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India , Pakistan need to join forces against terrorism
14 December 04, Daily Times
Develop Strategy
02 December 04, Times of Zambia
CUTS' insist on celebrating "Safe Diwali"
11 November 04, Dainik Vishwamitra
WHO directs drug test for State hospitals
10 November 04, Hindustan Times
Reckless rides that can spoil your festival
21 October 04, Hindustan Times
Safety leash for Pandal rides, drivers
18 October 04, The Telegraph
CUTS call for the strict watch over the safety of joyrides during Pujas

14 October 04, Dainik Vishwamitra
Campaign against medical institutions denying emergency cases

10 October 04, Asian Age
Discoms put Rs 1000-cr burden on Govt: CUTS
4 October 04, Hindustan Times

Zambia IFD reports

27 September 04, Times of Zambia
Zambia set to benefit from regional trade agreements
27 September 04, Times of Zambia
Book Rack
18 September 04, Deccan Herald
Liberalisation has failed

17 September 04, Times of Zambia
Consumers detect loose-ends in policy making and implementation

17 September 04, Zambia Daily Mail
Poor road network affecting tourism

16 September 04, Zambia Daily Mail
'Investment policy vital'
15 September 04, Zambia Daily Mail
Munna Bhai LLB to compaign against chronic 'file-pushers'

14 September 04, Times of India
Centre to launch report
13 September 04, Zambia Daily Mail

Archives

‘India and Pakistan need to join up against terrorism’

December 14, 2004, Daily Times
Karachi

By Shahid Husain

KARACHI: Indian columnist Pradeep S Mehta said on Monday that India and Pakistan needed to collaborate with each other to combat poverty and terrorism.

Delivering a lecture under the auspices of the NGO Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), Mr Mehta, who is the founding secretary general of the Jaipur-based Consumers Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), said it was high time the two countries’ visa restrictions against each other’s citizens were relaxed. “I have been to Islamabad thrice, but this is the first time that I have been able to visit Karachi and that too after the intervention of the Commerce Minister (Humaiyon Akhtar Khan),” he remarked.

He said India, the world’s largest democracy, was “very pluralistic,” with the second-largest Muslim population in the world.

He also said it was in the interest of India to be surrounded by countries which were prospering economically. Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee even spoke of a single currency for the two countries, he said.

He said Nepalese and Bhutanese currencies were tied with the Indian rupee because the two countries’ economies were very weak, but of course Pakistan was a different case. He said today the trade between Pakistan and India was worth $600 million, whereas informal trade between the two countries was worth $1.5 billion.

He said the vested interests in every country want conflicts to continue. He said fundamentalists on either side of the divide were opposed to progress. He said the sentiment in Pakistan was that there should be trade between the two countries since Pakistani consumers pay higher prices for certain commodities which could be imported at cheaper rates from India.

Cultural contacts between the two countries also need to be improved, and there is hardly any cultural difference between India and Pakistan, he said. Mr Mehta, who serves on several policy-making bodies of the Indian government, said the disharmony between the two countries in the last 58 years was not in the economic interest of either of them, and there was no sense in consumers of the two countries suffering because of the political disputes.

He said there has been a water dispute between Bangladesh and India over the Farruka Barrage but that did not hamper economic cooperation between them. “If we take the example of ASEAN, Malaysia and Thailand could have a border problem but that did not come in the way of economic cooperation between them,” he said.

He said the United States had a deficit with all the countries it trades with, but its economy does not suffer. “When the consumer gains, the economy gains,” he remarked.

He said in the European Union, there were differences between France and Spain but that did not affect their economic cooperation. “Regional economic cooperation is better than global cooperation,” he remarked.

He said it required progressive thinking to conclude that some disputes will not be resolved soon.

He said Pakistan would have an annual income of $500 million from Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. “We were harming ourselves by hesitating to boost economic cooperation,” he said.

He said three years ago the trade volume between India and China, with which his country has a border dispute, was worth $3 billion; today, it was worth $10 billion.

Similarly, he added, the trade volume between Pakistan and India could also reach $10 billion despite their disputes.


Develop Strategy

December 2, 2004, Times of Zambia
Zambia

By Business Reporter

THE Consumer Unity & Trust Society Africa Resource Centre (CUTS-ARC) has urged Zambia to develop a strategy if she has to benefit fully from the numerous trade protocols.

Centre director Sajeev Nair said in Lusaka yesterday that trade was a key component of poverty reduction and economic development and hence the need for Zambia to position herself ideally to benefit from the signed protocols.

CUTS-ARC is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) whose aim is to inform, educate and provoke debate on issues of trade and sustainable development, and economic equity.

Speaking in an interview at the just ended Commission for Africa national consultative forum at Mulungushi International Conference Centre, Mr Nair said it was sad that Zambia had not harmonised trade into the transitional national development plan.

Mr Nair also said that even the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) and Transitional Development Plans (TNDP) did not clearly elaborate adjustments Zambia would make to increase exports.

It was vital for Zambia to come up with a plan to be used as a tool for national development and as a pad on which all other initiatives like those of the World Bank and World Trade Organisation (WTO) based their support.

He said if Zambia developed a strategy to improve its exports, this would offset balance of payment (BoP) deficit which impacted negatively on the economy.

He said Zambia should emulate developed countries which prioritised local producers as opposed to outside ones.


CUTS' insists on celebating "Safe Diwali"

November 11, 2004, Dainik Vishwamitra
Kolkata


WHO directs drug test for State hospitals

November 10, 2004, Hindustan Times
Kolkata

Subhendu Maiti

THE WORLD Health Organisation (WHO) is not convinced the standard drugs administered and sold to patients in Bengal’s government hospitals are safe and always correctly priced.

In the first such instance in India, WHO’s New Delhi-based Southeast Asia regional office has told the state health directorate to check the quality and pricing of drugs available in government medical colleges and hospitals as also in retail stores in their neighborhood. It was told the state to send its report to Delhi by the year-end.

The move has been prompted by allegations that some state hospitals are administering substandard drugs to patients.

In a parallel move, the world health body has engaged two NGOs – Community Development Medicinal Unit (CDMU) and Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) – to collect data relating to availability and prices of drugs sold in government hospitals and retail shops near such hospitals.

Health directorate officials confirmed that samples of common drugs of about 30 different groups, including antibiotics, paracetamol and anti-retroviral, cardiovascular, anti-malaria and anti-asthma drugs would be tested in a state-run laboratory.

Samples would be collected from about 15 hospitals, including SSKM, R. G. Kar, Sambhunath Pandit and the state general hospitals in West Midnapore, South 24-Parganas, Jalpaiguri and Murshidabad. In fact, collection of drugs has already begun at SSKM and several district hospitals, they said.

SSKM super Santanu Tripathi, a coordinator of the WHO project in Bengal, told HT, “We have already started work in various hospitals, including SSKM.”

Dr Abhijit Hazra of CDMU, one of the two NGOs engaged by WHO, said, “There are allegations that low-cost drugs available in government health Centres are substandard. In view of such complaints, we are conducting surveys to check the quality of drugs and their price. We have collected data from hospitals in six districts.”


Reckless rides that can spoil your festival

October 21, 04, Hindustan Times
Kolkata

Jaideep Mazumdar

Taking your child to a fair? Don't let your child ride the Ferris wheel or roller coaster if you want him or her to be safe.

Joyrides, especially those at makeshift fairs and puja pandals, are virtual death rides, says a rights organisation working on consumer safety issues. The Ferris wheel is prone to collapse, as one did in New Delhi in May last year, killing 12 people and injuring 20.

The roller-coaster isn't safe either - a man also fell off one at Appu Ghar in August last year. The merry-go-round can spin out of control - such an incident injured a few children in Konnagore recently. A month later, three children, aged eight to 10, were injured when a rotating gondola broke from its moorings and crashed to the ground at Baruipur.

Most rides don't have permission to operate and those that do violate all safety norms. In fact, there weren't any safety norms till the Bureau of Indian Standards came up with a code of recommended practice for amusement safety rides and safety in water parks earlier this month. The police, who give permission to these fairs, are not even aware of the new norms.

"Accidents have occurred, though most go unreported. We've launched a campaign to force the authorities to act on the safety aspect of such amusement fairs," said Soumi Home Roy, researcher for CUTS- International Safety Watch Group.

An estimated 300 amusement fairs are organised in and around Kolkata during the festive season and over 1.5 lakh people, mostly children, take joyrides on the various contraptions such as the giant wheel and merry-go-rounds every day, generating a daily revenue of around 30 lakh for the organisers.

JOYRIDES GONE WRONG

February 2004: A couple in their 20s suffered serious head and limb injuries when the safety rod of capsule on a Ferris Wheel fell off.

January 2004: A 14-year old boy was maimed when a steel bar of a Ferris wheel at an amusement fair at Ranaghat broke loose and fell on him.

November 2003: Three children were injured during a ride on a routine gondola.

October 2003: Two children sustained serious injuries when a merry-go-round spun out of at Konnagore.

WHAT MAKES THEM UNSAFE

  • Irregular checking of equipment and machinery
  • No maintenance of machinery
  • Machinery operated by persons without technical qualifications
  • Absence of emergency medical team or equipment in case of an accident
  • Absence of first-aid kits
  • Lack of adequate safety measures
  • No insurance cover
  • Fair organisers don't abide by of mandatory safety measures.

"No attention is paid to even basic safety measures, especially in the case of these makeshift amusement fairs. They're supposed to get permission from the police, but the police are ill-equipped to check the operational safety of the equipment and machinery. None have emergency rescue measures, not even proper first-aid kits," said the researcher of CUTS, 20-year old body with eight centres around the world.

CUTS is accredited with the UN Conference on Trade & Development and United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and is materially supported by the DFID, WHO, UNFPA, European Commission, Ford Foundation and many countries around the world.

CUTS- Safety Watch researchers have conducted spot checks at amusement fairs and the findings are shocking. No one checks the equipment and even routine maintenance work is not carried out, none have safety instructions or even an emergency manual, none have emergency medical equipment or trained emergency medical teams, none have fire-fighting equipment and many of the rides they offer are downright dangerous, especially for the kids.

"Laws should be framed for issuing certificates separately to amusement parks and amusement fairs with strict provisions for periodic inspection of all equipment. It should be 30 days in the case of amusement fairs and each time such a fair moves to a new location and the equipment for joyrides is assembled, technically qualified teams should carry out inspections before a fresh certificate is issued. There should be provisions for emergency medical teams and insurance cover for these parks and fairs must be made mandatory," said Roy.


Safety leash for pandal rides, drivers

October 18, 04, The Telegraph
Kolkata

BAPPA MAJUMDAR AND PRONAB MONDAL

Nine-year-old Arindam Ghosh insisted on taking a joyride on a merry-go-round at a pandal last year.

Minutes into the ride, the bolt of his seat came off and the boy fell in a heap, breaking several of his teeth and sustaining injuries in the head and neck. The joyride turned out to be a tragedy.

Such horrifying experiences, hopefully, will be a thing of the past, thanks to the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), which has come up with a set of guidelines for ride operators.

Every year, close to five million people visit pandals in the city and enjoy rides. At least 1,000 get injured, sparking protests by consumer rights groups, which have been clamouring for more stringent safety norms.

With the BIS taking the lead, the city police announced on Saturday that cops will be posted in every ride zone to ensure that the safety norms are adhered to.

According to the BIS Code of Recommended Practice for Amusement Ride Safety (IS 15475), all rides will have to go through “rigorous quality-control checks” before they are installed in fair grounds.

Wear and tear from constant use, speed control of rides such as a Ferris Wheel (nagordola) and regular verification of gadgets are part of the six-point BIS recommendations.

The BIS has also stressed on proper training of ride operators. “The safety requirements and training of operators comprise a large part of the code of practice. In big fairs, our men will be on constant vigil,” said a senior BIS official.

The police, too, will be at hand to prevent pleasure from turning into sorrow.

“We will take all possible precautions to ensure that the rides do not turn fatal. Extra policemen will be deployed in the pandals to ensure that the operators do not violate the safety norms,” said Sanjay Mukherjee, deputy commissioner of police (headquarters).

Apart from the city police, the Consumer of Unity Trust Society (CUTS) of India will play the role of watchdog.

“A very common phenomenon in the city is to act after an accident. Every year, the government suggests a thorough check of the rides to see whether the gadgets are in good condition,” said Soumi Home Roy of CUTS.

“But the checks are never carried out. So, this move by the BIS is very welcome,” she added.

This year, CUTS representatives will be out in strength to enforce the safety norms.

“Despite the safety bureau pitching in, if we come across a repeat of previous years’ experience, we will take up the matter with the government,” asserted Home Roy.


CUTS call for the strict watch over the safety of joyrides during Pujas

October 14, 04, Dainik vishwamitra
Kolkata


Campaign Against Medical Institutions Denying Emergency Cases

CUTS plans to nip consumer ignorance

October 08, 04, Asian age
By Soumitra Nandy

Kolkata, Oct 7: Concerned over the fact that only a few can avail of prompt medical attention in accidents, Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) has initiated a nation-wide campaign to sensitise people that medical institutions by law cannot deny any emergency case.

Soumi Home Roy, researcher at CUTS stated “In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of immediate medical attention for any accident victim, failure of which violates “Right to Life,” as guaranteed under Article 21. The judgement also noted that in such cases, the police must not harass the doctor for investigation."

Subsequently, in 1994, Section 134 was added to the Motor Vehicle’s Act (1988) to cover this exigency of providing immediate medical treatment and succour to accident victims. Under this section, a driver involved in any accident is required to secure medical aid for the injured person, by taking him to the nearest hospital/doctor and it shall be the duty of the hospital/doctor to render medical aid to the victim without waiting for completion of legal formalities. Failure in this regard is punishable under Section 187 of MV Act, 1988.

Ms Roy lamented the ignorance of these rules. She stated "medical handling of crash victims in India is far from satisfactory. The time taken between the accident and reaching the hospital is critical, but the procedural wrangles and public fear of getting involved in a police case delay crucial help.

Additionally, the police and the medical institutions often give priority to completion of medico-legal formalities over treatment, which results in death or permanent disability of many victims. Many medical institutions also deny emergency cases by giving lame excuses, such as non-availability of beds." In India, a road accident casualty takes place every 12 minutes and 10 times the number get injured, she briefed.

To strengthen the awareness drive, CUTS has written to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH), and DG police of all the states.


Discoms put Rs 1000-cr burden on Govt: CUTS

October 04,2004, Hindustan Times,
HT Correspondent, Jaipur

The Three power distribution companies of Rajasthan – Jaipur, Jodhpur and Ajmer, are imposing an additional burden of Rs.1000 crore on the state government by not checking their transmission and distribution losses, according to an assessment done by the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS).

These companies are planning to impose this extra burden on the consumers by increase the power tariff.

CUTS has submitted a memorandum to the RERC and demanded cancellation of the petition of all three Discoms about tariff increase.

They also demanded that the distribution companies should present their records in public and conduct a field survey of the T&D losses.

According to Vinayak Pandey of CUTS, Rajasthan Electricity Regulatory Commission had in 2001 directed these companiues to reduce their T&D losses to 20 per cent from 37 per cent  in five years but these companaies actually increased their losses to 41 per cent.

One per cent reduction in T&D loss is equal to Rs.29 crore saving to these companies.

If these companies had followed RERC’s directions, they could have saved rs.360 crore each by now.  Together they could have saved more than Rs.1000 crore, calculated Pandey.

He said these companies are planning to increase the tariff and impose burden on the consumers to overcome the T&D losses incurred by them.  If one reads the petition filed by the three Discoms to RETC for increasing the power tariff, it becomes evident that these companies have been ignoring the directions of RERC.

RERC in April this year instructed the companies to mention the last date of submitting suggestions on all consumer bills so that they cana lodge their complaints / suggerstions / demands in time.  However, these companies are not following RRC’s directions.

CUTS after studying the petition filed by the three companies, is preparing a draft with the reactions of consumers of all categories and would submit it to the RERC.


Book Rack

September 18, 04, Deccan Herald

Is It Really Safe: Soumi Home Roy (Jaipur: CUTS, 2004, pp 162) This book is a compilation of articles on consumer safety issues written from time to time, with the aim of increasing consumers' awareness onsafety aspects of various products and services. The book also provides a synopsis on Indian rules and regulations on safety issues.


Zambia IFD Reports

Sunday Times of Zambia Special Business Pull-out, September 26, 2004

The POST, September 17, 2004


Zambia set to benefit from regional trade agreements

Sunday Times of Zambia, Special Business Pull-Out, September 19th, 2004


"Zambia liberalisation has failed"

September 17, Times of Zambia
By Business Reporter

Government says the liberalisation programme has failed to unlock the problems the private sector has been facing.

Commence, Trade and Industry Permanent Secretary Davidson Chilipamushi said yesterday that even after liberalisation, the growth of the Zambian economy has slowed over the past decade.

Mr. Chilipamushi was speaking in Lusaka at the official launch of the investment policy in Zambia Study Report organised by the Consume Unity and Trust Society Africa Resource Centre (CUTS-ARC).

He said the new policy would address the concerns of stakeholders on the key issue of levelling the play field for domestic and foreign investors in terms of incentives, facilities and opportunities.

Private Sector Devlopment Programme (PSDP) manager Chris Seally called for the creation of a better psychological environment for investors focusssing on the "feel good"factor in promoting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Zambia.


Consumers detect loose-ends in policy making and implementation

September 17, Zambia Daily Mail
By NKWETO MFULA

A report by the consumer Unity and Trust society - Afric Resource Centre (CUTS-ARC) has revealed the existence of loose ends in the policy making and implementation aspects of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country.

This is according to CUTS-ARC's report study on; Investment Policy in Zambia Performance and Perceptions and Investmetn Policyin Zambia- an agenda for action.

The report says that there has been no serious efforts to analyse Zambia's onbestment polocies and performance on the recent past with investigations revealing that there was inadequate sector specific data on both inflows and outflows of investment data held by the Zambia Investment Centre (ZIC).

The ZIC data mainly refers to investment pledges and does lnot include actual investments.

CUTS-ARC's study notes that many FDI's flows to Zambia during the 1990s were not greenfield investment but mainly for the takeover of privatised parastatal firms and also for retail business.

Even in the absence of precise statistical evidence of the amount and nature of FDI inflows to Zambia, it can be still inferred despite all the efforts in terms of structural adjustment and additional foreign incentives, Zambia has not been a favourable FDI destination.

The report also noted that the country could not catch up with the new developments in the investment facilitation arrangements, especially "the all-under-one-roof" facility for a potential investor.

The report stated that inadequate infrastructure facilities are a major roadblock in attracting FDI in Zambia.

It further says technology transfer and skill sharing are neglected at present because the country also lacks skilled manpower due to the absence of quality education and training institutions.

CUTS-ARC stated that there is also inadequate polocy coordination among not only the various institutions crucial for investment facilitation but also between the agencies such as competition commission and the sectorial regulators.


'Poor road network affecting tourism'

September 16, Zambia Daily Mail
By NKWETO MFULA

Two Universities of Zambia (UNZA) researchers say the tourism sector has failed to attract investment because of poor communication network in the country.

Professor Oliver Saasa said the non-existence of roads leading to tourist attractions was a hindrance to investment in the sector.

Prof. Saasa cited Siavonga as one of the areas that could contribute towards the gross domestic produc (GDP) of the country through tourism investment.

And Prof. Venkatesh Seshamane said the cost of travelling to the tourist attractions within the country was very high compared to the other countries in the regions.

Prof. Seshamane said it was costing tourists a lot of money to fly to tourists sites due to the absence of good road network.

He also urged Government to seek aid from the cooperating partners to develop and protect the sites for the future generation.

He said tourism was one of the contributors towards the GDP hence the need to put in place good road infrastructures in the affected areas.

The two professors were expressing their concerns at a one-day workshop on Investment in Zambia: Performance and Perceptions organised by Consumer Unity and Trust society in Lusaka on Tuesday.


'Investment policy vital'

September 15, Zambia Daily Mail
By NKWETO MFULA

GOVERNMENT says a proper investment policy is vital for the flow of both domestic and foreign direct investment (FDIs) in the country.

Commerce, Trade and Industry permanent secretary, Davidson Chilipamushi, said that the Investment Act review was a vacuum because it could only be derived from the investment policy.

Mr Chilipamushi was speaking in Lusaka yesterday at the official launch of the study report: ''Investment policy in Zambia'' by Consumer Unity and Trust Society-Africa Resource Centre (CUTS-ARC). He said the report will help to rekindle interest to move in the right direction.

And University of Zambia lecturer, Oliver Saasa, said there are no legal laws to distinguish between local and foreign investment. Prof. Saasa said there is need to come up with registration instruments to regulate FDIs.

Prof. Saasa said the export processing zones were appropriate in a liberalised economy and an important aspect to promote investment

Meanwhile, CUTS-ARC regional co-ordinator, Sajeev Nair, said the study, which was initiated in 2001, was done with the aid of United Nations Conference for Trade and Development and Department For International Development (DFID).

He said it was a seven-country comparison report on the developing and least developed countries on investment policy mainly on Asian and African nations. "We tried to compare policies of large and small developing countries," he said.


Centre to launch report

September 13, Zambia Daily Mail

LUSAKA- The Consumer Unity and Trust Society - Africa Resource Centre (CUTS-ARC) is tomorrow expected to launch a study report on investment policy in Zambia.

The study report has been a seven-country research and advocacy project on investment for development.

CUTS-ARC coordinator, Sajeev Nair, in a statement in Lusaka said the study will be launched together with an advocacy document entitled Investment Policy in Zambia: An agenda for Action.

The research was part of a fact-finding and advocacy work on investment regimes covering Zambia, South Africa, Hungary, Tanzania, Brazil, Bangladesh and India.


Munnabhai LLB to campaign against chronic 'file-pushers'

14 Sept. 04, Times of India
Kolkata

A person who wanted to commit suicide but failed, is wheeled into a hospital. As he lies dying, hospital staff get busy filling up various forms. Fortunately for the man who wanted to die, Munnabhai MBBS walks in. Admonishing his colleagues for placing more importance on paper work than saving a life, he gets down to the task of getting the patient back on his feet.

Such happy endings generally come only in reel life. But Consumer Unity & Trust Society is placing utmost importance on making real life follow reel. This city-based consumers' group has written to Rajkumar Hirani (the director of Munnabhai MBBS) to add a similar scene to the sequel that he has planned, even though the new film would be dealing with the legal profession.

"Hospitals just cannot get over the form filling habit," CUTS spokesperson Soumi Home Roy said, explaining their unusual request to Hirani. And, apparently, Hirani has agreed to put in a scene where Munnabhai LLB will be seen admonishing someone who is more interested in pushing files than helping a victim of a mishap.

But Home Roy, for all her interest in getting Bollywood spread the word, is rooted firmly in real-life Kolkata. The next issue of the journal brought out by the group will have case-studies of victims who dies because of "File-pushing mentality."

"There have been cases of even hospitals refusing to treat a mishap-victim before the copy of a general diary was produced," Home Roy said. "And some of the big private-run hospitals in Salt Lake and along the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass have also turned out to be the culprits," she added.

CUTS is now planning to run a nation wide campaign on the "Social malaise". "We want to make people a little more sensitive about the issue," Home Roy said.


CONTACT US

Consumer Unity & Trust Society

D–217,  Bhaskar Marg,  Bani  Park, 

Jaipur  302 016,  India,

Ph: +91(0)141-2282821

Fax: 91.141.2282485  

Email: citee@cuts.org


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