e-waste rules leading to “inspector raj” – MAIT

The electronic and IT manufacturers of India have raised issue with the government on rising “inspector raj” in the implementation of India’s new e-waste rules.

India put in place new rules to handle e-waste — the toxic residue of items such as mobile phones, computers, TV and printers — in May this year. The new rules require the manufacturer or the distributor, whether Indian or global, to take responsibility for the waste created by his product.

The law, passed under former environment minister Jairam Ramesh, requires the manufacturers and distributors (in case of imports) to put in place a mechanism to collect their products when they are no longer useful to the consumer. The collection mechanism is expected to prevent the disposal of e-waste, which contains harmful chemicals such as mercury and lead, into normal dumping grounds.

The chemicals form e-waste are frequently leaked into the ground water supply and soil. They also affect the health of the workers in the informal recycling industry.

The new rules were widely applauded when introduced in 2011, and became effective in May this year.

MAIT, which represents the IT hardware and training industry in India, however, said some of its worries about the rules were being realized. It had, it pointed out, warned that the rules, in their current shape, would lead to inspector raj and onerous compliance requirements from companies.

It said the early experience with the new rules has proven its point. Companies are often required to file for compliance in all the states they operate in, as pollution and health is a state subject. In addition, different states have come up with different rules and requirements, it said.

“The challenge that the industry face are that the Rules mention obtaining an authorization from the concerned SPCB or PCC (Pollution Control Committee), however, the producers are now forced to take authorization from multiple states, thus, adding to duplicity in data compilation. For the companies and SPCBs, this only adds to the administrative burden without adding any value addition. Single authorization will improve level of compliance amongst the companies; this information can be shared amongst various SPCBs and PCCs.

“The bigger challenge emerges while submitting documents for authorization. Companies are facing difficulties across different states as there is no uniformity and every State has setup different parameters for accepting applications, thus causing unnecessary burden both on Producers and SPCBs/PCCs. To make matters worse, some of the states are demanding fees along with the applications. None of these requirements have been notified by the PCBs nor have been communicated to the companies in writing,” MAIT said.

Dr. Alok Bharadwaj, President, MAIT pointed out: “The Industry had extended all support to the Government to ensure the successful implementation of the rules. However, it is unfortunate that the apprehensions voiced by MAIT when the Rules were first notified are coming true and in the absence of clarity on certain matters, the industry is not sure if the compliance steps adopted by them will serve the intended purpose.

“IT is generally highly globalised & organised industry. The decentralised loose multiple authority interfaces is not the best way to achieve the set objectives. The experience of old inspector Raj is beginning to be felt as our members are approaching individual State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) with diverse compliance requirements.”

MAIT has suggested some measures, which were aimed at simplifying procedures and thereby increasing levels of compliance, it said. “The ministry had accepted MAIT’s suggestions in principle during the consultative meetings, but no actions have been taken so far,” it noted.