A REPORT ON

The Work Shop on Consumer Protection & Awareness
held on 23/01/2008 at

Rajkot.
Organized by German Agency for Technical Co-operation – GTZ

Under the Project “Strengthening Consumer Protection in India”

In Co- ordination with Dept. of Consumer Affairs- Govt. of India Dept . of Food, Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs-Govt. of Gujarat http://fcamin.nic.in http://owa.gtz.de http://asemindia.com/webmail

1

Work Shop on Consumer Protection & Awareness, held on 23/01/2008 at Rajkot.
A one day workshop was held at Rajkot on 23rd January 08 at the Hemu Gadhavi Hall under the Project “Strengthening Consumer Protection in India” by the Indo German bi lateral partners, MOCA-GTZ (German Agency for Technical Co-operation) for assessing the activities on consumer awareness and protection undertaken by the Department of Consumer Affairs, Govt. of Gujarat. A large number of Government employees, NGOs and consumers, media representatives participated.

Ms.Alka Sirohi, Special Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, Govt of India was the Chief Guest. Mr. S.K. Nanda Principle Secretary, Department of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, Government of Gujarat Presided over the function. A list of senior participants in the workshop is attached.

Mr. P.B.Patni, Additional Secretary Dept of Consumer Affairs, Govt of Gujarat welcomed the dignitaries to the workshop and explained the relevance of the workshop to the consumers in Rajkot.

Mr. S.K. Nanda, Principal Secretary, Dept of Food and Civil Supplies, Govt of Gujarat, in his presidential address, explained the meaning of the term “Consumer”. According to him, the term “Consumer” indicates a person who pays money for getting services or purchase of commodities. Giving example of Telecom service, which is now regulated as per the norms of Consumer Protection Act, he focused on the increased power and the role of consumers in the open market during the last five years and highlighted the successful working of Consumer Committee in Gujarat. He informed the gathering that the Committee established by the State Government works on the following six sectors, • Credit Card, • Milk production and supply, • Banking, • Travel,

2

• Telecom and • Consumer goods. The Committee which works like a ‘watchdog’ is determined to prevent all kinds of unfair trade practices through advice, information and redressal, he said. He further stated that organizations working on building consumer awareness and consumer protection are not only functioning as a ‘watchdog’ but also as a ‘biting dog’. He highlighted the statutory rights of consumers such as:

1. Right to choose; 2. Right to be informed; 3. Right to safety; and 4. Right to complain.

He gave indication of a notification to be published by the Govt of Gujarat shortly on consumer protection, wherein ‘all doctors and lawyers would be required to inform their patients/clients about their prescribed fee structure before providing services’.

Mr. Pradeep Sharma, District Collector, Rajkot stated that ‘for weak projection and implementation of consumer awareness & protection’ Government organisations, Departments and their employees alone were not at fault. In his view, ‘negligence on the part of consumers’ was equally responsible for the current condition. He felt that consumers in rural areas were the primary victims of mal-trade practices. Sharing his personal experiences, he felt that there was a difference between the awareness of people in developed countries and countries in the third world.

In her key note address, Mrs. Alka Sirohi, Special Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, Govt of India, stated that her transfer to this Consumer Affairs Dept has helped her to serve large number of people. She felt that Consumer Protection is required to give respite to the hapless consumers in India. She gave reference of Kautilya, who had even so long ago, imposed on the king, the duty of preventing malpractices in business. She

3

informed the audience that before independence, there was no specific legislation for protecting consumers but after independence the Govt of India has enacted the landmark legislation called the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 to deliver justice to consumers through the District Forum, State Forum and National Forum. She informed that the

core provisions of the said Act require deciding of consumer cases in the Forum within 90 days and if laboratory test has to be considered, the case should be decided within 150 days. In this regard she informed that, out of the total 28 lakh registered cases in the Consumer Courts, around 90% had been disposed off.

She then highlighted achievements of the Department of Consumer Affairs, Govt of India like, establishment of National Consumer Helpline in Delhi and State Consumer Helpline at local level to generate advices and information; co-ordination with industrial organization for in-house settlements through FICCI Alliance for Consumer Care; developing standards which reflect health and safety of consumers

She then explained in detail the various salient features of the GTZ-MoCA projectobjectives, proposed duration of 6 years which is divided in two phases i.e. 2007 to 2009 & 2010 to 2012; German funding and contributions of 1.5 million Euros; administration staff in the Project, focus areas, names of the beneficiary States, etc. She outlined the five main objectives of the project, viz, • • • • • Consumer awareness at grass root level, improved system of consumer information, redressed & advices; improved functioning of consumer forums; improved legal metrology system and selected areas of consumer protection which would be identified at national level.

Mr. Narmavalla, DDO Rajkot explained the role of Panchayatiraj in consumer affairs & awareness. He stressed on effective utilization of key persons such as Talati, sarpanch, gram sevak, etc. to spread awareness among rural consumers. He informed that ‘Public Facility Center’ and ‘Civil Service Center’ will soon start operating in Gujarat and will be

4

conducted in every group of six villages within a month. Of the 856 villages, it will commence its operation in 250 villages in the 1st Phase, he said. He suggested that maximum effective use of available manpower and infrastructure should be made and efforts should be made to utilize e-gram project, Civil service centre, and involvement of gram sabha. Organization of training program for the non officials and creation of Grievance cell would be very useful, he said.

This was followed by a presentation of two T.V spots-‘Lalaji’ and ‘Netaji’, prepared under the project for durations of 60 seconds, 40 seconds and 30 seconds. The audience appreciated the content and style of the two TV spots and felt that the short documentaries has awakened consumers to purchase products after testing their quality, reading and understanding of the information on the labels on packages, and sensitize them that they can approach consumer forums by paying a very nominal fee to seek redressal on their complaints.

Mr. Sanjay Singh, Joint Secretary Dept of Consumer Affairs, Govt of India in his address suggested that such kind of consumer awareness programs should reach the grass root level consumers. He narrated the existence of different categories and needs of consumers and suggested that implementation of the awareness programs should be done according to specific awareness need of particular group. In this regard focus should also be laid on the message and the delivery channel. The delivery channel should be selected considering the distinct feature of the region. According to him, Gujarat is progressive state with strong PRI structure and consumer movement. These should be involved in devising media plan. He indicated the importance of alternative dispute redressal system but not every ADR can be translated to Indian milieu. Department of Consumer Affairs is funding States to setup State Consumer Helpline. These could pave way for ADR, he said.

Prof. Lothar Maier addressed the following issues in his presentation • the need to pay special attention to the rural population;

5

problems in reaching rural consumers, like, difficult access to adequate print media and Internet;

• •

illiteracy; low degree of consumer organization in the countryside and absence of trained multiplicators for consumer information;

• •

objectives of consumer information and education in the countryside; activities needed in consumer information.

During the post lunch session four working groups among the participants were set up to discuss the following topics and gave their recommendations after detailed deliberations:

GROUP I - Facilitator: Mr.B.K Thakkar, Assistant Development Commissioner Topic: “Role of Panchayati Raj in consumer affairs”. GROUP II - Facilitator: Mr.Sanjay Singh, I.A.S, Joint Secretary, Deptt of Consumer Affairs, Govt of India Topic: “Publicity Campaign in the context of consumer protection held by Deptt. of Consumer Affairs Ministry, Government of India.” GROUP-III - Facilitator: Mrs.Ramaben R.Mavani, President District Consumer Protection Cell, Rajkot Topic: “Topics and Media to reach the rural population”. GROUP-IV - Facilitators: Mr P.B.Pattani Add.Secretary, Consumer Affairs Deptt and Mr. D.B Vora, Controller of Legal Metrology Topic: “Consumer Awareness efforts of DCA, Govt of Gujarat.”

Reports of the Working Groups

The Working Groups were attended by more than 200 dedicated participants who worked with concentration for approximately two hours.

The discussions in the four working groups were focussed on consumer problems in rural areas and on measures to resolve them. Starting with a balance of what has been achieved

6

by the Gujarat administration and the National Government, recommendations were given on:

• • •

to improve existing structures in consumer protection; to build up new ones; and to reach better the rural population with consumer information and to give them better access to Justice (in-court and out-of-court).

The working group identified the achievements in Gujarat on consumer protection:

• •

Establishment of a State Consumer Welfare Fund; Establishment of a clear structure of responsibilities on consumer policy at State level;

Formation of various committees dealing with consumer issues, such as the State Council, the Telecom Committee the Banking Committee, the Airlines Operators Committee, committees dealing with insurance companies and with tour operators etc;

• •

Effective support for Consumer Clubs should be extended beyond 2 years; The website of the Department of Consumer Affairs, Govt. of Gujarat should be developed;

• •

Establishments of norms for the work of lawyers and doctors; and Consumer awareness programmes on TV and radio.

The working groups made the following recommendations for new administrative initiatives:

More initiatives shall be taken at the village level, using the Gramya Sabha and local administrative staff;

Better access of the rural population to complaint resolution at the pre-litigation stage should be guaranteed by using the PRI;

7

Personal consumer advice should be established not only for legal problems, but also for every day consumer problems (e.g. hallmarking of gold). Consumer advice centre could be revived;

Consumer Clubs: 1. though they were effective element of consumer protection their number is very low and grants provided to them were limited to two years only; 2. suggested they should have long-term financial security and the scheme should be extended to colleges in Gujarat as well; 3. suggested that Consumer Clubs should develop more activities outside schools, such as the organisation of competitions in different consumer-related fields like debates, painting, writing etc.

In order to better cope with problems of fake or sub-standard foodstuffs, suggested to develop “Test kits” (may be even in the form of standardized suitcase) for doing basic analysis of foodstuffs. The local authorities should be entitled to draw samples from the market;

Regional language should be used to indicate manufacturing date, expiry date, ingredients and other relevant information on packaged commodities;

• •

The Legal Aid Councils should be extended to rural communities and promoted; consumer issues in the strict sense were seen in close relationship with problems that rural people had in their quality as agricultural producers; like commercialisation of substandard seeds, better advice in production techniques, animal insurance etc. Their needs should be addressed.

The working groups made the following recommendations for better reaching the rural population:

Personal contacts with consumers having problems should be intensified, even through door-to-door visits;

Cable TV which is increasingly available in villages should be made better use of for consumer information;

8

Local radio programmes (in the language of the region) should be considered as well;

Banners with slogans and appeals should be used in public places and on public buildings;

In order to transfer messages to uneducated people, representation of contents in the form of pictures should be thought of;

The weekly markets could be an opportunity to transfer consumer information, placing information stands there and distributing appropriate materials. Even some basic consumer advice could be given there;

All available media of consumer information should be used, including documentary films, street plays, competitions etc. to spread consumer awareness;

Eco-friendly products should be better promoted in rural areas and eco-friendly consumer behaviour encouraged;

Friendly behaviour should be encouraged between consumers and dealers.

The detailed deliberations in each of the 4 Working Groups are attached as Annexure II.

9

Annexure - I
List of important participants in the workshop at Rajkot on 23.1.08 Ms.Alka Sirohi, Special Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, Govt of India; Mr. S.K. Nanda, Principal Secretary Dept of Food, Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs, Govt of Gujarat; Mr. P.B. Pattani, Addl. Secretary, Deptt of Consumer Affairs, Government of Gujarat; Mr. Pradeep Sharma, District Collector, Rajkot; Mr.Narmavalla DDO, Rajkot; Mr.D.B.Vora, Director Consumer Protection, Govt of Gujarat; Mrs Ramaben Mavani, Ex M.P. (Lok Sabha), President Rajkot Saher Jilla Grahak Sur, Mandal Rajkot; Mr Ramjibhai Mavani Ex M.P. (Lok Sabha), Chairman Shri Sahyog Credit Coop Sov Ltd, Rajkot; Mr. P.A.Krishnamoorthy, Project Manager; Prof. Lothar Maier, Team leader, GFA Consulting Group; Dr. Savita Hanspal, Sr Consultant GFA Consulting Group.

10

Annexure II
GROUP-I Role of Panchayati Raj in consumer affairs This group was facilitated by Mr.B.K.Thakkar. The group discussed the following issues in the context of the role the Panchayati Raj institutions can play in creating consumer awareness and protection. Creating awareness • • • • • • The group identified that the Gram Panchayat could play a significant role in creating awareness at the grass root level. It was felt that technology and creative media should be used to create awareness. The related material used by the Gram panchayats should be displayed on the internet which could be accessed by the Gram panchayat office. Related literature should be distributed and displayed by the Gram Panchayat officials. The information should also be displayed in the regional language on the panchayat notice board. All available media of consumer information should be used, including documentary films, street plays, competitions etc. to spread consumer awareness

Manpower co-ordination • • • • Gram Sabha should be a platform to generate information and provide consumer advice. Issues at local level should be discussed and disposed off in the Gram Sabha. Consumer care cell should be formed at Taluka level in which the rural representatives should be involved. Primary school teachers should be involved in conducting such awareness programmes.

Training and development programmes • Should be conducted for the Gram Sevak, Sarpanch, Grammitra, Talati, and others involved.

Nature of services • • Better access of the rural population to complaint resolution at the pre-litigation stage should be guaranteed; Personal consumer advice should be established not only for legal problems, but also for every day consumer problems (e.g. hallmarking of gold);

11

New advice structures to be set up that combine consumer advice with other institutions to provide support to citizens (e.g. issuing of driver’s licenses and IDcards etc.), and may be established on the model of Citizen’s Advice Bureaux at the lowest administrative level possible

GROUP-II “Publicity Campaigns in the context of consumer protection released by Dept. of Consumer Affairs (DCA), Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Government of India.”

The facilitator of the group, Mr. Sanjay Singh, headed a lively group to discuss the impact of the advertising campaigns released and the consumer protection initiatives of the DCA, Govt of India. The basic question of the entire session was to focus on the message that needed to be conveyed to the rural people and strategies to make it effective and understandable to all consumers. People enthusiastically shared their views and ideas. A majority of them were of the view that efforts should be made at the grass root level to begin with and later on to be spread to all levels. The discussion concentrated around three main questions; viz. • How to improve the reach of the advertising campaigns? • Are the messages sufficiently comprehensible? • Are the present campaigns enough? The following recommendations emerged from the group discussion: Messages • In rural areas, messages should highlight on creating awareness on aspects such as weight of the product, maximum retail price, quality of the product, requirements of proper labeling, etc. • Consumer issues in the strict sense were seen in close relationship with problems that rural people had in their quality as agricultural producers; like commercialisation of quality seeds and prevention of sale of substandard seeds, better advice in production techniques, animal insurance, etc. Their needs should be addressed • Regional language should be used to indicate manufacturing date, expiry date, ingredients and other relevant information on packaged commodities. Organization • A State Helpline using the regional/local language on the pattern of National Consumer Helpline may be setup to provide advice to the rural population so that they get information on where they have to go to get their complaints heard. • Panchayats should become the back bone for the success and expansion of the consumer awareness movement in rural areas.

12

Media • Cable TV, which is increasingly available in villages, should be made better use of for providing consumer information and education. • Local radio programmes (in regional language) should be considered for spreading awareness on consumer issues. • Banners with slogans and appeals should be used in public places. • In order to transfer messages to uneducated people, picture presentation and animation, etc may be used. • Different media making presentation in regional language may be used such as: Street plays Parent Parliaments Websites Consumer Pamphlets Prabhatfery. Role of Consumer Clubs Different competitions like singing, drawing, debate, quiz, slogan essay, etc. on consumer issues may be organized by Consumer Clubs. The events should be widely publicized and prizes should be given to the participating Consumer Clubs on the basis of their contribution in these activities. The number of consumer clubs in schools is very low and grants provided to them are limited to two years only. They should have longer-term financial security and the system should be extended to colleges also. Consumer Clubs should develop more activities outside schools, such as the organisation of competitions in different consumer-related fields like debates, painting, writing etc. Distribution of advertising material The weekly markets in rural areas could be an opportunity to transfer consumer information, by placing information stands there and distributing appropriate materials. Even some basic consumer advice could be given there. Training should be given to those responsible in consumer clubs and VCOs. Pamphlets sent by the Deptt should be passed on to Consumer Clubs and VCOs for distribution Programmes for creating awareness should be arranged by them and adequate funds should be provided to them for this purpose. Complaint forms should be given free of cost at Consumer Clubs. Rewards should be given to field workers. Incentives should be given but due to lack of budget; at present, they are not given.

13

GROUP-III Gujarat”.

“Topics and Media to reach the rural Population in the State of

The facilitator of the group, Mrs.Ramaben R. Mavani, reported the following deliberations of her group Consumer awareness programmes should be included as an agenda in GRAM SABHA. In order to better cope with the problem of fake or substandard foodstuffs, it was suggested to develop a “Test kit” (may be even in the form of standardized suitcase) for doing basic analysis of foodstuffs. The consumer protection cell /local authorities should be entitled to draw samples from the market for the purpose of testing. The selling and use of duplicate and substandard seeds should be prohibited and prevented. Experts from agriculture department should be called for providing advice and information to farmers in Gram Sabha. Government should provide grant and some office space to the committee for working in rural area. Gas agencies should be asked to work with prescribed norms. Farmers should get proper benefits of Bima Yojana. Service providers should be prevented from charging hidden charges for their services. Legal Aid Councils should be promoted at rural areas. Regional language should be used to indicate manufacturing date, expiry date, ingredients and other relevant information on packaged commodities. Youth should be encouraged to be active in consumer protection cell. Consumer clubs should be promoted at educational institutes. Cost price should be indicated on package. Dummy doctors should be banned from practicing in rural areas. Gram Melas should be promoted by the consumer awareness committee. Eco-friendly products should be promoted properly in rural areas. Friendly behaviour should be encouraged among consumers and consumer care committee. Media should give proper coverage to the consumer awareness activities. In order to transfer messages to uneducated people, representation of contents in the form of pictures should be thought of.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

GROUP-IV “Consumer awareness and protection efforts of DCA, Govt of Gujarat.”

Mr.P.B.Pattani, and Mr. D. B. Vhora facilitated the discussion in the fourth group. The Group made the following recommendations:

14

• • • • • • • •

Composition of additional benches of the Fora in the State Improving Infrastructure of the consumer for a Encouraging Consumer Clubs. To organize more Lok Adalats so that cases can be disposed off faster Linking of consumer fora to the CONFONET Project Better utilization of resources of the State Consumer Welfare Fund To change the nomenclature of consumer protection officer Working of consumer affairs and protection of Gujarat needs to be separated from legal metrology department, which is basically an enforcement department.

15

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful