Acting on a cue, the Delhi Food Department raided the famous Khoya Mandi near the Mori Gate Inter-State Bus Terminal (ISBT) in Delhi in the early hours on Monday and seized over 1000 kg of adulterated khoya.
Farmers, who had brought the khoya to the Mandi from neighbouring rural areas, fled from the scene, leaving behind the khoya-filled containers.
“We found over 1000 kg of unclaimed Khoya of substandard quality including those which were made of artificial elements such as plaster of paris, vegetable oil, artificial colours just to name a few,” said Ranjeet Singh, food safety officer of Delhi government.
The officials shifted the seized material to Ghazipuar dump yard and destroyed it. No arrest has been made so far.
During festivals, the demand for dairy products such as khoya, paneer etc. grows manifold and some farmers in collusion with middle-men exploit it by producing artificial products with harmful chemicals like plaster of paris, synthetic colours among others. Sometimes rotten products are mixed with fragrance to look fresh.
Outlook, which covered the raid live, spoke to farmers, the middle-men and buyers present at the spot. They blame each other for encouraging the trade of adulterated products.
“What food safety department has done is just the tip of the iceberg. 95% khoya here is either fake or of substandard quality. Buyers, which are mainly sweet shop owners of Delhi, ask farmers to bring substandard materials as it cost cheap,” alleged Rishipal, a farmer.
While the pure product fetches a price above Rs 350 per kg, the substandard one is available at Rs 80 per kg.
A famous marketplace from the pre-Independence era, Khoya Mandi attracts farmers from neighbouring areas such as Bulandshahar, Modi Nagar, Bagpat, Meerut, Mathura to name a few. They bring here tuck loads of khoya every day for bulk sale to mainly sweet shop owners with help of middle-men.
“Each container, carrying 100 kg, are auctioned here and the buyer who quotes high price gets it,” Rakesh Tomar, President, Khoya Mandi says.
Tomar informs that the middle-men pay money to farmers at the spot on behalf of the buyers keeping 2% of the cost of product as commission. They collect the cost from buyers later on as they are known to each other.
Interestingly, the shortage of manpower of food safety department was quite obvious as four officials looked entirely helpless to handle more than over 60 to 70 containers each carrying 100 kg of khoa.
While two officials were busy in collecting samples, the other two were trying to keep a watch on the seized material.
Outlook also observed that farmers with the help of labourers could remove some of the seized khoya-filled containers in their trucks while the officials were busy in other enquiries.
However, Singh said that the dept will now keep a regular check on the market to discourage and instill fear among the people involved in such illegal practices.
"A few years ago, it was proposed that each farmer coming here would be issued an identification card which he would have to mention on his container so that it was easy to identify whose product is of bad quality. But it was never implemented. During raids, farmers or their associates leave the container and run away. It becomes difficult to find out the owner," says Mahesh Garg, former president of the mandi.