One nation, one standard

Reading time : 10 minutes

Introduction

One Nation, One Standard is a scheme that was deliberated by Minister of Food and Consumer’s Affairs, Ram Vilas Paswan in September, 2019. Envisioned through the scheme of One Nation, One Ration Card, this scheme aims to merge multiple standards into one. Simply stated, the point is to create one template of standard for one product. Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) shall be the recognized body which shall standardize any given product or service.

Presently, every product has more than one way of standardizing. Also, there are multiple agencies which authorize such standards making it difficult for implementation and monitoring of the standards required. Having one set standard would mean that all over India, any standardizing of any product will integrate with the rules set by BIS.

The BIS has come out with more than 20,000 standards for various products and services so far. Besides this, there are about 50-odd agencies that have framed about 400 standards in the country[1]. After all the converging all the present standards of any one product or service, India would set a global benchmark by making ‘One National Standard for One Subject’.

Why and how?

After understanding what One Nation One Standard is all about, the question that rises is why this policy is necessary and how government is planning to implement it?

The aim of the policy is to merge multiple standards and bring uniformity in the standards of a product. The hope is that such uniform standardization will reduce confusion amongst the consumers while ensuring relevance of Indian standards in the market[2].

Quality product or service to the consumer is the main goal of any standardization. This scheme is also desirable because a set standardization of quality will ensure that a product available at national capital is of same quality as available in a small village situated in North-eastern states. In fact, as Shri Piyush Goyal Minister for Railways, Commerce & Industry and Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution stated, the scheme should aim to have such standards that no one feels that one needs to go abroad to get quality certification.[3] 

Uniformity of standardization will increase the number of products to be mandatorily standardized. This way quality of more products and services in the market can be ensured, which will ultimately benefit the consumers. Just like how Shri Goyal mentioned, the scheme aims to achieve high international standards, as such the products in India’s market will be able to compete with products of its western counterparts.

One of the more important reasons for implementing this policy is to ease monitoring and implementation of standardization[4]. If the product does not have to pass through standards set by multiple agencies then measuring the quality in accordance to one uniform standard would make it easier for the officer to ascertain. Besides since there will be one set standard for any one product or service then it would be easier for that product or service to find market in other areas within the nation. For instance, a gold chain which has certified hallmark on it can be sold in any region without going through some other tests of standard.

Standard of product or service of any nation is one of the perimeters which exemplify its strength[5]. As such, this policy can help India to put global bench mark on national standardization. This is would be a good achievement especially in present scenario which undergoes processes under globalization.

National uniformity and standardization in all kinds of public procurement and tendering can be an immediate deliverable.[6] Also, since all the shareholders of products or services would participate in the standard developing process by aligning with BSI the time difference between standard development and ground adoption of the standards will decrease.[7] This means that since standards are converging, all the related people will find it easy to check for standards. Hence, implementation will get easier as well. Not to mention that since there is only one standard for any one subject, the time between production and consumption would be reduced. This will make it easier to increase supply of any product or service which might be needed urgently to fulfill demand of a region.

Developing one template of standard for any one subject rather than multiple standards set by multiple agencies allows an identity of ‘Brand India’ to develop in long run.[8] If brand India becomes a solidified identity, it would be easier to introduce our products in international market. With uniform standard, measuring quality of any Indian product would become easier. Such uniform standards would also ensure investors to various business people. As, investors would be aware the quality standards that any given product or service is suppose to meet, they would be clear which area can ascertain definite returns when invested in.

The policy can also ensure compliance with the terms and conditions entailing conformance to the established six principles of standardization with greater emphasis on maintaining Transparency, Openness, Impartiality, Effectiveness, Coherence and Development Dimension.[9] This essentially means that consumers would benefit greatly with establishment of such policy.

As far as implementation of this scheme goes, the policy will rely on the proper functioning of Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). The BIS will work with various agencies responsible for setting standard of any given product or service to establish one uniform standard which will be applicable all over India. Therefore, as BIS Deputy Director General Rajesh Bajaj said, the entire process will take time and it will depend how soon other agencies are willing to converge with BIS.[10]  

A participatory approach is to be taken for the development of the standards. That is to say that all the shareholders will work with BIS to form uniform standards which could be applicable throughout the nation. This initiative will reduce the time between the development and innovation stage and actual ground usage.[11]

Explaining the process, BIS Deputy Director General Rajesh Bajaj said, “Once they (various old agencies responsible for setting standards) are ready, their standard will be re-designated. For example, if FSSAI converges its standards, then its products would be known as BIS/FSSAI”[12] he further explained that it is likely that BIS would be a body which will only design the standards applicable and not regulate or implement them. NITI Ayog also suggested that it would be better to have separate regulator for each sector but it was under discussion.

Currently, the standards set by Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) for railway sector has been recognized by BIS and implementation of the same will take place under the policy of one nation one standard. This partnership would help RDSO which is the sole R&D wing of railways department, to realign its standards with the  code of good practices mentioned under the WTO-Technical Barriers to Trade (WTO-TBT).[13] Hence, RDSO has become the first body to align itself with BIS and implement standards in accordance to the policy of one nation one standard. The validity of these standards has been set for three years presently.

Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)

BIS is the national standard body of India. It works under the aegis of Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Government of India and has been established under the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 2016 brought into force with effect from 12 October 2017. Its aim is harmonious development of activities related to standardization and certification of quality of products and services. In fact, through such standardization and certification, BIS is helping in providing reliable quality products. This in turn also reduces health hazards while promoting exports and increasing substitutes for imports.[14] As a corporate body, it has 25 members that come from Central or State Governments, industry, scientific and research institutions, and consumer organizations. The headquarter of BIS is in New Delhi, with regional offices in Eastern Region at Kolkata, southern Region at Chennai, Western Region at Mumbai, Northern Region at Chandigarh and Central Region at Delhi and 20 branch offices. It also works as WTO-TBT enquiry point for India.

BIS is involved in multiple activities and tasks which include:

  • STANDARDS FORMULATION- standard formulation is one of the major activities that BIS has to work upon. The formulation of standards must align with national priorities for various sectors which has been grouped into 14 Departments like Chemicals, Food and Agriculture, Civil, Electro-technical, Electronics & Information Technology, Mechanical Engineering, Management & Systems, Metallurgical Engineering, Petroleum Coal & Related Products, Medical Equipment and Hospital Planning, Textile, Transport Engineering, Production & General Engineering and Water Resources. Fourteen council divisions exist to correspond with these departments with sectional committees working under it[15].
  • INTERNATIONAL ACTIVITIES– firstly, as previously mentioned, BIS also works as enquiry point of WTO-TBT or World Trade Organisation – Technical Barriers to Trade. Besides this, BIS is also involved with other international organization invested in developing standards which are more of a globalised nature. These organization includes[16]
    • International Organization for Standardization (ISO)- this organization is independent and non-governmental membership organization. This means that the nature of the organization is voluntary. It also is world’s largest organization that deals with development of voluntary international standards. BIS is a founder member actively involved in the development of international standards. In fact, it acts as a participatory or observing member in certain subjects like Technical Committees, Sub-Committees, Working Groups, etc.
    • International Electro-technical Commission (IEC)- the organization was established in 1906 and is world’s leading institute for preparation and publication of international standards in areas of electrical, electronic and related technologies. India is represented in this organization through BIS.
    • Regional and Bilateral Cooperation- BIS represent India in many Co-operative programmes that are of regional or bi-lateral nature. These programmes deal mainly standardization, testing, certification, training etc. multiple MoUs have been signed between BIS and national standards bodies of other countries. BIS also ensures that formulation and implementation of regional standards conform to the assessment scheme for SAARC countries under South Asian Regional Standards Organization (SARSO).
  •  PRODUCT CERTIFICATION- as a proof that a certain product passes the standards formulated by BIS, BIS grants a certification popularly known as ISI mark. Therefore any product bearing the mark of ISI is conforming to the standards set by BIS. BIS also grants license to manufacturers. These licenses are granted if the after ensuring infrastructure and capacity of any manufacturer to produce the products. The products are also continuously tested with regular intervention. The nature of certification is voluntary in general. However, the central government has issued mandatory certification of certain products in public interest under certain statutes[17].
  • HALLMARKING- in April 2000 BIS introduced a mark on gold jewelries provided by a third party to assure the consumers’ of the purity and fitness of the jewelry. Later, in 2005 this scheme of marking gold jewelries was extended to silver jewelries and artifacts as well. Under this hallmarking scheme, a certificate of registration was granted to jewelers to sell hallmarked metal ware. Assaying and Hallmarking centers were granted authority to assign hallmark after checking for purity and fineness in the metalwork of registered jeweler, a declaration stating the purity is also issued conforming that the standards pass the relevant Indian Standards[18].
  • LABORATORY- any certification test conforming standards of any given product require a specialized laboratory. As Shri Goyal stated that India needs to work for the best and as such labs with modern equipments are necessary. As such BIS established eight labs known as Central Laboratory (CL), Sahibabad; Western Regional Office Laboratory (WROL), Mumbai; Northern Regional Office Laboratory (NROL), Mohali; Eastern Regional Office Laboratory (EROL), Kolkata; Southern Regional Office Laboratory (SROL), Chennai; Bangalore Branch Office Laboratory (BNBOL), Bangalore; Patna Branch Office Laboratory (PBOL), Patna; Guwahati Branch Office Laboratory (GBOL), Guwahati. Other than these, BIS also recognize NABL accredited laboratories and government labs to discharge work related to testing of any product[19].
  • NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF TRAINING FOR STANDARDIZATION (NITS)– BIS also train personnel of  industry, consumer organizations, public sector undertakings, govt. bodies and developing countries through NITS to impart skills in technical and management area. BIS also conducts International Training Programmes (ITP) in cooperation with Government of India for developing countries[20].
  • CONSUMER AFFAIRS AND PUBLICITY– to create awareness and promote quality amongst the consumers, BIS works on various activities such as:[21]
    • Consumer Awareness Programmes
    • Industry Awareness Programmes
    • Educational Utilization of Standards Programmes
    • World Standards Day
    • Public Grievances
    • Public Relations    

Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) Act, 2016

Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan, Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution on August 7, 2015, introduced Bureau of Indian Standards Bill, 2015 in Lok Sabha. This bill was to replace Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986. The bill was introduced to expand the current standardization processes in such a manner as to procure higher quality goods in the market. Another role of the bill was to allow central government to make standardization of certain notified goods, articles, processes, etc, to carry the standard mark. This was done in public interest.

Previous BIS Act, 1986, allowed standardization for articles and processes. This bill increased the jurisdiction to include goods, services and systems as well. The bill also gave clear-cut definitions of various terms such as certification body, conformity assessment, consumer etc. while the jurisdiction has increased, the process itself is simplifies as it allows multiple simplified conformity assessment schemes including self-declaration of conformity.[22]

The bill has also established Bureau of Indian Standards which will be responsible for formulation, implementation and certification of certain standards of quality for goods, services, articles, processes and systems. The bill also established a Governing Council that would be responsible for general superintendence, direction and management of the Bureau.[23]

Hallmark scheme under this bill shall cover precious metal articles including silver, gold, platinum, and palladium or their alloys. While certification is voluntary in nature there are certain goods which would require mandatory certification. According to the bill articles related to- (i) public interest or for the protection of human, animal or plant health, (ii) safety of the environment, (iii) prevention of unfair trade practices, or (iv) national security shall require the mandatory certification.

The bill also has a provision for recall of goods, services, articles etc. This would mean that even if a product has been already introduced in the market for sale or supply may be called back by BIS if it does not meet the required standards established. The product maybe asked to be repaired or removed by BIS.[24]

Any improper use of Indian Standard Mark will lead to penalty of rupees five lakh. Besides this, the bill also prescribe punishment for (i) the improper use of the standard mark by testing and marking centers, and (ii) manufacturing or selling goods and articles which do not carry a standard mark and have been mandated to do so, among others.[25] There is provision to compound offences committed which are punishable by fine unless the offence has been repeated or compounding of offences has been done before.

If a corporate commits the offence under this bill, then the person guilty would be the one in charge of the company even if the offence has been committed without his prior consent or knowledge.

Another provision of the bill deals with the appeals made against an order regarding the granting of a license or certificate of conformity, or compounding of offences. Such an appeal can be made to the Director General of BIS while any appeal against the order of the Director General can be made to the central government.[26]    

 The bill has also identified other new fields which need to be standardized. These include Alternate fuels, E-mobility, Medical Devices, Smart Cities, Digital Technologies (e.g. Industry 4.0, Artificial Intelligence, Block Chain etc.) and New and Renewable energy.[27]

Conclusion

One thing is for certain, the policy of one nation one standard which strives to create one standard for one subject all over the nation, is a very ambitious policy. If implemented properly it could ensure consumers of the quality of anything they purchase while making marking and monitoring of standards a lot easier for all the authorities related. These standards which will conform as much as possible to international high standards will attract foreign investors while providing high quality substitute to many imported goods. It would simplify processes related to standardization and decrease the time between implementation of standard and actual purchase of product.

However, there is a question if such a step to make the system more rigid bringing back the ‘inspector raj’. Inspector raj or over-regulation by government has caused much hindrance in running business from 1947 to 1990. As such if by implementing this scheme the progress will face obstacle then is it a good proposal? Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan has stated previously in his statement that this scheme is strictly to bring up quality and not for reviving inspector raj. The stakeholders are to work together in formulation of the regulations which would remain uniform throughout India. Therefore, without multiple standards, it is unlikely that there would be issue of over-regulation from the side of the government.

Next issue that this policy may face is of utility. In India, where there is such a vast diversity in topography and climate system in various regions, will a uniform standard be a good solution. Consider this, a place like Delhi might have many people who use umbrella to shield themselves from sun while people from cities like Bangalore which have higher precipitation, are more likely to use it against rain. Similarly, the food prepared in different regions are different and so if the quality of product is standardized uniformly, then it might be suitable for one dish but for another. What I mean to say is, can one standard conquer the different requirements of different market of one product?

Despite such obstacles, RDSO has aligned with BIS and this initiative can be seen as first step forward to actualization of ‘one nation one standard’. Considering that this policy has been made in line with the policy’ one nation one ration card’, it is expected to show positive result and hence has been welcomed with positive perspective.   


[1]One Nation One Standard Mission, Civilsdaily, UPSC IAS Preparation, 23.02.2021

[2] Director General of BIS Pramod Kumar Tiwari, Implementation of first step towards ‘one nation one standard’, The Hindu, JUNE 01, 2021

[3] It’s time to embark on Mission “One Nation One Standard” and make India the leader in setting global benchmarks in setting standards, Shri Piyush Goyal Minister for Railways, Commerce & Industry and Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution available at https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1699604 (visited on 24.06.2021)

[4] Consumer Affairs Secretary Avinash K Srivastava, Working on ‘one nation, one standard’ policy to maintain quality of products, services: Paswan, available at https://government.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/policy/working-on-one-nation-one-standard-policy-to-maintain-quality-of-products-services-paswan/71097331, posted at 12.09.2019

[5] ‘One Nation One Standard’ Mission, available at https://www.insightsonindia.com/2021/02/22/one-nation-one-standard-mission/, posted on 22.02.2021 

[6] Shri Piyush Goyal, available at at https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1699604 (visited on 24.06.2021)

[7] One nation one standard mission, available at https://journalsofindia.com/one-nation-one-standard-mission/, posted at 02.06.2021

[8] Sumit Arora, RDSO Becomes First Standards Body to Join ‘One Nation, One Standard’ Scheme, available at https://currentaffairs.adda247.com/rdso-becomes-first-standards-body-to-join-one-nation-one-standard-scheme/, 02.06.2021 

[9] One nation one standard mission, available at https://journalsofindia.com/one-nation-one-standard-mission/, posted at 02.06.2021

[10] BIS Deputy Director General Rajesh Bajaj, available at https://government.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/policy/working-on-one-nation-one-standard-policy-to-maintain-quality-of-products-services-paswan/71097331, posted at 12.09.2019

[11] One nation one standard mission, available at https://journalsofindia.com/one-nation-one-standard-mission/, posted at 02.06.2021

[12] Working on ‘one nation, one standard’ policy to maintain quality of products, services, says Ram Vilas Paswan, Financial Express, available at https://www.fssai.gov.in/upload/media/FSSAI_News_Nation_Express_16_09_2019.pd, posted at 12.09.2019

[13] RDSO becomes first standards body to join ‘One Nation, One Standard’ scheme, Bussiness Standard, available at https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/rdso-becomes-first-standards-body-to-join-one-nation-one-standard-scheme-121060100877_1.html, posted on 01.06.2021

[14] Bureau of Indian Standards, official page, available at https://bis.gov.in/index.php/the-bureau-2/about-us/, visited 27.06.2021

[15] Bureau of Indian Standards, Department of Consumers Affairs, available at https://consumeraffairs.nic.in/organisation-and-units/division/bureau-indian-standards, visited on 27.06.2021

[16] Bureau of Indian Standards, Department of Consumers Affairs, available at https://consumeraffairs.nic.in/organisation-and-units/division/bureau-indian-standards, visited on 27.062021

[17] Bureau of Indian Standards, Department of Consumers Affairs, available at https://consumeraffairs.nic.in/organisation-and-units/division/bureau-indian-standards, visited on 27.062021

[18] Bureau of Indian Standards, Department of Consumers Affairs, available at https://consumeraffairs.nic.in/organisation-and-units/division/bureau-indian-standards, visited on 27.062021

[19] Bureau of Indian Standards, Department of Consumers Affairs, available at https://consumeraffairs.nic.in/organisation-and-units/division/bureau-indian-standards, visited on 27.062021

[20] Bureau of Indian Standards, Department of Consumers Affairs, available at https://consumeraffairs.nic.in/organisation-and-units/division/bureau-indian-standards, visited on 27.062021

[21] Bureau of Indian Standards, Department of Consumers Affairs, available at https://consumeraffairs.nic.in/organisation-and-units/division/bureau-indian-standards, visited on 27.062021

[22] Bureau of Indian standards (BIS) Act 2016, Drishti, available at https://www.drishtiias.com/daily-updates/daily-news-analysis/bureau-of-indian-standards-bis-act-2016, posted on 17.07.2019

[23] The Bureau of Indian Standards Bill, 2015, Ministry:  Consumer Affairs and Food Distribution, available at https://prsindia.org/billtrack/the-bureau-of-indian-standards-bill-2015, visited at 27.06.2021

[24] Bureau of Indian standards (BIS) Act 2016, Drishti, available at https://www.drishtiias.com/daily-updates/daily-news-analysis/bureau-of-indian-standards-bis-act-2016, posted on 17.07.2019

[25] The Bureau of Indian Standards Bill, 2015, Ministry:  Consumer Affairs and Food Distribution, available at https://prsindia.org/billtrack/the-bureau-of-indian-standards-bill-2015, visited at 27.06.2021

[26] The Bureau of Indian Standards Bill, 2015, Ministry:  Consumer Affairs and Food Distribution, available at https://prsindia.org/billtrack/the-bureau-of-indian-standards-bill-2015, visited at 27.06.2021

[27] Bureau of Indian standards (BIS) Act 2016, Drishti, available at https://www.drishtiias.com/daily-updates/daily-news-analysis/bureau-of-indian-standards-bis-act-2016, posted on 17.07.2019

Author: Aakriti Jaipuriar, Amity Law School, Amity University, Noida

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India.

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