The strong stand taken by the government that the fish traders have to fall in line on the measures it has imposed on the import of fish, is one manner of redeeming itself on its earlier role in the formalin in fish issue. When news of formalin-laced fish first broke out in Goa, the government was perceived to be on the side of the fish traders. That initial flirtation appears to have now ended. Some tough talking by the government was required and the fish traders do need to meet the guidelines imposed. This is one of the rare occurrences when the government has put peoples interests over that of the trade or business, and it appears to be this that has shocked the latter. The response of the flabbergasted fish traders can be gauged by the accusations they levied of why they have not complied with the Food and Drugs Administration guidelines.
Seldom has Goa seen its government, especially in recent years, not bow down to the dictates of the protesting lot – be it taxi drivers, mining dependents, para teachers or others. Almost every such protesting group in the past few years has claimed victory after the government has conceded some, if not all, of the demands. This is the first time that the government has remained resolute and decided not to relax the rules. The choice of words by the Health Minister, when he said, “Any amount representations without complying FDA guidelines would be put in a shredder and thrown in the dustbin,” would have surprised even his cabinet colleagues, but it sets the tone of a strong government.
The rigid government stance was so unexpected that the fish traders called a media conference and termed it arrogance, dictatorship and against the welfare of the people. This reaction should fool no one. In this case, the government does appear to have the welfare of the people uppermost in its mind. The fish traders have been given ample time to get their documents in order. If there has been a delay on the part of the authorities, it should have brought up by the traders weeks ago, and now attempting to blame government departments for the delay will not wash with the people who have lost confidence in buying fish from the market.
Fish eaters are not an organised lot and cannot protest on the streets or call upon the media to speak for them, but they have shown their displeasure with the imported fish by not frequenting the fish markets of the State where this fish is sold. For the past weeks the Goan fish eater has been purchasing his seafood straight from the local fishermen at the beach, fresh off the boat as the traditional crafts come in with the daily catch. If that is not an instance of lack of confidence in the quality of the imported fish, then what is?
The confidence of the people has to be regained, but the fish sellers by trading accusations, instead of complying with the rules, are not building up their case before their customers. It is, in one manner, their arrogance that is on display here and it has to be toned down. The solution is simple – get the documents in order, import fish in insulated trucks, regain the confidence of the people. If the fish traders are having trouble in meeting such simple guidelines, then is there something more than meets the eye? If it so is, then Goa needs to know. The formalin in fish issue has been dragged along for four months already. There has to be an end to it, and the fish traders have as much responsibility as has the government in resolving the issue.