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Shift dairies away from landfills, ramp up milk testing: Delhi HC directs chief secy, FSSAI

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New Delhi, May 14 (PTI) Stating that the presence of dairies next to landfill sites can have serious consequences on people consuming milk from the cattle there, the Delhi High Court has asked the chief secretary to "seriously consider" relocating Bhalaswa and Ghazipur dairies to an alternative site in Ghogha.

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It also directed the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) as well as city authorities to ramp up testing for presence of chemicals in milk and milk products from all the nine designated dairies in Kakrola, Goela, Nangli Shakrawati, Jharoda, Bhalaswa Dairy, Ghazipur, Shahbad Daulatpur, Madanpur Khadar and Masoodpur, and take appropriate action.

In an order passed on May 8 while hearing a petition regarding the state of dairies in Delhi, a bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Manmohan took notice of the diseases which can spread amongst animals and even jump to other species, including humans, and said milch animals have to be kept in the utmost hygienic conditions.

The court said the authorities are "turning a blind eye" to the irreparable harm which dairies operating near landfills could cause to citizens' health, adding it was prima facie not persuaded by the Delhi chief secretary's submission that cattle in such dairies can be prevented from eating hazardous waste at the landfill sites until they are completely cleared.

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"This court takes judicial notice that frequent global outbreaks of bovine diseases like foot and mouth disease, bovine herpes virus, parainfluenza, bovine respiratory virus, bovine diarrhoea and many other such diseases can spread like wildfire amongst animals. These viruses are known to jump to other species, including humans. So, milch animals have to be kept in utmost hygienic conditions," the bench, also comprising Justice Manmeet PS Arora, said.

"We, therefore, issue the following general directions: The Chief Secretary to seriously consider the suggestion made by the petitioners with respect to the relocation of Bhalaswa and Ghazipur dairies to Ghogha dairy," it ordered.

The bench asked the authorities to consider the suggestions given by the petitioners for making Ghogha dairy an "attractive alternative site" for dairy owners and also remove all unauthorised constructions, commercial establishments, residential houses and industrial units there.

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The court observed that the milk from dairies is used for making a wide variety of products including powdered milk, sweets and formula foods for toddlers and consumption of milk of cattle feeding on hazardous waste from landfills would have serious consequences.

"FSSAI/ Department of Food Safety, GNCTD (is directed) to ramp up testing and to conduct random sample checking of milk for presence of chemicals in dairy units in all the nine designated dairies as also of the milk products such as sweets from the areas where milk is supplied and to take appropriate action as per law in case of any violation," the court stated.

In the order, the court also reiterated its concern about the use of oxytocin in cattle, stating that it leads to side effects such as uneven heart beat, cardiac seizure, eye problems like blurred vision, early onset of menstrual cycle in girl child and growth of abnormal breasts in male child.

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It, therefore, asked the police commissioner to file an affidavit indicating the efforts made to track the sources of spurious oxytocin or hormones and its production, packaging and distribution.

The court further directed that the existing dairies should be made compliant in terms of their licensing requirements under different laws and that bio-gas plants should also be installed near all the nine authorised dairies in Delhi at the earliest, preferably prior to onset of monsoon.

It also said that veterinary hospitals should be made functional forthwith near all the designated dairies and asked the chief secretary to file a detailed affidavit indicating the roadmap on the future plan for the nine dairy colonies.

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The court initiated a pilot project in Madanpur Khadar Dairy Colony with respect to its mapping and identification, tagging of cattle, curbing use of oxytocin or hormones and cleanliness and sought an "action taken" report from the authorities concerned within eight weeks.

It asked the Delhi Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to carry out regular inspections to check the condition of cattle in the colony and to immediately report any disease or injury to any animal to the Veterinary Officer of the Government Veterinary Hospital.

"The work of mapping and identification shall be carried out through Para Legal Volunteers of the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA)... Each of the Respondents responsible for carrying out the above measures shall depute a sufficient number of officials for the said purpose and also extend full cooperation to DSLSA. The Delhi Police is directed to render full cooperation so that there are no law and order issues," the court ordered.

The matter would be heard next on May 27. PTI ADS RPA

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