Maggi: Bollywood bashing and its freeloaders

Why is FSDA not banning gutkha or pan masala if it's the health of the nation they truly care about, and not their 15 minutes of fame?

 |  8-minute read |   04-06-2015
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A case has been filed under IPC sections 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), 273 (sale of noxious food or drink), 276 (sale of drug as a different drug or preparation) and 420 (cheating and dishonesty) against certain Bollywood actors for endorsing Maggi - and yes the makers of these toxic noodles, Nestle, too. Food Safety and Drug Administration (FSDA) - the body responsible for monitoring the measure of safety of these products and their discharge in the first place, not only files this case but also orders the retraction of Maggi from shelves and shops immediately. Since big names like Amitabh Bachchan and Madhuri Dixit are involved, the Indian media jumps full throttle into the booby trap and the big media circus begins.

Everybody is questioning a celebrity's moral responsibility in endorsing products, greed vs ethics, et al, forgetting the main point - which is that the very body that has filed this case in a pathetic attempt to seek attention and further their own agenda (personal, political or commercial, time will soon tell) is the organisation responsible for this offence in the first place. They are supposedly qualified and being payed our money - the tax payers' money - to provide and maintain guidelines of health and safety to the public. The same FSDA that turns a blind eye to gutkha and zarda being brazenly advertised, allows selling of alcoholic products under names of mineral water, allows GMO and pesticide-laden food produce to flood our markets and allows fairness creams to turn young girls to suicide, is now rubbing its hands in glee at their coup de grace.

I can almost picture the FSDA commissioner sitting with his bunch of cronies, delusions of grandeur glinting in his eye, announcing to his minions "Dekh main yeh Phillum Star logon ki kaise bajata hoon." Silencing the officer who dares remind him that it's Nestle he has to sue. "Arrey Nestle par case daala tha to kya press ne hamari khair kari. Yeh star logon ko pakadte hai taaki Indian media dum pakadke hamaare peeche bhaagegi. Aur main bhi un film staron jaise famous ban jaaon."

"What an idea Sirjee," one of his minions claps. "Tussi great ho paaji."

"Kya na bachpan se main apni interview TV par dekhne ko taras raha hoon," the comissioner adds. "Aur biwi ko promise kiya hoon ki agli baar Filmfare awards mein leke jaaonga. Yeh film walon ki pehchaan mein aane ka acha mauka hai" translated into "Suing Nestle will get us no where. Lets get hold of these Bollywood actors so that the media comes wagging its tail behind us and I can earn my long deserved fame too. Been craving to see myself on TV since childhood. And I've promised my wife I will take her to the Filmfare awards soon. This is a good way to come to the attention of film folk- "Arrey Madhuri hi nahin Aishwarya ko bhi mere saath naachna padega."

The junior officer, who tries to remind the comissioner that is it is the FSDA's responsibility to have seen that the MSG content in the Maggi doesn't exceed the prescribed health safety limit by carrying out the necessary checks and measures BEFORE it even left the NESTLE plant rather than further waste the tax payers' money by conducting raids to seize these goods from the shops AFTER the crime was committed, is beaten to death. A press report is sent out that he dies from poisoning from consuming too much Maggi. The commissioner talks into TV cameras again and turns into the hero in his hometown that he always aspired to be. His moustache just gew three inches longer and his chest six inches broader.

In the meantime, Madhuri is wondering why she didn't do Microbiology like her parents had suggested; she would have understood all the scientific labels at the back of the Maggi packet. Pondering over the dilemma that she had become a microbiologist, she would not have been paid those many crores to endorse that poison in the first place and so how ironical is catch-22.

Amitabh is already being wooed by Rayman noodles while simultaneously considering a request from the NDA govt to do a food safety public service film. Free, of course, so his name is cleared from this painful scandal. And yes he has to attend at least two parties in Delhi for that AND recite his Kabhi Kabhi lines to drunk politicians, bureaucrats and fixers.

No escaping that.

Preity decides to forgo her next botox injection on the advice of the same commissioner of FSDA so she can claim Maggi ruined her looks and seek compensation from Nestle - to get a sum that is approximately three times of what she was paid for doing the commercial in the first place. A percentage of which she will pay back to the commissioner for his brilliant subterfuge suggestion and the assurance that the case will be withdrawn.

In the meantime, the Nestle bosses are laughing all the way to the bank. Maggi needed a revamp anyway - the two-minute slogan having become more of a code name for erectile dysfunction now, than for the plastic they were trying to pass off as healthy whole grain food. MSG be damned - Nestle bosses had their next advertising campaign in place. Budgets quadrupled. Rival brands like Kurkure, in the meantime, are getting very insecure about Maggi stealing everyone's thunder and try to latch on to the scandal-free publicity route by trying to convince everybody on social media that their product doesn't contain plastic.

Media continues to try and play Judge. Their interest in the case is directly proportionate to the sustainability of their headline. Forgetting or rather never ever intending to ask and investigate the simple, but most relevant questions - why licenses are for sale in India to the highest bidder. Why our safety and security is compromised over and over again by a ruthless scam-ridden system. Are these officers who head these institutions themselves qualified to carry out their job? News has to be New ya - who has the time to probe so much. Who cares. The revenue of newspapers and televisions comes largely from advertisers like Maggi too - doesn't pay to ask too many questions na. Money can buy as much noise as silence.

Three years ago I tried to apply for a licence to sell an organic face cream which I made myself and am rather proud of. On the advice of some of my friends who were always asking me for the face cream because of what they saw as its miraculous effects on their skin. On enquiry of the requisite process, I was told that I need to approach the FDA (since creams touch the skin, the appropriate licence would be required). Several visits to the FDA office in Mumbai later I was still being given contradictory inputs by the officers occupying those chairs. Some said I don't require a licence, some said I may have to get one.

Some said I definitely require a licence A, others said I require licence B. Being the conscientious law-abiding type I decided to apply for both. Submitting along with my application the analysis report for the cream from a qualified lab (as stated on their website). The FDA officer refused my analysis report and gave me a list of other labs endorsed by them - from where I would have to get the cream certified. This I agreed to and set about doing.

Then after giving me the run around for several more weeks - which including not being able to submit my sample for analysis) feeding me one excuse after the other I was told by an official who landed up at my workplace that I needn't go through so much trouble at all.

"You're new in business na. Thats why you don't know. Just give me Rs 15,000/- per category. Cash. One for A and one for B. You'll get your licence."

"Will I have a receipt for my money?" No obviously not. It's for the setting. "What setting?" What a ridiculously amoral word that is.

"And what about the analysis?" I asked.

Surely at least the paperwork was mandatory for process. I mean a licence should be a serious thing.

"I could sell any poison in that jar if you don't check... Doesn't it matter to you?"

"Arrey don't worry madam - I will do your work. 15,000 - cash per category. You just sign here and sell your cream and enjoy."

I was so disgusted I decided against putting my cream out in the market. First the setting and then the set up - will this hopeless corruption ever change? Why blame the big players, the faceless, nameless corporate?

What about the government officer sitting in his chair, who the whole country relies on? For our safety, for our security, for our ethics and for our moral code.

Why target Bollywood or its celebrities for all the ills in our society? Why this love-hate obsession?

What will it be next - that an actor cannot play a gangster as he will be wrongly influencing young minds? Since when did acting mean social work? And so that about the rest of fetid this chain then?

The media reporter who will accept a bribe from a soft drink major for saying Coke is a healthy snack. The newspaper that condemns an actress with a "she's a prostitute" headline but sees nothing wrong in carrying paid adverts of sex workers soliciting their wares on their back pages? What about the channels that advertise Maggi or the newspapers that carry its adverts, or the copywriter who sells his two-minute lie?

Why aren't cases filed against each one of them?

And why is FSDA not banning gutkha or pan masala or toxic food colouring if it's the health of the nation they truly care about rather than their 15 minutes of fame... Why these lies, this deceit, this ambivalence, these double standards, this hypocrisy? Why this "gandha hai par dhandha hai... but phir bhi sab kuch chalta hai attitude?"


Suchitra Krishnamoorthi Suchitra Krishnamoorthi @suchitrak

Drama Queen. Actor. Singer. Painter. Writer. Mother. Traveler. Clueless Believer in the happily ever after.

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