Dhaka,  Tuesday
05 March 2024

Irregularities were identified in 7,000 institutions in three months

Imran Ali

Published: 03:37, 5 December 2023

Update: 03:38, 5 December 2023

Irregularities were identified in 7,000 institutions in three months

Photo: Messenger

Thousands of institutions in the capital city of Dhaka operate without adhering to any regulations, with a myriad of irregularities observed across various sectors from grocery stores to restaurants. Allegations against these establishments include the excessive charging of prices beyond the prices set by the government, lack of proper registration, and the production and sale of substandard and adulterated products within unsanitary environments. The list of non-compliant businesses encompasses grocery stores, wholesale and retail outlets for everyday goods, factories, hotels, and restaurants, as well as establishments involved in the manufacturing of baby food.

Over the past three months, both the National Directorate of Consumer Protection and Bangladesh Safe Food Authority have identified irregularities in over 7,000 establishments through separate raids. In a specific operation carried out by the Safe Food Authority during this period, cases were filed against 42 restaurants for various violations. Shockingly, 30 out of these 42 restaurants were found to be unregistered, accounting for a concerning 75 percent of the total.

The government institutions responsible for safeguarding consumer interests within the market system, particularly in relation to various food and product-selling establishments, include the National Directorate of Consumer Rights Protection and the Bangladesh Safe Food Authority. AHM Safikuzzaman, the Director General and Additional Secretary of the Directorate General of Consumer Rights Protection, expressed deep concern over the consistent exploitation of consumers by traders for their own benefits through various deceptive practices.

"We've observed that despite a tenfold increase in our operations, the level of adulteration among traders remains uncontrollable. Therefore, we are emphasising motivational initiatives, conducting numerous seminar programs, and implementing various awareness activities. From September to November, the two government agencies conducted 3,384 mobile courts, resulting in the collection of fines amounting to 7 crore 30 lakh 31 thousand 400 taka in these operations, as per the information received."

According to data from the National Consumer Rights Protection Directorate, a total of 3,341 raids were carried out in the market over the past three months. These raids resulted in punitive actions against 6,933 establishments, and fines amounting to 6 crore 54 lakh 27 thousand 900 taka were collected through these operations.

Simultaneously, 407 companies faced penalties as a result of addressing consumer complaints. The fines collected from these penalised institutions through complaint resolutions amounted to 33 lakh 3 thousand 500 taka. Following the established rules, 25 percent of the recovered amount from these complaints was distributed to the complainants. Consequently, 396 complainants received a total of 7 lakh 80 taka.

Additionally, during the same period, a comprehensive campaign and market supervision were undertaken based on consumer complaints, leading to penalties for a total of 7,340 companies. The fines collected from these penalties amounted to 6 crore 87 lakh 31 thousand 400 taka. Notably, after deducting 25 percent of the collected funds based on complaints, a sum of 6 crore 72 lakh 90 thousand 775 taka has been deposited into the state treasury.

According to the Bangladesh Safe Food Authority, over the last three months, 43 mobile courts or raids were conducted. These efforts resulted in 45 convictions of institutions, with a fine collection of 43 lakh taka through these cases. Additionally, legal actions have been initiated against two organisations, "The Buffet Palace" in Mirpur and "Insta Fresh Farms Limited" in Banani, for their failure to admit guilt. Furthermore, seven organisations were granted exemptions from legal proceedings due to satisfactory explanations of the complaints and the presentation of relevant documents.

During the operations conducted by the Department of Consumer Rights Protection, several establishments engaging in the production and processing of items such as Robo Drinks, Orange Drinks, Fruity Drinks, Fruity Mango Drinks, Shahi Mango Fruit Magic Edible Gel, Lichiko Drinks, Fried Pace, Special Chanachur, Zero Chips, O'yes Chips, Potato Chips, and various types of baby food were found to be in violation of various regulations. These violations included not having their own lab, using textile color, producing underweight products, and maintaining an unhygienic environment.

As a consequence, a fine of Tk 350,000 has been imposed on these establishments, and they have been ordered to temporarily cease their activities in the public interest. Additionally, the companies are required to appear in person at the head office of the department to provide an explanation as to why their trade licenses should not be canceled and why other legal measures should not be taken against them.

The authorities acknowledge that investigating the quality of the food we consume would likely unveil irregularities across the board. It has become a norm, and if all traders were transparent and honest, instances of food adulteration might decrease. Unfortunately, the prevalent focus on profit often takes precedence over ensuring product quality.

Rezaul Karim, a Member of the Bangladesh Safe Food Authority, commented on their ongoing efforts in anti-adulteration work, emphasising that their work may not be as effective as it appears. Given the nature of their work with food, they are limited to relying on evidence and experimentation. Despite their continuous efforts, addressing the issue of food adulteration remains a complex challenge.

Rezaul Karim highlighted another challenge, stating, "We also face a shortage of manpower. Our existing structure lacks the required number of personnel. We are in the process of drafting proposals for the government's consideration to address this issue."

Messenger/Sun Yath

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