As the population in Hyderabad continues to mushroom thanks to expanding IT companies and the creation of jobs, food outlets and eateries too have been growing in scale.
However, it turns out there are no food safety inspectors in the city to oversee their functioning and to monitor if these restaurants are following the food safety and hygiene standards or not.
Presently, there are two gazetted food inspectors and one second-grade commissioner holding higher offices. But due to the lack of food safety inspectors, these officials are burdened with the task of addressing the grievances, and also inspect hotels and restaurants.
Due to the severe crunch in staff, the officers have been unable to inspect restaurants and other food outlets, despite the rising complaints. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) is flooded with complaints, but very few of them are addressed, unless itās a āhigh-profileā one.
Recently, the presence of cockroaches in a beverage drink at a food outlet created quite a flutter. Food safety officials were forced to act on the complaint immediately only because the complainant was well connected.
According to the officials, the department, on an average, receives at least four complaints from each circle. There are 30 circles in the GHMC - 5 in the east zone, which includes Kapra, Hayathnagar, Uppal, LB Nagar and Saroor Nagar; 5 in the west zone: Serilingampally, Chandanagar, RC Puram and Patancheruvu, Moosapet and Kukkatpally; 6 in the south zone: Malakpet, Santoshnagar, Chandrayangutta, Charminar, Falaknuma and Rajendra Nagar; 6 in the north zone: Quthbullapur, Gajularamaram, Alwal, Malkajgiri, Secunderabad and Begumpet; 8 in the central zone: Mehdipatnam, Karwan, Goshamahal, Musheerabad, Amberpet, Khairtabad, Jubilee Hills and Yousufguda.
āA majority of our complaints come on the phone, but we cannot address them immediately. What can we do? We are just three people expected to cover an entire city,ā said an official, who did not wish to be identified.
Though there are five zones in GHMC, the three officers monitor just the central, east and south zones. The west zone and north zone are completely ignored.
āBesides doing our official duty, we additionally have to oversee protocol arrangements of the Chief Minister, President, Vice-President, etc. Itās not just one thing we are doing. We also have to go to the courts. Each officer is handling at least 30 cases from the court and has to be present when the court summons us,ā the official added.
He also said that there are at least 117 cases pending in court, for which they have to be present every Wednesday.
According to the officer, before 2010, there were 7 food safety inspectors. This number dropped to 5 in 2012, after two of them retired. The number further dwindled to four in 2015. Among the four, one officer was caught by the Anti-Corruption Bureau for indulging in corruption.
āFor the past three years, just three of us are overseeing everything. The government should employ food inspectors and reduce our burden,ā the officer said.