Mumbai: The vegetables that go into your stomach might not be healthy enough. Infact, the veggies that you buy could end you up in hospital.
According to reports carried in a daily, the vegetables that are sold to us are grown and washed in gutter. The report carried by MiD DAY that the leafy vegetables contain bacteria and even parasites.
The tabloid based its report on the findings that it took near farming spots in Thakurli and Kalwa. Samples of radish and spinach taken from the plots reveal indicated the presence of bacteria and even parasites.
Don’t be too sure of the conventional wisdom of forcing green vegetables down your children’s throats in the hope that they will keep them hale and hearty. MiD DAY’s findings about how these are grown and washed in farms across the city will make you flinch just the same as your kids when they are forced to gulp the greens.
Leafy vegetables, that occupy the crown position in a dietician’s prescription, may be playing host to algae and faecal matter, and that is just what you see. What you get is worse. Under the microscope, these veggies have indicated the presence of bacteria and even parasites.
If you’re wondering how this comes about, take a look at the water used to irrigate the vegetable farms. MiD DAY studied how these vegetables are grown and washed in the city. This reporter visited farming spots in Thakurli and Kalwa, collecting samples of radish and spinach sold in markets, as well as the water used to tend and wash them.
Many of these farms are along train tracks with an evidently questionable source of water - the drain nearby - which is downright poisonous for humans, as the lab reports suggested. Investigations also established the presence of the fatal E coli and yeast in the vegetables, among other contaminants that will make you blanch.
What we saw
Waste water from a small hut and the toilet in it is discharged into the gutter which spews it into the pond. After being scrubbed and cleaned, the vegetables were placed on a gunny rag of jute. This is then wrapped and transported, without being cleaned any more.
A distance away, a hosepipe ran from an old diesel-driven water pump wrapped in plastic to the gutter. The impure water it discharged carried all sorts of waste including the carcass of a stray dog. Locals said that it was the only source of water for cultivation.
Pointing to the drain, Raju said, “We do not get potable water and depend on this ‘natural’ source for cultivating and cleaning the produce. We do not put any chlorine in it. We know it is not clean but I guess it is okay. We eat the same food and have not fallen sick so far.”
“In winter we usually grow radish, spinach and fenugreek. Summer is only for spinach. Business is bad in monsoons.” Raju said they use pesticides and after spending a few hundred rupees on seeds and pesticides, they make around Rs 150-200 a day.
They work in three shifts from 6 am. The first lot of produces leave for Mumbai. The second shift starts around 10 am and the produce is sent to Thane and Vashi. The produce is sold at Rs 2-3 per piece to the retailer, who then sells it to you for Rs 6-10, depending on the size. In the evening, the produce is sent to areas in Dombivili and Kalyan.
“We know you want to expose us by showing how we use gutter water to grow leafy vegetables. But everybody across the railway tracks on central or western lines uses the same water. We are not doing anything wrong,” said a local.
What we saw
Santosh Yadav (40) said the pond water is not salty. “We do not have any other source of water. For years we have been using this water for our other chores as well.” Farmer Ravindra Chauhan (40) said, “We try to take precautions, but at times even the companies manufacturing seeds and pesticides supply cheap quality products, which makes the output harmful for consumption. Unlike other farmers who get subsidies and training from the government, we do not get any such privileges. We picked the tricks of the trade from our fathers.”