I had a chance to visit an aalemane (Place where jaggery is manufactured) recently near Mandya. There are several such aalemanes near Mandya, Srirangapatna and Pandavapura.
The farmer while explaining the process of Jaggery making informed that they used a chemical (Sodium based one, I can’t recollect the exact name) which is banned by the Government. Almost all aalemanes uses the chemical! (How poisonous it must be that even a lackadaisical Government department has banned it !!) Scientists who had suggested it initially have washed their hands off. It bleaches jaggery white, to the likes of an urban customer who wants everything pure and white. The farmer jokingly said that they if they don’t use that chemical, jaggery will be of his colour. If he doesn’t use it, though, he and other aalemanes will have to shut shop since there is no demand for darker jaggeries!
There was a question raised to him ? Do you use the same jaggery at home? He laughed and said, ‘We don’t. We prepare separately for us or for some customers who order by using only Sunna (Lime). It may be dark, but it is safe to consume’.
This is the result of unnatural demands of urban consumers. That they want everything white, flawless and without marks ! Hybrids are invented for the same. A tomato with no juice, Blood red watermelon, a shining apple or a capsicum, Pure white curd, straw yellow oil, a dotless banana, seedless pomegranate and so on and on and on. Hybrids are unlike our NAATI (Heirloom) variety. A farmer has to apply a lot of fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides which are all controlled by corporate bigwigs. A farmer is now a slave.
Politicians who go for all those rasta rokos at the drop of a hat in Mysore-Bangalore highway - Have you ever tried blocking these corporates? Have you ever tried talking to farmers on shifting to a more sustainable agriculture? have you ever tried talking to the farmers on not using those hazardous chemicals and poisoning food? Does vote matter so much to you than people, health and environment?
Whom should we blame? The Government, Agriculture Department, scientists, farmers, consumers, corporates, politicians or the system, Whom? Do we actually have to blame?! We are the system.
To start with can we start demanding and consuming normal jaggery?!
Can we have fruits and vegetables with marks on it or irregular shapes?! That’s natural.
Can we not lust for pure, symmetrical, flawless, white, unnatural products?!
And let’s keep it simple. It’s not an achievement to use such products. It’s natural. It’s not a lifestyle statement!