Last week, Moneylife
had published an interview with Dr Pallavi Darade
. Her raids on 350 outlets from where four leading online food app companies procured food for their customers, revealed unhygienic conditions in 112 outlets, which did not have registered licences either.
To recall, Dr Darade had revealed the condition of restaurants/outlets from where cooked food is procured by the fashionable online food service apps—Zomato, Swiggy, Foodpanda and Uber Eats—and is served to thousands of unsuspecting youngsters. Thus:
though it was promised that food had been delivered from this or that outlet, many a time it was found that the food was actually delivered from the dhaba right next to the customer’s house, or from a very small outlet and at times even from homemade kitchens where facilities were inadequate;
there was no pest control; kitchens were dirty;
the water in which the food needs to be cooked was not potable and was never tested for safety;
sometimes toilets were very close to the kitchens and medical check-up of people who were serving the food under these extremely unhygienic conditions was never done;
sometimes dirty clothing was lying around;
sometimes the storerooms where raw material was kept was not hygienic.
Dr Darade concluded by pointing to the shocking outcome of the searches and raids that there were several parameters that needed to be applied under the Food Safety Act, which were not complied.
In order to procure more details on the reports of the raids, I decided to file an RTI application with the public information officer, Food & Drugs Administration, government of Maharashtra. And that was the first stumbling block. During the entire day on Wednesday, its website http://fda.maharashtra.gov.in/
just did not open. I wanted to find out the name of the public information officer and the correct office address. I got access to it only today, Thursday at 4.30 am. However, I am appalled to note that when you click the `RTI Act’ icon on its homepage, you get no information on the name of the public information officer or the appellate authority for filing your RTI requisition/appeal (http://fda.maharashtra.gov.in/SPK-D-3A11(1).pdf
). This pdf copy that has been posted on its website names designations of officers without any names. Providing the names of PIOs is compulsory under Section 4 of the RTI Act.
Besides, FDA is a government agency, which should be directly connected with the people as it deals with the crucial element of their health, and what better way than interacting through the public domain, that is, its website? I have decided to file a complaint with the state information commission against FDA for not following the proactive disclosures under Section 4 of the RTI Act.
Also, what is shocking is this feedback from one of our readers, Adheer Pai who wrote in the comments column of my article published last week, “The link to register a food related complaint on the FDA website does not work. (http://fda.maharashtra.gov.in/food.html (Click Report a Food Problem).”
Dr Darade had confidently stated that consumers could use this Facebook page for any complaint. Her words are: “Yes, we get complaints often because we have offices across Maharashtra; we also have a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Maharashtra.FDA1/
.); a helpline number (1800222365) and our landline no is 022-265923-63/64/64. So, through all these online and offline support systems, we keep getting complaints. In fact, these complaints were the major ground information sources for us which brought our attention to the seriousness of the issue and made us believe that we need to check it thoroughly.”
Hence, I shall communicate Adheer Pai’s feedback to her.
Nevertheless, you can address your RTI application (like I have done) to the public information officer, Food and Drugs Administration, Survey No. 341, 2nd Floor, Bandra-Kurla Complex, Opposite Reserve Bank Of India, Kala Nagar, Bandra East, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400051. Do not forget to stick Rs10 court fee stamp. (See picture shot of my RTI application)
I have asked for the following information for the period of 1 January 2017 to 10 January 2019:
1. Please provide copies of all reports of raids conducted on 350 or more outlets of online food service apps—Zomato, Swiggy, Uber Eats, Foodpanda and any other.
2. Please provide a copy of the proposal and decision to conduct raids on Zomato, Swiggy, Uber Eats, Foodpanda and any other.
3. Please provide copies of photographs and videos taken of the kitchen, toilets and any other that may have been clicked or shot, during the above raids.
4. Please provide a list of all the outlets that were raided along with addresses and list of outlets.
5. Please provide copies of correspondence of authorities of Zomato, Swiggy, Uber Eats, Foodpanda and any other to your office, in this matter.
6. Please provide mandatory rules and regulations for procuring a food license and a copy of action taken when there is a violation of such rules and regulations.
7. Please provide a copy of FDI’s order to close 10,000 or more outlets of above food companies.
8. Please provide a copy of the proposal for further action/action taken against Zomato, Swiggy, Uber Eats, Foodpanda and any others for being responsible for putting their customers’ health in danger.
Let us make this into a public movement through the RTI route. We cannot afford an entire generation of unhealthy youngsters who are going to be the future citizens of this country!
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.