State prepares ground to privatise Department of Legal Metrology

The State government is preparing ground for privatisation of the Department of Legal Metrology. If plans come through, Karnataka will be the first State to do so.

While the officials argue that the move will usher in higher accountability and transparency in verification and stamping of all weighing equipment, activists argue that a core activity like monitoring weights and measures should be retained with the government.

Before Cabinet

A proposal, which also has the Finance Department’s concurrence, had been placed in last week’s Cabinet meeting. It was, however, deferred and the Department of Food and Civil Supplies under which the Legal Metrology Department functions has been asked to rework the proposal and submit it again.

Aimed at “breaking the monopoly” of field staff responsible for stamping the weighing and measuring equipment and “checking corruption”, the proposal will enable the Food and Civil Supplies Department to create area-wise Government Approved Testing Centres (GATCs). The manufacturers of weights and measures will also have representation in the GATC. This will help in higher accountability and manufacturers will be liable for stringent punishment if any malpractices are found, said a top official source.

Confirming this to The Hindu, Food and Civil Supplies Minister U.T. Khader said the move was an administrative reform. “The department is short-staffed and it is not possible for the 150 field inspectors to check, verify and stamp all weighing equipment in the State,” he said.

“Despite privatisation, field inspectors and other staff will continue to have the powers of cross verification and random inspection of equipment,” the Minister said.

According to the department’s data, there are over five lakh establishments and over 20 lakh weighing equipment in the State. As of now, 150 field inspectors and 3,000 licensed repairers (called metric men) are verifying and stamping the equipment. “While electronic equipment are stamped annually, mechanical ones are done once in two years. Corruption is rampant in this exercise and most of the times the equipment are not even verified before stamping,” sources said.

Opposition to move

Kathyayini Chamaraj, Executive Trustee of Civic, said that certain tasks that involve the interests of a large number of citizens should be retained with the government. “Once you outsource it, you cannot hold them accountable,” she said.

The move is also being opposed by the department’s staff and Karnataka Metric Men’s Association, whose contention is that privatisation of the department would unleash “a new reign of corruption.”

R. Ashok, association president, asked why Karnataka was keen on it when no other State government had thought about it. The association is launching a hunger strike against the move from Tuesday.

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 7:27:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/State-prepares-ground-to-privatise-Department-of-Legal-Metrology/article14572620.ece

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