No nonsense, no compromise
There are papers to read, meetings to attend. On a typical day at the office, T.V. Anupama’s door opens and shuts scores of times. The office, tucked into a corner of Thycaud, in Thiruvananthapuram, could do a lot of rework. But then that’s just one of the offices she goes to — the Food Safety Commissioner’s which Anupama joined one-and-a-half years ago.
She has also been made the Additional Director (General), Tourism and Managing Director, Inframed. But since she joined the service in 2010, no year has brought her the kind of attention this last one did. The year 2015 in one word has been ‘eventful’ for the young IAS officer who fell from one controversy to another — from restricting pesticide-infected vegetables from Tamil Nadu to the ban of certain packaged products. She speaks of the year that went by.
“The Food Safety Department came into existence only in 2011. So, the initial two years went into setting up the department. Even when I came in, the situation was that. For established departments, there is precedence for everything and you just have to follow it. If there is a specific issue, you need special intervention. In the case of food safety, there was a total lack of resources. No proper office, no sufficient human resources, no enough vehicles. So there was the setting up of the department going hand in hand with the work enforcement and analysis,” she says.
“Many things happen on a day-to-day basis but there’s no ready solution because we haven’t done it before. We know harmful pesticides and all are used. But how do we go about it? People have vegetables on a daily basis. You can’t just ban it. We needed another kind of solution. Everyone was aware of the situation. We were only a part of it. We spoke about it, presented in the meetings about it but rest was done by the government or public. People started becoming so aware, we continued lifting samples (from check-posts and markets),” she explains.
“Then there was the banning of certain products. Only some got highlighted. There are certain kind of food items that under the act or by various medical reports we know is unsafe. You should treat them in one way. Then there are certain habitual offenders you treat a different way,” Anupama says. However, she is not pleased with the publicity she got. “I haven’t been comfortable with the kind of attention all this brought. I don’t use my personal FB page much. No Twitter and no verified official page. But at some point, you have to open up. It is mandatory that we put all orders on public platform. Whenever some adulteration comes we put on the website. I didn’t expect this kind of response. The worst situation is when your privacy is encroached. Family was dragged into it. Luckily they were very supportive. Most of the staff were too, and there was public support,” Anupama says.