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Chikki scam: Policy to prevent buying of substandard goods

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New Delhi: The State government on Tuesday, informed the Bombay High Court of a policy decision which would ensure that no goods of substandard quality are henceforth purchased.

The policy was passed due to reports of the alleged supply of substandard chikki food snacks to Maharashtra anganwadis.

The policy, ‘Manual of Office Procedure for Purchase of Stores by Government Department’, was set out by a government resolution issued on October 30. The information was conveyed to justices VM Kanade and Revati Mohite Dere by Shrihari Aney, advocate general.

According to the new policy, the state departments would have to follow several procedures under various categories, before an item is purchased. To reduce any corruption allegation, financial constraints have been put into place.

On every purchase, further e-tendering has been now made compulsory. E-tenders will have to be issues for Rs 5,000 to Rs 50,000 per annum purchases. In cases of purchases between Rs 3 lakh to Rs 1 crore, quotations would also have to be called before tenders are issued. Prior government approval is compulsory before any purchase is made.

Sandeep Ahire and others sought an inquiry into the alleged Rs 206 crore chikki scam through a public interest litigation. It was during this hearing that the statement had been made.

When the court wanted to know whether any government inquiry was set up to look into the alleged scam, Aney informed that no such move had been made. However, he also notified that the food and drug administration commissioner had found the chikki quality fine after carrying out quality checks.

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Food adulteration in India, the reason you need to be careful with what you eat

There is a good probability that a lot of what you eat is adulterated. Therefore, it becomes essential to cross check the purity of the things you consume

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Food adulteration in India and its consequences
Food adulteration in India has been highly rampant. Pixabay
  • Food adulteration has been highly rampant in India 
  • “Some of the most common adulterated foods are milk and milk products, atta, edible oils, cereals, condiments”
  • The case of food adulteration that took the country by storm was the case of Maggi Noodles, India’s most popular snack

New Delhi, August 1, 2017: The definition of food adulteration according to the Food and Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is, “The addition or subtraction of any substance to or from food so that the natural composition and quality of food substance is affected.”

Food adulteration has been highly rampant in India. India, on a usual basis, witnesses a number of cases of people getting affected by consuming adulterated food products.

According to FSSAI, “Some of the most common adulterated foods are milk and milk products, atta, edible oils, cereals, condiments, pulses, coffee, tea, confectionery, baking powder, vinegar, besan and curry powder.”

The case of food adulteration that took the country by storm was the case of the very loved, Maggi Noodles. Maggi Noodles was found to contain a higher than the permissible level of lead and MSG. The entire nation was shocked to know that India’s most popular snack is not safe for consumption. Nutritionists suggest that consumption of lead for a long period of time can have hazardous consequences on the body.

Also read: To eat or not to eat? Think before you eat food items from these brands.

“The Annual Public Laboratory Testing Report for 2014-15 brought out by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) says that of the 49,290 samples of food items it tested, 8,469, nearly one-fifth, were found adulterated or misbranded,” suggests a report in The Hindu.

The worst part is, despite the potential of disastrous consequences of adulteration, the government is very lenient in providing punishment for the crime. Even if the culprit is caught, the system isn’t strict enough and one can easily get away.

“The reason behind the increasing trend in food adulteration practices is the poor ethical framework and lack of values. Government laws have their limits, it is the values in people that automatically resist them to do unethical practices,” says Rahul Gupta who works for the Food Corporation of India.

“In regard to milk, the demand and supply gap, and the ease with which it can be handled is what makes it the softest target of adulteration,” he mentioned.

Sections 272 and 273 of the Indian Penal Code deal with the offense of Adulteration of Food and Drink Intended for Sale entailing a punishment of six months imprisonment or payment of Rs. 1000 fine in case of a person adulterating some food or drink, as an attempt to make the food or drink noxious, intending to sell it, or knowing the likeliness of the same being sold as a food or drink.

There is a good probability that a lot of what you eat is adulterated. Therefore, it becomes essential to cross check the purity of the things you consume. The situation is, indeed grave and one needs to be watchful!

-by Samiksha Goel of Newsgram. Twitter @goel_samiksha

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Swachh Bharat cess: When cleanliness comes at a price

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The 0.5% Swachh Bharat cess which is slated to bring in around 10,000 crores a year for the government might seem to be a small change, but its effects are far-reaching. Making a PAN card, travelling via train or even going to a restaurant will all cost more.

The yearly Budgets have become a licensed opportunity to fiddle with the tax laws and rates. It was in the Budget 2015-16 that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley proposed a 2% Swachh Bharat cess “on all or certain services, if the need arises”, but no date was set as such at the time. Since the initial cess proposed was 2%, the question remains as to would the remaining cess be levied later?

Many might support this move viewing it as a measure to uplift the filthy face of the country which has become a point of public shame. However, in a country where fund diversion is only too common, how can we, the common citizen taxpayers of the country, be sure that the money won’t go into Modi’s image-making campaign but truly in cleaning the nation? After all the Swachh Bharat campaign was an initiative towards a better political mileage for the Prime Minister and the BJP.

Within the remaining months of this fiscal the Swachh Bharat cess is supposed to yield around Rs 3,800 crore. But funds usually don’t reach where it’s most needed—the municipality and the panchayat levels in general.

A notification regarding the cess was issued by the CBEC on November 6 and it was effective from November 15, following which, all taxable services face a hike from 14% to 14.5% in service tax rates. Being Diwali week, many were on holiday during this period and most companies couldn’t make the necessary changes at such short notice.

The 2015-16 Budget held no benefits for the average salary earning citizens but promised to cut corporate taxes from 30% to 25% in four years. Modi has even promised foreign firms of tax exemption. Is it not the duty of the corporates to contribute to a cleaner country? Why is it that only individuals are burdened on this count?

Moreover, it was only on November 11 that many of the issues were clarified by CBEC through FAQs, such as—services with alternate tax rates will also have alternate cess rates, and that no Cenvat credit would be available on this Swachh Bharat Cess. Without this input credit, the effective rate of the tax is marginally more than the proposed 14.5% service tax on paper.

As per initial estimates, the Swachh Bharat project needs a funding of ₹62,009 crore. 23 per cent of this (₹14,623 crore) would be paid by the Government of India while the States would pay ₹4,874 crore (25 per cent of the government paid amount).

The remaining amount is expected to come from the Swachh Bharat Kosh, Private Sector Participation, State governments/ULB resources, innovative revenue streams, user charges, and other methods such as external assistance and CSR. User charges are usually only used for maintenance expenses, and borrowing money for a social cause is never a good idea. The government would do good to think of alternative methods, such as a deduction from every individual under the Income Tax Act.

A cleanliness drive has to start at the grassroots level and on a regular basis to address the country’s filth problem. A civic sense needs to be developed in each and every citizen for this project to turn into a reality. The cess described by the Finance Ministry as “not another tax, but a step towards involving each and every citizen in making a contribution to Swachh Bharat” is definitely not the way to achieve this end.