Key findings of CUTS survey on state of the consumer in Rajasthan
In the 25th year of enactment of the Consumer Protection Act (COPRA), 1986 in the country, 63 percent in Rajasthan have not heard about the Act meant for the common consumers. In rural Rajasthan, 35 percent respondents said they are unaware of their rights as a consumer and 26 percent knows these partially. Similarly, a sorry figure of almost 42 percent have expressed their unawareness about their responsibilities as a consumer and only 21 percent said that they know these partially. Rest are totally ignorant about what all should they do as a responsible consumer.
These findings emerged out of a field research survey conducted by Consumer Unity & Trust Society, Jaipur under its on going project entitled “Grassroots Reach out and Networking in Rajasthan through Consumer Action” (GRANIRCA) with the support of Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Government of India, which is being implemented in 12 districts of Rajasthan. More information on the project can be viewed on http://www.cuts-international.org/CART/GRANIRCA.
In the survey, 2349 consumers belonging to different educational status and socio-economic background from 12 districts were targeted, out of which seven percent of the respondents were illiterate, whereas 62 percent of the total respondents belonged to rural areas of Rajasthan. The survey was done with an objective to gauge the status of consumer in the state with regard to awareness as this being a silver jubilee year of enactment of COPRA, 1986.
Starting with the redressal mechanism under the COPRA, 1986, the general perception is that respondents are not very much clear with regard to the basic structure provided under the Act like compensation limit in the three tier system and also not a clear understanding on consumer protection councils as such, which have been established for their benefit and redressal of complaints. Though, 86 percent of the total respondents have expressed their awareness on the general definition of consumer, 37 percent have heard about the Act, rest either do not know about it or have very little knowledge. Out from this 37 percent, only 38 percent possess the knowledge of compensation limit in the three tier quasi-judicial system. There have been a very small number of only 10 percent of respondents, who went to consumer fora for seeking redressal but 72 percent have expressed satisfaction over the functioning of consumer fora, while giving redressal and simultaneously said that the normal period, in which the judgement comes is over 90 days as against the provisions laid down in the Act.
With regard to demanding bills after purchasing goods and awareness on MRP, there has been reasonably a good awareness and as per the perception, almost 53 percent respondents showed their awareness on demanding bills and 55 percent said that they knew about MRP and its importance.
It seems that respondents are not much aware on the impact of misleading advertisements and what all possible actions they could take, in case affected by such misleading ads. This is revealed from the fact that though influenced by such ads, 57 percent people saying that they prefer not taking any action after getting abused as a result of them but a large section of respondents with 77 percent affirmed their awareness that they do watch manufacturing and expiry date before purchasing goods and 85 percent out of this 77 percent saying that they simply avoid buying these, if found no such dates.
Awareness on weights and measures is comparatively better among the respondents as seen from the analysis. As many as 69 percent check packed items, its expiry and manufacturing dates etc. and normally hesitate in purchasing such items, where no date is mentioned as revealed from their perception.
With regard to Food and Drug Inspectors also, respondents have heard and know them but are not aware as to under which department they do come.
In response to a general question with regard to respondent’s satisfaction on the overall status of consumers in Rajasthan, the general view is that though government is doing all the things, which it could do but that need to be translated to benefit recipients. Only 36 percent respondent are satisfied with government efforts and the rest saying that government’s efforts are not reaching down the line, which is a major concern of all the respondents. NGOs also do need to facelift themselves, so that they could be able to achieve their endeavour and public faith.
The perception on lawyer’s presence in consumer forum is seen as a mixed verdict from the respondents. Respondents to certain extent (as much as 41 percent) do favour lawyer’s need in consumer forums but this could be due to their less knowledgeable on the issue and hesitance and hitch in appearing before the forum, otherwise once this problem gets over then they would also come to know that lawyer’s presence is not mandatory as enshrined in the consumer law.
The second part of this perception survey was based on food security and related issues with focus on adulteration and as mentioned in the analysis also, the purpose was not only to gauge the level of awareness but also to start generating some preliminary information to consumers before the new law on food security comes in force. As seen from the perception, at present, the awareness on the available present laws on food security is very less. 67 percent of the respondents do not know the availability of laws as such.
Respondents often hesitate in taking action against adulterators simply because either they do not know as to where they should approach or simply ignore it for nothing showcasing their droopiness.
Shudh ke liye yudh is known to majority of respondents with as much as 51 percent but 50 percent of the respondent have termed it as only partially successful government-run campaign. Its objective is also partially known to consumers. As foreseen, respondents denied that there is a laboratory in their districts. Even that district, where it is there, that is not very efficient and effective. That is the reason, respondents are not satisfied with the role of government in curbing adulteration despite its recent initiatives such as mobile labs and Shudh ke liye yudh abhiyan and often sudden raids on adulterators. 64 percent respondents showed obliviousness on pinpointing or noticing adulterations.
The survey reveals that products like ghee, edible oil, spices and basic commodities like aata (wheat flour), milk, pulses and even petroleum products are not available to consumers in their purest form. Consumers also opined that sweets, sugar, vegetable and packed/bottled commodities are tainted. 50 percent of respondents either consume loose aata and kitchen oil or what they produce from farm. Commodities like cement, cosmetics, ornamental items, and medicines are suspicious. Few respondents even termed liquor available in the market as an impure product.
So summarising the overall findings, it is seen that the general awareness with regard to whole consumer protection still needs lot to be desired. Whether it is availing redressal through consumer redressal mechanism or awareness on rights and responsibilities or other consumer related issues and subjects, consumers still requires thorough and enhanced knowledge on the subject in order to bring them to the desired level.
For more information please contact:
Deepak Saxena, Senior Programme Coordinator (+91- 9351366827)
/ Arjun Kant Jha, Project Officer (+91-9887174459)
CUTS Center for Consumer Action, Research & Training (CUTS- CART)
D-222, Bhaskar Marg, Bani Park Jaipur 302 016, India
Ph: 91.141.5133259, 2282 823/2282 482
Fax: 91.141. 4015395
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Project webpage: www.cuts-international.org/cart/GRANIRCA