The ‘vegetarian silver’ that devoured lacs of livelihoods

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The Internet also takes one to an article written by BJP leader and former union minister Maneka Gandhi. Varakh is not vegetarian, she wrote and gave a graphic description of how it was being made in India, mostly by Muslims, she claimed. They felt the intestine of live cattle and slaughtered the ones they found suitable. The silver is then placed between the intestine and pounded, she added.She writes, “The varakh industry is a huge one. India uses over 300 tonnes of silver leaves in paan, chaywanprash, tobacco products, ayurvedic medicines, mithais and temples. It is used in Germany on food (the food number is E 175), in France on photo frames. In Japan it is everywhere – interiors, tea, instruments, frescos, temples…is used on chocolates, cocktails and liquors – German Goldwasser and the Swiss Goldschlager are examples — soups, salads, ice creams and coffees.Maneka Gandhi’s article, which appeared in 2016, it would appear, prompted the Government to ban ‘hand-made’ silver foil and issue stringent guidelines and specifications for silver leaves permitted for use in edible products.The article also revolted consumers, who began to demand ‘machine-made and vegetarian Varkh’. Sweet shops began displaying signboards asserting that the Varkh they were using was untouched by ‘dirty human hands’.***Maneka Gandhi was effusive in acknowledging the role of Surendra Karnavat from Jaipur. Karnavat, she wrote, was a diamond jeweller based in New York and had worked hard for 15 years to develop a machine which could be used for making perfect silver leaves. A patriotic Indian, Karnavat righteously informed that he had turned down an offer from China to make his machines there!

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