CUTS IN MEDIA-April 2008


Pakistan’s consumer rights activists leave for study tour to India, April 28, 2008, Pakistan

Food regulator to start with big fish, hopes for trickle-down effect
LIVE MINT, April 18, 2008, New Delhi

 Govt must review domestic trade policy framework
The Nation, April 13, 2008

Analysts welcome Prime Minister’s announcement on duty-free markets
The Hindu, April 11, 2008

Foreign Trade Policy: Hopes die, promises remain unfulfiled
The Financial Express, April 10, 2008

Financial education must in times of numerous choices: RBI
Outlook Money, April 09, 2008

M R PAI Memorial Award for Pradeep S Mehta
Thesynergyonline Economic Bureau, April 09, 2008

Duty-free market access scheme for LDC's
Financial Express,  April 09, 2008

CUTS wary over lack of ‘neutral competition’ in auto fuel retail
The Hindu Business Line, April 03, 2008


Pakistan’s consumer rights activists leave for study tour to India, Pakistan,  April 28, 2008

LAHORE: A five member delegation of Pakistan’s Consumer Rights Activists is leaving for India today(Monday) for a two week study tour.

The tour has been organized by Consumer Watch Pakistan with the support of Commonwealth Foundation. The delegation is led by Amer Ejaz, National Coordinator CWP.

The purpose of the visit is to establish contacts between members of civil society groups in India and Pakistan so that they can learn from each other experience and setup a mechanism for information sharing on regular basis.

It is noted that the consumer movement is very strong in India and has lead to substantial improvements in terms of a strong legal framework as well as active civil society initiatives.

In this context, there is a lot that Pakistan-based civil society groups can learn from the experience of civil society groups in India. CWP has undertaken significant work in the area of consumer Protection which includes advocacy and public awareness.

But the contacts between the consumer groups of both the countries are few and far between. By establishing close contacts with its Indian counterparts, CWP is likely to bring home useful information and some successful models applied in India.

During their stay in India, the delegation will visit different consumer organizations in Delhi, Jaipur, Noida and Agra. These include among other, Consumer Voice Delhi, Consumer Coordination Council, Noida, Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS-International), Jaipur.

The visit is the part of the project titled "Experience Sharing among Civil Society Organizations working on Consumer Protection in India and Pakistan" The project is being financially supported by Commonwealth Foundation.

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Food regulator to start with big fish, hopes for trickle-down effect

LIVE MINT, New Delhi, April 18, 2008

The new authority’s balancing act will be to ensure food safety without adding to the costs of making it safe 

Bhuma Shrivastava and Rasul Bailay

New Delhi: All food sold in India, at restaurants, retail chains, even roadside outlets, will come under the scanner of a regulatory body that is expected to start functioning in June although several questions remain about how a sector as wide and diverse as food will be regulated.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has been set up under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, and it is expected to enforce quality and safety norms for a sector that accounts for 35% of people’s consumption expenditure. People familiar with the developments at the regulator and who do not wish to be identified say it will start by monitoring larger players and companies in the hope that the standards it creates will trickle down to smaller firms and entrepreneurs.The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India will begin enforcing quality, safety norms with retail chains such as Reliance Fresh, besides hotels and restaurants, as they’re easier to inspect

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India will begin enforcing quality, safety norms with retail chains such as Reliance Fresh, besides hotels and restaurants, as they’re easier to inspect

Pradeep Mehta, general secretary of trade and consumer rights organization CUTS International, said that while the creation of a regulator was a welcome move, it would be a challenge to implement the “new and sweeping legislation” on food safety. “It is a puzzle to me how they will do it. There is the organized sector of large players such as Coke (The Coca-Cola Co.) and PepsiCo. and then there is the unorganized sector of hawkers and small enterprises which may not even be registered. Plus, they need support of the state governments,” he said.

The Act, and by virtue of this, the authority’s powers, are “sweeping” as described by Mehta—it will effectively have a say on the quality of all food, from farm to fork. The authority is required to create “science-based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import, to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food,” according to the Act.

The new regulator comes under the purview of the health ministry, which has already appointed a CEO for it, G. Balachandran, a former joint secretary in the ministry of environment.

“A CEO has already joined. Each state is to have a state food commissioner and we have already asked the states to fill in these posts. The authority should begin working from June this year,” said an official in the health ministry familiar with the development. The regulator will have 50 employees and will function out of the new Food and Drug Administration Bhawan in New Delhi. The proposed Central Drug Authority to regulate the drug industry is also expected to operate from this premises.

According to a study by audit and consulting firm Ernst and Young, India’s food and grocery retail segment is worth $152 billion, and is growing by 3.5-4% every year. Besides being a leading producer of pulses, rice, wheat, fruits and vegetables, the country spends almost 35% or Rs742,104 crore of its “private final consumption spend on food alone,” making it the single largest component in household budgets, the report says. Still, the sector has largely remained unregulated.

Eight existing orders, such as Prevention of Food Adulteration Act of 1954, Fruit Products Order, 1955, and several issued under Essential Commodities Act, 1955, will be subsumed in the jurisdiction of this new authority, giving it considerably wide powers. And the Quality Council of India (QCI) and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) will lend their expertise in laying standards for the regulator to administer. QCI is an autonomous body under the government and works in the area of standards and quality. BIS is the national standards body of India.

The balancing act for the new regulator will be to ensure food safety without adding to the costs of making it safe. “We first need to lay down standards, develop benchmarks for nutrients and food safety, ones that match international standards, and then ensure they are adhered to. The trick is all of the above need to be without increasing the cost of food products,” said the ministry official, adding, “Food safety should not spell lack of food security by setting the quality bar too high or making it too expensive.”

QCI secretary general Girdhar J. Gyani said its officials are in discussions to create standards under which India will frame its own set of Good Manufacturing Practices and Good Hygienic Practices for food processing firms. “Regulating the entire food sector will be a Herculean task and the authority will need to go stage-wise, starting with hotels that are three stars and above,” he added. QCI will also accredit bodies that will carry out inspection for the regulator.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority will begin by focusing on the bigger fresh produce and food retail chains such as those run by Reliance Retail, Subhiksha Trading Services Ltd and RPG Enterprises, among others, besides hotels and restaurants.

“If we start with the big retail chains, it will set the norm for others. Moreover, it is easier to inspect these places because of their size and scale. Hopefully, the standards will seep down over time and make way for self-regulation by the industry,” added the official in the health ministry.

He said these companies and others in the industry would be consulted before standards are finalized

“We will support that (the new standards)...obviously. (But) if they want us to support it they should give us some ti-me to implement it. If they ma-ke the rules very stringent then nobody can comply with those rules. If it is something that makes it costlier to implement then it will not work,” said G. Kashinath, president for agriculture commodity sourcing at Subhiksha, India’s largest discount chain operator.

The new regulator will also be responsible for imported and genetically modified food products, as well as food recalls in case unsafe or hazardous batches are discovered.

Financial education must in times of numerous choices: RBI

Outlook Money, April 09, 2008

A multitude of choices for personal finance investments has financial education more significant, RBI Deputy Governor Shyamala Gopinath said today.

The Reserve Bank has recently come out with a concept paper on financial literacy and free counselling centres to educate customers about products and services, she said at a function of All India Bank Depositors' Association here.

She said that free counselling centres should impart knowledge about responsible borrowing, debt counselling and debt restructuring for the borrowers under stress.

Earlier, the Deputy Governor presented the Fourth M R Pai Memorial Award to consumer rights activist Pradeep S Mehta.

The award has been instituted by Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank in memory of M R Pai, well-known consumer activist.

The recipient of the award is selected by the Depositors' Association.

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M R PAI Memorial Award for Pradeep S Mehta

Thesynergyonline Economic Bureau, April 09, 2008

The Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Ms Shyamala Gopinath presented the M. R. Pai Memorial Award to “the crusader of the consumers’ cause”, Pradeep S Mehta, Secretary General, Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) International, Jaipur, at a function in Mumbai recently. The function is being organised by All-India Bank Depositors’ Association, Mumbai.

Speaking on the occasion, Ms. Shyamala Gopinath, the Chief Guest, lauded the life-long efforts of Mehta. The citation read: “The splendid work done by you and your organisation in educating the public on competition and regulation over the years is exemplary. You are one of the foremost crusaders for consumers and we take this opportunity to wish you strength in your endeavours.”

The citation read how he had voluntarily given up his family business more than two decades ago to devote full time attention to bringing discipline, methods and systems to the consumer movement in India . He used his corporate acumen and non-conventional wisdom to create a global level modern organisation, which has incessantly been working for an enabling environment for the benefit of consumers — both at the grassroots as well as policy level.

The institute, CUTS international, imparts consumer education and acts as a guide-cum-mentor to many voluntary consumer organisations and individuals. “Mehta is a pioneer in institutionalising relevant studies and research on consumer topics, in creating mass awareness about consumer rights and responsibilities and protecting consumer interests. He works through an effective combination of advocacy and consistent lobbying for correction in the systems at the policy level, resulting in the introduction of new legislation and in effective monitoring of regulations”.

The organisers felicitated Mehta, “who shares the same beliefs with those of the late M. R. Pai, champion of public causes, in initiating a movement for consumer cause, especially creating a countervailing force of consumers to ensure justice and safety of consumers”.

After the presentation of the Award, Mehta spoke in response to the honour conferred on him and thanked the organisers. The award carries a citation and a cheque of Rs.51,000.

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