In a candid interview to Rajya Sabha TV, Union minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Ram Vilas Paswan spoke about the recent controversy about regulating food portions. The minister stood by his statement and said that food wastage should be checked, especially wastage being done by big hotels. But he also allayed fears of anti food wastage squads.
He said that the government will neither decide on how much people should eat at the restaurants, nor will it decide on the portion of dishes, but an awareness on food wastage was necessary. He further clarified that the government was not intruding in the private space of citizens.
The LJP chief praised the development agenda being carried out by PM Modi and said that the BJP takes good care of its allies. He also dismissed reports of any Hindutva agenda being carried out by the NDA government and said that he is looking to be part of the NDA beyond 2019.
Here are some edited excerpts from the interview:
You made news recently for food wastage, people took it otherwise and thought you are running a campaign?
Poor people don’t get enough to eat. Lot of food is being wasted in big hotels. I feel sad looking at this wastage. If one person is at the table, food served is for four people. If hotel owners can decide on the portions, it will be great.
First it was alcohol then food…Is the government trying to intrude into the private space of people?
Government is not the Supreme Court, we are public representatives. I am not trying to enter into the private space of citizens. People are free to eat what they want.
People are cracking jokes on anti food wastage squads?
There will not be any law, we will not issue any questionnaire. People are free to eat what they want.
What did the stakeholders say in the meeting?
They said that they will train the waiters. But hotels should specify the portions in their menu. I think that will be of great help.
Food is wasted not because of customers but because of transport, supply storage and so on?
We have FCI to monitor that. We lose 93,000 crores because of food wastage. Hotels can’t be punished for wastage but at least we as leaders can change the mindset of these hotels as well as the customers.
Three years ago FCI was supposed to be revamped, a committee was formed under BJP leader Shanta Kumar. Has there been any movement since then?
We have been able to control a lot of wastage of food grains – there is lot of transparency now.
When is the new consumer protection law coming up?
It’s our dream project. We are in a hurry to implement it. It went to the standing committee and they gave recommendations and then we discussed them with NGOs, media and so on. The law department asked us to bring the bill in new form because of the many amendments. The new bill is with the law ministry. Once they okay it, it will come for a cabinet nod.
Will celebrities be punished for wrong endorsement of products?
I am not saying celebrities should not endorse. Producers should write proper content, so if there is a disparity, the manufacturers will be held responsible. In the same way, advertisers should be careful before they go in for telecast. Celebrities should not add content on their own. They should say or read what is given to them. Then they will not be held responsible.
What about online fraud, how will you check the quality?
Our new consumer protection bill has all the clauses. The present bill is 29 years old.
How do you reconcile yourself with the politics of religion and the policies of saffronisation, you were earlier never a part of it?
I am bound to the constitution and NDA’s manifesto – that’s not communal. PM has not said anything on Babri Masjid, Article 370, or on Ram Temple. He talks about development.
You don’t have problems with RSS’ Hindutva agenda?
RSS will not bring an agenda. They have a right to speak – all parties can say things. If the government brings the agenda then I will give you the answer
What is your view about Yogi Adityanath?
He is a ‘yuva neta’.
You don’t have a problem with his image or perception?
Perception doesn’t matter. People said BJP was a party of banyas and traders, but now its pro poor. When VP Singh was in Congress his image was something else. When he implemented Mandal Commission his image was something else.
How do you see the political battle shaping up for 2019?
We’re talking about 2025. 2019 is not in question. There is no opposition. BJP is doing well.
What about the identity of your party? Your party will lose relevance?
I have been a part of all big ministries. I have seen railways, coal mines, communication, steel, food ministry…there is lot of scope. it depends how you work.
BJP does not consult their allies, given the huge mandate they enjoy now?
I have my own identity, but I am thankful to NDA and PM Modi that they have not left their allies behind. BJP treats its allies well. BJP is a strong party and all allies are supporting BJP. They spoke about ‘Congress mukt sarkar’, and the BJP is moving ahead in that direction.
(You can watch the entire interview on the show To The Point at 10 pm on Wednesday, only on Rajya Sabha TV)