Milking citizens in the punishing capital

ISLAMABAD: The land mafia may be the biggest of the menaces the capital is being preyed upon by. The other smaller ones are no less vicious and parasitical. The capital has evolved into a jungle, owing to the absence of an elected local body, a vibrant civil society, and a spirited community. Predators, big and small, or visible and disguised, prey on its residents with impunity.For today’s column, take the case of fresh milk supply in the city. You move to Islamabad, pay higher house rent, but hope for a better standard of living. After drinking water, milk tops every individual’s hydration needs. Traditionally, its sold on bicycles and motorbikes by the milkmen based in the city outskirts and villages alike. The invasion begins with dawn and the next patrol occurs before dusk. In the tanks hooked to their iconic motorbikes, they carry a white liquid which fetches them around Rs 100 per litre. The residents pay any amount of money, merely for the promise of fresh, creamy buffalo milk. What you get in the end is not exactly the same.However, the caring wives and the loving mothers don’t get cheated easily. They can smell and taste the adulteration. It’s not just unfiltered water that causes the prime concern. Besides cow’s, milk from all possible household animals is mixed while making it look and smell like the buffalo’s. Then the milkman dilutes the white mixture with the water available from any source, a canal, a water tap, or a buffalo’s drinking pot. In the words of an expert nutritionist, the milk provided in the capital can cause serious gastro-related illnesses if consumed without high temperature boiling. However, he warns that the boiling kills some bacteria but does not eliminate the harmful substances added during the procedure.A research, similar to the one conducted by Aga Khan University’s Mohammad Ayub, Quasid Ahmad, Mohammad Abbas, Ihsan Mabood Qazi, and Iftikhar Alam Khattak in 2007 on composition, an adulteration analysis of the milk samples can expose the unhygienic state of the vital fluid. The scientific survey had looked into the ratio of the total solids, fat, protein, ash, and water content in the milk samples collected across the city. The previous study only confined to the milk’s chemical composition while the need to analyse the hygiene-related microorganisms cannot be over-emphasised.According to reports, without any health certificate, the country is consuming Rs 150 billion worth of adulterated milk each year. The number of illnesses and deaths caused thereof are far too difficult to keep track of. The best tactic with the federal authority or the provincial Health Ministry’s is to just under-state the figures if and when a journalist or an international health agency seeks for information.Regardless of the germ-infested, substandard product delivered to the people, the milk mafia decides the price tag. The milk is sold at around or above Rs 100 per litre. In a special Ramazan offer, the price of the yogurt has been shot to Rs 110 per kilogramme or even beyond. While the real cost of this crime is being paid by each of us with our health and well being, infants, and under-nourished mothers.

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