A devout Gen X believer proudly confesses that she feeds her vegetarian God everything from sweets to vegetarian delicacies to even non-vegetarian ones, everything that she eats. Why? Cos she believes that God doesn’t mind being offered anything as long as the trust and faith are sincere and unquestionable. Would then she offer formalin laced fish to her God? Perhaps if she had the same faith and trust in the Food and Drug Administration Department that Goa so badly needs. A faith that is quietly on the rise as FDA fights formalin in fish.
He has been called arrogant, brash and even unreasonable but for once Goa’s Health Minister Vishwajit Rane defies the convention. Having singularly taken on the state’s fish mafia that had been slowly poisoning our plate since ages, he has shown more steel than probably any Minister in Goa’s Cabinet for the past couple of Governments. With the state being virtually headless with an ailing Chief Minister at its helm, the State’s governance has come down to a grinding halt. With now Law and even lesser Order, the Formalin in Fish scandal was the most blatant exhibition of crony capitalism where elements within the ruling coalition itself showed tactical support to the fish mafia. The existence of the Fish Mafia which was first exposed by Herald, the Voice of Goa; brought to fore the shocking state patronage that these lumpen elements enjoyed. All that may soon be history.
The insistence of FDA on clearance for the fish being imported by fish importers has for the first time exposed the state’s fish importers and even retailers. The number of appeals and petitions seeking a couple of months’ grace period to comply with FDA directive is quite in Goa’s infamous tradition of dilly-dallying on compliance. Be it illegal mining, be it speed governors in taxis or even it be compliance with CRZ norms, we have seen the stakeholders in Goa who have to comply with rules spend more time petitioning against following rules than just following the rules. Now that the cat is out of the bag, the least that the fish importers and sellers fraternity could comply with the rules and bring back the confidence of the people of Goa in its xit, koddi ani nustem. And for once, Health Minister Rane deserves a pat for enforcing that.
Fish is central to the Goan plate and palate. Insisting on any amount of relief period for compliance shows not just callousness but an atrocious level of atrocity. Why should these people in whom we trust for our staple diet to be healthy and safe want any sort of moratorium on compliance? It is like opening a food cart adjacent a gutter and insisting that ‘you eat their food till they get the permission’. What the Fish importers lobby needs to understand is that it is not a sellers’ but a buyers’ market. The customer has the right to feel safe about his fish and if FDA does not feel it is safe for people to eat that fish, the fish may not come into the State for good. This would also include imports to fishmeal plants and other facilities. The fish servers are on a slippery ground and for once, FDA isn’t letting them off the hook.
Yet, questions do remain unanswered and FDA needs to answer those if it wants not just trust but faith too in its abilities. Questions like why should the same fish Mafiosi that blatantly interfered in the first formalin in fish report not be booked for endangering so many lives and be prosecuted for that? Questions like why should honest officers like Iva Fernandes not be allowed to function and instead is being harassed? The question dear Health Minister is of having complete faith and trust in your Department. It is not just about fish but also vegetables, fruits and milk and other imports that we consume hugely but is of the transparency and competency of a system, a structure that does not yield to political and commercial pressures. A faith that your FDA stamped products could be worthy of serving even God.