Magazine: Weights & The Society
(Volume: 06 & Issue No.: 1)
Published by Shanker Wire Products Industries
GOLDEN JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS OF METRIC SYSTEM IN INDIA
“Legal Metrology – Achievements of India and what it can offer to others.”
Sri P.A Krishnamurthy,
Former Director, Legal Metrology,
Government of India.
The field of ‘Legal Metrology’ or Weights and Measures’ as is known in the common parlance, is the field where measurements are regulated by Government laws for the benefit of all stakeholders. The main object of such regulation is to ensure standardized procedures for calibration acceptable to all stakeholders, transparency in the whole procedure, and accountability of the measurement results.
THE LAWS OF LEGAL METROLOGY IN INDIA:
Regulation of Weights and Measures were implemented in the early stages of post-independence through the Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1956, and the standards of Weights and Measures Enforcement Acts of the States and Union Territories. These Acts required the adoption of the metric systems in basic units of mass, length, and volume units in commercial transactions and ensuring verification of certain basic commercial weights and measures weighing and measuring instruments used in mass, length, and volume. The specification of the commercial weights and measures were prepared by the Metric Committee of the then Indian Standards Institution (BIS) and notified in the form of Rules under the Enforcement Act. The metrication and regulation of such rudimentary weights and measures were achieved fairly well by the dedicated enforcement agency throughout the county and in the process, fairly uniform procedures for the regulation of these measuring instruments were achieved with regard to the licensing policy of their manufacture, sale, and repair.
With the developments in trade and science and technology, the need for upgrading the coverage of the 1956 Act was felt and revised Acts were adopted by the Parliament to replace the earlier acts. The Standards of Weights and Measures act, 1976 and the standards of Weights and Measures [Enforcement] Act, 1985 were adopted, which widened significantly the scope of coverage of the regulation of weights and measures in the country. The new Standards Act adopted International System of Measurements [SI System-extended form of the metric system] in all fields of measurement activities in the county, model approval of weighing and measuring machines, regulation of inter-state trade and commerce in weights and measures and other goods, training in legal metrology and conducting survey and statistics. Similarly, under the Enforcement Act, a uniform Parliamentary Act was passed for adoption throughout the country, replacing the State Enforcement Acts.
The SI system was made applicable not only to the commercial transactions but also for Industrial Production and Protection [involving human health and safety). The regulation of weighing and measuring instruments was introduced in four stages: model approval, initial verification, re-verification, and inspection. A significant coverage under the 1976 Act was the regulation of pre-packed commodities with regard to heir label declaration, standardized pack size for certain commodities, and availability of declared net content to the consumers. The pre-packed commodities started gaining popularity in retail trade due to consumer preference and the requirement of declaration of Maximum Retail Price declaration on the package by the manufactures provided a higher price protection limit to the consumers. So any consumers could buy packages at or below the MRP anywhere in the country. This, along with the standardized pack sizes, created not only an oneness among the various consumers in the country but also helped the industry and trade to channelize their meager resources for optimum utilization. Now MRP is almost a common household phrase and Industry and consumer have both adopted it with ease and convenience.
Centralized training in Legal Metrology under the 1976 Act helped in the formulation uniform verification procedure for adoption by the enforcement officers in the state throughout the country. Collection of statistics provided for the evaluation of the performances and efficacy of the system for pruning at periodic intervals.
During the adopting and implementation of the weights and measures in the country significant progress was made in various socio-economic fields in the country, benefiting all the stakeholders.
ADOPTION OF SI SYSTEM & PROBLEM AREAS:
The achievement in this field can be termed as very significant. The Metric system has got enrooted deeply in almost all fields of human endeavor in the county like science and technology, education, industry, normal commercial transaction. The bewildering variety of standard units of weights and measures used in the county has been done away with and the metric system adopted without much opposition. In the field of mass and volume measurements, the total transformation had taken place and complete uniformity has been achieved throughout the country, in a phased manner. Most of the industrial production and manufacturing units have shifted to manufacturing their products based on metric units and the related product standards have been notified by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) in the form of 17000 and odd Indian Standard Specification. There has been a total adoption of metrication in the educational curriculums throughout the country and this has helped in the speedy adoption of the transformation in the industries. However in two fields, there has been a problem in the adoption of the metric system, one is the measurement of human body temperature in Fahrenheit Scales. This is mainly because of the custom of usage of degrees Fahrenheit commonly by the general public and change without adequate publicity could lead to health hazards. Though periodic publicity has been carried by the states, still much needs to be done before the transformation is complete. As a transformation process, BIS specification has been revised to permit the clinical thermometers to carry both the Centigrade and Fahrenheit Scales. Similarly, the use of feet and inches for human body measurements, including height, is still prevalent in many areas.
Another area where the adoption of metrication is slow is the land area measurement and related building industry. The main reason for this slow progress is that the land records maintained in the country over centuries are in non- metric units and such records are reviewed only in a period of 60 years or more. As people are very sensitive with regard to land, even a small variation, due to conversion, in the land area may cause social unrest. Two-pronged actions were initiated for speedy metrication: to covert the old records to metric units by adopting to computerization of all land records and registration of all new records in metric units. In the building industry also the similar practice of adoption of non-metric units is still prevalent today mainly due to the size of bricks that are made to non-metric units due to the convenience of their manufacture. As a transition, the use of measuring tapes with the dual marking of metric units and non-metric units [without the indication feet and inches) to help easier and faster transformation is being considered.
REGULATION OF WEIGHTS AND MEASURES, WEIGHING AND MEASURING INSTRUMENTS:
Significant harmonization process has been achieved in this field in line with the international practices. The specification of various weights and measures, as recommended by the International Organization of legal metrology [OIML] has been adopted in the country, revising the general rules. The adoption of OIML specification for commercial weights [IR-111], non-automatic weighing instruments [IR-76], automatic gravimetric filling [IR-61), automatic rail weighbridge [IR-106], Hopper weighing system [IR-107]. The process of adoption of meters for liquids other than water [IR-117] has also been taken and is likely to be completed shortly. The net result for the adoption of international specifications has provided uniformity in the adoption of standards and removal of international technical barriers to trade [TBT) under the WTO Agreement. International specification adoption has also helped Indian industries to realign their manufacturing process to produce high-quality products to meet stiff international competition and consumers got reliable and safe measuring instruments, reducing avoidable disputes and economic loss.
The 1976 act requires model approval of all weighing and measuring instruments by competent Government authorities on the basis of the evaluation of the performance of the instruments through accredited laboratories after performing tests as per OIML Recommendations. This has ensured the manufacture of the quality instruments in the country avoiding elaborate testing of each measuring instrument at the verification stage. The list of model approval done in the last few years is appended as Annex 1. The list indicates a growth rate of nearly 20% for the instrument like non-automatic weighing instruments in the country. However, the list of such active accredited laboratories is limited to only about 5 or 6 and more and more such NABL accredited laboratories should be developed for speedier and efficient performance evaluation.
VERIFICATION AND RE-VERIFICATION:
The Enforcement act requires verification of all weighing and measuring instruments by the enforcement authorities of the states. Due to a lack of infrastructure, only a small percentage of measuring instruments are under regulation now. The act envisages 100% verification of all weighing and measuring instruments manufactured before putting them to use in commercial transactions or industrial production. This is a Himalayan task. With the increase in regard to demand, more and more measuring instruments being pumped into the market requiring a huge force of qualified and trained enforcement agencies to carry out the responsibility. Another drawback in the system was that the verification and re-verification process of weighing and measuring instruments was considered a source of collection of revenue in the form of verification fees, etc rather than standardization of the instrument for ensuring correct measurement and good performance The collection of huge fine resulted in more of punitive action rather than ensuring corrective action for correct measurement. This is a serious problem that needs to be attended to immediately. The solution could be either to do sample verification out of lot instead of individual verification of leave the verification activity to the user themselves and reply of inspection and levying heavy penalty, in case of violation. The initial verification [First-time verification) could well be left to the manufacturers themselves provided they get themselves accredited to NABL or ISO 9000 certification. The re-verification of many of the measuring instruments could be dispensed with for well-standardized items like cast iron weights, beam scale, counter machine, tape measures, clinical thermometers, etc.
This is the most important and signification activity of enforcement which ensures correct measurement in the field and provides protection to the consumers and the stakeholders. Regular inspection prevents fraudulent practices adopted at the retail level. Levying of heavy penalty for the defaulters would ensure compliance with the provisions of the law. However, this requires infrastructures for enforcement officials like transport, mobile standards, police protection, etc.
The provisions of the Act require all commodities in the pre-packed form to carry certain mandatory label declaration with regard to weights and measures for information of the purchasing consumers. For some commodities, the pack sizes have also been standardized so that the consumers may calculate the quantity price ratio for economic comparison of various brands, easily. Though, not universal, the manufacturers are required to declare the MRP (Maximum retail price…… Inclusive of all taxes] on the label of the package for the benefit of the consumers and the retailers are required to sell the package at or below the MRP to the consumers anywhere in the country. The availability of net content in the packages is ensured by carrying out regular sample checking at the packing premises. While preparing the rules, consultation with various stakeholders including the manufacturers, retailers, consumers by the government to ensure total transparency in the law-making process and also to ensure easy compliance.
The Indian Institute of legal metrology at Ranchi, India provides uniform training in legal metrology and allied branches of knowledge to the enforcement officials of the states in the verification and enforcing the provisions of the act and rules. Though a four-month basic training course is mainly offered to train inspectors of legal metrology, special courses of advanced nature and refresher courses are also provided to enforcement officials in specialized areas. The facility is also being provided to officials from developing countries across the world under various bilateral and multilateral programs. The institute has over the years training more than 2500 officials from various states and foreign countries. Enormous scope for expanding the activities of the institute exists and the functioning of the institute is being reviewed to make it a place of excellence.
WHAT INDIA CAN OFFER:
During the process of implementation of the weights and measures acts in the last 40 years, India has developed expertise in the manufacturing of different types of weighing and measuring instruments. The manufacturing sector is spread out throughout the country and ranges from tiny small scale sectors to medium sectors with investments of more than 500 crores. The product range from simple electronic non-automatic weighing instruments to programmed preset machines that can handle weighing requiring automation as in the case of LPG gas fillings, pre-packed commodities, etc. There are manufacturers of commercial cast Iron weights conforming to international specifications, manufacturers of measuring tapes meeting the international requirements. A variety of automatic filling machines and hopper machines for use in the packaging industries are in operation using machine language to interpret inputs from various operations, for corrective actions. Manufacture of the load cell, the basic component of weighing machines, has been taken up in places like Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, meeting the strict compliance of OIML IR 60. The manufacture of flow meters is another area where significant progress has been achieved. Manufacturing facility for flow meters meeting the requirement of OIML IR 117 has been created and instruments are used widely in the petroleum and oil sectors and food and chemical sectors. Testing facilities for these machines have also mushroomed throughout the country so that only dependable and quality product is deliverable. A huge trained, technical force has been created over the last 10 years so that servicing and maintenance of these machines have become very economical and competitive. There has been a continuous flow of technology in the field that many companies have found it easier and competitive to place their operations from India. India could thus serve as a major hub in the production and supply of weighing and measuring instruments, components, not only to the neighboring countries but also has export potential to developed countries. Some multinationals like Sartorius, Mettler, and Shimatzu have taken the lead in this direction and many more are to follow.
The India expertise could also be utilized for the preparation of a legal framework for legal metrology laws in developing countries and also to implement them in stages so that the transformation could be smooth without affecting the trading activities. In the present economic scenario, no country can afford to ignore the significance of a well developed legal metrology system
Another area of interest is to provide training in the field of legal metrology. The training facilities available in the country, coupled with testing facilities and manufacturing activities could be utilized not only by the Government organization but also by the private Industries is developing expertise for their technical personnel. The existing Institute at Ranchi could be expanded to provide such facilities in coordination with other related institutions like the Bureau of Indian Standards (Noida), National Physical Laboratory, etc.
The huge testing facilities available in the country could also be utilized by the developing countries in getting the models of their weighing and measuring machines evaluated to international specification requirements. The mast of the testing laboratories is accredited to the National Accreditation Board of Laboratory NABL) which conforms to the ILAC requirement. A system of initial verification by such accredited bodies for measuring instruments exported from the country, acceptable to be importing country could also be chartered out between Government to Government. Another area of interest could be ‘net content checking process to ensure compliance with the ‘maximum permissible error’ requirements specified by the national norms. The check weighers developed, coupled with the software developed, could be well utilized for automation of the packaging to not only to minimize the rejection rate but also to prevent excess filling, advantageous to the manufacturers.
Thus in a nutshell it can be stated that India has come of age in the field metrology and in the manufacture and maintenance of weighing and measuring instruments that neighboring countries could make good use of facilities at reasonably low cost but without sacrificing the quality. With the improvement in the transport sectors, the accessibility to Indian ports and cities has become very convenient and is likely to Improve further ensuring quick delivery of the product and could be used advantageously to serve global requirements. With the opening of economy and improvement in the infrastructure and availability of huge trained manpower could push the country into a global player. It is for the local manufacturers in the country to take advantage of the changed international requirements.
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