The Telangana High Court pulled up the state government on Saturday, pointing out that it has not been able to meet the minimum standards of food safety, even failing to curb the use of calcium carbide among fruit traders, which is used to artificially ripen fruits like mangoes.
A division bench, comprising Chief Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and Justice A Abhishek Reddy, was dealing with a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on the use of carbide to artificially ripen fruits.
While hearing the case, the bench pulled up the Telangana government and pointed out that it had a paltry 25 Food Safety Officers (FSOs) for the entire state with a population of nearly four crore people, which only reflected that the latter was not serious about the issue.
The court gave the example of Tamil Nadu, which created and filled 554 posts of FSOs to check for adulteration, and said that the Telangana government had not shown any interest in creating the posts.
The High Court also pulled Special Chief Secretary of the Health Department, A Santhi Kumari, for filing a 'vague' affidavit.
In the affidavit, the senior bureaucrat said that the state had set up 74 ethylene gas chambers to ripen the fruits, as an alternative to carbide, as per the court orders, in market yards across the state, including Warangal and Karimnagar.
However, the court was not satisfied with the details and said that it was unclear whether the chambers were functional or not. Asking for a clearer affidavit with specific details, the court adjourned the matter to January 27.
Calcium Carbide is a corrosive chemical used to make fertilisers and is known to have carcinogenic properties.
Artificial ripening of mangoes with the help of Calcium Carbide is a huge issue in Telangana. Farmers tend to pluck mangoes early as they need to be transported to the market. In the market, mango traders ripen them artificially to clear their stocks sooner.
In 2015, the Hyderabad High Court had ordered a thorough probe on the issue and said that those who indulged in the practice were “worse than terrorists,” as they were “killing generations of people with slow poison, for earning some extra rupees.”
Despite this, it is still widely used to ripen mangoes quickly.
While the state government claims that it has provided ethylene chambers in large markets, to ripen fruits in a less harmful way, farmers and traders complain that the capacity of these chambers is often inadequate.