The government needs to stop making haphazard decisionsShould the government continue to make unilateral and hasty decisions, only to revoke them later, it will have no credibility left.
Merely one month ago, the government issued a directive requiring agricultural produce imported from India to be tested for pesticide residues before they enter the Nepali market.
But now, the government has revoked its decision to quarantine and conduct pesticide residue tests for farm products imported from India. As the containers carrying vegetables imported from India started getting stuck at Nepal customs owing to lack of laboratories and laboratory equipment to conduct the tests, the government finally revoked its decision unable to resist the pressure from India.
Prior to this, after facing a backlash from the public, the government was forced to withdraw the Guthi Bill and is reconsidering its decision to hold the IIFA-- International Indian Film Academy—awards ceremony in Nepal. There seems to be a pattern in the way the government indulges in decision making. That is, it takes decisions hastily without proper homework and deliberation, and then takes a step back after it faces a strong and adverse reaction by the citizenry. The decision to control and conduct pesticide tests on imported vegetables was indeed a step in the right direction given the direct impact it can have on the public health, but the government should have implemented it only after the necessary infrastructure and controls were in place.
Almost 44 percent of the imported vegetables and fruits come from India. The decision to conduct pesticide tests at checkpoints was first taken to make sure that healthy vegetables and fruits entered the consumers’ kitchens; and second, it was also aimed at reducing the country’s dependency on imports of these products in a bid to promote domestic agriculture produce. But as usual, in the absence of proper planning before making a decision, there was chaos at the border, large consignments of vegetables and fruits had queued up on the Indian side as authorities responsible for conducting the tests lacked the required resources and manpower. Quite naturally then, the market has been hit by price disruption, too.
Public health concerns are growing across the country regarding the increasing use of pesticides in the production of vegetables and fruits that are consumed on a daily basis, thereby compelling the government to take appropriate measures to ensure that harmful pesticide-laced produce do not find their way into the market. Pesticides are used to protect crops from insects, weeds and fungi; but they are potentially toxic to humans. Some of the older and cheaper pesticides can remain for years in the soil and water.
One of the major reasons why the government was not able to stick to its decision to quarantine and conduct pesticide residue tests for agriculture produce imported from India is because the authorities on the Nepali side lack laboratory equipment and a sizeable technical team to conduct tests of agricultural produce at customs checkpoints—an enduring problem. For this the government must invest in building more labs and supply them with the necessary equipment.
Public health is a serious issue, and the government cannot compromise on it citing any excuse. Further, the government must also correct its tendency of taking decisions hastily and then regretting it later. Should the government continue to make unilateral and hasty decisions only to revoke them later, it will have no credibility left.