YEAR ON, FORMALIN HAUNTS FISH EATERS

Roque Dias | NT

Margao

Even a year after ‘The Navhind Times’ broke the story on
excessive content of formalin in fish sold in Goa, there is no sign of fish
testing labs that the government had promised to restore people’s faith
with people continuing to consume fish unchecked for formalin content.

Also, the government endeavour to make fish testing
kits easily available has not yet become a reality. The whole control
of testing the fish is in the hands of the director of Food and Drug
Administration.

“It is the need of the hour that the government initiate
firm measures to resort confidence in the people that the fish available
is safe which may also include stern action against perpetrators,” said
advocate Rajiv Gomes, who had filed the case in the court soon after
a team led by FDA official Iva Fernandes detected formalin in fish at
the wholesale fish market on July 12. The case is sub-judice.

With pressure mounting from all quarters including
the Opposition, the state government had banned the import of fish for
some days with sporadic fish testing done at the wholesale fish markets,
border areas and at the entry points. Some fish eaters had stopped
consuming fish, which is the staple diet of Goans.

Most fish markets were deserted for some days after
the controversy broke out and the business was slack. The wholesale fish
traders association and the government were involved in a blame game and within
days people started slowly visiting the markets. It was at this
time that the government had proposed a state-of-the-art fish-testing lab at
the retail fish market with a grand function and at the hands
of the Union minister Suresh Prabhu, a two-room office of SGPDA
near retail fish market was handed over to the Export Inspection Agency.

Simultaneously, the process of opening a FDA office for
South was started. The 2013 demand of FDA office was reiterated once
the formalin-in-fish issue rocked the state. The state government
spent Rs 89 lakh for setting up FDA’s South Goa office in the old collectorate
building and it would be inaugurated by August 15, this year.

Reliable sources revealed that there will be no
provision for fish testing facilities even though 39-odd staff would
be designated.

A visit by this reporter to the office, where works
are going on, confirmed that there is no provision made for fish
testing labs, but provision of refrigerators and coolers is made to store the
samples, which the complainant brings, and later it would be sent to the
parent office for testing.

The two-room premises provided to the Export
Inspection Agency at the SGPDA market area to set up the much-needed
fish-testing lab is said to be cramped. The said lab is now proposed at
the wholesale fish market where GSIDC is constructing the new wholesale
fish market.

The Export Inspection Agency is reportedly allocated
700 sq mts of land. But according to Fatorda MLA and deputy chief minister
Vijai Sardesai, it will take one more year to see the fish testing
lab. Till then the people will have to consume unchecked fish and
fruits.

Benaulim legislator Churchill Alemao alleged
that the government is neglecting common man and working in the interest
of fish mafia.

Joe Pereira of Margao, who is a regular fish eater,
said, “The people are still perplexed why the government is unable to set up a
fish testing lab even after a year.”

Source:: The Navhind Times

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