This is an adaptation of the old saying ‘Old Wine in New Bottles’ which depicts what is happening in Nepal these days. Generally the old wine would have been beneficial but in this present case, the goodies in new wraps are definitely harmful!
National newspapers and electronic media flashed on Oct 2nd 2020 that eight persons had been held in connection with the changing of expiry dates of imported food items such as chips (Pringles), chocolates (Mars, Snickers), biscuits (Oreo), nutritive drinks (Bournvita, Horlicks) and even cosmetics. These items had apparently been collected from the local market for tampering i.e. new labels with new dates. Following this, these were then stored in three houses in the Kalanki and Bafal temporarily. After the tampering and changing of wraps they were then destined to be sent back to various small shops or even department stores in the valley!
The police and the concerned government department have sealed the warehouse and impounded the three vehicles used for carting the various items from here and there. The costs of the confiscated goods have been estimated to be Rs. 10 million. Of the two distributing concerns involved, the head of only one and seven of the workers caught in the act were being held by the police. The workers were freed the next day! It is reported too that most of these products were imported by the Vishal Group of traders. As this is a heinous crime which can affect the health of the people, one hopes that drastic action will be taken. One may recall that two years back the surveillance of the mithai shops of Kathmandu had revealed that sweetmeat items were being produced in very unhygienic conditions. This Dasain and Tihar season is an appropriate time to check if things have become better or not.
To counter such practices one must take alternative action. It is about time that we took pride in our food and our drinks. Sattu, makai-bhatmas, and mohi these are the things that should be branded in Nepal and we should give them our top priority as a healthy food. Even when nutrition experts are claiming that nutritive drinks (Bournvita, Horlicks) are waste of money we still find it customary to visit patients with such drinks. During my clinical practice days, I did not recommend such products for consumption to my patients. Surprisingly many mothers, in their desire to make them world class sportsmen, religiously give their children such drinks! What charm is there in eating foreign products which may not be fit for consumption?
About thirty years ago it was rumoured that a certain drug producing concern in Eastern Nepal was replacing the old expiry dated labels of unsold medicines with new ones. This was the first instance of a Nepali owned venture doing such misdeeds. Subsequently because of the then norm of many Nepali importers to go to ‘foren’ cities such as Bangkok, Hong Kong and Singapore in foreign lands and bring back from pavement peddler the sub-standard or rejected goods at dirt or throwaway prices; a lot of foreign products started being imported into Nepal. Selling these glitzy and well packed goods at exorbitant prices was a very worthwhile enterprise. All Nepalis are after all, very gullible. In such a situation it is useful to recall that in the hey days of the garment industry it was very beneficial for the Kathmandu dwellers to be donning very nice looking garments which could not be exported to foreign lands because of minor flaws. These were then sold around the precincts of Dharahara to Kathmandu dwellers.
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the economic condition the country of being in the doldrums and expectation is that recovery will be slow. Currently, many Nepalis have returned to Nepal and hopefully some of the schemes that our government has put in place for their employment or help will start to produce results. Such start-up enterprises need not only governmental but the support of every one of us. The next four months of the festival season in Nepal is a time of maximum expenditure and sales.
If our buying habits change to purchase Nepali products we will create more jobs and help the ailing economy. This action in our living pattern will bring about wonders. We cannot take pride in wearing fake foreign brands even when we are fully aware that the products are in fact made locally!
In the case of fake labels one might say that it could have been locally made, but what is the harm in that? The harm is to person, who despite manufacturing the product for decades and serving the nation for long is unknown, and his/her contribution is not felt by the society. Some other manufacturers may not feel the need to improve the quality of the product at times in that s/he can always make the product under a different label. In such instances it is again the consumers who will be getting substandard products. The necessity is for efforts of support by us Nepalis to ‘Support and buy Nepali’. Lately efforts have been made by various Nepali brands and producers which carry the ‘Made in Nepal’ labels and by Online sales concerns such as ‘The Made in Nepal.com’ to bring all Nepali brands and manufacturers big and small in one platform. We the public, and our government must be fully supportive. Wherever possible and legal, duties must be slapped on goods coming into the country. It is only by such actions that even Nepali products e.g. fruits and vegetables and produced eatables will be consumed by us Nepalis.
One good trend that one has seen over the years as one reads the papers or scans the social media is the large number of books, songs recordings and cinemas that are being produced by our folk in Nepali or in the other languages of Nepal. This is a very healthy trend and must be supported by all of us so that the current influx of foreign dominance becomes restricted to a certain extent. This occurrence is a healthy trend and should be an example to other areas e.g. agricultural and industrial field to copy and implement. In recollection I would like to recap what I stated in late August in New Spotlight Online titled ‘Swadeshi Char Laksha’ and the four objectives of Swadeshi finance, Swadeshi labour, Swadeshi produce and Swadeshi use. This should be our motto now.
Lastly I would like to recollect that in the immediate post 2007 Saal after the ushering in of democracy in the country there was an air of change. If anyone did or said anything odd and someone remarked on it, s/he would more than likely reply, ‘This is Prajatantra’. What all of us must realise is that in this modern age such anti-people activities can never be done. If done and the culprit caught then they must be given hefty sentences so that others are not inspired and tempted to repeat such actions. In conclusion, may Lord Pashupatinath protect us Nepalis.
The author is a retired medical doctor and writes fiction under the pen name of Mani Dixit also. Website: www.hdixit.org.np. Twitter: @manidixithd