Nirmala Sitharaman says India should be a standard setter, not follower
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New Delhi: India should be setting quality standards for products rather than following global norms, commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Monday, stressing on timely dissemination of regulations for better implementation.
Addressing the 4th National Standards Conclave in New Delhi, she called on the industry to produce quality products at an affordable price so that import of cheaper products can be contained. “India should be setting standards rather than following the standards which are being set,” Sitharaman said, adding that the country should have active participation in any global debate on setting standards.
The minister said technology will play a very critical role in standard setting and conformity assessment and there is a need to factor this in. Launching a portal of standards developed jointly by the commerce ministry and industry body CII, Sitharaman said this website will be providing all the information relating to standards and conformity assessment.
“But I am also a bit impatient (as to) how it will reach people who will have to follow, conform and implement these standards,” she added. A phone-based alert, adaptable to regional languages, has to be prepared so that conformity to these standards become effective, she suggested. “The farmer today is not against conforming to the global standards. He is very keen on it, but information should reach on time. Institutions cannot any longer seek cover that trickle-down does take time,” she cautioned.
Technology should be used to disseminate standards to implement them without time lag, the minister added. Sitharaman said there should be constant awareness among not just farmers, but trade negotiators so that standards, especially of agri products, are set in a manner that it covers all varieties of farm items and exports are not hit. In this regard, she cited the example of global standards on length and weight of mangoes and wondered how India accepted those norms.
She said: “India has exemplary varieties of mango, grapes and banana. Uniformity (in standards) can go against it.” Sitharaman contended that only man-made products can be homogeneous and therefore, any quality standards on agri produce should reflect different varieties and not homogeneity. The minister asked the industry to manufacture quality products at an affordable price. “Quality need not always be expensive. Quality products can also be affordable,” the minister said, calling for a change in mindset.
Various government departments, including textile, steel and pharma, have a focus on setting standards to enhance product quality. Commerce secretary Rita Teaotia emphasised that product quality is key to achieving export-led growth. She acknowledged the role played by states in ensuring these standards are adhered to.
Teaotia stressed on putting in place “right standards” for services, where the country has a competitive advantage. The secretary said the government is focusing on evolving a comprehensive national strategy for standardisation. The objective is positioning standards as a key driver of all economic activities relating to goods and services.