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Chandramouli appointment challenged; arbitrary practices led to losses

7,June, 2013

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is under fire. A Ghaziabad- based NGO Lok Jagriti has filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on May 29, 2013, challenging the appointment of K Chandramouli as chairperson of the Authority citing the reason that he did not fulfil the eligibility criteria for the post as desired under Section 5 of the FSS Act.
Under Section 5 (3) of FSS Act, the chairperson shall be appointed by the Central Government from amongst the persons of eminence in the field of food science or from amongst the persons from the administration who have been associated with the subject and is either holding or has held the position of not below the rank of secretary to the Government of India.
The petition says that the present chairman has no experience in food safety / food science and technology as prescribed under the FSS Act.
Additional charge
Further, Chandramouli has been given the additional charge of CEO since last December when the position fell vacant after former CEO S N Mohanty left the Authority.
According to the PIL, there was a case of conflict of interest as he held the position of CEO of the Authority alongside of chairperson, which has been lying vacant since December 2012, and this violated Section 5 (5) of the FSS Act. The said section says that the chairperson or members other than ex-officio members of the Authority shall not hold any other office.
The petition also criticised the health ministry for failing to take appropriate action for filling the vacant post of CEO.
Meanwhile, the High Court has directed the ministry of health and others to respond by August 17.
Misgovernance
Lok Jagriti’s Santosh Mishara said, “The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, is a bold and modern Act which was passed after taking into consideration the requirements of ensuring nutrition and hygiene, discarding unsafe food, and ensuring safe storage, transportation and delivery practices.”
“But, the various misgovernance issues in enforcement of the Act by the FSSAI are threatening public health. Further such food import was allowed for which no Indian standards were available,” he stated.
Closing of lab
He charged that the Central Food Laboratory at Ghaziabad, also a referral laboratory under the Act, was closed down due to the highhandedness of the chairperson of FSSAI, leading to chaos as private labs started thriving and charging exorbitant rates for simple testing of food articles. The closure, actually, requires approval of the board of the food authority.
The laboratory was to be strengthened and upgraded as National Science Risk Assessment Centre (NASRAC) for which a proposal was approved by the Food Authority Board in its 8th meeting in 2011, and was forwarded by the health ministry to the Planning Commission for suitable grant in the 12th Plan. The sub- group on drugs and health constituted by the Planning Commission has recommended an outlay of Rs 155 crore for upgradation of the laboratory.
Questionable actions
Mishara alleged that the present chairman of FSSAI in connivance with senior government officials got the CEO, FSSAI, transferred, who left the job within six months of appointment (from May to Dec 2012).
Meanwhile, the petition says that the irregular and arbitrary practices adopted by the chairperson are causing huge losses to the public exchequer and is also great impediment in functioning of the structural authorities provided under the FSS Act.
The petition adds that the chairperson, by issuing certain advisories, which otherwise are dehors the procedure, as he is not legally authorised to issue, has played with the health of the people by allowing certain additives in imported food and nutrition products which, otherwise till date, have not been allowed or safety of which has not been ascertained by the Scientific Panel constituted under this Act.
“The resultant anarchy has seriously jeopardised the health of the public and consumers and thus the safety and standards envisaged under the Act, are a far cry,” says the petition.
Licensing extension
He being the person having no prior experience or knowledge of food sciences does not seem to understand the repercussions his arbitrary actions will have on the whole food regime of this country, states the petition.
The petition charged that the extension of last date for acquiring licensing and ensuring registration of FBOs had caused huge revenue losses to the exchequer. The delay will cause a loss of about Rs 1,500 crore in terms of licensing fees, and Rs 500 crore of registration fees, which is required to be collected for operating the food business for one year only, it stated.

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