If there were an algorithm to measure government attitude towards the people of Kashmir it would perhaps appear the only capacity built to extreme robustness is for controlling the people and keep all political dissent at bay and criminalised. That is what the administration authorities call ‘maintenance of law and order’. Most other aspects of life appear like a silent catastrophe in slow motion, at the mercy of the elements, as the high court remarks about manufacture and sale of adulterated food might mean. On paper, there is the Jammu and Kashmir Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA) in force since 2006. For this law to be effective there should be enough food-testing laboratories, manned by an adequate number of trained professionals who can ensure that the food items manufactured and sold to unsuspecting consumers are safe for human consumption. But, when we picture the actual scenario horror hits you in the face.
For the entire Kashmir division there is just one food-testing laboratory with outdated and defunct equipment, and perhaps no trained or competent professionals to test foodstuff sold in the market for safety. In this situation what use is the FSSA! Imagine this: if there were complaints of adulterated food sold in Ladakh, the samples would have to be sent to Srinagar into a facility that has neither the requisite equipment nor the technical human capacity to do anything about it. This state of affairs prompted the state high court to observe that consumers have been left to the ‘mercy of God’.
In absence of the required technical capacity and human resource to ensure only safe food is sold to the consumers, the court on Thursday asked manufacturers to submit affidavits to explain in-house capacities they have to ensure safety standards, and in the event of adulterated food sold or found in the market the particular enterprise will be liable to be sealed. Is the FSSA not supposed to be enough already to ensure this? In absence of the basic capacity to make this law effective, to check adulteration, would the manufacturer’s affidavit on oath make any difference to the prevailing practices?
From the court’s observations in this matter it appears that it is the administration — having failed even to appoint relevant professionals for the utterly dysfunctional testing laboratories – that has reneged on its responsibility towards citizens. So, besides holding the spotlight on manufacturers, one would expect the court to also hold specific authorities accountable for criminal neglect before the food we eat also enters the realm of ‘law and order problem’.