Sunday, November 16, 2008


India is 'blessed' with a Heath Minister at the Central Level who considers him self as wise and moralist. UPA Government has pitchforked the present incumbent largely due to the coalition politics without assessing his credentials for running a ministry concerned with the life and death problems of the billion plus population. Of course he is a 'doctor' and therefore has a 'right' to be the health minister in spite of his obscure past before 'enthronement' as minister at the Center. One of his sterling achievements was his single minded mission to oust on personal grounds, an eminent surgeon as the Director of AIMS, New Delhi and thanks to the judiciary the ill-conceived attempt did not succeed. He has taken upon him self crusades to stop smoking by reputed cine artists in films presumably to prevent youngsters from inculcating this habit considered harmful. On one hand Governments derive considerable revenue in the form of duties and taxes while on the other hand platitudes are expressed regarding the ill effects of smoking. Recent ban on smoking in public places is claimed as a magnificent achievement though how effective this ban can be at the ground level remains to be seen. A bold Government must ban tobacco cultivation altogether if this habit is to be eradicated but passing on the buck is the name of the game in a democracy like the one that exists in the country. Same is true with liquor also which contributes huge sums to the exchequer in the form of various financial levies and Government is happy repeating ad naseum that consuming liquor is harmful and increasing the taxes year after year under the illusion that people will shun this habit on economic consideration. It is a reflection on the credibility of this nation that in a state like Kerala there are longer queues before liquor outlets than that seen in many temples!

The latest unsolicited proclamation from our 'learned' Minister is that India has to be saved from the epidemic of 'junk foods' and families must insulate their children from exposure to junk foods. It is similar to pushing some one into a theater showing a bad movie and then advising him to shut his eyes. lest he will be corrupted! The news paper reports about the statements from the minister do not indicate whether he fully knows what is a junk food before proclaiming these products as culprits for causing damage to the health of the nation. If the minister is so concerned he should have the experts in his ministry to study the problem if any and consider practical ways and means of counteracting the same before passing such a subjective judgment. It is a pity that food adulteration has become so rampant in the country and his ministry has nothing to contribute to stem this menace in spite of the existence of the draconian PFA Act which rarely brings about conviction for the offenders. In stead of the platitudinous advice on junk foods, the minister would have been remembered by the posterity if he shows all his fury towards the food adulterators who thrive under his very nose!

How can a wise doctor like the minister call any food 'junk' when millions in this country are suffering from hunger and starvation in spite of the 'giant' economic strides this country is supposed to have made? A food is a food by any name and it is the scant respect for the food that sustains life, makes people call them 'junk'. Why not call the habit of eating wrong foods at wrong times a junk habit rather than using this adjective for decrying the food? After inviting global giants like Pepsi, Coke, Kellogg's, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, KFC, etc to invest in the country, how can any one call them peddlers of junk foods? Was the Government not aware of what they were producing before giving them clearance to operate in India? Is there any rationale in such a behavior? If a food is rich in calories or high in sugar or fat, it cannot be called a junk food because it has also other nutrients, though in small amounts, like proteins, vitamins and minerals. An ice cream product may be high in sugar and fat but it also contains valuable milk solids rich in proteins and calcium. Potato chips may contain some what higher levels of fat but it also has the goodness of potato that is eaten every day. In stead of abusing such foods as junkies, a policy of educating the consumer to moderate their consumption to sustain health is considered more appropriate. Tax payers' money which sustains the activities of ministries like the one headed by the doctor minister would have been well spent if efforts are made in the above direction.


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