Unquestionably, the holy month of Ramadan brings unlimited blessings of Allah for each and every Muslim across the globe and at the same time it certainly brings quite a great deal of fear and concern for lower, middle and, in a few cases, even for the upper class Muslims of Bangladesh as far as the price spiral of essentials and hectic adulteration in food items are concerned. While reacting to this issue, the Director General of RAB, Benazir Ahmed has categorically branded the food adulterators as killers and demanded capital punishment in the strongest terms for these criminals against humanity.
The rising trend in the prices of essentials is quite a familiar phenomenon for Bangladeshi Muslims over the decades. But the dangerous practice of majority businessmen that rings the cautionary alarm bell number 10 is definitely rampant adulteration in essential consumer items. This is yet another new manifestation over the last couple of years. The aggressive profiteering motives of the businessmen concern us most which is why they are playing game of death with human lives. Undoubtedly, dissuading and disarming these enemies of humanity have to be taken as number one national priority. Otherwise, the responsibility of death of innumerable innocent people caused by slow poisoning process of food adulteration has to be borne by the state itself.What can be more horrifying than the news that businessmen contaminate food by exposing them to life-threatening chemicals and pesticides? In almost 90 per cent vegetable sold across the country, active presence of pesticides like DDT, Aldrin, Chlordane and Heptachlor have been detected by the test report of National Food Safety Laboratory. It is now a bland fact that not only the food items sold in towns and cities are adulterated even in the rural growing and supply basins almost all food items sold in the markets there are also viciously polluted. Most shockingly, it is now the case of quite a huge number of growers or farmers who nurture and nurse the raw foods have already turned out to be the primary polluters. However, the other side of the coin is that lack of adequate storage facilities for the growers compels them to undertake the heinous enterprise of pollution.
Use of formalin in fruits and fish has long been a rampant tradition among the businessmen. More than 98 per cent consumers of Bangladesh now eat formalin saturated fruits and fish. The magic of formalin has become the fool-proof apparatus of making money for the unscrupulous businessmen. Our food items especially those perishable ones are actually floating on the stream of the formalin. During Ramadan the use of formalin in food items takes a turn for the worst.
Particularly, the fried iftar items are almost absolutely unhygienic and carry serious health hazards. These items are in most cases fried in date expired rotten oil. Moreover, the makers use harmful colours and chemicals to add extra lustre to these items so as to attract consumers. It is consumers’ in-built temperament to buy colourful iftar items even though they are dangerous for health. On the other hand, consumers habitually avoid pure and hygienic items without lustre and glamour. Mass awareness has to be created in bringing about a radical change in the purchasing habit of the consumers through a sustained social campaign.
Consumers are virtually helpless in the face of monstrously aggressive surge of adulteration. Without having the necessary tools and technical know-how for identifying the fake and adulterated items, consumers are always left unguarded in the most dangerous zone of purchasing. In combating the unbridled tide of food adulteration, we unfortunately see that rhetoric always overpowers action. As per tradition, anti-adulteration drives are always confined to city centres and on some rare occasions to the suburbs. Most often, the drives and raids against contamination are disorganised and short-lived. More shockingly, the food adulterators caught in these mobile raids slip away either through the loopholes of law or through the backdoor influence.
Since the all-corrosive under-current of adulteration has already engulfed the entire society, no piecemeal treatment or incoherent therapy to this dangerous ever greed virus is likely to produce desired results. This highly serious national issue at the moment calls for a holistic and integrated approach with the participation of people from all strata of the society. For any real and substantive operational solution to this vice of the inner psyche of a particular category of dealers and sellers who deal with food commodities, the whole country has to be brought first under a surveillance network round the clock before beginning the combing operations across the country. Without dealing a death blow which at the moment is the only pertinent for exemplary punishment for the food adulterators, it is impossible, as the DG of RAB has rightly said, to curb the destructive machinations of the adulterators’ deep-rooted syndicate.
Food dealers and sellers and the unscrupulous growers as well who are making quick bucks at the cost of millions of invaluable lives who are languishing to death slowly and gradually fall our contempt. Finally, it is my solemn suggestion that the villainous food dealers should be given for the last time a deadline with an ultimatum clearly telling them either rectify or prepare for death.
The writer is an Assistant Professor of English Bogura Cantonment Public School & College.