Did the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs give an inch, or did it take a mile? That’s the question, as officials across states and at various levels ponder how to take the measure of a measuring tape.
The issue arose out of one of those many onerous tasks of the government, in this case ensuring that inch-tape measures are accurate and not tampered with to cheat customers.
For this purpose, manufacturers of measuring tapes need to get their produce sized up and certified by the government. For decades, the fee for verifying each measuring tape up to 5 metres long varied between 10 paise and 15 — 15 paise if a Class II officer did it, 10 if the job went to a Class III officer. The manufacturer had to pay the fees before his or her tapes could be sold as ‘standard’ tapes.
However, as the 10 paise coin has disappeared and 25 paise too is no longer legal tender, the Union Consumer Affairs Ministry decided to revise the fees to 50 paise (the lowest-value coin issued now) for each 5-metre measuring tape.
That, dismayed private manufacturers note, is a five-fold jump in their expenditure. The Ludhiana-based Linear Measure Manufacturers Association petitioned the government in September 2013 against the “huge increase”.
Says Shashi Jain, the Ludhiana-based general secretary of the association, “We have to now pay officers inspecting tapes up to Rs 20 for measuring 100-200 m instead of the Rs 4 we gave them earlier. So we have become uncompetitive. Others who are using or just stamping imported Chinese tapes don’t even get this verification done. How will we compete with this price rise?”
In the two-page letter written to the ministry, the association noted that “the importers of Chinese measuring tapes and fly-by-night operators do not pay even a single paisa verification fee”. Further, it pointed out, “Enforcement agencies even today do not have the required training or equipment needed to conduct verification and are dependant on manufacturers for the process.”
Head of Legal Metrology at the Consumer Affairs Ministry, who is in charge of ensuring measures meet standards, Dr B N Dikshit urges the manufacturers to see the matter “from our technical point of view”. “10 p, 25 p are all finished. We charge a minimum of 50 p now which is very proper. Banks and government cannot accept evaluation in terms of 10 p and 25 p now, it’s untenable… Private tape-certifying laboratories charge up to Rs 100 for the job that we are doing fairly for 50 p. How is that unfair?”
Since the Linear Measurer Manufacturers’ Association’s complaint, letters have been exchanged between the Centre and states on their respective views and the status of the unverified measuring tapes.
As per a source, the last decision on the file says “state controllers are to set up inch-tape verification at Customs to inspect Chinese inch-tapes. That process is underway.”
Hopefully, says the Linear Measure Manufacturers Association, Chinese tapes will eventually be banned altogether.
Meanwhile the file on the matter is already 60-odd-page thick. Approximately 6 mm.
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