A controversy surrounding the use of formalin to preserve fish sold in Goa is threatening a split in the Goa Forward, a ruling party, even as its Vice President has accused his leadership of being mum on the issue and being a party to the victimization of a whistle-blower who exposed the formalin-in-fish scandal.
In a letter to Goa Forward President Vijai Sardesai, Vice President Trajano D'Mello on Monday said that the inability of the party to take on the fish mafia's use of formalin, a carcinogenic cadaver preservative, in fish sold in Goa and allowing the witch hunt of Food and Drugs Administration official Iva Fernandes amounted to the party abetting the officer's harassment.
"What disturbs my conscience is that the designated officer Iva Fernandes, an honest and upright person, conducted the formalin tests on fish and gave her factual findings, bringing to light the criminal activities (slow poisoning) of the fish mafia that endangers the life of every Goan," Mr D'Mello said in the letter to Mr Sardesai.
"This officer is now being harassed/mentally tortured to an extent that she has had to approach the Goa Human Rights Commission. Your silence on this matter is deafening and indicates that you are abetting in the harassment of this upright officer," the letter said.
The controversy erupted in July after a Food Drugs Administration team led by Ms Fernandes found traces of formalin in fish sold in Goa.
The BJP-led coalition government, of which Goa Forward is a partner, has been on the back foot ever since several of its ministers were accused of allegedly protecting fish traders who were allegedly importing formalin-laced fish consignments from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Responding to Trajano D'Mello's letter, the Goa Forward issued a statement late on Monday that Trajano D'Mello was likely to quit the party to join the Congress, the main opposition party in the state.
"Trajano's pathetic alibi to mask his act of betrayal as a protest against the supposed harassment of Iva Fernandes is a hollow attempt to justify his sellout... It is obvious that the Goa Congress is on a recruitment drive and that habitual deserters and jumping jacks are being offered packages," said Dilip Prabhudesai, also a Vice President of Goa Forward.
The party denied any harassment of the FDA officer, who has now complained to the Goa Human Right's Commission about harassment by her superiors.
"Goa Forward party is in no way connected with the FDA department and the officer and the supposed harassment that he mentions," Mr Prabhudesai said.