Some shady traders holding people hostage

HC observes regarding contaminated fruits

The High Court yesterday observed that the country’s people had no health security as dishonest businessmen mix harmful chemicals in fruits and vegetables.

Such traders know very well that the practice is harmful, but they are continuing it, the court said, adding that the situation had reached such a level that people had no way to maintain good health.

The HC bench of Justice FRM Nazmul Ahasan and Justice KM Kamrul Kader came up with the observation while hearing a writ petition filed by the Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB), a rights organisation, which sought its directive on the government to take steps against the use of chemicals in fruits.

The court also cited a recent report published in The Daily Star which said chemicals were being used in mangoes.

At one stage of the hearing, the court said our future generations were under threat due to the high use of chemicals in fruits.

The HC told the Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institution (BSTI) lawyer Sarkar MR Hassan that if the BSTI had worked properly, food adulteration could not take place in such a manner.

When the court wanted to know the update on formalin testing machines, Hassan said the World Health Organization was supposed to provide financial assistance to purchase those.   

“Millions of dollars is being laundered from the country. Will we have to beg for a few crores to purchase the machines? The people have to survive first. What will be done with this thing if the people cannot live?” the court said.    

The court also refused to accept a report of the BSTI regarding the steps they have taken against the use of chemicals in fruits.

The bench did not accept the report as it was not comprehensive regarding the steps taken against the use of chemicals in fruit markets and warehouses in the country as per its earlier directive, petitioner’s lawyer Manzill Murshid told The Daily Star.

He said the HC asked the BSTI to make a complete report on this issue and submit it to court on June 23.

Citing the BSTI report, Manzill said the BSTI conducted drives in a few groceries in Dhaka’s Mirpur, eight shops in Rajshahi and 200 shops in Chattogram, although the HC had ordered them to form surveillance teams and conduct drives in the fruit markets and warehouses at different places, including Dhaka.

The BSTI said in the report that it had not found chemicals in the fruits, Manzill said.

The court, however, accepted another report prepared by the Rapid Action Battalion on their countrywide drives against offending shops and warehouses.

Deputy Attorney General Abdullah Al Mahmud Bashar represented the state.   

Contacted, BSTI lawyer Hassan told The Daily Star that the HC had asked the BSTI to submit a report on its recent actions against the use of chemicals in fruits to the court on June 23.

He said BSTI has conducted the drives at different places across the country through mobile courts and surveillance teams.

Around 400 maunds of mangoes were destroyed at Jatrabari area in Dhaka as carbide was mixed with them and the dishonest traders were fined Tk 26 lakh, he said.  

The HC on May 20 directed the government to form teams to monitor fruit markets and warehouses across the country to prevent use of harmful chemicals.