When a young IAS officer in Kerala took the powerful pesticide lobby and food adulterators head on, little did she knew that she was triggering a healthy food campaign across the state.
Kerala’s food safety commissioner TV Anupama opened a Pandora’s box when she conducted raids across the state and banned products of an established food brand citing that it contained alarming levels of non-permissible substances.
Thanks to the startling facts that the raids threw up, jolting Keralites into realising the need to have home-grown vegetables, the state that used to buy 70% of vegetables for consumption from neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Karnataka now produces 70% on its own.
The state government pitched in by providing grow bags, seeds and saplings home-delivered free of cost. It also provided subsidy to install drip-irrigation facility and bio-gas plants in homes, paving way to a silent organic revolution of sorts.
“She is a bold and committed officer. Her continuous pursuit for safe food items has started yielding results,” said legislator VT Balram.
After taking over 15 months ago, Anupama conducted random checks in markets and checks posts and seized adulterated products. At least 6,000 samples were collected from various farms in a year and 750 cases were registered against defaulters. This awakened the conscience of people, who started growing vegetables without pesticides.
“We were shocked to hear that some fruits and vegetables carried 300% pesticide residues than the permissible limit. She opened our eyes,” said Vijayalakshmi Nair, a retired teacher, who now has an organic garden on her terrace.
“We realised the importance of the chief election commissioner when TN Seshan took over. Similarly, we realised such a post existed after Anupama,” said another homemaker.
“I did my duty. The government and people stood with me in my endeavour,” is all the 2010-batch IAS officer (she was the fourth-rank holder) had to say.