In gross violation of mandatory online facility started by the Punjab government in March last year, the Jalandhar civil surgeon’s office is manually issuing invalid food registration certificates and licences to certain food business operators with no legal validity.
Only the district health officer and food safety officer is authorised to issue licences and registration certificates respectively as per the provisions of the Food Safety Act.
Moreover, these sham registration certificates and licences do not have any record on the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India website foodlicensing.fssai.gov.in.
These certificates carry the stamp of the civil surgeon’s office which is yet another violation of the guidelines issued by the state government.
Many of the food business operators, unaware of the online system, have paid Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000 despite the fact that the annual registration fee is just Rs 100 for a licence.
For online registration, one has to apply on the website after filling the requisite information. Then, the application goes to designated food safety officer (FSO).
The applicant approaches the officer who then asks him/her to submit the fee in the bank and submit payment details. The applicant can get the registration certificate after 10 days.
HT met food business operators who were issued such certificates by the civil surgeon’s office.
Balbir Singh, owner of a grocery shop and flour mill at Aman Nagar, has been issued a licence for which he paid Rs 6,000.
There is no record of Singh’s certificate (000071) on the Food Safety and Standards Authority website.
Shockingly, the certificate carries the renewal date as April 1, 2018, while validity of the same is just one year.
Singh claimed that he was not aware of the online facility and contacted the civil surgeon’s office for the purpose.
He said his annual turnover is Rs 5 lakh but the health department issued him a licence despite the fact one needs to have at least Rs 12 lakh annual turnover for a licence.
Similarly, the civil surgeon’s office issued a registration certificate (22114361006141) to Om Dhara Sweet Water at New Hardyal Nagar on November 9, 2014, with the renewal date mentioned as November 8, 2015. The certificate has manual alterations on it.
The unit owner, Sukhwinder Singh, said he paid Rs 5,000 for the certificate despite the fact that the fee for the same is Rs 100.
The details of the certificate were not found on the on the website.
When HT showed these certificates to civil surgeon Kailash Kapoor said, “These registration certificates were issued during the tenure of my predecessor Dr RL Bassan and carry his signatures. You may contact him and the food clerk concerned on this.”
Dr RL Bassan is now retired and is currently abroad.
Food clerk Rajpal claimed that the registrations and licences were issued before the launch of the online facility, but the documents reveal a different story. He also asked the HT correspondent to meet him and not file the story.
HT sent some registration certificates and licences to food safety commissioner Hussan Lal through WhatsApp. When contacted, he said, “The civil surgeon is not authorised to sign food registration certificates and licences. If it has happened, this is a serious discrepancy as only designated officers can issue licences and registration certificates to food business operators. All records should be on the website”.
He assured that state food safety nodal officer Dr Naresh Kumar would conduct a probe into the episode.