire generation has to either migrate abroad or their livelihood is at stake.
There are hardly any strong provisions in the Indian constitution to punish the adulterers and it is hardly any deterrent to those involved in this business. With active partnership and patronage of official machinery, the business of adulteration is prospering leaps and bounds & the future of the State looks extremely bleak.
Pure and healthy food is the right of every citizen and the State must ensure that. Not only the govt. of Punjab immediately needs to frame some of the strictest laws to punish the adulterers but this issue has to be pursued very seriously at the national level. We are steering at a blank future and immense harm if urgent actions are not taken.
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