Man is mortal. There is no way to escape from death once we are born.
According to the believer in religion - birth and death is in the hands of Allah, the Creator. They also believe that they will die on the day and the way it has been fixed by Him. Whatever we believe, it is fact that once we are born, we must surrender to death. Death must come, whether within a moment or a few years later. There is no exception to that and I do not know whether there will be any exception in the days to come.
Since we were born, we have to stay in this world till we are dragged by death. And the problem comes as we have to survive. Of course, our survival depends on so many things, like food and water. People of different countries have different types of food. Rice and fish are our favourite food. However, there are various types of vegetables produced in our ever-green Bangladesh. We have also many kinds of fruits those are taken by every Bangladeshi regardless of poor and rich.
In our childhood, we knew that milk, sold in our village market, was sometimes mixed with water. That is, water was mixed with milk as adulterant. The local Sanitary Inspector occasionally examined milk in the market and he fined the seller who mixed his milk with water. The news would have been circulating at the speed of electricity in all the villages nearby. After that nobody else used to buy milk from that person. The wholesellers after purchasing jute from the villagers used to spray water in the dry jute to increase the weight. The grocers mixed sesame oil with mustard oil and gravels in rice. That is, adulterated food was also found at the market during that time. But, the ingredients that were mixed as adulterants were not harmful for the body. In fact, the purpose of mixing adulterants was to cheat people, not to kill them.
There have been a lot of changes in food adulteration system with time. Not only the modern equipment, but also the means and ways of application have been improved. For example, milk was mixed with water before and now it is mixed with powder milk, detergent, chemicals, etc. The word ‘adulteration’ as used before would be ashamed of present day adulteration. Because, products used for adulteration now are nothing but poison. And those who are doing this are nobody but the people of this society, our known people, our neighbours or relatives. Though we can realise the extent of risk these are creating to our health, but they cannot. How are they sacrificing their humanity in such activities? Are not they buying foods from the market like us? If so, cannot they come to honest business for the sake of their own lives?
The price of meat and natural fish is so high that even the middle-class people cannot afford those. Pockets of general people become empty only buying broiler chicken and cultured or less expensive fish. It is not difficult to eat vegetables during the vegetable season as the price remains within the reach. And it is better not to think about the fruits, particularly the foreign fruits. Foreign fruits do not rot easily while stored for months. How we can let them rot being so much priced? Let our lives be without fruits. But cannot we eat low-priced fish or vegetables? How long we can survive just taking rice with salt? And the problem is there. Besides fruits, fish and vegetables are mixed with various harmful substances and chemicals including formalin and insecticides.
The logic behind this is that various chemicals are mixed to keep the food items fresh for a certain period of time. Because nobody wants to lose the business, but to make more profit. They never feel, even mistakenly, that they are stringing our lives in the trident of death for money. How do I say that money is the root of all evils? Nobody knows how many businessmen are giving up humanity due to their greediness for money.
We, the general people of Bangladesh, do not know how much poison is mixed in the food that we are buying every day for our survival. In fact, we are buying these poisonous food items and swallowing those. There is no way. We must take. And we do not know when we will be able to avoid this situation. It may so happen that one day we will be accustomed to consuming formalin by eating these formalin mixed foods. On that day, our stomach will be able to achieve the highest tolerance of these chemicals by getting cent percent marks.
If we die one day by eating these poisonous foods, then it will also be a matter of thinking that those greedy businessmen might lose their business. If we do not exist, then the door of their business will be closed forever. We pray to the Almighty that He grant us the ability to digest this poison so that the business of those traders continues speedily forever.
The Bengalis are known as a very tolerant nation. And our dishonest businessmen know that. Have we gone on the streets for a little while or done a little silent protest against these traders who are selling poisoned food that we are buying without any restrictions? We didn’t and I do not see any signs that we will do in the future. Everyone thinks that no benefit would come by doing this, nothing will happen. They are stronger than ordinary people both in wealth and power. So it is good to be silent, it is good to tolerate. Long live our tolerance! However, these Bengalis fought for the independence of their motherland in 1971.
Bangladesh is a country of sixteen million people. If we cannot bring population growth rate to zero, then it is easy to imagine what might happen after fifty years. We know that the Government of Bangladesh has taken various steps realising the importance of the issue. The people should be well aware of the government’s efforts to fully achieve its goal. In this case, if greedy businessmen are consciously thinking that poisoned food will contribute a lot in reducing population growth, then what is the wrong? Nobody needs to be worried about the fate of population growth in Bangladesh in the future if these traders continue this practice with more enthusiasm. So, cannot we give them a very big ‘thank you’ without any hesitation?
Being a diplomat, I had to work in a number of countries. Due to the nature of my work, I had to interact, now and then, people of different religions, castes, languages or cultures. But, I never heard from anyone that traders there mix in food any chemicals harmful to health, like people do in our country. Personally, I like shoping and I would do that abroad when I had that opportunity. I never thought that fish, meat, fruits or vegetables might contain poisonous substances like formalin. I do not know whether traders of those countries ever think mixing of anything in the food harmful to health. They are also doing business for profit. But their thinking is not like our businessmen. Perhaps the obstacle comes from their sense of morality or humanity. But I fear, whether the foreign traders would learn one day the business strategy of our business people in the hope of gaining more benefits!
In many countries of the world, I have seen special discount in the price on the occasion of Eid, Puja, Christmas or New Year. That also increases the sales. It is not true that the businessmen are not getting any profit in that case. Whereas, we see, in our country, just the opposite practices. In fact, these festivals bring golden opportunities for our traders to sell their goods at the price they wish for unlimited profit. They want to make the whole year’s profit during the festival time. Can’t we, at least, hope that our traders would not follow the unethical practices?
Once my age crossed 60, it is normal to think about the body. In fact, I have said all these from my unhealthy anxiety. What can I do? Life is so precious! Obviously, it would not be an offence to take care of our own health. So after thinking so much about the body, I have been taking all these chemical mixed food, keeping my full trust on the Creator intact. ‘Who can kill you if God want to save you’ - our businessmen might believe that wholeheartedly and thus no feelings of sin would hurt their mind. Even though the government took strong measures, they failed to awake their humanity. We are waiting, if anyone comes forward with the commitment of its remedies.
The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary