Thursday, August 21, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Need for safe alternatives to soft drinks

At last, the authorities have woken up to the danger posed to public health by aerated drinks such as Coca Cola and Pepsi. That junk food industry has been doing incalculable harm to people, particularly youngsters, is common knowledge. Even in the US, some states have passed legislation banning the sale of junk food in the schools. Now with the discovery of pesticides in these drinks, a new dimension has been added. Banning of these drinks in Parliament canteen will send a potent signal to the people across the country.

But we must not stop at this. Prudence demands that we plan well ahead for future and ensure the availability of safe alternatives also. Although the MNCs have left no stone upturned to finish the local brands and the unbranded 'bunta' soft drinks, we do find these products even now. Are these soft drinks or their concentrates safe enough for the consumers?

Secondly, we also have numerous ‘desi’ options like sherbats, nimbu-paani, jaljeera, fresh fruit juice etc. There is need to standardise these products wherever feasible. Besides, a large segment of milk and milk-based drinks like ‘lassi’ have become suspect following the recent unravelling of synthetic milk scams. Surprisingly, despite the much-touted white revolution, synthetic milk continues to be prepared and sold. Unless safe alternatives are made available to the general public, the blitzkrieg on popular cola drinks will remain incomplete.




Apropos of your editorial “Soft drinks or slow poison?” (Aug 7), a backward economy and unscrupulous state of political functioning have encouraged the dubious and even dangerous to grow and thrive in our country. It would not surprise one that multinationals manufacture and sell drugs and chemicals in India which are banned elsewhere, sell bottled water and soft drinks which have dangerously very high (30 to 36 times higher than the permissible level) toxic substances.

Even after the detection of these extremely hazardous silent killers in food products and drinks, what does our government do? Issue and upgrade certain guidelines, which are not even mandatory? Rules and regulations are framed and implemented not with an eye on the safety aspect and the public health but to prevent legal complications and avoid litigation with influential players in the international market. And when our politicians fail through these means to achieve their “re-doubtable goals”, they would come up with the “Swadeshi vs foreign” slogan or give the casteist twist to the whole issue and encourage even strikes, riots and violence.

In such a state of politico-economic functioning, it is the dubious that thrive and the common man remains at the receiving end. Why else do we pay for he mineral bottled water with pesticides and insects and seem to enjoy the killer toxins in soft drinks? It is perhaps only in India that people are made to drink milk with varnish and urea and our minister defends the guilty with a casteist spin to the whole issue.



I hold no brief for the soft drink giants currently being targeted for the alarming levels of pesticides in their products. But the question I wish to raise is: why pick on them? What about the water we drink and the food we eat? How safe are they?

The fact is that the rampant and widespread use of harmful pesticides is taking a heavy toll of human health in India. And their adverse impact is not confined to those who can afford bottled beverages. Pesticides long since banned in countries that care more about the health of their people are still allowed by us. And even those that we have banned continue to be used virtually unchecked. Aren't we approaching this problem from the wrong end? If we are really serious about keeping the level of pesticides in our food and beverages within acceptable limits we need much stricter controls over the production and use of such harmful chemicals.


Oh, this white poison!

A TV report on milk adulteration in Delhi and around is disturbing. How synthetic milk is prepared is really shocking. Although this report is Delhi-based, in other parts of the country too, similar practice of making synthetic milk is growing unchecked. Next to air and water, milk is a must for us, especially the children and the infirm. However, adulterated milk is nothing short of 'white poison' for them. It is really painful, rather shameful, that Indians who claim to be living on the land of gods and goddesses have kicked off all ethical values and now, some of them can go to any extent, even to play havoc with the health of their unsuspecting countrymen, just for a few more bucks. Who will check these merchants of death? Should we prepare ourselves to drink this kind of 'white poison' cheerfully?

Gone are the days when the streams of the country were overflowing will milk gone, too, are the days when selling adulterated milk was considered unethical and sinful. The time has come when our children will never be lucky enough to get a taste of pure milk. Has 'pure milk' too become extinct like our sense of fair and foul?

GURWANT SINGH, Chhapianwali (Malout)


Tunnels help maintain ecology

Apropos of Ms Pratibha Chauhan’s report “Rohtang tunnel to affect area technology”, it is wrong to say that the Rohtang tunnel will upset the fragile ecology of the area. On the contrary, tunnels help maintain the ecology of the area. Norway is known to maintain its ecology meticulously; it attracts a large number of tourists from Europe and the US during summer months. Also, Norway has the maximum number of tunnels including the world's longest tunnel which is 24.5-km-long.

During a recent visit to Norway, I got an opportunity to drive more than 3,000 km stretch of roads and passed through innumerable tunnels including the world's longest between Oslo and Bergen. it was a treat to see the tunnels so beautifully maintained. There were a few which had been commissioned only recently, but one could not see a bit of rubble or muck anywhere in the vicinity of these tunnels.

Felling of 700 trees is nothing as compared to the advantages that would accrue. In any case, several thousand trees can be planted along the existing road to compensate for the 700 casualties. It is good that the task is assigned to the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) which has done wonders on most of our border roads.

I suggest our experts and officials like Maj Rakesh Godhoke of 38 BRTF to visit Norway to study and lean how to dispose off the rubble and how to maintain the tunnels and the ecology. The fragile ecology of our country can be maintained only if we can control our population, check corruption and inculcate discipline among our masses.

Col JAGJIT SINGH (retd), Chandigarh


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