The Centre has asked the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) for a report on the status of a drive against adulteration in the city. The Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) wing of the Union health ministry has asked the CMC for a table on the number of samples collected annually since 2000 for laboratory tests and their findings.
Besides, the ministry has asked the CMC what problems it had been facing in enforcing the PFA Act of 1954. The drive against adulteration is carried out all over the country under the Act.
The Central queries have hit the CMC at a time when 25 of the 32 posts of food inspector are lying vacant for the past four years. Also, after municipal commissioner Debasis Som clipped the wings of chief municipal health officer Sujit Ghosh two years ago, there is no local health authority in the city to carry out the drive against adulteration. A junior health officer, Atanu Mukherjee, has been standing in for the chief medical officer of health as officer-on-special duty.
Since Mukherjee has no diploma in public health, the state health department had turned down the municipal commissioner’s plea that he be allowed to act as the ‘local health authority’ for Calcutta.
According to mayor-in-council (health) member Javed Ahmed Khan, there are only seven inspectors in the CMC to oversee more than 200,000 trade establishments dealing in food articles in the city, distributed over an area of 187.03 sq km. “When I took charge of the health department, the drive against adulteration was regular and about 1,000 samples would be collected from the market in a year. In 2002, the collection has come down to 388,” Khan pointed out. The reason, he alleged, was that an influential section of dishonest traders in the city did not want the drive to continue. Raids can now be conducted only with prior notice to the municipal commissioner.