The Islamabad administration was on the move yesterday. A plan was conceived, officers gathered, the Director General of Punjab Food Authority, Dr Sajid Chauhan and the famous Ayesha Mumtaz called for a briefing, and eventually, a coordinated action took place against all food outlets in the federal capital.
Many famous hangout places became infamous, infamous bakeries became notorious and factories which had employed underage kids as labourers, sealed – no, not for child labour, but for kneading flour with their feet; mixing, quite literally, sweat, tears and hair in what we have been consuming every day.
The evil does not lie only in the big kitchens where we fine dine; the horror stories lurking in Islamabad's outskirts are equally scary. Nishaa Ishtiak, Assistant Commissioner, Potohar, was out with a team consisting of a Medical and Sanitary Inspector in her jurisdiction, on the fringes of the federal capital.
She sealed four factories and four roadside hotels, and fined a pizza joint for reasons too gruesome for the stomach to handle. Owners were arrested and FIRs registered against the people responsible for producing unhygienic food items.
"Bakery products were laying on the floor next to cattle. These home-made factories are taking Churchill's words to heart and offering nothing but their sweat, tears and blood," said Ishtiak.
No one really cared for food hygiene and sanitary conditions until recently; well, to be honest, no one really cares for it even now. We are yet to have a system where food outlets are monitored regularly and graded according to a given standard. However, there is word that such a system might actually be under development.
Famous names like Chaye Khana and Savour Foods were sealed, although, word on the street would vouch for the cleanliness of some of these places. Whatever might be the case, in some of these well-known places of Islamabad, a one-of-a-kind coordinated action resulted in near panic among owners of various outlets and businesses, some of whom closed their business and stopped for the day before they could be raided.
|Whitewash cum food.|
|Food (for wasps) – chocolate syrup and pizza.|
The Islamabad Administration usually gives one a view of hopelessness, of lethargy and of nepotism.
Like most government institutions where corruption not only seeps from the cracks below, but also falls down like rain from the very top, the administration has had few well-wishers outside of its barricaded walls. Young and vibrant officers come and are molded into the decades-old ideas of "afsar-shahi," and soon, the famous rods replace proud necks.
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There is much excitement about the action in the field, but whether it will bear any fruit in the long run is yet to be seen.
The capital has seen some absurd sudden policies in the recent past, such as the closing of shops at 8pm, then at 9pm, and then not bothering with it at all.
However, we need long-term solutions to our problems, not haphazard actions, which will eventually be forgotten and yield little to no result. It isn't rocket science to mobilise enough resources and create a functioning system of grades and have all food outlets display them on the door.
Well, here is a start. To finally have someone inspect and insure the safety of the health of our children, and our population at large is an extremely important first step. Let us hope it isn't the last.
— All photos by author