share your concerns : INFOPOWER - as information seeker / JAGO GRAHAK - as consumer / Voters Forum - as voter / MANAK - as citizen / Loud Thinking - on corruption
My other blogs - hasya-vyang / Kavya Kunj / Pragati Blog / Pragati Parichay / Sab Ka Malik Ek hai / Tasvir Bolti Hai / Kishu-Sia Ki Duniya
India Against Corruption - A Jan Lokpal Bill has been designed which has strong measures to bring all corrupt people to book. Join the cause and fight to force politicians to implement this powerful bill as an act in the parliament.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

ISI Mark – Has it become a Tool For Cheating Consumer

Part II Packaged Drinking Water

Govt. of India has made ISI Marking mandatory for Packaged Drinking Water (PDW) for safety and health of consumers. In this part I will demonstrate if ISI mark is ensuring the quality of PDW or is cheating the consumer.

As per GOI order, PDW should conform to Indian Standard, IS 14543. The STI prescribed for this by BIS is Doc: STI/14543/6, August 2005 as per IS 14543: 2005 with 2 amendments. Let us find out how BIS ensures compliance of following requirements of STI:
Clause 1.0 LABORATORY- A laboratory shall be maintained, which shall be suitably equipped and staffed, where different tests given in the specification shall be carried out in accordance with the methods given in the specification. AND
Clause 13.0 STOP MARKING - The marking of the product shall be stopped under intimation to the Bureau if, at any time, there is some difficulty in maintaining the conformity of the product to the specification, or the testing equipment goes out of order. The marking may be resumed as soon as the defects are removed under intimation to BIS.

In December 2009, Vigilance department of BIS carried out raids on three licensees of PDW in Mumbai. During this raid following serious discrepancies amongst others were found:
a)       QC in-charge, responsible for testing of PDW, was found incompetent.
b)      Some testing equipment were found missing and some were found faulty.
c)       Test records were maintained without doing actual testing.
d)      PDW dispatched in the market without testing.

After the raids, local BIS office was informed and routine actions were taken. Licensees were advised to stop marking, they took corrective actions which were verified by local office and self-marking rights were restored.

Now let us see, what was not checked and how consumer was cheated.

It was clear that Packaged Drinking Water was sent in the market without testing but BIS officers did not check from which date it was being marketed without testing. They did not advise the licensees to immediately withdraw all Packaged Drinking Water available in the market. They did not advise the licensee to issue a notice in the media that consumers should not buy and consume Packaged Drinking Water of their brands as the same was not tested. Inspite of knowing it that Packaged Drinking Water available in the market (of these brands) could cause health problems to consumers as it has not been tested, BIS officers did not take any corrective and preventive action.

Under clause 13.0 of STI, licensees were required to stop marking on their own and inform BIS about it, but they did not comply with this statutory requirement. BIS officers also failed to record this serious discrepancy and did not seek licensees’ explanation on this. This is one requirement which is not checked in any BIS inspection and consumer, unknown of the potential health hazard, is left to consume hazardous ISI marked products. If this is not cheating and stabbing the consumer in the back then what else will constitute cheating and stabbing in back?

Were these BIS officers incompetent or they intentionally failed to protect consumer interest for some favour from the licensees. I have posted these “cheat the consumer” real stories of BIS on my blog MANAK. If you want to read the details then click on the following links:

Unit 1                Unit 2                Unit 3

ISI Mark – Has it become a Tool For Cheating Consumer

Part I Introduction

In my earlier post, ISI Mark – Symbol of ‘Quality’ or ‘Cheating’? - I submitted that ISI Mark is no more seen as a symbol of quality by majority of consumers. Confidence generated in ISI Mark in last 50 plus years is being misused by BIS licensees to cheat the consumer. Statutory provisions of BIS Certification Regulations are being openly violated by a management indifferent to consumer interest. Number of complaints have been sent to BIS vigilance department, number of articles have been posted on my blog MANAK, number of RTI applications have been filed, but it could not make any dent in corruption apparatus. Has BIS created a national standard for administrative corruption. Those involved in corruption openly say that no body can do anything against them.

On its website, BIS makes tall claims - The BIS Product certification Scheme operates in an impartial, non discriminatory and transparent manner. The documents stating the powers, rights and responsibilities of BIS and the affected sectors of society are published by the Government of India as the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986, Rules and (Certification) Regulations, 1988.  The specific procedure for operating a license are given in another document called the Scheme of Testing and Inspection (STI). Procedures provide for maintaining a very high degree of confidentiality and integrity among its personnel who perform certification related tasks. A body called the ' Certification Advisory Committee (CAC)' composed of persons from varied sectors like manufacturers, consumers, Government agencies, industries associations reviews the performance of the scheme and advises on key policy issues. Internally, a senior functionary designated as 'Additional Director General (Marks)' (ADGM) is responsible for ensuring that the scheme operates within the framework of rules and procedures established.

Anybody associated with BIS will have no hesitation is saying that all above claims are false. Impartiality, non-discrimination and transparency have lost their meaning in greed and corruption. Statutory provisions of Certification Regulations and STI are violated openly in connivance with licensees. Words like confidentiality and integrity have long been removed from BIS dictionary. CAC has not met for long. For ADGM certification is a foreign word. His only contribution to BIS is that he is always ready with his bags packed to proceed on pleasure trips in India and abroad.

In my subsequent parts I will deal with how consumers are being cheated.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

ISI Mark – Symbol of ‘Quality’ or ‘Cheating’?

You must have seen a mark on various products you use and which is popularly known as ISI Mark. As per the information available on the website of Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), presence of this mark on a product is an assurance of conformity to the specifications. Use of this mark is allowed to product manufacturers (licensees) under Product Certification Scheme of BIS which aims at providing Third Party Guarantee of quality, safety and reliability of products to the ultimate customer (consumer). The conformity is ensured by regular surveillance of the licensee's performance by surprise inspections and testing of samples, drawn both from the factory and market. Click here to read details on BIS website.

When BIS's predecessor, the Indian Standards Institution (ISI) began operating this product certification Scheme in 1955, this concept was unknown to Indian consumer. With hard and sincere work put in by ISI officers and staff, the concept started gaining confidence of Indian consumer, and soon ISI Mark became a household name. The mark became a symbol of quality both for individual consumers and bulk buyers.

In 1986, ISI became BIS through a legislative Act of the Indian Parliament, known as the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986, With change in name, entire culture of ISI changed. It became a pleasure ground of IAS officers who changed its character from a S&T organization to a bureaucratic organization. Today three top positions of BIS are occupied by IAS. Head of vigilance department is also an IAS. Efforts are on way to post IAS officers in regions also.

A Joint Parliamentary Committee was constituted by the Parliament on 22.08.2003 on Pesticide Residues in and Safety Standards for Soft Drinks, Fruit Juice and Other Beverages, under the Chairmanship of Sharad Pawar. One of the recommendations of JPC was that BIS should be headed by an eminent scientist who can infuse dynamism in its working. As the fate would have it, Sharad Pawar became Minister of Consumer Affairs in the next government and in that capacity became President of BIS. It was most unfortunate that as JPC Chairman, he had recommended that BIS should be headed by an eminent scientist but as BIS President he did not implement his own recommendation. After becoming President BIS, he started sending IAS officers as DG BIS and soon BIS top was packed with IAS officers.

For majority of consumers, ISI mark is no more a symbol of quality. They are least bothered whether the product he is buying is marked with ISI Mark or not. There is a joke –
Consumer 1 asked Consumer 2, ‘do you use ISI Marked products?’
'No', replied Consumer 2.
‘You must have worked in BIS’, observed Consumer 1. 

Through ISI Mark scheme, third party guarantee of quality, safety and reliability of products and their conformity to standards is claimed to be ensured by regular surveillance of the licensee's performance by surprise inspections and testing of samples, drawn both from the factory and market. As per Certification Regulations, minimum two surprise inspections should be carried out. In each inspection, minimum one sample should be tested in factory and minimum one sample should be drawn from factory for testing in an independent laboratory. In addition, after each inspection, minimum one sample should be drawn from market for testing in an independent laboratory.

I filed a RTI with BIS to provide information about 30 licenses of electric cables in Delhi and audited the information provided. Here are the findings of the audit:
a) No inspection was done in the whole year in case of 12 licenses.
b) Only one inspection was done in the whole year in case of 16 licenses.
c) Two inspections were done in the whole year in case of only 2 licenses.
d) Only 14 samples were tested in the factory against minimum 60 samples.
e) Only 13 samples were taken from the factory for independent testing against minimum 60 samples.
f) Only 3 samples were procured from the market for independent testing against minimum 60 samples.

How BIS can guarantee the quality of ISI marked products with above 'almost nil' monitoring? Required numbers of inspections are not carried out and also required numbers of samples are not tested. If it is not cheating then what else?  

For details of the above audit you can click on the following links:

Citizen Audit of BIS Product Certification (ISI Mark) Scheme 

No of inspections 

Testing of ISImarked products