Revealed at last: India's public safety code for tamarind pulp

Carl Malamud says:

Public.Resource.Org has published 701 technical standards for the Republic of India. These government-produced documents cover everything cover a vast array of topics important to the people of India, including fascinating topics such as specifications for spices and condiments (tamarind pulp, cloves, fenugreek, curry powder). You'll also find safety specifications for bicycles, codes of practice for fire brigades, water testing methods, and codes of hygiene for food hawkers.

We are relying on India's Right to Information Act of 2005, one of the world's strongest freedom of information laws and one that makes clear that the works of government are owned by the people not the bureaucracies. At stake in publishing these technical standards is an important principle advanced by U.S. Justice Stephen Breyer: "if a law isn't public, it isn't a law." In today's technical world, our most important laws are these technical specifications, yet all over the world these standards are locked up behind pay walls. The legal principle that in a democracy citizens must be able to know the law if one that spans the world. Since May, Public.Resource.Org has been publishing technical standards required by law for the United States and we have received no protests, complaints, or takedown notices from any of the Standards Development Organizations (SDOs).

Coming up next are public safety standards for Africa. We will also be adding the National Building Code and National Electrical Code to the Indian collection. Own your government: read the manual, read the laws.


    1. I don’t get why anyone would mock this, including the ridiculous headline here. Doesn’t even make sense. This is like blasting the FDA for something like regulations on peanut butter (you know, the thing that killed a couple folks some time ago) while pointing out that the US has millions of people who can’t afford healthcare.

      There is more than just one important issue. Food safety is never ridiculous.

    2. Really?

      You think that population and poverty are the only problems we should ever address?

        1. Not that particular comment, but the attitude behind it.

          We can’t have a single article about India without someone bringing up population and poverty. It’s just irritating!

          I know it’s a troll, but…

  1. Talking about “standards for Africa” makes you look kinda silly. Africa is not a country. There’s over 50 countries in Africa.

    1. I suspect that factoid constitutes a significant proportion of everything you know about Africa, but let’s assume I’m wrong: would you care to explain why supra-national standards as promoted by, for example, the African Organisation for Standardisation are a waste of time, and how trade between African states would be better served by having different standards in each country?

  2. I’m really glad about this. Tamarind, along with other Indian condiments and spices are staples in my kitchen, and not having Indian family, nor even an aunty, I always worry I’m going to store them improperly, does tamarind chutney spoil like ketchup spoils, or what? Its not like they teach you about these things in US home ec class.

  3. I think anyone who has lived a while in sub-Saharan Africa (Gold Coast and central Africa, for example) would tell you that “public safety standards for Africa” don’t really exist. Individual craftsmen and technicians do good work and can explain why they do it that way, but there’s not a really much infrastructure to implement standards across all of a given industry.
    And for the people that say, “Africa is not a country”, you’re being a useless pedant. Africa can be usefully seen as a set of regions with varying norms. Inside of any particular region, the country name doesn’t really matter; the cultural and business norms carry over without much respect for the arbitrary borders that history happened to put in place. The real problem is lumping all of Africa together is that you are missing the important distinctions between regions that make some things that happen on one end of Africa completely different than things that happen on the other end.

    Anyway, seeing “public safety” and “Africa” in the same sentence made me chuckle… thanks for that, Carl! :)


    1.  Of course Mark isn’t suggesting that. “At last” as in “Never available on the Internet before.” Sense of humor and irony an important part of the happy mutant toolkit.

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