“There is an urgent need of a National Consumer Protection Authority to protect interest of consumers”, said Mr Shri Manik Dey, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food & Civil Supplies, Government of Tripura while speaking in a Regional Consultation Meeting organized by CUTS International in collaboration of Consumer Protection Association at State Guest House on Aug. 17, 2012. He said that now-a-days companies are adopting practice of putting profit first and consumer last. He urged the NGOs and VCOs to undertake Consumer Awareness Activities and said that the Tripura Government is trying its best to bring about a qualitative change in the scenario.
Sri Dey further emphasised that there should be a universal PDS system to provide at 14 essential commodities from cooking oil, detergent to riceat affordable prices and wheat to all at affordable prices. He said that the Essential Commodity Act, 1956 needs to be amended to give powers to States for effective intervention when the prices in the open market is very high.
The Consultation Meeting was organized to disseminate the findings of a field survey based research and to take feedback from all concerned stakeholders related to consumer protection in North-East region. The objective of the survey which was conducted in 19 states and 3 Union Territories was to assess the level of knowledge and awareness of consumers regarding the eight rights mentioned in the UN Guidelines.
The regional consultation was held under the ConsumersUp Project being implemented by CUTS in partnership with Department of Consumer Affairs, Govt. of India. Tripura is one of the target state and Consumer Protection Association (CPA) is the project partner for Tripura. Mr. Amrit Lal Saha President, CPA, Agartala and Chairman Consumer Coordination Council (CCC) delivered the welcome address.
Delivering the inaugural address, Justice Mr. Pradip Kumar Sarkar Lokayukta, Tripura, highlighted the need for monitoring and effective control over Non Banking Financial Institutions operating in Tripura (mostly without any licesenc from RBI) as these institutions are robbing hard earned money of consumers and disappearing from the state.
Justice Mr. A.B.Pal, President, State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission, Tripura & Mizoram raised the issue of adhoc consumer fora and lack of consumer awareness about redressal mechanism.
Mr. George Cheriyan, Director, CUTS highlighted about the project background and relevance. He said though there is progress about consumer awareness and protection on many fronts,yet the situation is alarming as only 20% know about Consumer Protection Act, enacted to provide easy and speedy redressal to consumers in 1986.
Project Coordinator, Amarjeet Singh made a presentation highlighting key findings of the research. He shared that in the study it was found that 31% consumer feel water supplied to them is not safe for drinking, 20% of consumers have to obtain LPG & Karosin mostly from black market, 74% feel a need of regulator for private schools, only 5% have access to internet, 53% demand to enact a law to ensure right to basic needs, lack of awareness about consumer protection related laws and regulatory authorities, lack of consumer participation in consultation process were the main finding of the study.
This was followed by a panel discussion to discuss a way forward to address these issues, where Prof. Mihir Deb, Chairman. Tripura Pollution Control Board. Agartala, Mr. K.K.Roy, Principal, Tripura Govt. Law College, Agartala, Dr. Ms. Keya Ghosh (CUTS, Kolkata) shared their views.
The consultation was attended by about 60 participants comprising of consumer originations, regulatory authorities, policy maker, media from Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram ,Assam and West Bangal, who provided their inputs on the study findings. The inputs will be incorporated in the State of the Indian Consumer Report to be brought out as the main output of the project.