Kerala's communist rulers may have made history by ensuring there state is the first to impose a 14.5 per cent 'fat tax' on fast food products, but will it make rid the state of its tag of being the second most obese after Punjab?
The state's present regime is of course gunning for what it regards as an elite obsession, but the truth is that Kerala is the least penetrated by fast food restaurants, so its obesity epidemic has nothing to do with burgers and pizzas. There's obviously something wrong about the diet followed by the average citizen of the state.
The root of the problem may lie in the use of coconut oil for cooking, or in the high consumption of refined carbohydrates, but who has the time to go into such deeper questions affecting the common good? Kerala's 'fat tax' is therefore yet another instance of a government going after an easy target -- it reminds me of the hoohah over Maggi that turned out literally to be a two-minute drama -- when the quality of the food we eat is itself suspect because of the adulterants packed into our raw ingredients and the complete neglect of the basic principles of food hygiene in 'non-elite' roadside stalls and restaurants. But yes, we have to fight fat, and the only way to do it is to start a concerted nationwide campaign in schools.
In my younger son's school so effective was the 'Say No to Junk Food' message propagated from the time the students were in the pre-nursery age, that he rarely go to a fast-food restaurant and insist on gorging on greens and having fruit juices instead of colas.
Ironically, though, the school 'canteen' sells bread pakodas and samosas as if they are beacons of good health! That's where the contradiction sets in. Hence the need to think the move through and make 'fighting fat' not a subject of whimsical state-mandated actions, but a national movement led by students.
Taxes don't mean much to young people, but the constant repetition of beneficial messages, backed up by fresh initiatives on the ground, such as a ban on fried products and the promotion of fresh fruits and milk in school canteens, make a real difference. Let there be propaganda for a good cause!
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