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A Dramatist’s Guide To The Maggi Saga - Article by Kabir Upmanyu , SIMC, Pune

- Article by Kabir Upmanyu , SIMC, Pune 

The battleground seems to be eerily deserted at the moment as the warring factions have returned to their respective camps to deliberate.  As the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) continued to admire the fresh gleam of their swords, a pacifist Bombay High Court suddenly ‘trumpeteered’ away to halt the ongoing ‘verbal-shed’ and provide a fresh chance to the ‘Maggifolks’ to prove their innocence. A tense air of excitement is bound to be lingering in the camp of these Maggifolks. Huddled up for deliberations, they must know that this is their moment of reckoning to ensure that ‘normalcy’ is restored. The Bombay HC - with its order of revoking the ban on these folks’ prized possession - must be viewed by them as a ‘messianic demi-god’. However, much work needs to be done in the form of important diplomatic decisions to rebuild people’s trust. The comrades of the yellow regiment need to go back to the drawing board and plan their offensive carefully in order to help the food product make its way through the intensive tests in the coming months. If it manages to survive, celebrations shall begin, both from within the camp as well as the large and loyal following of noodle eaters it has managed to create owing to its weapons of mass consumption. On the other hand, the rival camp of regulatory authorities shall fret and turn red; after creating all the hullabaloo over Maggi being the sole destructor of public health standards, any reversals will be a big blot on their legitimacy.

A battle where the fine line between hero and villain stands blurred leads us to question the morality of both sides. Oddly enough, they seem to be reminiscent of the characters of Harvey Dent and the Batman from the movie, ‘The Dark Knight’. Is the FSSAI changing from the initially noble and proactive police officer Harvey Dent into a more villainous Two Face? And do we have Maggi, as the popular crusader, (who says playing ‘saving grace’ through restless nights before exams does not amount to an act of crusade?) acquiring dark undertones of Batman as it finds itself ‘poisoned’ by lead and MSG?

Us commoners seem divided on the issue, with some refusing to gulp down the fact that the 2-minute yellow brigade might have played mischievously with lead and MSG, while others believing the regulatory authorities with an unquestioning straight face. These contrasting stands make it prudent to take a look at some actual facts as reported by the media.

To begin with, the Indian food regulation regiment, with the FSSAI at the helm, is plagued by several shortcomings. Their frameworks are ambiguous and often ineffective, while the actual functioning arbitrary, where anyone can get hauled up anytime in an otherwise lax atmosphere. One wonders if this sudden zeal in pointing fingers at Maggi actually goes with a concomitant rise in quality of regulation. In fact, the whole episode, from where this sword-swinging saga around Maggi actually originated, took place under amusing circumstances. The setting was an obscure testing lab with rudimentary facilities tucked away in Gorakhpur, where an acutely deprived workforce turned just another day of testing (at the insistence of a Barabanki based UP Food Safety and Drug Administration Officer) into something which they never themselves anticipated.

However, the haughty Maggifolks categorically disputed such findings, and in the process dug their own graves as the matter snowballed into tests after tests which further ‘noodled’ dangerously around the parent company Nestle. Soon the company found itself thrown into the middle of a nationwide saga, with not many shields of defense to hold onto, except the very weak claim that some ‘internal and external’ tests proved otherwise. The clarion call of defeat started becoming louder and louder, and bans led to the yellow packet being pulled off shelves of retail shops. 

But, now with the fresh twist of events, the food company seems to have finally received some ‘frontdoor courtly reinforcements’ in the form of Bombay HC’s order. This is the time for the company to strategize backdoors, and come back into the battleground with revitalised strength. Who emerges as the clear winner, or whether the matter remains in eternal limbo, it is for us plebeians to see from a distance.

The impact of this saga seems to be wide-ranging, and one area from where ideas have started pouring in, is the educational sector. The Symbiosis Institute of Media & Communication (SIMC) (PG), Pune, organized a National-level Case-Study Competition on the 25th of August, entitled SIMChallenge,“MAGGI: In a Soup”, in cognizance of the growing clamour amongst the country’s youth population to see Maggi back on their shelves. The outcome, with active participation by a host of reputed educational institutions, was nothing short of creative. The competition became an ideal knowledge sharing platform with eminent industry personalities such as Mr. Tathagata Chatterjee, VP & Strategic Planning Director, Blue Hive India, Ms. Sudha Singh, Executive President, Ogilvy Public Relations, Mr. Jaibal Naduvath, Vice-President, Perfect Relations and Mr. Rajesh Pant, Director & Founder, Kandor Solutions judging the presentations and offering relevant insights. The various strategies and solutions put forward, only reinforced faith as to how much Maggi has managed to intrude into our daily lives and psyches.

As ideas keep raining on the empty battlefield, one can only exclaim in dramatic fashion here: Oh Maggi, I shall wait with bated breath to see what becomes of you!

Kabir Upmanyu
MA (MC) Journalism
SIMC, Pune

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