The health department is under scanner for receiving fees from hundreds of food business operators working in the rural areas of the district for mandatory registration under the Food Safety Act, but it failed to issue any registration certificate to them.
Operators were handed over receipts of depositing fees by health centres in their respective areas and were asked to show receipts if any health official visits their outlets for checking.
As the civil surgeon office was authorised to issue certificate to them but even after two years after depositing the money, operators are waiting for registration certificates.
Most business operators are shopkeepers, sweet manufacturers, bakery owners, flour mills owners belonging to Malsian, Shahkot, Lohian Bhogpur, Kala Bakra, Bara Pind and other adjoining areas, who had deposited `100 to `500 for registration between the period 2013 to February 2014.
As per the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, it is mandatory to have a licence for food business operators with an annual turnover of above Rs 12 crore, while those earning less than this amount must get a registration certificate.
The registration fee is Rs 100 for the single year and the licence fee is Rs 2,000, Rs 3,000 and Rs 5,000 depending on the category of business.
HT went to Malsian, Shahkot and Kala Bakra areas and met food business operators who had submitted the requisite fees but yet to get certificate from the health department.
Sanjiv Kumar, proprietor of Laxmi General Store near Shahkot, said, “I had paid Rs 100 for one year registration on January 14, 2014 (a receipt shows) at the health centre but even after 23 months, no certificate was issued to me by the health department.”
Kumar told he used to inquire about the certificate from the health centre, but it gave only false claims of sending the certificate to him.
Joginder Pal, owner of Malli Sweet Shop in Malsian, told that he had deposited `200 at the health centre two years ago and also got a receipt of it, but he has not been issued any certificate by the health department yet.
When HT asked about the payment receipt, he said that it has been misplaced, but the department has not issued any official document.
“I had paid Rs 500 as registration fee for five years in 2013, but I have yet to get any registration document from the department,” Raj, owner of Pappu Bakery House, said.
Operators in other areas also complained of not receiving certificates even after paying fees.
HT also talked to several sanitary inspectors (SIs) in these areas, who were given the charge of asking food business operators for registration. Requesting anonymity, inspectors said that they had deposited the fees at the civil surgeon’s office at that time.
They added that they are helpless as they had themselves raised hue and cry with the senior officials but to no avail. They rued they are unable to tell about the status of their applications and fees.
Ramesh Kumar Hans, president, SIs association, said that his union is with operators and it would ensure them to get back their money.
Showing unawareness about this, civil surgeon Kailash Kapoor said it is a serious issue and if operators are not being issued registration certificates even after payment, the then district health officer (DHO) is responsible.
“I will call a meeting on this issue on Monday,” civil surgeon said, adding that operators should have also followed up their claims.
Food safety commissioner Hussan Lal said that the department would look into whole incident and he would ensure that those who have deposited fees, get registration certificates soon.