Joshi appeals to PM on rules for food vendors

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Murli Manohar Joshi has urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to revisit a decision by his government to enforce compulsory registration of all food business operators after February 4, saying it will inflict “untold hardships” on small retailers and food product manufactures.

“I would like to bring to your kind notice that the provisions of this Act and rules and regulations under it put unreasonable restrictions on doing food business. The licensing provisions, particularly the documentation required to run the business, are so numerous and harsh that a small trader will not survive under them,” he said in a letter to Singh on Thursday.

Joshi, who is also chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, has sought the prime minister’s intervention on the issue after a delegation from the Confederation of All India Traders approached him, expressing their reservations with the government’s decision to make registration of all food business operators compulsory after February 4.

The BJP leader requested Singh to listen to the grievances of the food business operators, who demand that the government should defer enforcement of compulsory registration for “at least one year” and constitute a special task force to make an in-depth study of the Food Safety and Standard Act and its rules. “It is requested that an opportunity of personal hearing may also be granted to the federation to place their views in person before the committee,” Joshi urged.

The implementation has been facing hurdles since the provision was brought in. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has so far extended the deadline to obtain licensing and registration for the food business operators twice since 2012.  The first deadline to obtain licensing and registration was extended from August 4, 2012, to February 4, 2013. The time frame was against extended to February 4, 2014.

As per the rules, anyone engaged in selling anything edible, including those from roadside tea stalls, dhabas, fruit and vegetable hawkers, grocery shops, milk vendors, canteens, caterers, restaurants, hotels and food processors, must get a licence or register by February 4, 2013, or will be penalised by the food regulator.

“It appears that the technical facilities, laboratories and technical staff required for implementing the above said rules are almost non-existent. It will not be advisable to enforce the rules without having proper infrastructure both scientific and administrative in the field. I do not know whether the number of laboratories, technical manpower and trained administrative staff is available,” Joshi noted in his letter.

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