Despite several appreciable initiatives by Government of Rajasthan for consumer welfare, like ‘Sudh Ke Liye Yudh’, mobile laboratories to check quality of food items, food grain schemes etc the situation of the grassroots consumers have not changed much. Only 26 % cases are disposed within the prescribed by District Fora, 60% districts have the drug inspectors and most of the district consumer protection councils are not active. It was revealed during the research carried out by CUTS International in 12 districts of Rajasthan, namely Tonk, Chittorgarh, Kota, Bundi, Alwar, Banswara, Jodhpur, Jalore, Churu, Sikar, Dholpur and Dausa under the “Grassroots Reachout & Networking in Rajasthan through Consumer Action” (GRANIRCA) project supported by Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Government of India.
The problem of adulterated and sub-standard food items is the first and foremost concern of the consumers. There is considerable increase in sample taken of food items by the health department but is surprising that only 14% of samples taken were found adulterated. The proper and timely analysis of samples is crucial for punishing the offenders but delay and lurch in lab analysis and taking legal action is helping the offenders to defy the law.
After falling ill due to adulterated and sub-standard food items, any person takes medicines in hope of recovery but the situation hare is worse. The system of controlling spurious drugs and medicines is very weak. Only 60% districts have the drug inspectors at district level and those are given charge of 2 or 3 districts. The number of samples of drugs taken by inspectors is very few, which shows that they are not taking adequate steps to accomplish their duties. Even in case of failed samples they have not taken stern action against the drug vendors. Rajasthan has only one lab for testing of drugs at Jaipur. The working of drug inspectors is not transparent and many of them denied providing the required information.
The plight of consumers not ends here, apart from the quality of products the consumer are also cheated in quantity at many place like patrol pumps, mandies, grocery shop, sweet shop, milkman etc. But the district weights & measures (Legal Metrology) inspectors, responsible to ensure the accuracy of weights and measures, as well as standard of packaged commodities are not taking proactive steps to check this and to punish the offenders. Only 65 complaints received by them, shows that general public is not aware about their role, work and functions. In Rajasthan there is no separate legal metrology department but the Industrial Department is given extra responsibility to look after these issues, which is also responsible for poor performance of the department.
The Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) is the life line for poor consumers but more than 652 complaints were received by District Supply Officers (DSOs) related to PDS dealers. Similarly 206 complaints were received against Gas Agencies. DSOs responsible for coordination among various departments working for consumer protection at district level should be more proactive to address all these issues.
After failing to get relief from these departments, a consumer is left with option to approach District Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum (District Forum) to seek justice. But there also he will get disappointments. Out of 12 only 7 District Forum are having required 3 members, 4 are working with 2 members and District Forum at Sikar is defunct, having no member. It is also an irony that less than 3% consumer complaints are directly filed by consumers themselves, without engaging any advocate. Even if any consumer approaches District Forum, it is bound to be delayed in getting justice as only 26 % cases are disposed within the prescribed period under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
There is a need of holistic view to promote consumer welfare not only limiting to grievance redressal. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 has envisaged a well-thought design of Consumer Protection Councils, from national to district level to promote and protect the rights of the consumers. These councils have miserably failed in their mandates and during the research it came out that in most of the districts these councils are either not established or have not come out of paper. Central and State Governments are announcing various schemes like consumer clubs in education institutes, financial assistance to consumer organisations and consumers to fight cases, awards for consumer activists etc. 335 consumer clubs have been established in 12 districts but no financial assistance was provided to them, only in 2 districts awards were given to consumer activists and in 4 districts consumer were provided financial support.
With all these hollow initiatives the promotion and protection of consumer interests will remain only a wish statement in the state. So there is urgent need to address all these issues so that consumers’ welfare in Rajasthan can be ensured.
For more information please contact:
Amarjeet Singh (+91-9829015812) / Deepak Saxena (+91- 9351366827)
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
The data of were collected of year 2008 and 2009, except the appointments in District Forum.