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Thursday, 01 August, 2013, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Manjushree Naik
The licensing and registration of FBOs under the Food Safety & Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses) Regulations, 2011, has once again come under focus with news of poor implementation and inadequate infrastructure trickling in from all parts of the country.

The latest in this regard is the complete lack of vision in successfully starting an online version throughout the country. Interestingly, except the states of Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat it is the same everywhere.

Among these two states, Andhra Pradesh (before the decision on its bifurcation into Andhra and Telangana) has been one of the earliest to set up an extremely efficient e-governance system, and hence, its record of 100 per cent online licensing & registration is no surprise.

As for Gujarat, thanks to its proactive food commissioner, the state, like in the case of many other initiatives that it has competently implemented in the past, is once again going ahead with setting up infrastructure and ensuring online licensing & registration methodically.

After the good news, let us take a look at the bad reports. Surprisingly even Maharashtra, which is said to have the best FDA (Food and Drug Administration) setup in the country, has recorded only 10 per cent online licensing & registrations.

In this regard, FBOs claim that the system does not work properly resulting in repeated errors and failures in attempts. That apart, many of them, especially, those belonging to small and medium enterprises are not tech-savvy and hence opt for manual procedure.

While that is the case in Maharashtra, neighbouring Goa is slightly better with online constituting 30 per cent of the licensing and registrations that it has carried out. Then there are those like Haryana and Chandigarh, which have started the online procedure recently, but are hardly finding any takers.

Meanwhile, the online procedure in states like Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and Union territory of Puducherry has not started at all. The reasons for the delay vary from absence of relevant infrastructure, limited manpower, to lack of training to FBOs about online registration and licensing.

Of course, the Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has been taking measures to solve each of these problems; namely, buying, developing and installing the required technology, ensuring recruitment of people and organising training workshops and melas. But clearly these have not been sufficient as the issues remain the same – systems that do not work efficiently, people who do not have enough knowledge or inadequate compared to the number of FBOs in a region and poor response to workshops and melas.

This being the background, what is it that the Authority can do to speed up the licensing and registration procedure as the deadline (changed twice earlier) – Feb 4, 2014 – is just a few months away? One method could be that the Authority opens special licensing & registration kiosks loaded with the required information technology systems in all the states. These kiosks could be manned by tech-savvy personnel who would help the applicants in completing the procedure in a matter of a few minutes. This way, there is a possibility that the Authority is able to adhere to its latest deadline, definitely.
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