Recently an apparently disturbing news came to fore. That of adulterated milk being consumed in the state. Subsequent news reports suggested that the concerned government department was completely unaware of the study undertaken to ascertain the quality of milk consumed in the state. It was in fact a national survey conducted by the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), that had revealed more than 80 per cent of milk sold in Jammu and Kashmir contains adulterants.
The study in which 18 samples were taken from different parts of the state for testing by the FSSAI, 15 were contaminated with glucose and Skim Milk Powder (SMP), with only remaining three conforming to the standards set up by the central food regulating agency. Out of the failed samples, two were taken from rural areas and 13 were taken from the urban areas of the state. After the initial reports about the study, newspapers even reported the public umbrage against the government for being unconcerned about the situation. It was also reported that the government had sought details from the FSSAI only after the report was in public domain.
After the initial chaos, the government finally rose upto the occasion. But in a way that is typical of governance in these lands. We are witness to many other such initiatives and responses of the government that live only in the newspaper reports or paid advertorials and die an inglorious death in the newsprint only. The much talked about Panchayati Raj is one such example.
The recent Public services guarantee act is another. The government response to the adulterated milk controversy is yet another. The advertisement appearing in the local newspapers issued by the commissioner of food safety is a case in point. Firstly, the existence of a department controlling food safety in the state is news to the common public. The department is conspicuous by its absence and its activities are rarely reported. Adulteration of food items is not in any case a rarity here. Action against such practices is rare, however. Secondly the print advertisement issued by the department, presumably under public pressure is a travesty to say the least. Not only its contents but its format as well. The mast head of the advertisement depicts a big “Hello” written in upper case with a very large font and placed between the pictures of a telephone instrument and a smiley. For God’s sake what is this creativity all about. Does it convey to the reader that all is well with food safety standards in the state.
If yes, then it is a crude rather childish way of saying things. Government advertisements are often seen as drab messages with little or no creativity in their design and layout. That is still better than attempts at creativity executed unprofessionally that reek of naivet?. Government responses to issues of public concern should be sensible for their sensitiveness. Almost all the government departments have annual budgets for awareness and public relations. They can engage media professionals on a need basis for improving their interactions with the public in any medium, both in content and presentation. This will go a long way in salvaging a little bit of credibility in the eyes of genera public. And if the government actually acts that would be a soney pe suhaga.