Saturday, August 09, 2003

Yeh hi hai right choice, baby? Ya phir wrong choice?

Chemicals used to quench vermin life in the popular quenchers of human thirst? Just when the western world (read “hypocritical Bush land”) is complaining of how free the Indian economy has become, here comes the story that “big brother” multinationals are slowly indulging in slow genocide. Do these sound like lines straight out a Hitler basher’s book? But these are just the words that our lawmakers have spewed out in the last couple of days.

Banning soft drinks (or soda as it is known here in the US) is one thing. But will the banning of soft drinks in just the Parliament complex solve the troubles faced by the whole population of India? But lawmakers are queer people. No, I am talking about their sexual preferences, but about their ways of reacting to stuff in general, regardless of the part of the world. When France showed reluctance in supporting the US “Shock and Awe” approach, there was talk of the US Senate passing a motion renaming “French Fries” as “Liberty Fries”. I don't think such a suggestion actually found favor, but it made news all the same. But now, after 4 months of shock and awe, in McDonalds, that behemoth of an all-American symbol, you ask not for “liberty fries”, but for “French fries” or “fries” as they are colloquially known. So what would/did such a motion achieve? Nothing. Except that this "symbol of rebuke" made headlines. Same goes now with the Indian Parliament.

An acceptable reaction to a report of such magnitude should have been the setting up of a academic panel to do all these tests to know for sure if all the reports of pesticides are true and also to quench all the talk about falsification of reports and the reported errors and omissions in the findings. But we get word play as a substitute for strong action. I got a copy of a report (see this pdf file) and it looks okay at first glance. However most of the jargon makes no sense to me and hence this report can be maligned by anyone. Unless another study, this time by people nominated by both sides or maybe from the IITs or the IISc, is undertaken, this issue shall continue to rock India. As I pen this, I am reading a report that "samples of 15 brands of softdrinks and allied products have been sent for testing to the Centre for Food Technology Institute at Mysore and report is awaited.". After almost a week of mad shouting, comes a step at probably the right direction.

From what I understand, like almost every other industry in India, the soft drinks industry is also unregulated, as this report says too. And as the report says, everything is due to the pesticides in the water used. And who is responsible for the water in India? Everyone knows the answer. So the blame goes on to the government, not just for the unregulated business, but also for the failure to provide services. As someone (I forget who, now) said recently, India loses a lot more because of sub standard infrastructure than from other causes. But before someone says “Dude, don’t repeat complaints”, I am going to say this too. We as citizens have been callous too. We use a lot of things that the government provides at subsidized rates, but we sometimes don’t pay the taxes that support these subsidies. And we complain if we find these subsidies are removed because we don’t deserve it. Most states in India provide free electricity for farmers to run their water pumps. These same farmers have been found, in Tamilnadu, in the areas around Chennai, to use this same electricity to fill tanker trucks with water from the pumps and make a tidy sum. But every time the government talks about removing these subsidies, there is talk of unrest.

So do we want to be labeled “developing country” from yesterday to eternity? Some people want to do this more for their own profit than for anything else. They want to be spoon fed in everything. And I don’t think this situation is prevalent anywhere except India. Most countries chose to go open the first time they got a chance. Some went totally closed (the western bloc countries) and now don’t exist in the same form anymore. But we, the independent India, went “non-aligned”, “secular”, “socialist” and what not. And all that we have left now, after half a century of such word play is an underdeveloped country loaded with anachronistic attitudes. Is that a lesson? For whom? Someone in another dimension perhaps. So learn to make the choice. There is no middle way. There simply cannot be. Binary rules!!

QOTD: "If the report indicates presence of pesticides beyond the permissible limits, then we would take stern action against them and may also consider to revoke their manufacturing licences." - S.T. Shanmugam (Union Minister of State, Food Processing Industries, August 9th, 2003)

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