ISI mark falls prey to BIS scam

Bureau of Indian Standards is undercutting mandatory product testing, imperiling consumer safety and allowing financial bungling, shows RTI probe


Geetanjali Minhas | June 14, 2010

Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has been allowing a large number of products to be sold in the market without the mandatory testing of samples, betraying consumers' trust and committing financial bungling, an RTI investigation has revealed.

While the BIS Certification Regulations 1988 require the Bureau to draw and test at least 2 market and 2 factory samples for a product quality assessment, not even one factory sample and one market sample of a product are being collected and tested, shows the official records provided to Kishanlal, an information seeker, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.

The untested or undertested products in the market could include things like valve fittings for use with LPG cylinders, multifunction valve assembly for permanently fixed LPG containers for automotive use, diagnostic medical X-ray equipment, plastic feeding bottles, milk-cereal based weaning foods, packaged natural mineral water, all of which require compulsory certification and can prove fatal if not of proper quality.

Most of the reports are being generated without actually testing a product, betraying the trust of consumers who associate ISI mark with quality, show the records.

In 2007-08, BIS drew only 12,940 market samples and 15,420 factory samples for 20025 licences – i.e. not even 1 market and 1 factory sample.

In 2008-09, BIS drew 13,583 market samples and 13,947 factory samples for 20,972 licences. In 2009-10, up to February 2010 for which data is available, BIS drew, for 22,103 licences, 7326 market and 12,953 factory samples, respectively, which is only 20 per cent of the samples required to be drawn.

In spite of consistently failing to test samples as required, BIS has been charging testing fees for entire 2 market and 2 factory samples, which points to financial bungling in the product certification scheme.

Presence of ISI certification mark known as 'standard mark' on a product is an assurance that the product conforms to quality standards. The product certification scheme of BIS provides third party guarantee of quality, safety and reliability of products to the consumer.

Consumers in India and neighbouring markets have trusted the ISI mark over the last 50 years in terms of quality assurance. Indian Standards Institution, BIS' predecessor, began operating the product certification scheme in 1955.

The conformity to specified standards is ensured by regular surveillance of the licensees’ performance by surprise inspections and testing of samples, drawn both from the market and factory.

Sources say BIS has compromised product testing by paying abysmally low testing charges the laboratories. BIS keeps the testing charges low to keep the “outflow” low, they say.

A proposal mooted in 2005 to increase the testing charges has remained unimplemented. Presently more than 21,000 licences, covering 1000 products are in operation.

Products such as valve fittings for use with liquefied petroleum gas cylinder, low-pressure regulators for use with LPG mixtures, multifunction valve assembly for permanently fixed 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, packaged natural mineral water, packaged drinking water, and valve fittings for gas cylinder valves for use with breathing apparatus require compulsory certification and can prove to be fatal if not of proper quality.

The government has enforced mandatory certification on various products through orders issued from time to time under various Acts for considerations of public health and safety, security, infrastructure requirement and mass consumption.



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