Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela
Sri Narendra Modi assures his commitment to safeguard the consumers
Inaugurating the Regional Conference on Consumer Protection, the Prime Minister, Sri Narendra Modi, proudly cited the rich Indian traditions since thousands of years, the due importance given to the consumers. He said that Kautilya had pointed out in Arthasasthra, that consumer is the most important part of business.
Sri Modi said that to achieve speedier resolution of the disputes, the Consumer Protection Act was being amended. He also pointed out that a Consumer Protection Authority will be established. The government had taken several steps to safeguard the interests of the lower income and under previleged people. He pointed out whether it was introduction of GST, ensuring availability of Essential Medicines at reduced cost, Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme of the LPG subsidy, Ujjwala Scheme to bring down the price of LED bulbs, have all benefitted the consumers, especially those who are poor and needy.
Sri Modi wanted the member countries to share their knowledge and expertise, so that consumers from across the region are benefitted. The two day International Conference on "Empowering Consumers in New Markets", was held at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi, on the 26th and 27th October. The Conference was attended by representatives from 19 countries, mainly belonging to the East, South East and South Asian countries. The Conference was organised by the Department of Consumer Affairs, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Government of India, in association with UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development).
During the Session-I, "Overview of the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection and Implementation", chaired by Sri Ram Vilas Paswan, Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, I was given an opportunity to speak during the Interactive Debate. I utilised the occasion to highlight the lack of will of even the Supreme Court to interpret the Consumer Protection Act, in the larger interests. Our bad experience in LPG under-weighment case was shared, and requested the Minister to file the second Curative Petition to strengthen the Consumer movement.
Similarly, in respect of stakeholder participation in Consumer Protection, as envisaged by the UN, I pointed out the gross inappropriate action of the then Minister, Sri Sharad Pawar, to minimise the participation of consumer groups, in 2006. Number of members of CCPC was reduced drastically, from 160 to 35. For wider consultations as envisaged, the Minister needs to rectify this. The expected effect could be felt and was indeed satisfying.
The Conference also deliberated on "Stakeholder Participation in Consumer Protection", "The Protection of Online Consumers", "Fostering Consumer Inclusion in Financial Services", "Consumer Education and Empowerment" and "Special Challenges in Protecting Vulnerable and Economically Disadvantaged Consumers".
(The author is the Chief Mentor, Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela and can be reached at email@example.com.)