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72. Blindness at a price
We had already written about the evil effects of vanaspati ghee. Sir S. S. Sokhey, Director of the Haffkine Institute, Bombay, states that experiments conducted in the Haffkine Institute on the nutritive values of hydrogenated oil show that -
1) the consumption of hydrogenated oils resulted in inferior growth;
2) their consumption interfered with the absorption of calcium in the body; and
3) their consumption resulted in a change in the fat composition of the body.
Recently, in the Council of State, Dr. Rajendraprasad stated that the Research Institute at Izzatnagar had reported that the use of vanaspati was bad for health and affected the eyesight. Experiments conducted on rats show that the third generation of them become blind. In the light of these scientific experiments one would have thought that any Government with the welfare of the people in their mind would have banned vanaspati out of the country and locked up the vanaspati manufacturers as anti-social beings. But India is tolerant even to the extent of hugging its evil-doers.
We understand that the Government is contemplating provision for the detection of adulteration of ghee with vanaspati by adding 5 per cent basic oil and colouring it. We fear that this will be absolutely of no use. Vanaspati is generally made of ground-nut oil or cotton-seed oil. The addition of these oils in a small proportion will be of no avail for detection. Scientists are of opinion that at least 10 per cent of sesame oil (til oil) is the least amount that can be effective, and no other oils would be useful. Besides the colouring can be removed at a very small cost. One wonders why there should be the need for all this circumventing of the issue.
It is clear that the expenditures incurred by these manufacturers are of no avail to the nation as a whole. They add nothing to the existing fat of the country. If anything, they decrease their assimilability by hydrogenation and to the extent they are destructive of the fat stock of the land. The fresh oils that are produced at comparatively low rates are acquired by these factories and at a cost which is often double the original cost; they destroy the natural food values and make the nation subject to various deficiency diseases, and for this disservice the nation has to pay in the utilization of its manpower, capital and human effort. We are amazed at our action when we sit down calmly and think over the pros and cons in regard to this question.
In so far as adulteration of dairy ghee is the main objective of this industry it is a direct hit on the dairy industry. In a country which is largely vegetarian, reduction of ghee consumption, however caused, will under­mine the health of the people. The argument that Western nations use margarine will not hold in our country. Margarine is used like butter over slices of bread and in a temperate climate the hydrogenation needs to be carried out to a very little extent. In our country such a treatment will still leave the product in a liquid state. Besides Europeans obtain animals fats from various other sources as they are meat eaters and their cooking is done mainly with lard (animal fat). Hence, any comparison with other countries is fallacious.
India's is a cow-centred economy. We need cows for the plough, for transport, for carriage and for yielding milk. Hence, any measure that adversely affects the maintenance of the cow will also adversely affect our national economy. A correct view of the affairs in the proper perspective would make vanaspati production equivalent to cow slaughter, and we hope at least those who venerate the cow will look at this aspect of the question conscientiously and refrain from an industry which is based on pure avarice, ignoring all considerations of national welfare.
From the economic point of view the vanaspati mills in so far as they enter the market for vegetable oils tend to put up the prices of ordinary oils. So the poorer consumers of vegetable oil have to pay a higher price for the only source of fat that is available to them. The well-to-do classes who use this hydrogenated oil pay a still higher price for materials which may prove even harmful to them and perhaps obtaining nothing in return even by way of fat if the digestibility is impaired by hydrogenation. Apart from the raising of the price of oils even under controlled rates, because of the advent of capitalists in the market, the tendency is towards black-marketing, which again has an injurious effect on the budget of the poorer consumers.
We are amazed at the recommendation of the Advisory Planning Board which has suggested the raising of the target of production of this article from 82,000 tons in 1941 to 400,000 in 1950. Are we thinking of industries as a means of making wealth for a few, or should our industries be the means of supplying the needed articles to satisfy human needs? Are there no moral considerations to guide us in this matter? Is our industrial policy to be devoid of all humanity? If so, we are heading for the jungle. We trust that no time will be lost in calling a halt as far as this industry is concerned.
Harijan, 6-4-1947