Srinagar: Despite an advisory by the health department asking people to refrain from buying food items wrapped in newspapers, sellers and buyers are unaware of the advisory and of associated health risks.
An old man sitting on his small shop in Maharaja Bazar market of Srinagar city selling cheese wrapped in newspapers. He had no idea of the advisory and said people have no problem with newspaper wrappers.
“I am into this business from so many years. I have been selling cheese like this and people don’t complain,” he said while cutting another newspaper to sell cheese.
Mohammad Aslam, who sells Masal’e at the busy Jahangir Chowk told Kashmir Reader that he uses newspaper to wrap the food item. He too was unaware of the advisory and continued selling Masal’e in the newspaper.
“If any department has issued an advisory, it should be followed by all. Why only me?” he said while asking to leave space for customers.
Abdul Jabbar, a customer told Kashmir Reader, that his sentiments get hurt when he finds Islamic text on the newspaper used to wrap food items and subsequently thrown away by the people.
When informed about the advisory issued by the health department, he giggled and said, “That’s right but the government should make people aware about it. Most of the people don’t read newspapers and they don’t know anything about such advisories.”
Another street vendor, a snack seller, standing behind his stall who near old Batamaloo bus stand told Kashmir Reader that he wasn’t aware of the advisory. According to him, advisories come and go.
“Some BJP politician has seen a person walking over the picture of Modi on newspapers, that’s why they’ve ordered the ban. Otherwise, the recycled paper too is dangerous,” he said.
When told that the newspaper ink contained harmful chemicals, he retorted, “Then everything being sold in markets is harmful.”
The customer standing in front his stall nodded his head in agreement and said, “The government only issues advisories and then nobody follows it. That’s how it has been going since.”
Assistant Food Commissioner, Hilal Ahmed Mir told Kashmir Reader that they can’t take legal action against people wrapping food items in newspapers over an advisory. There has to be a rule against it.
“This was basically an advisory issued by Food, Safety Standard and Authority of India (FSSAI). In light of the advisory, we also forwarded it to the people. There is a need to aware people about it,” he said.
According to Mir, there are practical difficulties while dealing with the street vendors who sell food items in newspapers.
“Most of the people selling food items in newspapers are street vendors. Last month, we recovered and destroyed quintals of newspapers from street vendors in Khanyar area. But once we leave, they again start selling food articles in newspapers.” He said.
“We will have to face court tomorrow. For that matter, we have to take a food sample with contaminated ink, from a person so that we can prove it,” he added.
He added that the Food Commissioner and Municipal Commissioner have already said during a PIL hearing in Court that there has to be notified separate vending zones.
“Once there will be separate vending zones for street vendors, then we can enforce food laws against them. They will get proper registrations from Srinagar Municipal Corporation and Food Safety Department. Anyone found violating the norms will get his registration cancelled and action will be taken.”