The run-down public health laboratory on Mada campus in Dhanbad on Monday. Picture by Gautam Dey
The oldest food laboratory of the state, which has remained dormant for a year now in the absence of adequate number of staff and equipment, will be up and running soon if the Mineral Area Development Authority (Mada) has its way.
The civic body has initiated steps to revive the public health laboratory that also has a food testing wing, with managing director Ravindra Singh holding a meeting with state health and family welfare department officials in Ranchi on Monday.
Singh demanded that the five food inspectors of Mada, who were absorbed by the department ever since the implementation of the Food Safety and Standards Regulations in 2011, be transferred back so that they can run the food lab located on Mada premises.
“Officials of the health and family welfare department have promised to look into the matter and consider our demand. We are keen to revive our public health laboratory. Here, all kinds of testing used to be conducted till the recent past when manpower crisis dealt a big blow,” Singh said.
Notably, food testing at the laboratory stopped in August last year when the extension period of lone food analyst of Mada Shivraj Sharma expired.
In the absence of a food analyst, the remaining employees of the food-testing wing of the lab — a food assistant chemical analyst, a senior scientific assistant, a sweeper and a peon — are jobless.
Of the two assistants, one is scheduled to retire next month.
Set up in the 1930s, the lab is dying a slow death due to lack of modern equipment, staff crunch and exodus of food inspectors to the health and family welfare department.
Singh added that at present, the laboratory was being used only to test drinking water supplied by Mada in various parts of Jharia, Katras and Topchanchi. Tests are carried out under the supervision of a bacteriologist, lab assistant, a media maker, two sample collectors and a peon.
An insider, however, said staff crunch may appear to be the prime problem, but the key issue was pending salary.
“Even if we publish advertisements for filling up the vacancies, we hardly get any applicant. Why will any qualified person apply in an organisation where the salary is pending for more than two years and there is no infrastructure or equipment? Not even proper seating arrangement,” he added.
What’s more, the existing equipment are all outdated.
In fact, P.K. Singh, then director of the health and family welfare department, had visited the lab way back in 2005 and promised to provide all the latest equipment like flame photometer, gas liquid chromatography, spectrometer, photometer and auto analyser. Nine years have passed, but the gadgets are yet to arrive.
The other challenge is the dilapidated condition of the building.
A contractor, hired by one of Mada’s former directors to give the lab a modern look three years ago, left the job incomplete. The contractor was appointed without a proper tender.