Friday, June 11, 2010

RTI reply of Bureau of Industrial Standards shows failure to adequately test

The Product Certification Scheme of BIS aims at providing Third Party Guarantee of quality, safety and reliability of products to the ultimate customer. Presence of ISI certification mark known as Standard Mark on a product is an assurance of conformity to the specifications. The conformity is ensured by regular surveillance of the licensee's performance by surprise inspections and testing of samples, drawn both from the market and factory. The certification allows the licensees to use the popular ISI Mark, which has become synonymous with Quality products for the Indian and neighbouring markets over the past 50 years. The Bureau's predecessor, the Indian Standards Institution began operating the product certification Scheme in 1955. Presently more than 21,000 licences are in operation covering about 1000 products. Government of India, on considerations of public health and safety, security, infrastructure requirements and mass consumption has enforced mandatory certification on various products through Orders issued from time to time under various Acts.

RTI activist Kishanlal has unearthed a major scam in the product certification scheme of BIS-where they are playing with the lives of innocent consumers who blindly trust ISI mark before buying into any product. There are several products such as Valve fittings for use with liquefied petroleum gas cylinder, Low pressure regulators for use with liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) mixtures, Multifunction valve assembly for permanently fixed liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) containers for automotive use, Diagnostic Medical X-Ray Equipment, Plastic Feeding Bottles, Steel tubes for structural purposes, Milk-cereal based weaning foods, Processed cereal based complementary foods for infants, Infant milk substitute, milk protein based, Packaged Natural Mineral Water, Packaged Drinking Water (Other than Packaged Natural Mineral Water), Valve fittings for gas cylinder valves for use with breathing apparatus et al require compulsory certification and can prove to fatal if not of proper quality.

According to BIS Certification Regulations 1988, BIS is required to draw atleast 2 market and 2 factory samples for continual product quality assessment. Documents unearthed from BIS under RTI Act, 2005 reveal a shocking story. BIS is not even collecting one factory sample and one market sample for testing. In 2007-08 BIS drew only 12940 market samples and 15420 market samples for 20025 licences-which is not even 1 market and 1 factory sample. Similarly in 2008-09 BIS drew 13583 market samples and 13947 factory samples for 20972 licences. In 2009-10, till Feb 2010 for which data is available, BIS drew, for 22103 licences, 7326 market and 12953 factory samples respectively; which is only 20% of the samples required to be drawn. It is interesting to note that BIS charges testing fees for entire 2 market and 2 factory samples inspite of consistently failing to test samples as required. No doubt BIS has built in surplus of few hundred crores. BIS has become money minting machine instead of independent 3rd party product tester, its “raiso de etre”. ISI Mark is no longer the trusted mark of millions of consumers it used to be.

According to insider sources -even for products which are tested, most times reports generated without actually testing the product due to abysmally low testing charges paid by BIS. According to documents unearthed under RTI Act, 2005, BIS keeps the testing charges low to keep the “outflow” low. A proposal was mooted in 2005 to increase the testing charges, which remains unimplemented.

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