Aug 10, 2009

Adulterated milk -- Why is the dairy industry and consumers silent?

There is hardly a day when you don't find news report of adulterated milk appearing from various parts of the country. The menace of milk adulteration has spread far and wide. The crime branch of Pune police had busted a gang involved in milk adulteration, the Mumbai police arrested five people selling spurious ghee, the police in Satara arrested a kingpin whose manufacturing unit for biofuels was actually producing chemical milk and selling it in bulk for the past five years.

These are only a few of the reports that I bring it to your notice.

The menace of synthetic milk is of course well known. The production of chemical milk was however news to me. I am amazed at the ingenuity of the Indian mind. They had actually prepared a chemical solution, 10 ml of which is good enough to turn into one litre of milk by adding water. In fact, the colour turns white only when water is added. In a way, this factory was acting more or less like a formulation unit, getting the technical material and formulating it into milk.

Although the UP Assembly witnessed an uproar over the supply of synthetic milk in the State on Aug 8, I do not find the consumers as well as the dairy industry rising to the occasion. The indifference on part of the consumers is shocking indeed. The deafening silence from the consumers gives me an impression that this country has lost the ability to stand up for its rights. If it can't even voice its concern over the rampant adulteration of milk, which is a crucial component the daily Indian diet, what can you expect from this society? If they are not worried about what they are drinking as milk everyday, do you think they are even remotely concerned about the health impact from genetically modified foods?

I had thought that adulterated milk should have by now become the major national issue. Average consumers should have felt outraged, and there should have been mass protests and actions. I can't even visualise how come the average Indian has not even cared to express its disgust, its anger against the inability of the government to ensure that the milk being supplied in the market is safe for human health. How can you sleep over something that is potentially a killer? What a disgrace.

And this reminds of a scene from the Bollywood blockbuster Lage Raho Munnabhai. At one stage Munnabhai says in the film: Yeh darra hua samaj kya badlav layega. How true?

For once, I think the media has done an excellent job in highlighting the issue. I find special programmes on adulterated milk on prime time in several TV channels. The print media too has given adequate coverage to the subject. But it is the consumers who have failed the media this time. They are more engrossed in the reality shows on the small screen, forgetting the reality show that is actually playing havoc with their own health, and the health of their families.

The dairy industry is no better. Big milk producers like Amul, Mother Dairy and Nestle (besides several other popular brands) are quiet. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the ASSOCHAM are not even asking the government to crackdown on the spurious milk trade. The National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) and the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) too have failed to seek appropriate action.

The reason is obvious. I have ample reasons to believe that many in the dairy industry are hand-in-glove with the spurious traders. I am not mentioning names, but there are a number of cases when we find that the dairy plants are sourcing bulk supplies of milk from a particular region/area where the milk production is far less than what is being collected. That is why the industry is keeping quiet, turning to look the other way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In this context it is good to learn about what a group of farmers under the guidance of a good veterinary doctor has done to address the issue of safe milk to the consumers ,a beautiful experiment in palakkad district in Kerala. A report has come in the mathrubhumi two days back. One of our colleague visited this doctor and farmers last week and he was much impressed. We have met consumers also and they are so happy. But these will remain as experiments , because policy makers have lost faith in such models without any external subsidies. They can not believe that farmers can be self reliant and support the nation if the government can facilitate the proper linkages.