Central Government urged to postpone implementation

Food producers, dealers, traders and merchants joined hands to stage demonstrations simultaneously at 32 places across Tamil Nadu on Thursday demanding that the Central Government must postpone the implementation of the Food Safety and Standards (FSS) Act 2006, which was notified and implemented from August 5, 2011.

In Madurai, members of trade and industry bodies such as Madurai District Tiny and Small Scale Industries Association, The Tamil Nadu Foodgrains Merchants Association (TNFMA), Tamil Nadu Vanikar Sangangalin Perammaippu and Tamil Nadu Vanikar Sangangalin Peravai besides associations representing farmers and commodity dealers took part in the agitation.

To corporates

Terming it as beneficial only to corporates, the agitators said that the food standards under the new Act had been drafted without factoring in local ground conditions and were suited only for Western countries, where even a small farmer possessed over 100 acres.

Addressing the meeting, TNFMA Association president S.P. Jeyapragasam said that the FSA would sound the death knell for the small food operators who would be wiped out by its onerous provisions.

Even though a food business operator had obtained a licence to sell a particular product in one city, TNFMA vice president P. Subash Chandra Bose said, the operator would have to again apply for licence if he wanted to sell in another city.

Such provisions were only bringing back the hated “license raj” regime.

Further, he also said, the act mandated that a food product must maintain uniform standards across the country.

However, with climate, soil and farming practices varying across regions, such uniformity cannot be brought about, he added.

MADITSSIA president V.S. Manimaran said that while the Act specified that agro-products should be tested to ensure that they maintained the mandated standards, there were very few Government or accredited food laboratories in the country that were capable of analysing the samples.

He also noted that Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, in her address to the Legislature, had expressed the view that the Act would hurt the small industries.

Hefty fines

Various speakers also pointed out that fines as per FSA were over 100 times when compared to the erstwhile Prevention of Food Adulteration Act.

Besides demanding that the law give adequate time and opportunity to the people to set right their deficiencies, the protestors said that the maximum penalty must be brought substantially from the present Rs. 1 lakh.