Setting a palatable example to religious institutions and social justice groups, the Gangaramaya Temple last Wednesday launched a movement to provide nutritious and hygienically prepared packets of rice and curry for lunch or dinner at the affordable price of Rs. 50 a packet each.
The Gangaramaya Dhansala, for which the temple’s Chief Incumbent Ven. Galaboda Gnaneswara Thera took the initiative, was declared open by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
A spokesman for this welfare movement said they had provided about 10,000 packets free on the first day. But from last Thursday the packets would be sold at Rs. 50 each.
He said one of the main aims of this Gangaramaya Dhansala was to break the stranglehold that four--legged rats in the food business were having on consumers.
Though the new government has slashed the prices of fuel and gas and substantially reduced the prices of 13 other items including wheat flour, most hotels and eating houses has not passed down the benefits to the consumers, but are swallowing up more profits.
Hopefully the Gangaramaya Dhansala as it develops and becomes more popular will break the wicked, selfish and greedy vice of sending the consumer from the frying fan to the fire though the intention of the new National Unity Government was to provide immediate relief to millions of people who were suffering because of the soaring cost of living.
We hope other religious institutions also will carry their doctrines out of the comfort zones of their sanctuaries and reach out to help provide the daily bread or rice for the people.
At a broader structural level, the government also needs to look at a sustainable way of providing safe Sri Lankan food and nutrition to the people at affordable prices.
On March 15 Sri Lanka joined the world in marking World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD).
The inspiration for this came largely after the popular US President John F. Kennedy on March 15, 1962 made a historic address to the US Congress to outline his vision of consumer rights. This was the first time any politician had formally set out such principles.
Mr. Kennedy said in his Congressional Statement, “Consumers, by definition, include us all. They are the largest economic group in the economy, affecting and affected by almost every public and private economic decision. Two-thirds of all spending in the economy is by consumers. But they are the only, important group in the economies who are not effectively organized, whose views are often not heard.”
For 2015, the WCRD theme is helping the consumers choose healthy diets. This theme aims to bring into the spotlight the dangers of unhealthy diets and the focal point which it hinges on: consumer choices.
This year’s World Consumer Rights Day campaign message achieved Consumer International’s highest ever reach on social media. The message, “I want a world where consumers have the right to healthy food, WHO must take action, Food Treaty Now” reached more than 2.8 million social media users.
CI Director General Amanda Long welcomed the result: “This is a big step forward for CI and for our campaign calling for a Global Convention to protect and promote healthy diets. It shows the power of using digital tools to amplify our voices.”
According to Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commissioner Prathiba Mahanamahewa, the food safety risk management in Sri Lanka is conducted in a rather ad-hoc manner.
Food safety is a cross-cutting issue that should be addressed by bringing together collaborative efforts of agencies concerned. Sri Lanka needs an independent institution to better identify, coordinate, and address perceived food safety risks faced by the consumers.
In the meantime the government needs to make use of the state media, especially television to make people aware and educate them on how to get a safe nutritious and healthy diet where there is a balance between taste and nutrition. Until the new government took over the state media were blatantly abused for crude party propaganda but they misfired. Now the state media with a degree of independence and the private media also need to focus more on vital health issues including food and nutrition and the rational use of medicines.
Though it has been often said before, a healthy nation would make a wise and wealthy nation.