The Milk CONTROVERSY

A recent survey on milk adulteration by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) claiming 83 percent of milk consumed in J&K as adulterated, has created panic in the state.

However, experts have questioned the survey describing its methodology and sample collection in Jammu and Kashmir as “faulty”.
“I have written a letter to FSSAI, of which I am a member asking them about the procedure of the sample collection,” said Satish Gupta, Commissioner for Food Safety Jammu and Kashmir. “We do not know from which part of Jammu and Kashmir these 18 samples have been collected. Survey has assumed the milk as buffalo milk but that is not true about Valley.”

According the survey published on FSSAI website, 18 random samples were collected from Jammu and Kashmir. Three among them are from rural areas and two are of packaged milk. Three samples conformed to the FSSAI standards while rest of the 15 samples were found reconstructed from skimmed milk powder and adulterated with glucose.

Gupta though not denying adulteration of milk in the state said the panic is uncalled for. Survey about J&K, unlike Bihar and some other states, does not carry detergents and other hazardous elements.

State government, which is responsible for food safety was found in usual complacency. Resulting in panic among consumers. It was only after the sustained coverage by the local media, government came out with statements and explanation but has no ground to deny the facts.

Even if the authenticity of survey can be debated, the fact is the adulteration of milk is a common practice here.

In fact just weeks before the survey, public health officer of Srinagar Municipal Corporation had sealed a milk packaging plant for violating food safety norms. Checking for adulteration and contamination of food and milk should be a regular practice, as is the case around the world. However, despite having basic infrastructure and manpower for testing food quality in the state, the facilities are not utilised.

The practice here has been the opposite. An official who acted against a milk packager was reportedly reprimanded and asked to desist from such actions in future.

Sheltering STATE
Mercury is on dip every day with night temperature even touching -8 degree celsius in the plains of the valley. But there are people who are spending their days and nights under open sky.

Newspaper reports suggest more than 600 families living in the municipal areas of Bandipora, Submal and Hajin falling in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) were promised monetary assistance under centrally sponsored Integrated Housing Slum Development program (IHSDP) for constructing their houses. According to official sources, 413 in Bandipora, 207 in Sumbal and 71 families in Hajin were indentified under this scheme and government has paid them two instalments of Rs 30,000 each. These families have completed the construction of their houses up to the roof level but are not able to arrange rooftops as their third instalment is yet to be released.

Residents facing immense hardships in present weather conditions allege the government first motivated them to dismantle their sheds and later failed to rehabilitate them.

They accuse officials of indifference saying the administration would be solely responsible for any death in these under construction houses as a number of people including children are suffering from the cold related diseases. A senior official of Bandipora Municipal committee acknowledged delay in the release of money. “About Rs 1.85 crore is pending including 75% central and 25% state share which is yet to be distributed among the families and will be released very soon.”

Besides IHSDP scheme, Supreme Court had directed in April 2011 that all the states and Union territories to ensure the night shelters for homeless (Raen Baseras) should be revamped before the onset of winter, till October 31. It seems the J&K government has not taken it very seriously.

Reports from winter capital suggest that even the existing labour shelters have not been speared for the poor and the labour class. All the 15 such shelters across the state have been occupied by the state itself. A Jammu newspaper has reported that the ‘Labour Sarai’ at Rehari houses office of the state Labour Commissioner in Jammu.

It has however speared its ground floor for the labourers to spend nights. The Sarai of Rajouri has been rented out to BSNL, as part of it houses the office of Assistant Labour Commissioner. In Nowshera it is jointly shared by Labour and Revenue departments. In Pahalgam, the Sarai houses the Mountaineering Institute of Tourism department. The Srinagar’s `Labour Sarai’ at Batmaloo houses the office of Deputy Labour Commissioner Kashmir, Assistant Labour Commissioner, Inspector of Factories Kashmir division. The `Labour Sarai’ in Sonamarg is under the occupation of Sonamarg Development Authority.

The government records state that the `Labour Sarai’ in Leh is under the occupation of Noor Baksh Committee under the order of DDC, Leh and land measuring four Kanals has been allotted to the Labour department in lieu of the building. Labour Sarai in Kargil is under the occupation of administrator Municipal Committee. In Katra, Kupwara and Gulmarg, these inns are under the occupation of security personnel. CRPF personnel are in the possession of Katra Sarai, while BSF personnel and J&K Police personnel have occupied the “labour Sarais” at Kupwara and Gulmarg respectively.

A Sovereign ISSUE?

One of the state government’s ailing PSUs defaulting one of the guarantees has gone to the Delhi High Court. The court ruled that a government cannot be allowed to dishonour its sovereign guarantee on grounds of lack of funds.  Airports Authority of India (AAI) that had sought to redeem the bond worth Rs 10.40 crore it has earlier purchased from the J&K State Financial Corporation (SFC) failed to recover the money.

After waiting for a bit, it finally went to the high court.  “The state cannot say that it does not have the fund to honour its sovereign guarantee. The court would enforce the sovereign guarantee, because a sovereign guarantee cannot be allowed to fail, if rule of law is to be upheld,” Justice Vipin Sanghi ruled. The court’s direction came on the plea of AAI against default in payment of redemption of bonds as well as the half yearly interest payable by SFC.

The AAI had bought the JKSFC bonds to finance its own employee’s provident fund. The court disallowed the plea that the matter did not fall under its territorial jurisdiction saying that the financial transactions between the parties took place here. J&K government was directed to “honour its sovereign guarantee” and “to make payments of the amount due comprising of the face value of the bonds which is Rs 10.4 crore along with interest up to the date of redemption at the rates prescribed in the said bonds”. It further asked the state to pay overdue interest to AAI on the amount due and payable on the date of redemption at the rate of 8 per cent.

Clergy DECREES
Kashmir’s ‘Shariat’ Court has issued a decree seeking expulsion of three evangelical Christian priests for their alleged involvement in conversion “scandal”. Mufti Muhammad Nasir-ul-Islam, son of Mufti Bashir-ud-Din, read the decree in a news conference, last week.

“We have found that three priests are involved in the unethical activities in valley. We carried a thorough investigation into the case and found out later, all the three were involved in the scandal. The records of their involvement are with the court and their expulsion from the state is an apt judgment,” Mufti Jr said.

However, he emphasized that this decree was not against Christian’s living in the valley. “The conversion took place through alluring the youth by means of monetary benefits. To maintain the communal harmony between different faiths living in valley we have to come up with the facts,” he said

The clergy denied the involvement of some academicians in the apostasy issue. “The allegations that Professor Naseem Rafiabadi, Advocate Abdul Rashid Hanjoora and Bashir Ahmad Baba were involved in apostasy are baseless. We couldn’t find any fact of their involvement,” Mufti said.  The “Court” imposed a “complete ban” on Chief Pastor All Saints Church CM Khanna and others accused in the Conversion controversy to enter Kashmir for their alleged involvement in luring Muslims of Kashmir to Christianity by exploiting “ their financial conditions and promoting immorality.”

“All the evidences and witnesses against them are safe with the court and government is impressed to make sure that these people don’t enter the state of J&K.  And these people should be given no relaxation so that they people’s religious sentiments are respected,” he added. He said that they have spoken to the government and the administration has agreed to enforce the “verdict.” He also said that CM Khanna has “confessed to his crime and also we have the full documentary proof against these people.” Though Khanna’s family has already fled Kashmir, the missionaries have created a lot of noise about their “persecution” in Kashmir. For the last few days, there is lot of news being dished out on this front.

For The New Army CHIEF
J&K police has finally washed its hands from the controversy involving the conduct of Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Bikram Singh as Brigadier heading a sector in Rashtriya Rifles in South Kashmir. In a writ petition the high court has directed the police to reinvestigate the Janglat Mundi encounter in which a family says the slain “Pakistani militant was actually a 70-years old civilian”. Police had already certified the veracity of the encounter. Now it has handed over a “case closure report” of the incident to the army. The encounter took place in 2001 and the family says they have a right to know where their slain member is buried.  “As you all know, an NGO has moved a writ petition in the court — the petition is in the High Court – so it is sub-judice…I do not think it would be correct on my part to make any comment there on,” Lt Gen K T Parnaik told reporters in Akhnoor last week.

Obituary
Journalist Suraj Saraf has passed away. He was 88 and is survived by two sons. Born in Jammu on June 24, 1924, Saraf graduated from Prince of Wales College, (now GGM Science College) and later qualified LLB from Punjab University, Lahore. He briefly practiced law and later joined IAF, also for a brief period. He was appointed as Public Relations Officer by the Government of J&K in 1965. Later he joined media. During his career, Saraf worked for Times of India, The Hindu, Women’s Era, National Geographic Society, WANA, INFA, Christian Science Monitor, Pioneer and PTI, besides working for the first newspaper of Jammu, Ranbir.

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