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Consumers' silence over adulterated milk baffling
By Devinder Sharma

Milk is a crucial component of Indian diet, particularly for children, but the society, industry and government remain indifferent to spurious milk supply and usage.


Synthetic milk being disposed off after seizure (Photo courtesy: Hindu)

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.

Synthetic milk 'under production' (photo: IBN)

Although the UP Assembly witnessed an uproar over the supply of synthetic milk in the State on August 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 of 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?       If it can't even voice its concern over the rampant adulteration of milk, which is a crucial component of the daily Indian diet, what can you expect from this society?

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?

A milkman destroys synthetic milk after a
raid by health officials (Photo courtesy: Tribune)
Adulterated milk being packed (Photo: NDTV)

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.       Many dairy plants are sourcing bulk supplies of milk from a particular area where the milk production is far less than what is being collected.

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.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of d-sector editorial team.

Devinder Sharma  |  Food and trade policy analyst, columnist and activists' guide  |  hunger55@gmail.com

Devinder Sharma is an award-winning journalist, writer, and researcher globally recognised for his analysis on food, agriculture and trade policy. After completing M.Sc. in Plant Breeding and Genetics, he started his career as a journalist. A decade later, he quit active journalism to research on policy issues concerning hunger and food security, biodiversity, genetic engineering and IPRs. He writes and speaks extensively on these issues and has written more than 10,000 articles till date.

Write to d-sector  |  Editor's Note

Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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