Test check revealed delays ranging from one month to 18 years in making 137 standards of the sample 214
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has slammed the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for being ineffective in its functioning. CAG has highlighted that the autonomous body, entrusted with the task of setting standards, has not formulated any standards on new and emerging areas affecting health and safety of consumers.
The standards bureau, which was set up in 1987, has been delaying setting standards in some important areas like bio-medical waste management in hospitals. No standards have been set for autoclaves, machines used for sterilisation of equipment used for medical procedures. Similarly, no standards have been set for various other critical components or equipment required under bio-medical waste management handling, said CAG in its report on BIS, titled Performance Audit of Autonomous Bodies, submitted to the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament on August 30.
The auditor general also highlighted that BIS initiated no work to set standards for safe magnetic field exposure for pregnant women and cardiac pacemaker users, despite a proposal of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in December 2009 to this effect. BIS responded to the charges by saying it never considered the matter as its thrust area.
Going further, CAG report stated that till now no quality standards exist for ingredients to be used in Ayurvedic medicines. BIS has replied that efforts are going on.
The auditor general also touched upon the burning issue of mobile phone radiation. It has pulled up BIS for not formulating safety standards for mobile phone handsets, their batteries and electromagnetic radiation (EMR) emitted by mobile phones (see ‘Bureau of Indian Standards failed to prescribe safety norms for mobile phones, towers: CAG report’).
To check the delay in setting of standards, CAG did a test check of 214 standards out of the total 18,222 standards made by BIS till March, 2011. The test revealed a delay ranging from one month to as much as 18 years in making 137 standards out of sample of 214.
Monitoring and inspection failures
CAG also criticised BIS for being unable to perform its monitoring and inspection roles despite being a quality assurance agency. It noticed a shortfall of up to 68 per cent in the collection of factory samples and 72 per cent in the collection of market samples for testing. Even the testing facilities in its laboratories were inadequate.
The auditor general also touched on the issue of hallmarking gold jewellery. “As the hallmarking of gold jewellery has not been made mandatory by BIS, consumers are exposed to the risk of buying impure gold jewellery. There is inadequate coverage of Indian jewellers and goldsmiths under the voluntary hallmarking scheme of BIS,” says the report.
CAG has also noticed significant delays of up to two years in granting licences to manufacturers to produce goods of standard quality.
CAG has recommended the timely formulation and review of standards, especially those pertaining to the health and safety of the consumers.
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