The Jammu and Kashmir government on Thursday shunted the whistle-blower health officer just seven months after he exposed the use of hazardous and cancer-inducing ingredients by Valley-based corporate giants Khyber and Kanwal.
Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) health officer Shafqat Khan, instead of receiving a pat from the government for sparking a debate around the use of cancer-inducing Carmoisine and Tartrazine by food companies in the Valley, has been transferred to a comparatively lower post of the district immunisation officer in south Kashmir's Pulwama district.
"It is an administrative decision and I happy to join at the new positing. However, I am leaving the post with the contentment that I was able to use my tenure as health officer to create awareness around the food items for the first time in the Valley," said Khan.
"My seniors in the SMC always stood by me and supported me in the endeavour to act against the food companies not following the Food Safety Act. I hope cases against the companies will be followed," he added.
Commissioner secretary, health and medical education, Gazanfar Ali issued the orders saying "it was in the interest of the department".
The order has come at the directions of state health minister Taj Mohiuddin, also a senior Congress party leader. Despite several attempts, he could not be reached for his comment.
The officer, who served the SMC for the shortest term of eight months, did not come as part of any major reshuffle but an individual case, raising doubts over the intent.
In November 2012, Khan went public with the report of the Central Food Laboratory, Kolkata, that Kashmir's leading spice brand Kanwal is using Carmoisine and Tartrazine.
He also brought to the fore use of detergents by leading milk company Khyber in their products.
Both the companies refuted the charges, though the Kanwal group withdrew the batch from the market that was suspected of using these ingredients.
Acting on the reports of using caner-inducing preservatives, the state high court later asked three top food brands, including Delhi-based spice unit, Avon Agro Greenz, New Delhi, to deposit `10 crore each before a state hospital.
An expert committee of Kashmir's leading hospital, Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, also submitted its report before the court confirming hazardous impact of these substances.
The Supreme Court, however, stayed the high court order.
The sale of Khyber milk and Kanwal spices, both multi-crore enterprises, saw a significant dip following the revelations by the health officer and lost their business.
After the SMC campaign, public started questioning the use of unhealthy and hazardous preservatives in food items in the Valley, which cancer cases have shot up phenomenally over the years.
Khan also launched a major crackdown against leading hotels and restaurants in the city and produced challans in its drive to stop the sale of unhygienic food. He produced challan to even five-star hotels.
Sources said the transfer was put on hold because of the code of conduct and the officer would have been relieved much earlier.
Khan also shot off a missive to the CRPF asking it to lift unnecessary concertina wires threatening to injure pedestrians. The move also drew flak from certain quarters.
Khan also banned a batch of Pakistan-based spices brand Shaan for misbranding and selling sub-standard products. The brand would travel to the Kashmir market through the Line of Control.